I Am an Entrepreneur


Uploaded by whitehouse on 28.11.2011

Transcript:
Ronnie Cho: Hello. My name is Ronnie Cho, and I am the Associate Director
at the Office of Public Engagement here at the
White House.
And I want to first say thank you for everyone who is here
and welcome to the White House.
Who is first time here; raise your hand, White House?
All right. Look at that, new people coming to the front doors
of the White House.
My job here at the Office of Public Engagement is to kind
of do exactly what we're doing here.
Bring folks to the White House to kind of make the connection
between, you know, government and citizenship and the
different things that we're working on here
at the White House.
You know, President Obama has always had a special
relationship with young people and I am his liaison.
So not only to inform the White House and the President and the
Administration on the issues important to young Americans,
but also to inform the public on the initiatives that we're
working on in support of young people.
So, you know, as I was saying President Obama has always had a
special relationship with young people going back to his days as
a law professor in Chicago and all through his career as a
public servant and, you know, it's in that spirit that we have
these convenings.
And so we're so delighted to have you.
On behalf of the White House and on behalf of President Obama,
welcome, along with MTV and YEC, the Young Entrepreneurs Council,
Scott Gerber, where are you?
Over there.
Thank you, very much, for making this happen and in bringing
these folks together.
Entrepreneurship is a core American value and it's
presented a tremendous competitive advantage versus
every other country in the world.
You know, from Ben Franklin to Thomas Edison, Oprah Winfrey,
Mark Zuckerberg, and even the late, great, Steve Jobs,
entrepreneurship is sort of baked into our DNA.
It's a proud tradition that we have in this country.
And it's my belief that the folks in this room,
this generation will unleash innovations,
launch companies that will change the world and, you know,
I just kind of look around both the YEC folks and the emerging
and the aspiring entrepreneurs in this room to think about what
you'll do and how you'll do it and, you know,
free enterprise has been the most powerful job-creating force
the world has ever seen.
Think about the jobs that we're going to create in
the years to come.
And we're going to talk more about how to get there from an
idea to a company, from a company to products, et cetera;
we're absolutely excited to convene this meeting today.
So just a couple of things.
I want to run down the schedule for today and
we can get started.
So the first session we'll have here will be hosted by
our friend sway from MTV.
We'll discuss, sort of convene the panel of entrepreneurs to
discuss their experience as entrepreneurs and what was that
very first step.
How do you go from product?
How do you go from idea to product?
Idea to the marketplace?
For many of you who are wondering about that, you know,
hopefully we'll arm you with the tools
and information to do that.
Along with some information from the government about how we can
support these endeavors.
I think, and the second part of this will be a
series of breakouts.
There will be three breakout groups and so you don't have
to memorize this now but I am just going to let you know,
American University -- where are you guys at?
Raise your hands!
All right. Nice.
You guys are going to be in room 428.
I'll remind everyone again afterwards.
George Washington? Nice.
You guys are going to be in 530. Room 530.
And UMD, Terps?
You guys will be in this room here.
So I'll remind everyone again but just remember we're going
to be moving around.
That's going to be right around 3:20 today.
And so while the breakout group on discussion one on one YEC
members will be able to kind of answer your questions in a more
personal manner, talk you through some logistics and
just what it's like to be a business owner.
What it's like to be a young person who is trying to get
their first business loan and trying to get access to capital
and trying to figure out, you know, how to run a company.
And then we'll reconvene here right around 4:10 for some final
remarks and some closing thoughts.
And so we've got a really great program today and happy to have
you here again.
So without further ado, I want to introduce our first speaker,
again, Scott Gerber, friend and colleague,
has been really a role model I think for all
young entrepreneurs.
I think it's a one-year anniversary of the Young
Entrepreneur Council.
Congratulations to all you guys.
And Scott, if you want to join us on stage.
Please welcome Scott Gerber.
(applause)
Scott Gerber: Well, first off, of course I have to thank Ronnie and the
White House for their warm welcome in hosting this
spectacular event.
I'm really excited to have so many amazing people in the
audience here today representing so many different corners of the
entrepreneurial ecosystem.
First and foremost I have to, you know,
thank you my members at YEC.
If I could just have all the YEC members real quick -- I'm sorry
it's corny -- but just stand up just so folks get a sense
of just who you guys are.
I just want to give these guys a big round of applause because
these guys are some of the, truly,
these guys are some of the top innovators and entrepreneurs in
America right now in Gen Y and you guys will get the great
chance to meet them later.
I also want to thank MTV.
They've been a great partner in this.
And Sway for giving his time so graciously.
