Introducing a new kind of alumnus to the General Assembly community. Boris Shou completed the 2015 Business Accelerator Program—while working hard on his undergraduate degree.
Last year, GA teamed up with Colgate University for the first ever Business Accelerator Program, now the Tech Intensive. A one-week immersive experience for undergraduates, the program covered the startup world’s most in-demand skills with hands-on lessons and visits from industry experts.
Inspired, Boris put his learnings into starting his own venture. He and a friend are developing an online language learning platform where language enthusiasts can practice speaking with one another. Although it’s a “simple website” so far, the product is complete with a problem to solve and a target user group.
As one of the program’s alumni, Boris talks about his unique student experience, the projects he pitched, and his entrepreneurial goals for life after graduation.
1. Tell us about yourself and your school.
I’m Boris Shou, currently a sophomore studying at Colgate University in upstate New York. I’m a Mathematics and Computer Science double major. I’m from China and this is my fifth year studying in the U.S.
I’m involved in Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA), an incubator program that provides student entrepreneurs with mentorship. Besides being involved in TIA, I’m also a lab tutor at the Computer Science department at Colgate. In my free time, I play piano, cook (real) Chinese food, and learn new (human and computer) languages.
2. Why did you want to attend this course?
I attended the Colgate-GA Business Accelerator program in the winter break of my freshman year. My first impression of the Business Accelerator program was that it would be an opportunity to get to know the real world, which would complement the liberal arts education at Colgate. I did not have any idea what working at a business or a startup would be like. Therefore, my experience with GA was very eye-opening.
3. Describe a typical day during this course. Where did you go, who did you get to interact with, what was the morning like, what was homework like, what projects did you do?
Every day, different startup founders came in to give lectures. They talked about the different aspects of a startup, such as user experience, market research, advertising, and pitching.
In our classroom, students paired up into groups, with each group working on one startup idea that the group members had agreed upon. While we learned about startups, we made progress on our projects. For example, when we studied advertising, our group came up with specific plans to advertise our product focusing on the needs of our target users.
We also had breaks in between where we could network with the lecturers as well as other people at GA. On the last day, we pitched our idea with a detailed plan to many people working in different startups nearby. We received their feedback and learned about their stories.
4. What was the biggest thing you learned?
I learned all the basic things about startups, which I did not know at all before, and I still have the lecture notes, which have become very helpful as I am now pursuing my own venture. However, realizing my passion for entrepreneurship was even more important.
After participating in Business Accelerator, I applied to Sage Corps, a program that sends students abroad for internships at tech startups. I knew about the program beforehand but the idea of working at a startup had seemed daunting. Thanks to GA, I was able to realize and articulate my passion for entrepreneurship in the application essay and interview, and eventually got accepted.
Through Sage Corps, I worked at a real startup and discovered my passion in Computer Science. With these experiences, my future career path has become much clearer to me.
5. What are you aiming to do after you graduate? How did this experience align with your post-grad goals? Have your goals changed?
My plan after graduation is to work for a few years and then go to graduate school for further professional development. My knowledge of startups, which I learned for the first time at Business Accelerator, may not come into use immediately. However, I look forward to doing something entrepreneurial, be it starting my own venture in the real world, working for startups, or making innovations at big companies.
Many of the things I learned at GA are transferrable. Today, entrepreneurship is considered a science, which I believe is very useful in the real world. The Business Accelerator allowed me to get started in learning about the theories of this science. The TIA program at Colgate allowed me to directly experiment with it.
By the time I graduate, I hope to have gained some invaluable skills and experiences from the combination of career programs such as the Business Accelerator, TIA, and a liberal arts education.
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