Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Thoughts for Students Thinking About the Startups


Another critical group in the startup community are students. For today, let’s stick to college students, but we are seeing some great programs that are bringing high achieving high-school students into the startup world.

Students: Why should you care about startups.

The first one is pretty obvious: you need a job.   On the other hand, you may have the itch to start your own company. If you can’t stop thinking about it, have a great team, and can get in a program like Startup Semester or Flashpoint, then you should definitely go full throttle. If you are on the edge and have a feeling that one day you may start a company, but you don’t have the idea just yet… no problem. Just go hang out in the community. Being in the right place, surrounding yourself with the right people, will only make it easier when the time comes.

Students: How you can get involved most effectively in startups.

First, start reading your ass off. You need to subscribe to a few great VC blogs (Feld and AVC to start) and of course follow the top bloggers in the community (

Second, get a job with a startup or tech teen company (aka large and well funded startup like AirWatch or Mailchimp). Plain and simple.  If you are an engineer, just get in and start helping build things. Learn how teams work to build things in the real world. Learn how to balance quality with GSD.   If you aren’t an engineer, the absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to get a job in sales. Learning how to sell stuff is the most valuable and widely applicable skill you can acquire.  You may absolutely hate it as some new grads do… if that’s the case, then try to commit at least 10 months to selling. At the 10 month point, if you are going to be successful, you should see the light at the end of the ramp-up tunnel.     Just remember that taking a job in sales doesn’t mean you’re committing your life to selling used cars or telemarketing. You are committing to learn.  When you do go start a company, you will look back and realize that any amount of time you spend in a sales job is the most valuable thing you can do for your chances of success learning a startup. Sales solves all problems.

Students: What you should expect to gain.

The most important thing you need in your early career is a strong network of deep relationships.  Getting involved in the startup community is an adult thing to do.  It requires follow-up and discipline. When you go to events, get business cards, ask to have lunch follow-up meetings with people you meet.  Ask entrepreneurs to mentor you.   If you do these things right, you will start to form an impressive network. Once you have a network, you will find that next steps in your life journey will come easier for you than your peers.

Career services will be the last place you will look to find a job if you know the right people.



  • Steve Orebaugh says:

    Is there a Job board for the Atlanta tech village?

    January 30, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    • Johnson Cook says:

      Steve, it is in the works as we speak! Many many requests for such a thing. Stay tuned. -JC

      January 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm
      • Steve Orebaugh says:

        Great. Thanks

        January 31, 2014 at 11:18 am

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