I recently had the opportunity to give a TEDx talk on 'How to be an entrepreneur?' in Los Angeles, and I thought back to two years ago when I couldn't even properly pronounce the word 'entrepreneur.' Back then, I didn't quite understand what someone did as an entrepreneur or how they became one. Last couple years have been eye-opening and insightful, needless to say, accredited to some exceptional mentors who selflessly invested in my growth and self-awareness. During this enlightening journey, I have discovered answers to some of my questions, while I'm yet to explore many others.
Here's a summary of what I say to people who ask me "So, how do I become an entrepreneur?"
- Think inside the box.
- Don't just think, Act!
- Be disagreeable.
- Start investing in relationships, early!
- Prioritize, delegate and infect.
Start from what you know. Start from a problem that you want to see solved. I started Intervyou.me, an online platform for job seekers to practice mock interviews with peers and paid professionals after I screwed up an important job interview, and realized that millions of people in my shoes are missing out on wonderful opportunities -- possibly their dream jobs -- because they were not prepared for their interviews or did not know with whom to practice in real time.
Meredith Perry, 24, is creating waves in Silicon Valley. Two years ago, she walked in her college classroom with a dead laptop and no charger, and thought that if we can use internet on our devices wirelessly, why can't we charge our devices wirelessly? Brilliant! Though, she didn't just wonder this and move on. She acted on it, and saw her idea through. This is how innovation happens.
Of course, there were naysayers. At first, experts and investors deemed Meredith's idea impossible, but she chose to be disagreeable. She didn't ask, "Can I do this?" She asked, "How can I do this?" She didn't even have an engineering background, but she did have Google! Despite all the naysaying, she hustled, researched online, and put together a prototype by collaborating with people who could dare to be innovative. Through persistence, and by earning supporters in entrepreneurial people, Meredith found investors in Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, and Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of having the right people on your team, and this brings us to my favorite golden rule:
One of my favorite quotes is by John Lily, and it reads as follows:
"One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, back when I was 23 and newly out of school, is this: look around and figure out who you want to work with for the rest of your life. Figure out the people who are smart & awesome, who share your values, who get things done -- and maybe most important, who you like to be with and who you want to help win. And treat them right, always. Look for ways to help, to work together, to learn. Because in 20 years you'll all be in amazing places doing amazing things."
When I started Intervyou.me, I first recruited people I had previously worked with, and I wanted to grow together with. One thing led to another, and we soon became a team of seven, and started winning entrepreneurship competitions.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and there is only so much you can do as an individual. Now, multiply that amount of work with infinity, and that is how much you can do in 24 hours as an entrepreneur, because as an entrepreneur, you don't micromanage -- you delegate work and you trust that the people on your team can do a better job on certain things than you can. For example, Meredith Perry very smartly hired the experts who wrote the scientific papers she had read during her research.
Also, it is not enough for only you to be passionate about solving the problem you are after. You have ensure that everyone on your team has the same conviction in your company's mission. You infect them with your passion by giving them ownership, and I don't just mean stocks in your company! Trust them with big responsibilities, consult them while making decisions, understand what motivates them, and reward them to the best of your ability.
40 years ago, not just any 22-year-old with a dead laptop and no charger could be an entrepreneur. But times have changed. Our generation has incredible privilege and powerful resources to leverage technology to solving challenging problems, to make the world a healthier, happier, more connected, and more productive place.
So, the next time you wish there was an app to find a parking spot, or to make your crush fall in love with you, or that there was a system to allow everyone to go to college despite their financial circumstances, act on it. Be an entrepreneur. And now you know how.