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The relationship between college education and startups is an interesting one. Many of the big players in Silicon Valley, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, are (or were) college dropouts.

This is not to say that college isn’t beneficial. Education today is a powerful tool that can help you gain mobility in an increasingly tough marketplace. Think of the saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” In simple terms, you need to keep asking which skills and technical information you need in order to become a successful startup founder.

We’ve compiled a list of five valuable skills every entrepreneur needs to launch their startup here in Bahrain:

  1. Learn to code. If you are planning to develop a tech startup, you should learn to code and understand the logic of computers. Even if you don’t plan on building the product yourself, you still need a programmer or app developer. If you want to learn these skills at home, take massive online open courses, or MOOCs. Check out EdX’s computer science and coding classes here, or Coursera’s popular coding classes here. If you’re not planning on founding a tech startup, skip this.
  2. Build your sales acumen. You can ignore every skill on this list except for sales. This is the most universally-required job and practical skill set that will help you wherever you go, whatever you do! Learning about sales simply doesn’t cut it anymore–you need to practice sales, too. Sales are part and parcel of the customer acquisition process. Sign up as a sales representative for a product. You’ll learn valuable skills that will make you an asset to your employer.
  3. Pick up some marketing magic. Traditional marketing and advertising have been replaced by all things digital. You need to think of creative ways to promote your startup’s product, and learn how to develop and measure the effectiveness of integrated digital marketing and advertising campaigns, social media, and CRM in addition to creating web content and updating websites, designing social media campaigns and ads, and creating interactive presentations, website visuals, and designs. Knowledge of Microsoft Office doesn’t cut it anymore—you need to be proficient in Trello, MailChimp, HootSuite, etc.
  4. Bank on it—learn innovative accounting. The dullest (but nonetheless most valuable) skill of them all, accounting helps you understand the A-Z of your expenses. Financial terminology, statements, and metrics should be basic concepts you learn early on (or at some point) to help track and evaluate your startup’s growth. In particular, innovative accounting represents a cornerstone of lean startup methodology. Learn more about that here.
  5. Be a team player. Remember all those times you were forced to work in groups for projects in classes? Well, groups are there for a reason. Nothing will teach you more about people, motivation, and getting things done than projects at university. The ability to work in synergy through the good and the bad is a valuable skill—so grab every opportunity to work on a university project, in any class.

Also, consider volunteering, interning, and/or part-time work.

Volunteering is beneficial on so many levels: it gives you exposure, allows you to network and meet people from diverse backgrounds, and lets you acquire new skills. Whether in a local charity or university society, volunteering will definitely help you build soft skills.

The same can be said for interning. The knowledge you gain from working on university projects will remain theoretical unless you put it to use. Actively seek internships and/or part-time work at a local startup or SME. Majra and ONEGCC are both, fantastic platforms for looking for new opportunities.

Through a combination of education and experience, you might ultimately get the job of your dreams. Just find a niche in which you can grow. Remember, even if you didn’t pick up these skills in college, you can still learn them online, on platforms like Udacity, Udemy, Code School, Code Academy.