I also want to shout out Gen Y Capital Partners,
if you guys have heard, YEC recently launched a venture arm
that basically is going to be an investment company that not only
provides a level of capital into new seed businesses,
but simultaneously that also helps with student loan relief.
So if I can have also the Gen Y Capital Partner team, stand up?
Lauren, Clarissa, Jeremy Johnson,
I don't think Matt is here, but these guys also,
thank you so much, guys, we appreciate your efforts as well.
(applause)
A year ago a movement started in this country.
You know, youth entrepreneurship was not as much of a viable
trend as it's been than basically in the last,
call it 18 months.
And the reason for that is because we as a generation
have realized that this is a viable path.
This is something that is not, you know,
maybe the social norm of yesteryear,
but it's something we're willing to accept.
Something we're willing to really adhere to.
And it's so important that this generation realizes that because
now more than ever you're needed.
You know, if you take a second look to your left and your
right, right now, you'll realize pretty quickly that the people
in this room are going to be those innovators,
are going to be those job creators,
are going to be the people not that fundamentally necessarily
change the world, I don't want to make it sound like
entrepreneurship is just about every day doing something so
grandiose as quote-unquote changing the world,
but also just creating value.
Creating some incredible opportunities for other
Americans and also just following and continuing
a trend on tradition of what the value of entrepreneurship can
mean in the American culture.
You know, I'm like a lot of you in this room.
You know, there are certainly some people -- and I joke around
often, you know, being in an organization like YEC where
members around you every day are telling you about this billion
dollar company they're working on or that, you know,
life altering partnership they worked on,
it can get intimidating.
But what gives me the great drive is realizing that a year
ago, now, I was a small business owner.
I was somebody who started a business right out of college
and realized very, very quickly that I didn't have something
that really would have helped.
Really would have helped.
That was somebody else telling me what to do.
I went to film school at NYU.
I am not the product of an entrepreneurial story or some
sort of silver spoon mentality.
I basically am the first entrepreneur in my entire
family and extended family.
I am basically a product of just working really hard.
And I believe that's what the American dream truly is today.
It's working really hard.
But it's gotten fragmented along the way and many reasons for
that for our generation some problems that we face like our
own egos or like, you know, unrealistic expectations and
some where the cards have been dealt that we maybe didn't have
such a role in play.
But back when I started deciding why at this moment in our
history we needed an organization like YEC,
we needed young people not just to say they were activated but
to actually go out and give back,
I said I want the group I didn't have.
And so I went out and started collecting some of the best
minds out there that I had been fortunate to meet through
writing for various publications in mass media for doing a
variety of things and I said, guys, here's what we need to do.
And I'm just so grateful that they listened and kind of took
the call and ran with the ball and now I try to keep up with
their ideas of how we can truly, not just change the American
economy but, again, change the world.
So I leave you with this one thought when you realize where
you are today versus where you can be tomorrow.
This is not some utopian dream, some unrealistic expectation;
this is honestly something that a year from now is
achievable for you.
If you leave this room today, taking the advice that actually
has been bestowed to you by Wise Ears who will later be happy to
give you guys advice, pick their brains and such,
I want you to go out and doing something with it.
Don't talk about it.
Go and do it.
What's stopping you?
Right now, I mean -- and I hate to shout him out in particular
because all the YEC folks are amazing,
but something my friend, Alexis in the corner over there,
has told me countless times has been with the Internet today and
not just for tech companies, but the Internet alone has
fundamentally changed the way we can build businesses,
fundamentally changed the way we can create jobs,
fundamentally changed our world, connected us in ways
unimaginable even a decade ago, and it's also opened up the
opportunity for you to start a business bootstrapped to the
hilt; competing on an even playing field with the largest
titans in industry.
These are the sorts of things that are realistic.
A year ago, I was a small business owner and today I'm
proud to lead a movement, a national movement,
of several hundred of the top echelon
entrepreneurs in America.
Because, I believed in what we were doing -- believe in what
you are doing and I promise you, you will find your way
in this world.
And my last quick thing, just to tell you all is this: A couple
years from now when you don't remember this event,
when you don't remember me or any of the YEC folks but you
just remember one thing, that one thing that actually meant
something, I want you to remember this: You might get
somebody that is going to give you that key ingredient to your
business today or help you move to that next step in your plan
or next way of getting a client.
And that is going to help you move yourself up.
And in ten years from now when you're standing here,
because I believe you can, I mean, a year ago, I mean,
Ronnie can attest to this, I had never even been to the White
House let alone D.C. in many cases,
you're going to remember that somebody gave you that hint of
inspiration, that moment that helped you move
yourself forward.
And so I ask you to do this: Give it back.
