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Picture the “average” entrepreneur. How old is this person? What does he or she look like?
The statistics can be misleading. The average age for a startup founder is 26, but the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be older — with founders over the age of 55 more than twice as likely as 20-to-34-year-olds to be in high-growth startups.
There are possible reasons for this: Young entrepreneurs are, by nature, inexperienced. They don’t have as many connections and aren’t as equipped to make long-term business decisions. Does that mean they’re less likely to be successful? Perhaps, but they’re also equipped with youthful enthusiasm, unrestricted creativity and lifestyle flexibility that can often wane with age.
If you’re a young entrepreneur (under age 25), you won’t have to look far to find peers who have upstaged their older counterparts — and you can learn valuable lessons from these peers on how to build your own business.
Crimson Education is the brainchild of 22-year-old New Zealander Jamie Beaton (pictured above) who, together with his partner, Sharndre Kushor, created what they describe as a global company. Crimson Education is dedicated to helping students by offering best-fit education and career-mentoring support.
The goal is to secure these clients top-ranked university admissions, and to land better careers. The company pairs high school and college-age students with top-scoring tutors, coaches and mentors based around the world, in a flexible program that identifies their career goals and helps them find success. Crimson Education, which works with top universities like Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Columbia, recently received a $41 million investment and is poised for further growth.
Back in 2010, Robert Nay (who was 14 at the time) created a puzzle-like game app called Bubble Ball. Within two weeks, the game had more than a million downloads — surpassing the then-dominating Angry Birds as the most downloaded free game in the Apple Store. Nay had no previous coding experience, but put together the 4,000 lines of code necessary to make the app functional in just a month. Today, Nay Games offers games like Bubble Ball Pro, Bubble Ball: Curiosity and Site Words and Spelling Practice to help children learn spelling and reading.
Catherine Cook, together with her brother David, was 20 years old and still in college when she came up with the idea for MyYearbook, a social networking site. Within a few years of its launch, the site had attracted more than 20 million members and was securing more than $20 million in annual revenue. In 2012, the company merged with Quepasa Corporation to create the social network MeetMe, which is currently working on acquiring new, smaller social networks to build its influence.
When he was just 15, Nick D’Aloisio received backing from Horizon Ventures and other angel investors to create an algorithm that automatically summarized news articles: Its name was Summly. In 2013, when D’Aloisio was 17, Yahoo acquired Summly for $30 million.
Don’t forget that when Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, he was just a 19-year-old college student. Today, he’s the fifth-richest person in the world. A combination of timing, good business decisions and a steady evolution of features has helped make Facebook the biggest social network in the world — by far.
Lessons to learn from these young entrepreneurs
Don’t be afraid to try something new. People like Zuckerberg, Nay and Cook weren’t top experts in their fields when they started building their respective products, but they were committed to building the best products they could. It may take you multiple revisions and improvements to realize your dream, but inexperience can be made up for with vision and commitment.
Reduce everything to problems and solutions. When developing your business idea, boil everything down to a key problem that your customers have, and the solution that your product or service provides. If you find that the problem is changing, change your product along with it. The businesses described here wouldn’t have remained successful if they had stayed stagnant.
Invest in yourself. If you want to be successful leading a business, you have to invest in yourself as much as you invest in anything else. Depending on your goals, that might mean formal education, skilled training, work with a mentor or even the effort to gain firsthand experience in various positions within your industry.
Listen to the advice of others. Being a young entrepreneur comes with many advantages, but experience isn’t always one of them. Fortunately, you can make up for this by working with mentors and peers who have gone before you. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they advise, but it pays to listen to their wisdom before making any major decisions. Choose a direction only when you’re confident that you have enough information to do that.
You may not become CEO of a company valued in the multi-millions immediately. But this advice can give you the disposition and tools you need to start to create and grow a successful business. The first step is committing to the idea of becoming a business owner and refusing to let your youth be a disadvantage.