5 Pieces of Startup Advice From a Pair of Teenage Sibling Cofounders

January 5, 2015

12:32 pm

Launching a startup is hard – that statement on its own needs no additional explanation or follow-up; this is just a simple reality – a widely-accepted truth. It can be even harder, though, if you’re still a teenager and still have to deal with the additional pressures of having to succeed in school. Furthermore, it can truly be a challenge if you’re cofounding a company with someone in your family – the boundaries between business and personal oftentimes become blurred, sometimes leading both the company and your relationship to fail. Despite these challenges, teenage siblings Naomi Feiglin and Nathan Feiglin went ahead and cofounded social-based online marketplace Sailr; the both recently published a piece on Medium going over the things they wish they would have known coming into the startup world – all great startup advice for anyone hoping to jump into this risky startup world this year.

“Working on a startup is an experience of binaries– it’s mostly highs and lows, with very little in between,” writes the Feiglin siblings. “With every success and failure comes new learnings, challenges and experiences.”

It’s never too early to learn about the startup process, especially through the lens of personal experience. In the Medium piece, titled “A note to our future selves”, the Feiglin siblings expound the lessons they’ve learned thus far about starting and running a company, with the hopes that others in the community will learn about some essentials before jumping into any venture. In the piece, they outline several pieces of startup advice; here are 6 pieces of startup advice that stand out:

1. Start by focusing on one thing and doing it well.

“We believe that the more focused a business is, the less time required to make a project more successful. That is, time spent will likely be more productive and have a greater impact.”

Sailr aims to create an experience that will rival eBay. Not only does it provide a two-sided marketplace, but it aims do so through a social platform. One of the greatest lessons the brother and sister duo have learned so far is the difficulty of trying to focus on two different aspects of the company at the same time: concurrently trying to produce both a social network and an online marketplace.

2. Create a supportive network of people.

“Building a support network of people you can turn to for advice and feedback is really important. It’s especially useful if they have had similar business experiences before and can provide some level of guidance…”

Your startup’s success could very much depend on whether you have a supportive network to help make it the best thing it can be. Hearing feedback from your users or from experts in your chosen field can ultimately determine whether you’ll attract enough customers when the time comes.

3. Try to create a business that can produce monetary value from its inception.

“Having a business that makes money from the beginning is ideal — costs don’t wait. You may have office space to pay for, web hosting, marketing costs to cover as well as other expenses.”

This one’s definitely more apropos of their situation (teenagers who haven’t yet had the years to accumulate enough savings), but it’s an important piece of advice nonetheless. While you may have some money to operate your company – whether that’s through savings or external funding – it’s important to remember that, eventually, you’ll near an endpoint where you’ll need to start generating some money.

4. Dedicate as much time as you can on your startup.

“When taking on a really big project, such as Sailr, it would have been beneficial to dedicate more time to growing and building it.”

Pretty straight-forward. If you want something to succeed, you simply have to put in the time to make it happen. For the Feiglin siblings, trying to work on Sailr full-time is difficult, especially considering that they’re both full-time students (Nathan is in high school, while Naomi is in college).

5. Don’t assume anything.

“We all have assumptions about what we think will happen. But what if they are wrong?”

For Sailr, the two cofounders assumed that sellers would promote their products through their current set of social networks; they assumed wrong. Having that assumption led them to have to deal with users that were not satisfied with Sailr. Instead of assumptions, expect for different outcomes and implement strategies to prevent the bad things from happening.

Read more startup advice by reading “A note to our future selves” in its entirety on Medium.


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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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