3 Important Lessons That Prepared Me to Run a Startup in College

Amin Shaykho
Mar 7 · 6 min read

My name is Amin Shaykho and I graduated from the University of Washington Seattle in Spring of 2018. During my college journey, I started multiple companies and clubs that not only made me a better leader but influenced the lives of many.

One of my most notable startup was an app called Kadama, which gained thousands of users, had an internship program with 12 interns, got featured on multiple publications, gained 200,000+ social media views, 1,500+ social media followers, 100+ reviews on the App Store, and through it developed multiple relationships with organizations in our community like Microsoft, all within a few months of launch.

I want to share 3 essential lessons that helped me create and balance my companies and clubs while being a full-time student in college.

Push Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I had no idea what I was doing 99% of the time I approached something during college. During the moment, I never understood why that was such a good thing. In fact, I thought I was becoming dumb since in high school I had a 4.0 and knew exactly what I was doing. I played soccer for the high school team and was involved with a few clubs. However, I had no idea what I wanted to be and didn’t have a passion for anything. I was so comfortable living an ordinary life I never bothered exploring different activities around me. I began to see the value of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone when I started taking college courses during high school, through a program called Running Start which allowed me to spend my junior and senior year of high school in college. I’m assuming you’re beginning to connect the dots now — my arrogance contributed to the lack of exploration, and I got good at the few things I was doing. Then, when my environment suddenly changed at the college, I realized that I had so much to learn. While the classes I took at the college were very enriching and essential, what truly shaped my life were the experiences I had with other students and staff outside the classroom. I witnessed the advantages of working with others from different cultures around the world. I learned to listen to what everyone has to say — since everyone around me is better than me in at least one thing. I realized that networking and being inquisitive is what pushes me to go outside of my comfort zone and grow. Finally, I build many relationships that have shaped who I am and helped foster my career. Most importantly, I learned that when I do something new I will be challenged. The more I push myself outside of my comfort zone, the more knowledgeable I will get in different fields. All this would not have happened if I didn’t make that challenging decision to start my college journey at the age of 16. However, little did I know that from the age of 16 to 18, I would learn some of the biggest lessons of my life which would prepare me for 2018, the best year of my life.

Aim to Make a Difference

A few months into college I began to notice how fast I was growing. There wasn’t just one thing that was defining who I was going to become. It was a combination of multiple experiences and people that I was meeting. For example, some experiences made me more compassionate. As a result, I started helping nonprofits. I spent hundreds of hours volunteering for organizations like Friends of Youth, Beta Club, Honor Society, Key Club, and Kirkland Parks and Recreation. I didn’t know how this would benefit me, but I give it my best effort and did it with the intention of making a difference. Other extra-curricular activities like side projects and internships at tech companies helped me discover my interests. All these experiences together started to shape my dream. I want to become a leader of an organization that uses technology to help people all over the world. Even though I wasn’t aware at the moment, it turned out that I had already started working on my dream. All the volunteering I had done showed me how it feels to be in another person’s shoes. I was becoming a better team player and learning from the people I was collaborating with. Being engaged with all these different organizations made me well-rounded. Most importantly, I first-handily witnessed the difference I was making in the communities around me. Eventually, by being involved with these organizations I became interested in starting one on my own. So, I did that. During my senior year of high school, I started a club called Code for Care, where we built mobile applications that help the people in need. I grew this club to 20 members and together we focused on using technology to help people in our community. Leading this club was essentially my dream at a small scale. In the moment, I would have never guessed that the volunteering I was doing was helping me understand the struggles the underprivileged were facing, which in result made it easier for me to create products that fit their needs.

Approach Everything with an Open Mind

It was getting near the end of my senior year of high school and I had just accepted the offer to attend the University of Washington, Paul Allen School of Computer Science. At this point, everything started to slow down as I prepared for graduation. As I reflect on those two years of my life, I can confidently say that my drive to make a difference and stepping outside of my comfort zone pushed me to new heights. However, none of this would have happened with a close mind. I would have never left my comfort zone so early in my life. I would have never dedicated hundreds of hours volunteering. I would never have built the needed connections to land those internships. I would have never discovered my passion for technology, leadership, and helping others. I would have still not known what I wanted to do with my life.

I’m going to jump to a month after my high school graduation. Everything I had done up to this point had been preparing me for this moment. The adrenaline I had built up the past two years, the things I’ve learned, and all the ideas inspired me to create something that can make a difference. I met up with my friend Marwan El-Rukby and brother Dani Shaykho and discussed possible business ideas. I’m going to skip a lot of the details in this article, but we eventually realized that there was a huge need for a platform that makes requesting services easier for consumers, opens a new market for service providers to get customers, and allows people who are not able to work a conventional job earn money. This turned into an app called Kadama, which is now influencing the lives of thousands. Kadama officially launched in 2018 and is now providing an opportunity to many — like single parents in need of a side job or college students who need a way to pay their tuition. It’s really a win for both sides, the person whose day is freed and the person who gets matched with the job.

Now, with all that being said, I want to conclude by saying that it is okay to fail — that’s how you learn and become stronger the next time you face a challenge. In fact, college is the place where failure is okay, as long as you get up and try again. There will be so many people around you to help you when you need it. When you focus on becoming well rounded, not only will you find your passion, but you will gain experience in many different fields. I would encourage everyone with a dream to ask themselves, “is this something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life?” If you can sincerely answer that with a yes, then go for it. What is left is hard work and overcoming adversity.

If you are interested in reading more articles feel free to follow me on Medium. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter @ aminshaykho. To learn more about Kadama, visit www.kadama.com.

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Amin Shaykho

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