If the average age of a tech company entrepreneur is nearly 40, can younger founders achieve the same level of success, recognition, and respect? Sure, so long as younger entrepreneurs recognize that there are some things they must do in order to thrive. After talking to communities made up of entrepreneurs in their twenties, here’s what we’ve learned that's worth passing on.
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1. Don’t be Afraid to ask for Help
Entrepreneurs are typically positive and optimistic by nature. Young entrepreneurs have a lot of confidence, in particular. That can be awesome, but it can also be damaging. Restaurateur Danny Meyer wrote that he learned the road to success is paved not just with mistakes, but “with mistakes well handled.” How can you handle those mistakes well if you have no clue what you’re doing?
Sometimes it’s intuition, sometimes it’s luck, but usually it’s solid advice that gets you through. If a person truly wants to help you out, then you should consider sharing your most challenging issues. The key, always, is genuinely meaning it. Create true relationships and ask for help. It makes the right kind of difference.
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2. Establish a Meaningful Online Presence
The first thing people will do is Google your name. And what they should see is an expansive, thoughtful presence that shows you understand, use, and make the most of the web. If you don’t have a blog, start one and write regularly.
Before I graduated college, I wrote for months about digital media on my personal blog and eventually got my first job at a startup on Twitter because of it. Believe it or not, the founder had read my blog post and recognized my last name. Jason Shen, 26-year old co-founder of RideJoy and author of a popular personal blog, agrees. “I find that some folks in the tech scene take me more seriously than perhaps they should because they've heard of me and read my blog posts,” he says.
Remember that Google is your ultimate homepage. Fill it with your social media accounts, get the right coverage and links. You'll find that your insights and communication will be judged the same way, regardless of your age.
3. Give Real Value Back to the Community
What you get out of a community is almost always less important than what you put into it. And youth is definitely no excuse for not getting involved and not creating real value for others. "Becoming an expert on a subject has nothing to do with age," says Everest COO and co-founder, Katherine Krug. “The easiest way to get there is to create... whether you blog, speak or host events, share your ideas and vision with others.”
For example, consider preparing and teaching a Skillshare class. You'll develop relationships you hadn't anticipated, with the added bonus of learning to consolidate your thoughts when necessary.
4. Make an Impact at Events for Your Industry
Make sure to select events that will be chock-full of people who care about the industry you’re in and the problem you’re trying to solve. Make friends at the social events, after-parties, and networking sessions. You don't have to collect business cards, but aim to create at least two solid relationships each day. Another option is to create your own event.
5. Don't Take Yourself too Seriously
It’s one thing to be a young entrepreneur. It’s another to pretend you’re not. If your blog posts are too serious, your Facebook comments too well structured, and your Twitter bio too professional, you’re over thinking it. Have some fun. Joke with other people in your space. Share hilarious videos. Write a blog post with a section on technical disruption of the middle ages. You’re not Steve Jobs yet, so until then it’s fine to joke (within reason) about stuff like drinking Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey (“Tastes Like Heave, Burns Like Hell”).
6. Build Something that Deserves Recognition
No matter how many people you ask for help, how thorough your online persona is, or how much value you create for the community, if what you’re building isn’t worth the recognition, you’re out of luck. “Respect is born out of track record and accomplishment, not age, profession, or title,” says Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council.
Ultimately that thing you're working on, that thing you keep talking about, that thing that has grown to define you has to be good -- preferably great. If related goals come at the expense of building something less awesome then you’re doing it wrong. "To earn respect, regardless of age, you simply need to hustle and crush it," says Malcolm Ong, CTO and co-founder of Skillshare.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto,
This story originally published on Mashable here.