The passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs last fall has inspired a flurry of speculation about the roots of his entrepreneurial success. How do some entrepreneurs like Jobs develop their abilities to succeed at a young age? And how can we foster these enterprising qualities among young people?
Studies are currently being done by universities like Stanford and Tufts to answer those questions. Although the studies will take another 3 years to complete, the findings will most likely prove that there are a handful of common and timeless principles to being a successful young entrepreneur. I would like to suggest 3 that I have found are common among some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our lifetime.
1. Make it so by thinking! To launch a business while in your teens is a challenge that takes a "mind over matter" approach. Youth is a great benefit, in some ways; in other ways, it's a challenge.
The largest challenge is probably lack of a good track record; that's something a potential investor wants to look at to calculate your chances of success. To overcome this roadblock, you must either spend massive amounts of time spreading your startup idea around to many different investors, or hire someone older and with more experience in the area of your idea to 'front' it for you with potential backers -- but, of course, if you do the second you have to make sure that you keep control of your idea and business process.
A great advantage you have as a youthful leader is that you haven't learned yet the meaning of 'impossible'. So you propose things that have never been done and you don't give up when they initially don't work the way you thought they would. You're not afraid to fail because you haven't had the advantage of too much maturity. Some great breakthroughs have been made by young people who just didn't know, or didn't care, that "you can't do that". That doesn't mean, however, that you should ignore any previous attempts at what you're trying -- it's always helpful to examine past successes and failures.
2. Startup competitions can be important. Don't overlook the increasing number of startup contests that schools, businesses, and communities have set up to provide venues for young entrepreneurs.
A good example is the Illinois Academy of Math and Science's competition, called Power Pitch. This is a STEM business pitch competition where junior and senior high students compete for prizes up to 75-hundred dollars. It's similar to the TV game show 'Shark Tank'. A panel of judges reviews startup ideas by students and selects finalists for the main cash prize.
3. Behave yourself on the internet. This may seem like a disconnect, but just think about it: You want to present a professional and reliable image to potential investors, partners, and employees of your startup company. What if they can surf the internet and find all sorts of compromising and foolish posts and photographs that you had put up earlier, secure in the knowledge that they were anonymous and couldn't be traced back to you? Here's the disheartening news -- it can ALL be traced back to you, by law enforcement agencies as well as nosy hackers or curious colleagues. Your profile may be public on posts that you were certain were private, because many privacy apps default to public profiles if not kept track of.
Even though British playwright George Bernard Shaw once said "Youth is wasted on the young", you can make your lack of years' work for you as a young entrepreneur. Just remember to practice safe and professional social media skills, think positive, and keep an eye peeled for competitions and prizes that will boost your chances of success.