Cornell Tech student startup companies are well underway. Teams are nailing down their product ideas and beginning development. To kick off the semester, Startup Studio Head David Tisch gave students feedback to help them transform their ideas into companies.

It’s all about the team

Tisch said the most important element to success is the team. Surround yourself with people you work well with and who share your vision for the company. “The thing that every single investor, that every single acquirer looks at, is the team,” Tisch said, “Spend these 3 ½ months figuring out how you as a leader can build a team around you that moves in one direction.”

Never be married to your idea

Tisch emphasized the importance of the team over the idea. The idea, he noted, is the easiest thing to change. Investors don’t care about your idea as much as you think. According to Tisch, investors care about:

1) Team
2) Market
3) Product
4) Idea

Practice your pitch

The first Startup Studio kicked off with short company overviews from all teams. Tisch interjected with tips to help teams improve their pitches, emphasizing the importance of thinking about exactly what you should say to really communicate your company’s vision. The pitch, Tisch noted, needs to bridge the problem with the solution. A pitch can and should be worded in a way that elicits the same questions each time. Not questions of confusion, but questions of interest.

One requirement of the Startup Studio class is a deck, or presentation, that will sell the company to whomever it is sent to without the team saying a word. Tisch referred to the deck as a “living document” that will evolve and improve long past the due date. He encouraged teams to tailor their pitches to the audience, a skill they will have the opportunity to practice this semester.

Figure out who you want to be

Tisch hopes students use the startup studio to figure out who they are and who they want to be. “That’s the fundamental thing that you should never let go of: this is yours,” Tisch said. “Stylistically, don’t follow somebody else’s rules.”

One key feature of the Startup Studio is the relatively risk free environment. Students have the unique opportunity to work on a company for months, without the pressures of the real world.

“If I were sitting in your shoes, what I would take from this class is not just the opportunity to try out a company, but an opportunity to test yourself to see who you are and what you’re made of in terms of building energy around your project,” Tisch said. He added, “Don’t compromise what you want to be, or who you are as a person. Instead try to figure out how to take those values—the values you’ve accumulated throughout your lives—and inject them into your company.”