THE BLOG
03/21/2012 05:00 pm ET Updated May 21, 2012

Mistakes of a Young Entrepreneur

With the tech revolutions of the last several decades, probably the most notable thing is the rise in baby-faced entrepreneurs who have managed to change markets and cultures, and make history. For every story of another young person going out and changing the world, a thousand high school and college students sit on their computers and fantasize about making their dreams come true, typing away like piano masters playing in harmony. Yet, problems arise when the dream meets the naivete of young people. I've done projects that bring disgrace to the idea of entrepreneurship. I had an ego and a lack of originality, and I developed habits I learned to avoid.

In my junior year of high school, I began to push myself to turn my big ideas into action. I spent my life trying to write down the future in the form of ideas. I tried to plan things out with the dream of being an entrepreneur and innovator. Once I had my driver's permit, I started to attend tech events and network online. With that, I realized quickly that waiting was no longer an option in today's world and action now was the key. I acted on my first bad habit: Action for the sake of action over action for the sake of passion.

With my desire to make the dream happen, I decided to start with my friend Shahed Khan. We connected through just floating around in the same pool of interests and realizing we had a lot of similar dreams. So eventually we decided that, together, we'd take our first steps of entrepreneurship. The issue that would come before us was fueled with ego and a false sense of pride in achievements that meant nothing. This would lead to the birth of Muvvio and Viatask -- the first two companies I'm proud to have had fail.

The original venture was a project to try and make movie rental cheaper and easier, called Muvvio. We thought it was a cheap way to make money, so we went with an impractical idea and tried competing with companies such as Redbox and Netflix in the process. Impractical thinking led to that project -- we thought we were so special for being young and wanting to start a business. So, after a month of realizing it was impossible to do this, we decided to move onto a simpler venture. This one was 100 percent software, had zero third-party involvement, and wasn't as competitive of a market. That would ultimately lead to the company Viatask. The only thing accomplished in this venture was doing everything on the world's longest list of things not to do as an entrepreneur.

With my experience working on Viatask, I learned fairly quickly that it's not easy doing something complex. So, the idea became to do something simple. That quest for simplicity meant creating a project just because I wanted to, even if passion or basic interest was ignored.

On Skype one day after school, Shahed proposed an idea for a company where people could post errands for people to do. I knew that Taskrabbit was not a giant success and that improvements could be made, so I was on board, hoping it'd lead to something. I went around asking friends for thoughts on the project. My first big sign of bad news was a friend sending me a link to a company called Zaarly. On the day Shahed proposed Viatask to me, Zaarly raised a million dollars, and they were the exact same idea. I went to Shahed and he still wanted to do it. Our feeling was that although failure seemed likely, it was worth a shot, and Viatask could make it if we made the right moves.

The first days working on Viatask with Shahed were days of just Skyping and hoping to move. We had an idea that was basically a ripoff of two companies, and we had no capital, programming skills, or big connections. So we spent 50 percent of the time talking about how great it'd be for this project to become a success, and to be like Mark Zuckerberg or Sean Parker. The other 50 percent was just working on things that weren't real, but only there to make us think we were entrepreneurs. We'd try to create poorly-made 'coming soon' pages, get blog articles written about two teenagers starting a company, make pages for every social network, and cold-calling VC's and programmers without even having a paragraph of business plans. We were even planning T-shirt and sticker designs before anything else. Looking back at this the project, it seemed as if little girls selling lemonade had a better shot at making millions.

The thing that caused all of this was lack of interest in the product. Viatask was just our way to make other people think we had qualities that legends like Zuckberg and Jobs had. We tried to brand ourselves as young entrepreneurs rather than branding our company. We learned that we were not the young Disney channel stars having people buy anything with our faces on them. The fact is, we learned we were not special, because people invest in businesses, resumes, and ideas. They will never make a pure novelty investment, and Viatask was a novelty company. It was a stolen idea and not enough talent was in the team to be worth anything real. For this, Shahed, Viatask, and I were nothing more than jokes. The habit of over-inflating our egos was the problem.

I left Viatask when it was clear we'd never be a success. The site is still up and Shahed still has been trying to work on it. The greatest knowledge I obtained was learning to move purely on passion and never on ego. For my ability to learn that, I'd say I'm proud to call Viatask and Muvvio my first failures. Without these experiences I wouldn't be organizing events, working to build a company, getting funding offers, being on national TV, representing research groups, and working on various other projects.

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