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Q: What advice would you give a fresh graduate with a desire for entrepreneurship?

8 pieces of advice that I've learned in the past 7 years.

Dominik Nitsch
8 min read
Q: What advice would you give a fresh graduate with a desire for entrepreneurship?
Foto von frame harirak auf Unsplash

Recently, a young, ambitious man asked me the question below on LinkedIn:

Finally, I would love to get any general advise you may have for a fresh graduate driven with entrepreneurial desires to establish and create something powerful / new? What routes would you recommend pursuing and any tips from the journey you yourself have had to get to the amazing position you are right now?

I started typing, but then realized that I’d like to think it through better.

And that maybe someone else might benefit from it, too.

Having joined a startup as late co-founder directly after finishing my Bachelor’s and then attempting to found another one with Entrepreneur First, I hope that I can provide some helpful advice.

So let’s see: what advice would I give a fresh graduate with a desire for entrepreneurship?

In this post, we’ll assume that entrepreneurship equals founding a company. There are other ways to be entrepreneurial, but this is the main way.

Let’s start with: should you actually become an entrepreneur?

[1] There are bad times to found a company and worse times to found a company.

Many people I know with entrepreneurial aspirations fall into the trap of “founding a company when you’re ready”.

The truth is: you’re never fully ready. At some point, you just need to take the leap.

Now, there are bad times to found a company and worse times to found a company.

Worse times are when something else is going on in your life that takes up a lot of time or energy, like having your first child or having to take care of a family member.

Any time is a bad time, really. You’ll never get to the point when you’re fully ready.

Which is also why I’m strongly in favour of founding a company straight out of university.

Think about it:

  • You’re still used to living a cheap student life and have little everyday spending (which is good - the higher of a salary you have to pay yourself to maintain your standard of living, the faster you burn through your company’s money).
  • You likely have no responsibility for children, parents or similar.
  • You have a ton of energy on your hands, and can still easily get to know people.
  • Even if you go bankrupt or make a major mistake, you don’t have much to lose.

And the upside is huge:

  • You might just found a company that is highly successful, setting yourself up for life both in terms of finances and network.
  • You might also fail and learn a lot of hard lessons that many others will never learn. Life lessons compound; the earlier you learn them, the longer you will benefit from them!
  • But regardless of what happens, your learning curve will be very high, and you’ll find yourself in situations that you would’ve never envisioned yourself in before.

Screw getting a master’s degree or PhD - if you want to start a business, start a fucking business. Any university education won’t get you any closer to that.

[2] Also, you don’t have to start a business.

Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to. It’s perfectly fine to not become an entrepreneur.

In fact, I believe that most people shouldn’t. If you’re risk-averse and like stability and safety, founding a startup is not a good idea.

Because sometimes, it fucking sucks.

At Linguedo, my co-founder and dear friend Matthias and I used to say: “had we known what we’d be getting ourself into, we probably wouldn’t have started in the first place.”

And yet, it feels so great that you’d definitely do it again.

It’s kind of like doing crazy physical things, like 1.000 push-ups as fast as possible, running a marathon or cycling >200km in a day.

So if you’re up for taking a risk, putting yourself through a lot of stress, working hard and putting yourself in situations way outside your comfort zone, then you should definitely give entrepreneurship a shot.

If you can afford it.

[3] Let’s talk about money.

You need to survive somehow. There are a bunch of ways to do so: savings, parental support, working a side hustle, or simply generating funding / revenue really fast so you can pay yourself a salary.

A good option is to already start working on something part-time while you’re still employed or in university. This way, you have the security of testing the waters before fully going in.

Keep in mind, though, that having other commitments besides your company (your new baby) means that you can focus less than 100% on it. So aim to make that time as short as possible.

Either way, you need to figure out the financial part first before diving in fully.

[4] Learning is greatly accelerated, but not all learning is created equal.

Joining or founding a startup for the “learning experience” is common wisdom.

The truth is that you will have more responsibility than if you work in an ordinary job.

You also have nobody showing you the ropes.

I learned this when joining Sdui in my first proper full-time employee job two years ago. Once you have a manager that mentors you, you realize how fast things can work when you don’t have to figure out everything yourself.

In my first startup experience, I learned a ton about leadership, making hard decisions (like, deciding to fire half the company because we were running out of money), communications, and emotional maturity.

These experiences did a lot for my personal growth and soft skills.

As a startup founder, you’ll figure out a lot of stuff yourself - and find a way to get it done. Which is a valuable skill in itself. But not the easiest way.

When it comes to hard skills, getting mentoring from a manager from day 1 is better than figuring it out yourself. So if you want to become a specialist in a field like sales (or other tangible skills like carpentry), it’s probably better to join a company that already knows what it’s doing.

Generally speaking: you can always learn the hard skills in a myriad of ways. Being a good, value-driven leader, with high reflection ability, great communication skills that’s capable of making hard decisions - that’s something you’ll probably learn faster by founding a company.

