Today, the word “entrepreneur” holds more meanings than ever before. For some, it implies running a multimillion-dollar company. For others, modern entrepreneurship is about building new relationships and living the life you’ve dreamed of.
Two years ago, I couldn’t have even dreamed of calling myself an entrepreneur, let alone speak of a life full of speaking gigs and exciting freelance projects. All I had was a blind ambition strong enough to make me overcome my fear of sending an internship request to a company I admired.
Fast forward 24 months, I’ve established a website with a healthy readership and landed many first-rate consulting projects. I hate to brag, but I just want to show you how much can happen in a mere two years. For me, the path to success has always been paved with trial and error. In my first 23 years of life, here are the key learnings that will help you become an entrepreneur in the modern world.
1. You don’t need any capital to get started.
More important than any investment are two things no money can buy: ambition and determination.
As you begin your journey as a young entrepreneur, you’re going to have lots of downfalls and setbacks. There will be highs and lows. During the hardest of times, it takes a lot of persistence to push through and believe it will all come together in the end. Most of the time, things will work out just fine.
When I first decided to take the leap and switch from a secure full-time role to a freelance career, I lost my team and didn’t have enough projects to sustain myself in the long-term. The way I survived the first months of no work was by keeping myself busy with learning and building my blog. Eventually, the blog started to get noticed, and new freelance projects followed.
Paul Graham, co-founder of a wildly successful startup accelerator Y Combinator, named determination as the No. 1 skill he values from startup founders. As long as you’re over a certain threshold of intelligence, what matters most is perseverance — you’ll have to be able to survive the low periods in life.
If you’re confident in your plan and put your soul into it, the money will follow. The hardest part is motivating yourself while receiving no positive feedback for the first months (or even years). To get through this hardship, keep reminding yourself that you’re doing the best work you can and rely on your ambition to make it through.
2. Most of the time, you don’t have anything to lose.
Have you ever feared to hit the “Send” button of a life-changing email or to reach out to potential mentors? Especially when young, there are so many seemingly intimidating actions that will become second nature later in life. What matters is that you’ll have enough courage to execute those things right now and push your limits on the way.
As you take risks and see them pay back generously, you will gradually learn a new rule: People are generally friendly and supportive. If you ask someone a question or look for some help, he or she will mostly respond with guidance and suggestions. This doesn’t mean you can expect everyone to stop what they’re doing and put your requests first. Whenever you ask another person for help, make it clear why they should help you.
The good thing about modern entrepreneurship is that while you’re young, you don’t have much to lose. Most of the time, the greatest enemy stopping us is our fear of failure. Author Tim Ferriss suggests that you ask yourself: “What is the worst that could happen?” By looking at your anxieties from this vantage point, you’ll be able to eliminate many artificial worries and take bold steps toward greater success.
3. You just need to put yourself out there.
Becoming recognized in any particular industry is not going to happen while you keep waiting for the world to discover you. You’ll have to make the world see you. In my experience, the people you look up to will start contacting you on their own. But, only if you first raise yourself to their level and beyond.
Cutting through the clutter in today’s noisy world is one of the greatest challenges you’ll have to embrace. The good part is that making a name for yourself is easier now than it was 20 years ago. Many entrepreneurs, myself included, choose a website as the primary promotional channel. Alternatively, you can build up a strong social media presence or advance your career as a keynote speaker or book author. The key to building your online presence is focus — don’t strive to be active on all platforms.
As you’re able to secure your first gig, make it your core priority to excel at the job. Remember that promoting yourself should go hand in hand with doing great work and proving that you can deliver on promises.
Another way to grow your career faster is to hunt down a job that is way out of your league. That’s precisely what I felt while hitting the “Send” button on guest blogging requests, fighting off my impostor syndrome. Psychological research shows that as other people place high expectations on you, you’ll feel more compelled to rise up to those expectations.
4. It’s all about storytelling.
If you think about successful entrepreneurs, they’re mainly known for one specific characteristic, company or trait. On a personal level, those people have a variety of interests, characteristics and skills. However, it’s the one key story they’re known for.
Storytelling is an excellent way to develop your personal brand and raise awareness of your product or service. The younger your target audience, the higher impact your brand will have. A strong brand is also what differentiates you from the competition and allows you to monetize for a premium service.
Consider some of the most successful products of modern times: the iPhone, Airbnb rentals and the GoPro camera. Every single one of these products tells a story — iPhone’s owners are well-off and tech-savvy, Airbnb travellers are daring explorers and GoPro users are hunters of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
It is a lot more challenging to be different than go along with the crowd. Yet, following the crowd does not make you successful — you’re likely to be as successful as the average member of the pack. If you want to succeed, standing out and keeping true to your brand should become indispensable parts of your strategy.
5. Don’t forget to live.
Once you’ve achieved a fair share of success as an entrepreneur, new opportunities start to find their way to your doorstep. For many people, that’s also when impostor syndrome kicks in — the fear of not being as good as people think you are. This can lead to a vicious cycle of overworking and trying to grow your business further and further. Believe me, I’ve been there.
According to Psychology Today, our close relationships keep us grounded and make us happy. As you spend your entire life working toward an imaginary better future, it’s easy to overlook the presence and grow old without ever feeling content.
The nice thing about modern entrepreneurship is that you can be the master of your own time. Sometimes, it’s normal to work 12- or 16-hour days. However, don’t take too much pride in exploiting your energy levels — compensate for stressful work with proper rest and spend quality time with people that make you happy. Also, make time to read and grow your capacity to empathize as it will have a positive, long-term impact on your career.
The sooner in your life you realize what entrepreneurship means to you, the higher quality of life you’ll reach. You don’t have to wait another five years to get where you want to be. You can start right now by taking small but consistent steps toward the future you’ve dreamed of.
Related Video: 7 Lessons for Young Entrepreneurs from a NASCAR Solopreneur
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018
Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.
1. Raising capital
Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.
This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.
2. Transacting value
Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.
3. Investing for the future
For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.
4. Developing on the blockchain
The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.
5. Joining the blockchain community
The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.
Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.
7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You
“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.
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