Advice for Young Tech Entrepreneurs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations are expected to grow 11% by 2029. Every aspect of tech jobs will need leaders and creators, from network engineers to database administrators. Why not you?
Young entrepreneurs such as yourself can make a huge impact in the tech industry, regardless of your skillset. All you need is an idea and some ambition.
Think about it: do you know anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone? How many apps do you use a day on yours? Now imagine that each one of those apps had someone who came up with the idea for it, hired a team to make it happen, and now you can’t live without it.
As with other businesses, young entrepreneurs should look for missing puzzle pieces in the average person’s daily life or problems that need to be solves or areas of service that could use some improvement. You don’t need to write code to know that if something can be fixed with an app, then it’s up to you to make that happen.
Here are five pieces of advice straight from the people who have already done what you can do in tech.
Drew Houston, co-founder, and CEO of Dropbox, is 37 years old and worth $2.2 billion as of May 2019. His advice concerns the people you around you:
“Surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard.”
“Where you live matters: there’s only one MIT. And there’s only one Hollywood and only one Silicon Valley. This isn’t a coincidence: for whatever you’re doing, there’s usually only one place where the top people go. You should go there. Don’t settle for anywhere else. Meeting my heroes and learning from them gave me a huge advantage. Your heroes are part of your circle too — follow them.”
In other words, make sure the people you spend time with while building your business are smart, driven, and determined. Catch their energy and let them catch yours. Be inspired and inspiring. Follow your heroes and hire the best talent. The road to success isn’t walked alone. That’s what you can learn from Drew Houston.
Jon Oringer, founder and CEO of Shutterstock, is 46 years old and worth $1 billion as of April 2017. From him, you can learn how to start up your business without outside investors:
“I started Shutterstock without any outside funding; I believe in creating a lean startup. By not taking outside investors early, I was forced to use every dollar I had as efficiently as possible. And I was able to keep a large part of the company.”
Oringer started Shutterstock with his own savings, and now he’s worth $1,000,000. By being careful and considerate with his own cash he was able to start and build a company that took off almost immediately.
When you’re invested with your own money, you’re more careful about your decisions. You have no one to answer to except yourself, so you want to make sure you take care of your business well.
The additional lesson here is that you don’t need tons of investors to get your enterprise started. You can save up money wherever you get it and start all on your own.
Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, co-founders of Airbnb, are each 39 years old and each worth over $4 billion. They saw a problem and came up with a creative solution.
“We started Airbnb because, like many across the U.S. and in New York, we were struggling to pay our rent and decided to open up our living room to fellow artists coming to town for a design conference. Sharing our apartment allowed us to stay in our home and start our company,” said Gebbia. He also said, “By helping New Yorkers turn their greatest expense – their home – into an asset, Airbnb is a vehicle that artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators can use to earn extra money to pursue their passion.”
Brian Chesky said, “Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like,” as well as, “The office is the laboratory and meeting your users is like going into the field. You can’t just stay in the lab. And it’s not just asking users what they want, it’s about seeing what they’re doing.”
These guys created a solution that they knew could work for a lot of people. By focusing on problem-solving, they created what is now a global, multi-billion dollar business. Were they hoteliers? Did they have experience as landlords? Nope. But that clearly didn’t matter.
Jack Dorsey is the co-founder of Twitter and Square, 43 years old, and worth $8 billion. What can he teach you? Focus, focus, focus. In his own words:
“Pick a movement, pick a revolution, and join it.”
“Start now. Star here, start small, and keep it simple.”
“Make every detail perfect, and limit the number of details to perfect.”
You can’t be all things to all people, nor should you try. As an entrepreneur, stay focused on your idea rather than trying to fill every gap and solve every problem. Focus is what differentiates successful young entrepreneurs from the ones who burn out and quit. Twitter wasn’t created to solve world hunger or cure cancer; it was created to bring people together, to simplify the very human act of communication. So don’t spread yourself too thin.
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder of Facebook, 36 years old, and worth a staggering $99.6 billion. Clearly, young entrepreneurs should heed his advice. What can you learn from him? Think long-term.
“There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.”
Do you see what he did there? He is focused, as Jack Dorsey suggests, but also thinking long-term. The focus is on giving a voice to everyone; his long-term thought is about building the technology and structure to make that happen.
What is your focus? What is the future of your goal? How will you make that happen?
Your role as a young entrepreneur is to take the advice given above and figure out how to make it work for you, in your world, in your unique situation. What all of the above entrepreneurs have in common is that they used creativity to solve unique problems, stayed on their paths, and thought about the future of their ideas. No doubt you already have a million wonderful ideas that will set the world on fire; now decide which one will solve an immediate problem. Don’t wait for the timing to be perfect and don’t go it alone. Get your inspirational team together, invest in yourself, and go build that next world-changing app.
Young entrepreneurs who attend high school in Florida may be eligible for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Click here to learn about what we offer and how to apply.