(Editor’s Note: Charles Preuss is a student at Syracuse University majoring in information management and technology at the iSchool and minoring in entrepreneurship. He’s one of the students who took last week’s startup immersion course, #EntreTechNYC. He’s written this post to describe the experience and the things he learned from the trip.

Charles Preuss via LinkedIn.com

Charles Preuss via LinkedIn.com

Charles is a military veteran and a July 2014 graduate of SU’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans and is part of the current National Science Foundation-funded program at Syracuse University, Trauma Research Education for Undergraduates. The research project examines the physiological, clinical, cognitive, and family factors associated with various trauma outcomes in U.S. Veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His SU activities include the Student Veterans Organization, being a Career Services Ambassador, and being part of the Couri Hatchery Incubator.


I firmly believe that people become the average of those they surround themselves with. This last week I spent time with some of the greatest minds New York City has to offer. Accompanying me was one of the most diverse student groups I have been involved with at Syracuse University, along with a bundle of engaging faculty and staff that provided me with value, direction, and new perspectives that I never would have received in the traditional academic setting.

2015's EntreTechNYC group. Photo via Julie Walas Huynh

2015’s EntreTechNYC group. Photo via Julie Walas Huynh

The three things that stuck with me the most during this week of #EntreTechNYC are: to know what problem you are solving; to understand the importance people play in the success of a company; and to understand how passion is more than a quality to possess, but a lifestyle.

Solving a problem extends much further than the premise of your business idea. The start-up landscape here in NYC tends to see problems with employees, customers, investors/investment vehicles, business processes, management etc.

Through hearing the stories of executives and founders, I’ve come to realize that it is not necessarily the problem itself that is the barrier between success and failure, but it’s the way we identify, understand, approach, and ultimately relinquish such.

Visit at BuzzFeed/photo via Julie Walas Huynh

Visit at BuzzFeed/photo via Julie Walas Huynh

Lifelong Insights

The people we met voiced relevant insights about entrepreneurship that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was stated by a prominent angel investor, “If you know people, you know business, and that was we invested in.”

It seems that each day, as we walk to our next company, I look at the people around me in an entirely different manner. Instead of asking myself, “What idea can I come up with that will penetrate the market?,” I now ask, “Would this bring value to my target audience?” People are the focus and the foundation to any successful company.

Passion As Lifestyle

Group discussion/Photo via Julie Walas Huynh

Group discussion/Photo via Julie Walas Huynh

I believe the concept of passion is so commonly used when addressing the make-up of an entrepreneur. While listening to the presentations at each company, I noticed one distinct thing that I never would have learned through any textbook. Passion is much more than a quality–it is a lifestyle.

There are the people who exude passion and those who use the word almost as a sales pitch to motivate others with their personal or company’s story.

Passion seems to be present in those who want to change the lives of others as a primary mission in life. Those who want to be successful have incredible drive and perseverance. I can honestly say that I have seen both on this trip, and both types of companies were “successful.” Whether you align your passions with your business is up to you.

It’s worth noting here what Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon, said in Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career: “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”

group outdoors

A break during visits in a NY park / photo by Julie Walas Huynh

Whole New Light

Overall, this trip has shined a light on many sides of entrepreneurship that you normally wouldn’t understand through any case study or textbook.

The interactions with staff, students, and companies on this trip were extremely valuable to me as an aspiring entrepreneur.

The iSchool as a whole, I will admit, is the single most influential aspect of my life to date. If you knew my life story, I think those reading this would be proud of that statement, but that is another story, for another blog–maybe during Spring Break at Silicon Valley ;).

Do you have a specific passion for entrepreneurship or technology? Let us know about it in the comments section here!