As a 10-year-old in a small town in India, Holi – the “festival of colors” – wasn’t only a celebration of the arrival of spring. It meant business, at least for 10 of us kids. Early March was like our Black Friday. We capitalized on the annual festival by building and selling celebratory goods, collecting hundreds of dollars toward our next venture...or new toy. Nine out of 10 of these childhood “co-founders” are now running companies all over the world.
When I co-founded my first company at 23, most of my meetings would start with "How old are you?" to which I would always respond with a smile and say, “old enough!" I have to say, being young in the tech world does have its benefits. For instance, people inherently connect your age with fresh ideas and being technologically advanced.
When I co-founded my first company at 23, most of my meetings would start with "How old are you?" to which I would always respond with a smile and say, “old enough!"
Now, at 30, you could say that I’m actually more of a middle-aged founder – at least in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, here are 5 things young founders building new relationships should keep in mind:
- Focus on Execution
- Welcome Feedback
- Remember All Eyes Are Watching
- Know Your Limits
- Be Yourself
1. Focus on Execution
A common critique of young founders is that we simply lack the real-world experience needed to make our vision a reality. As a rule, I take out my “big picture brainstorming” notebook only for 1-2 hours a week, or during air travel. In the office, the focus is on ground execution and building an amazing team that can bring our ideas to life.
2. Welcome Feedback
One of the most valuable lessons that MIT teaches its students is humility. Coming from a small town halfway around the world, being just another nerd at MIT grounds you and teaches you that there is always something new to learn. As a young founder, we are often magnets for what to do or not do. Some find this frustrating, but it’s seriously the greatest advantage that you can have. It’s incredibly important to accept all the feedback you can get.
3. Remember All Eyes Are Watching
Whether it’s your co-founder, team, investor or customer, don’t commit to something you don’t plan to follow through on. No matter your age, it’s hard to be taken seriously if you constantly over-promise or speak faster than you can think. This is especially important for young founders as we earn trust and credibility.
4. Know Your Limits
My co-founder Andrew Wolf is an artist, Stanford product design alum, London Business School guy, and quadruplet from the suburbs of D.C. I am none of these things. Knowing your limits is critical to finding a co-founder and team who complements your background and shares different approaches to solving problems and identifying opportunities. For young founders, coming to terms with your weaknesses early on is the first step in surrounding yourself with people - your team, investors, mentors - needed to build a unicorn.
5. Be Yourself
Diversity fuels innovation. Whether you’re 20, 30, or 50, you’re at the table for a reason. Contributing our unique experiences and perspectives can feed ideation and change. By consistently being yourself, chances are that people – starting with your team – will feel more comfortable and connected with you. Plus, why pretend to be someone you’re not – that’s a whole job in itself!
Fortunately, over the last couple of years, it feels like the world has really come to accept younger folks at the helm of companies. It was a challenge to hire experienced talent in Singapore as a 23-year-old founder. Fortunately, we’ve seen those challenges disappear over the last couple of years – thanks to a lot of success stories kicked off by younger founders.
Arka, co-founder and CEO at Zinier, is an MIT-trained engineer, astronomy geek, and an adventurous foodie, who is responsible for driving Zinier’s overall strategy and expanding to new verticals and global markets. Zinier is an intelligent field service automation platform that helps organizations work smarter, faster, and more efficiently.