Take a second out of your day and a few years from now and
realize where you came from.
If this generation helps every generation after it we can build
a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem unlike anything the
world has ever seen.
And if I have to ask one thing it's that you fulfill that dream
and turn it in to a reality.
I sincerely appreciate you all coming here today.
I hope you learn a lot.
Thank you so much for taking the time and, you know,
keep everything going, man.
You guys are really going to make this happen.
So thank you so much.
(applause)
Ronnie Cho: Thanks, Scott.
Our next speaker is actually, a full disclosure, is my boss,
so his name is Jon Carson.
And Jon Carson, you might remember his name,
right now he is the director of the Office of Public Engagement.
And leads this effort to reach out to the public and bring them
in to the White House and really be a part of our team here and
understand what we're trying to do with the Administration and
the President's vision for the country.
But before that he led probably one of the largest organizations
run by millennials.
He was a field, national field director for the Obama for
America Campaign in 2008.
And so John Carson would you please join us on stage.
Please welcome Jon!
(applause)
Jon Carson: How is everybody?
Audience Members: Great.
Jon Carson: Excited to be here?
Audience Members: Yes.
Jon Carson: Well, good, because I've got a concrete ask for each and every
one of you.
When you leave here today or even when you step out into the
hallway outside of where you can't get a wireless signal
inside the room here, I want you to tell everyone,
tweet everyone, e-mail everyone, blog to everyone,
dance and sing on the streets if you have to about what you
learned today, what you experienced today and about
being a part of it.
I want you to tell them what you learned, what you liked;
tell them what you didn't like.
And I ask you this not because we're not going
to be doing the same.
This Administration is as focused and dedicated to
advancing issues for young people for entrepreneurs as
you could ever ask for.
But I ask you because you have a voice and networks that I think
is way more powerful than all of you realize.
You know, this is what Ronnie and I do for a living.
We work with every possible group of stakeholders, issues,
organizations like YEC and I'll tell you what I have learned is
that we live in a time when we are surrounded by information
but nobody really knows what's going on.
And I think we're in a time where people have a new filter
to information that they take in.
And that filter is not just what are you telling me,
but who's telling me.
We live in a difficult time.
A cynical time, when the fact that it's you that's sending
that e-mail, you that's putting it on your Facebook page,
you that put it on your blog matters to the people
who know you.
So you are able to break through and pass on information that you
learned, information that you are given in a way that just the
fact that it's theoretically available in Google can make
it happen.
I'll give you just one concrete example.
We had an event here a couple months ago highlighting young
entrepreneurs, our Champions of Change Program.
Ten CEOs who are creating thousands of jobs all of whom
are under 35 and one of the goals of that event was to let
people know about some specific programs at the Small Business
Administration that might help them start their own company.
And this is what Ronnie and I do,
we help the federal government get more
people involved in programs.
And so I thought we were having a very successful day helping
people find out about concrete ways the SBA could help them.
Afterwards I had three people, all of whom were entrepreneurs
or involved in small businesses or in business school who all
came up to me and thanked me for the event because they'd never
heard of the Small Business Administration before.
Again, it's that connection to you, people, community leaders,
people who are networked that can really break through in this
time when again we are surrounded by information but
you need that validation from someone you trust.
And there is really two reasons I would ask you to share your
experience here today.
One is you are going to learn as Scott said concrete information,
concrete ideas, concrete inspirations,
whether it be on how the government can partner with you
to make entrepreneurship happen or from someone that you meet in
the hallway today, you're going to have pieces of information.
But there's a second reason which is we also live in a day
and age when I think especially for this generation and as
Ronnie said I have seen what this generation is capable of.
And, by the way, my definition for youth is people who had
e-mail addresses in middle school.
I did not.
But those of you who did I have seen what you're capable of.
I saw it with my own eyes on the campaign.
But we need you as examples.
A lot of people view government and what we're all fighting
about here in Washington is some sort of bad reality TV show that
doesn't either affect them and they have no ability to
influence it.
So seeing whether they're checking your Facebook status
or seeing that blog you wrote or that e-mail you sent that you
were a part of the discussion, that you were involved in an
event that is moving the ball forward,
it's going to help inspire that next set of people.
So as I said, get the word out any way you can.
If you want to tweet me about it,
a couple of you did on your way in here today,
I'm at JonCarson44.
I will help pass on the stuff that you're doing.
But again thank you for what you're doing.
This Administration believes in the young people of this
country, it believes in the entrepreneurs of this country.
And please help share what you learn today.
Thank you.
(applause)
Ronnie Cho: Thank you, Jon.
And with that I think we'll get right into our program.
