From ex-bankers-turned-investors to 25-year-old CFO's to social-media-savvy interns, there are a number of people who make up the startup community. While most of us turn to billionaires and well-renowned CEOs for advice on how to grow our companies, we're forgetting about a key source: young entrepreneurs.
Don't think a 21-year-old founder can help you grow your team, strategy, and business? Think again.
I looked back at some of my interviews with a few of the young founders I talked to. Whether the company revolved around social TV or adventure travel, each entrepreneur reflected on what they had learned about themselves and growing a company. Here's are some lessons from young entrepreneurs:
- Being personable is key: This piece of advice seems pretty obvious, but it's something that we all forget. While investors and other people who could have a stake in your startup want to make sure you are smart, being a “people person” is just as important. Jon Maser, who is the founder of Advlo, a startup geared toward adventure travel, said, “I would say the biggest thing is you just have to be good with people… you know the biggest thing is going out and convincing people of this idea. Whether it's bringing on another team member, advisor, or mentor, it’s really selling the idea and the opportunity that exists.”
- Are you better than you were yesterday?: Your success shouldn't be measured by comparing yourself to others, but instead it's about competing with yourself. I talked to Lucas Williamson and Scott Scherpenberg, the cofounders of Juiceboxx, which is a case for your Macbook charger. Scherpenberg said striving to get better was critical to success: “It’s about getting feedback all the time. We are out pitching to professionals, taking their feedback and refining our product and process if we are going to market and how we are going to take it to the market.”
- You don't have to know everything: Just because you're the CEO, doesn't mean you have to know everything – that's what your team and advisory board is for, right? Ian Dickerson, who is the CEO of Centscere, a social donation platform, said, “I’ve learned to ask questions if you don’t know something… you don’t need to know everything, but I know that I can rely on the people that know the right answers.”
- Believe in yourself and your product: I know it's cliche, but “you are what you think.” Rachel Samples is the founder of Tock, which is an anti-smartphone app. She has figured out creative ways to promote her app and issue, which is another reason why so many people believe in it: “There’s a lot beyond the phone and it’s tough to promote an anti-smartphone app when you have to answer emails and take calls,” said Samples.” Another thing is that people really believe in Tock and people are able to be social again once they are presented with the issue.”
- Learn to love the things you don't want to do: Melanie Witkower, the CEO of Screen-Bridge, a startup revolved around social TV, said when you're running a company, “you challenge yourself to learn a new part of a business that might not be what your dream is to do.” Meaning if you don't love finances, you need to still learn as much as you can about money. Can you have a company without cash flow?
- There's no “I” in team: All of these young founders said the same thing: they would be nowhere without their teams. They never act like the “boss,” but instead are grateful to have people around them who share the same passions and bring a different set of skills to the table.
I learn something new every time I talk to a young founder, so the next time you go seeking startup advice from an angel, you might want to turn to a young entrepreneur in your area instead.