In order to succeed as a young entrepreneur, it’s all about community. I joined a former startup venture with the credo: My most valuable asset is my network. And it was this value that drove the greatest successes of that entrepreneurial adventure.
My team and I always joked that what we lacked in age, we more than made up for in drive. For our collegiate team, the ambitious and hungry (literally) entrepreneur stereotype fit. In numerical order our ages were 25, 24, 23, and 22. Our CEO was 22 years old at the time. So clearly, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint a very significant whale fear—our youth.
“Youth is a disease, and the only cure is experience” – Arizona State’s Wide Receiver Coach Eric Yarber
This quote was a Tweet-turned-blog debate in which I argued that youth is an asset. Especially in today’s workforce where 3 or 4 generations co-exist, experience can mean lines on a resume, years in an industry, number/size of clients, etc. When I first read this quote, I immediately thought in terms of an ability to generate desired results. Can you be a young professional and generate the same results as a 25-year veteran? Yes. No. Maybe.
Living in both corporate and entrepreneurial environments, I see how young people with inexperience can be tremendous assets. They often provide a fresh perspective and new energy to problem solving.
In that business we talked a lot about how it’s not what you know, it’s your ability to find what you need to know. With access to the right websites, e-books, professors, mentors, friends, and networks, a young person today has certain advantages over other professionals who have yet to embrace the “collective knowledge” lifestyle.
And it was exactly that lifestyle and mindset (knowing we needed the support of a village) that protected us against whale fears. My top goal upon joining the startup was forming an Advisory Board. I knew from my experience interning with an angel fund group, that a strong advisory board would comfort any investor who doubted our business acumen and ability to execute.
So, in the early months of our startup, our whales were certain advisory board members.
Without knowing it at the time, we started right where any good whale hunter begins, with the target filter. Our team spent an entire Saturday afternoon brainstorming and categorizing the industries, experience, and behavioral qualities that we needed on the advisory board. As the V. P. of Business Development, I took that rough sketch of a target filter and began scouting.
I tapped into my own network first. Then I looked through lists of the most respected companies in the Phoenix valley. I had compiled lists of award-winning CEOs and notable venture capitalists. Based on our original target filter, I ended up with a list of about 15 whales.
For our team, the next phases of knowing the whale, seeking, setting the harpoon, and riding the whale took about eight months. We were ultimately very successful at pitching our startup mostly because we had all the right people in our boat and learned to leverage the expertise of all the members in our village to support and guide our journey. We may have been young, but, we possessed the No. 1 trait of any good whale hunter – we were hungry!