The next -- if everyone who is going to be on the panel -- if
you want to get ready and join us on stage here in a minute?
Sway, from MTV -- many of you -- who knows -- who has
heard of Sway?
Just a few of you, I would probably assume.
You know, this is a guy that we have all been watching for
a long time.
He's been an activist.
He has interviewed President Obama, Bono, Lady Gaga,
sort of the folks who run our culture.
And when it comes to entrepreneurship,
he's been an entrepreneur.
He's started his own radio program in Oakland way back
when, I won't say exactly when, but a long time ago.
And he's been in the game for a long time.
This is an issue he cares deeply about.
I think we're trying to connect this idea of an entrepreneur in
our generation, what it means to be a young person who is going
to start their own company.
You think about these big legacy companies,
these Fortune 500 companies, at some point somewhere down
the line they were just, you know, a person in a garbage.
Or an idea that somebody had and, you know,
had kind of the moxie to put it together.
We are, we are the standard bearers here for the next
generation of entrepreneurs.
And the time is now to elevate this discussion.
And so we're happy to have Sway join us on stage to share some
remarks and then we'll start our panel.
Thank you.
(applause)
Sway Calloway: How is everybody doing today?
Can you hear me?
Audience Members: Yes.
Sway Calloway: What were you speaking in? This or this?
Whah Whah. Whah Whah Whah Whah.
Well, I won't need a microphone.
First of all, I want to say thank you to my team here from
Public Affairs and MTV News and who I came in to D.C. today with
and one of my business partners Kelly Jackson and Carolyn
Concepcion are here as well.
And I want to say thank you to all the students who came up
and, you know, showed that they, they are ready to start their
own business because I have already got about ten business
cards which is very important.
So I want to give Liam, where are you?
Liam, gave him a round of applause,
let's do this enterprising.
(applause)
Dan Fink?
He could get you a Mac at a PC price.
(laughter)
Andrew from Date-Check which will,
if you are planning on starting a grocery store and you want to
make sure that your product isn't out of date,
Andrew can save you a lot of money.
Michael, Michael Sininsky is a guy who is very successful.
He is already rich.
Where is Mike at?
He owns --
(laughter)
Make sure you attach yourself to Mike.
And also being at MTV, you know, Ronnie mentioned Lady Gaga and
Bono and a few other people, and I just want you guys, you know,
we wanted to bring a special guest in here today so I want
you guys to please look to the back of the room and welcome a
fine example of an entrepreneur Jay-Z.
Give it up for Jay-Z, ladies and gentlemen!
(applause)
(laughter)
That works every time, man!
Ha-ha.
You wouldn't believe that I would bring Jay here, right?
But Jay-Z is a fine example of an entrepreneur who have
done well.
So he is here in spirit.
Okay? Jay-Z is here in spirit.
So we're going to have our panelists come up today.
These guys are to the business world what Jay-Z is to the pop
world, what Lady Gaga is to the pop world.
Our panelists today, I want you guys to definitely take the time
to steal as much information as you possibly can on how they
became success stories.
Like Ronnie said when I first came in to the business,
just a few years back, I started as an entrepreneur before I
became, you know, settled into the music business.
I was someone who looked up to Russell Simmons who started his
own record company, Def Jam Records,
and wanted to do my own thing in Northern, California.
So I started an independent record label and I didn't sell
millions of records but I sold thousands of records which
equated to a lot of money independently.
And I went on to start a marketing and street promotion
company called Streetwise.
Now, I wasn't sure what I was doing but at the time it seemed
like the right fit being the way the music business was expanding
and I was an independent contractor who showed
major Q chains like Sony BMG or Universal Music, RCA,
how to market, micro-market in different marketplaces
around the country.
That led to me starting a concert tour with Small in
the beginning, we did like four to eight dates but
eventually it grew.
And it expanded to become a popular concert called Rock
the Bells which is now -- I'm no longer a part of it but it's one
of the most successful hip-hop tours to date.
And this all happened before I came to MTV.
I came to MTV to be a news correspondent and to talk about
music culture and in a really honest way and through MTV news
I have been able to do that.
And then through the exposure I've been able to really relate
to young America and try to, you know,
engage them in political issues as well as issues like this,
entrepreneurship which is why I'm happy to be here.
I'm actually here to learn, you know.
I'm going to moderate this panel discussion, but I'm also,
I plan to steal a lot of your secrets, all right?
And make them applicable to my everyday life.
Just a show hands, how many people -- everybody is in
college, right -- how many people plan or have started
their own business?
Just a show of hands.
Yeah, to recent studies have shown that 54% of what we call
millennials, people between the ages of
18 and 34 have done this.
