Five successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs under 30 endured pains and struggles in helping their ideas see the light of day. But they never gave up. We could all learn a lesson from that.

Vlab event posterRecently I attended the first VLAB event of 2014, a discussion focusing on five successful entrepreneurs under 30 and moderated by 26-year-old Adam Draper, a fourth generation venture capitalist (read more about Adam and Boost VC on nextrends).

These youthful leaders reported their visions, ranging from a coding work-around for app builders to a tool for developing HTML5-based games (GameClosure) to a booking platform for beauty professionals (StyleSeat) to a brain-controlled online game (Crooked Tree Studios), and, finally, the world’s first augmented reality motorcycle helmet (Skully Helmets).

VLAB is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, a volunteer run non-profit that hosts monthly events that aim to put the spotlight on technologies, ideas, and people that have the potential to disrupt existing industries.

Despite their age, the panelists all have real-world experience and shared stories of the pains and struggles endured in helping their ideas see the light of day. Here are some of the key messages that emerged:

Words of Wisdom from the Under 30

The panelists all talked about a near-obsession with their ideas and with being repeatedly told that they would get nowhere. To be an entrepreneur is almost like suffering from an affliction.

Melody McCloskey, CEO of StyleSeat, said that choosing carefully who she brought into her inner circle truly helped her build a better product, get great advice, and even raise funds.

Lat Ware, Founder of Crooked Tree Studios, said the advice to take a break every now and again was some of the best he’s ever received. It helped him overcome a period in his life where he was somewhat stuck, working 12-hour days for weeks on end non-stop.

Living on a $500/month budget when your rent is already $400 is very difficult and requires a lot of patience and faith in what you are building, shared James Tamplin, CEO of Firebase. All five entrepreneurs agreed that while bootstrapping might have its benefits, if you can get access to capital, you should.

With some exceptions, most panelists agreed that they live by the numbers and metrics they set for themselves. Marcus Weller, CEO of Skully Helmets, also thinks that making new mistakes is a good sign that you are pushing the limits.

While choosing a high profile investor has its advantages, the speakers encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to look among their friends and their network first. Moderator Adam Draper mentioned that the best startups at his program are those emailing him at 2am. Not a coincidence, he says.

Michael Carter, CEO of GameClosure, advocated for StartX, Stanford’s student-run startup accelerator, and its main benefit: a network of like-minded individuals. However, other CEOs insisted that success is still possible without being part of a formal program.

I’m still not sure if we can attribute the success of these under 30 entrepreneurs to talent, persistence, tenacity, great ideas, or sheer luck. What is clear to me is that they all leveraged one key factor: their youth with its inherent appetite for risk and excitement for the new. We could all take a lesson from that.

Watch the panel discussion. 

 

Share