Contributor: Ethan Levy, sophomore at Tulane University and Ambassador for Venture for America participated in a 3 Day Startup program hosted at the University of New Orleans. 

VFA recently interviewed Ethan on their blog. Ethan dives into his experience with VFA, 3DS, and how our organizations are helping him launch his venture, ComeFail.

Q | How did you first catch the entrepreneurial bug?

I caught the entrepreneurial bug when I was 7 years old, when I was on a 5-day hike with my family. As a seven-year old, hiking seemed long and painful. But what really got to me was boredom. There was nothing to do but hike. So I started thinking and came up with a “business plan,” which would make me CEO of a store called “Which What Who.” At first I would sell my collections, but later I would sell practically anything that my customers wanted for a really good price! I spent the day sorting out all of the details with my family, and they all agreed to work in my store. It was encouraging. I ranted about my store for eight whole hours. Although bizarre, it was on that summer day that I decided my dream was to become an entrepreneur.

Q | How did you first get involved with VFA?

Various people had referred me to VFA, but I never understood what it was or took it seriously until I met Sean Rowland, the campus ambassador at Loyola University in New Orleans. After learning more about the program, I was intrigued. After meeting with Joe Guy, Community Marketing Manager at VFA, I was convinced that I should get more involved by becoming a campus ambassador at Tulane.

Q | Can you tell us a little bit about the venture you are starting?

I am starting a venture called ComeFail, which is an online platform for student entrepreneurs to share their ideas, improve them, and attract the resources they need as their businesses grow. Built on the philosophy that (smart) failures produce amazing growth, ComeFail is a safe space for young, college entrepreneurs to get their hands dirty. Our purpose is to increase the number of entrepreneurs and their likelihood of success, and by redefining the culture of failure, we aim to minimize fear and maximize self-improvement.

Q | What led you to participate in 3DS?

I first heard of 3DS when I was participating in Startup Weekend. Students from the University of New Orleans recommended that I participate, since it would be a great opportunity for me to connect with other students and grow my business.

Q | Could you describe the 3DS experience at a high level?

3 Day Startup is an event that brings students together for 3 days to work on startups. Having now participated, I can say it’s an incredible experience. 3DS encourages students to spend one weekend in the startup field, giving students a taste of the startup lifestyle and all of its great energy. Students are rarely given the opportunity to get away from schoolwork and social life to work on their ideas. 3DS gives students that opportunity.

Check out this brief documentary that shows students in action at 3DS.

Q | How did your venture change and improve as a result of 3DS?

Thanks to the 3DS experience, my venture grew more in 3 days than it did in 15 months. I came into the 3DS event with a concept called Launchange, which was a concept for an online platform that would connect students within universities based on skills and interests so they could build businesses together. Launchange was one of two ideas that were selected. After being grilled with tough questions from the 3DS faculty advisor, I was convinced that Launchange was not worth building. This led me to pivot to ComeFail. I believe that our product is now much stronger and more likely to succeed. Also, my teammates (who participated in the event with me and are pictured below) are more excited. Shortly put, 3DS energized my team and improved our product significantly.

Q | What advice would you give a student that’s interested in building something?

Go for it. Fail early and fail fast. Learn with each failure. Embrace uncertainty. Have an open mind. Have fun during the process. Be up for the challenge. Be resilient. Starting a business can be tough, so you have to learn to enjoy the process.

About Venture for America

Ethan is just one of 60 individuals officially representing VFA at universities across the country. Venture for America is a program for young, talented grads to spend 2 years in the trenches of a start-up with the goal that they will become socialized and mobilized as entrepreneurs moving forward. VFA recruits the best and brightest recent college graduates, provide them with training and mentorship, and place them at startups to help build those organizations and get the experience they need to then become business builders and job creators themselves. Their goal is to help create 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025.