[5] Talk to your customers and never stop.

Your company exists because you solve a problem for your customers. Period.

Sometimes, your customers’ problems change.

Or you’re not solving them correctly.

Either way, the only way to find that out yourself is to actually speak to the customer.

Don’t be afraid to go out and ask questions.

Do it.

It’s so easy to hide behind strategy papers and pitch decks, to work on your product “until it’s ready” (just like waiting to found your company until “you’re ready”), to do market research based on statistics.

But the real, hard truth comes out when you speak to customers.

Often, the truth is that your product sucks - because it doesn’t solve your customer’s problem.

You’d much rather learn this sooner and later. The earlier you know, the earlier you can iterate and eventually pivot.

An example here is the story of Linguedo, the startup I joined after university. The company started out as a language school, attempting to revolutionise language learning by focusing on speaking instead of the traditional way of becoming really good at grammar and then never using the language.

The language school was nice, but it didn’t solve a “hair-on-fire” problem. Matthias - the founder of the language school and my later co-founder  - accidentally found a hair-on-fire problem when he traveled to Italy, and stumbled upon thousands of people demonstrating because they couldn’t find a job.

Among them: many nurses.

Nurses were and still are the #1 sought-after profession in Germany. So he asked them: “why don’t you come to Germany?”

“I don’t speak German.”

Boom. All the sudden, he found the right customer group for whom he could actually solve a problem: using the German language as a vehicle to finally find a job, start a career and build a life.

That’s how the language school Linguedo turned into the personnel agency (with an integrated language course) Linguedo.

A book that I’d recommend to anyone starting a company (also a mandatory read at EF) is “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick. It teaches you how to ask your customers questions in a way that even your mom would give you an honest answer.

[6] Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do.

At my first sales meeting, selling a big project to the hospital, the director of nursing asked me: “Great that you’re here! Will Mr. Nitsch be joining us too?”


I was 23 at the time, and clearly too young to be the co-founder of the company. The director reacted very kindly to my assertion that I am, in fact, Mr. Nitsch, and a few weeks later, we managed to sign a contract worth several 100k.

If you’re good at what you do, and can help solve your customer’s problem, then age is the last thing that anybody cares about.

Being “young” or “inexperienced” can even be an asset. You think in different ways than the people who have been around the block. You’re not blinded by experiences of the past, but get to look at problems in a fresh way. A way that will allow you to potentially solve them.

Use your age as an asset, not a liability.

[7] Your environment can make you or break you.

You can found a company anywhere. But some places will be more conducive to your success than others.

When I was working on Linguedo, I lived in Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is fantastic, and definitely the right place if you want to get into finance, banking, or consulting.

But for startups? We once received an invitation to some event featuring the “top startups” from the area surrounding Frankfurt.

Top startups?! We had like 10 employees, no exponential growth trajectory and while we were generating revenue numbers that were quite solid, we were nowhere close to being the next unicorn.

While that’s already a success in itself (more on this below), I felt that if that’s the pond that we’re swimming in, I want to go to a bigger pond. I want to be small fish in a big pond, not the other way around.

So I moved to Berlin, and found the pond I was looking for - a bunch of incredibly smart, driven people that I’m proud to call my friends.

This, in turn, had great impact on my career and confidence.

Moving to Berlin was one of the best things I did for both personal and professional development.

Given that much more stuff is online today, you can definitely find these networks without having to move somewhere. But seriously challenge the locations you spend time in, and people you spend time with.

[8] You’re not a failure if your first company doesn’t take off or goes broke.

Sometimes, at Linguedo, I felt like we weren’t really successful. After all, we didn’t raise any venture capital, didn’t grow as we had always imagined, and ultimately didn’t achieve the goal of becoming the platform where people go to be trained, learn a language, and build their life abroad.

What we did achieve is building a company that is highly profitable and has empowered more than 350 people to build their career in Germany and become fluent in German in the process.

Oh, and because we’ve placed nurses (many of which work in ICU), our work alone must have provided 30-50 extra ICU beds in German hospitals during the pandemic, that in turn saved a bunch of lives.

Yes, we didn’t achieve our end goal (or at least, not yet). But we certainly achieved something that many other people never will: building a sustainable business, and having significant social impact.

I’m proud of that.

Even if you go broke, so what? You embarked on a journey that almost nobody dares to embark on, and learned a ton on the way. Be proud of your ambition, your risk-taking ability, your willingness to leave your comfort zone.

Just try again next time.


Go found that company. There won’t be a better time than now.

Thank you, Akshat, for asking this question - and thanks to everyone who read my answer. I hope it helped you a bit.

Dear readers, if you have more questions of this kind, I’d be happy to receive them, and make this Q&A format a regular part of International Generalist.

This was really fun.


Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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