And this is kind of what a canvas is right now in America,
you know, we're suffering a lot of challenges in our economy.
Sometimes you come out of school and may not be a job made for
you or a job that fits you so you have to do something.
And you have to find something you are passionate about that
you are dedicated to and be willing to take those pitfalls
and work through them and work around them and that's some of
the information we want to accomplish today.
We want to find out what kind of mentorship programs do some
of these success stories have.
What kind of pitfalls did they face?
You know, I know Alexis had a hard time in becoming rich.
And we're going to find out --
(laughter)
-- how did he maintain to do that.
And I want you guys, too, before the day is out,
get all your stories, get all your questions, you know,
get -- rise up, make sure you ask some, you know,
you are quiet right now, I want you to speak up today, okay?
Make sure you ask something that you will be able to take away
and apply to your everyday life.
Without further ado, let's bring the panelists up, Jeff Avallon,
Jeremy Johnson, Tina Wells, Alexis Ohanian,
Vina Caplan and -- Friedman?
Jeff Avallon: No, I'm Jeff, man.
Sway Calloway: You're Jeff. Oh, Friedman. Okay.
Yeah, you hear this guy?
Wait until you hear his story.
Jeff, what up, man!
Good to meet you, man.
So real briefly, let's start with you, Jeff.
I'd love for each and every one of you guys to introduce
yourselves and tell a little bit about yourself
and your business.
And then we'll continue with the panel.
Try to keep, if you don't mind, keep it -- you know,
successful people like to talk a lot.
(laughter)
-- which is what we want to do, but in this introduction,
if you don't mind, keeping it brief.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Jeff Avallon: Well, man, I was pumped to meet Jay-Z.
(laughter)
If you can find any way to involve him in the YEC?
I know Scott would love it.
We would all love it.
So if you can make some inquiries on that that
would be sweet.
Sway Calloway: Work on that, Scott.
Jeff Avallon: My entrepreneurial story started when I was 12 years old or
somewhere in there and my younger brother and I started
a lobster business and we ended up growing it to the point of a
commercial size operation by the time we were sophomores in high
school selling about four to six hundred lobsters every day off
of a commercial lobster boat into the wholesale markets to
be distributed around the world.
We started that business with the goal of affording ourselves
the opportunity to try and fail at like a million different
things during college and after college.
I am now fortunate enough to be a part of a start-up called Idea
Paint which right now I think is the coolest thing in the world.
But it's a paint that goes on any smooth surface you want and
it transforms it into a high-performance dry erase
writing surface, just like your white board.
So really super simple idea.
Tough technology to get.
We're now actively distributed in 20 different countries around
the world.
Have over 70,000 installations.
We basically create some super, super creative spaces and are
perfect for people who have offices whose walls
are not flat.
You know, say like an oval.
So if you know anybody with an Oval Office put a bug in
his ear today.
(laughter)
Sway Calloway: Okay. Thank you, Jeff.
Jeremy?
Jeremy Johnson: I love the lobster company start.
Jeff Avallon: Thanks.
Jeremy Johnson: Okay. So, Jeremy Johnson -- great to meet you all.
My entrepreneurial journey started pretty young.
I was about 15 and started a marketplace for virtual
currency, actually, in games like Second Life.
Totally random, just realized that people were,
for some reason, basically willing to pay a lot for items
that were actually made out of pixels.
You know, for some, you know, another reason decided that in
college I was going in to politics,
came down here to D.C. for an internship and realized about
halfway through that I wanted nothing whatsoever
to do with politics.
And so got back in to startups.
As a junior in college I launched a social network
around the admissions process for undergrads really looking
to help high school students understand their options a
little bit more effectively and to allow colleges to have
additional data points to recruit those students for
things beyond athletics.
So I actually left college after junior year to pursue that.
We grew about a hundred thousand kids to a hundred colleges using
it to interact with them.
It was acquired in 2007 by Zinch which my guess is some of you
guys have actually used.
And at that point we started Tutor which
is my current company.
And we partner with elite schools to build out,
I would argue, the best online degree programs in the world.
So we work with Georgetown here in D.C., actually,
to help them run a masters in nursing program online.
Masters in teaching and masters in social work with USC.
And actually the first top 20 online MBA program with
UNC Chapel Hill.
So our goal is to help increase access to incredibly
high-quality American universities to people
all over the country who don't have the luxury of leaving their
work to pursue a Master's degree or people internationally who
don't have the ability to come to the U.S. for
a year or two.
So thank you, guys.
Sway Calloway: Thank you.
(applause)
Sway Calloway: Tina.
Tina Wells: Hi, my name is Tina Wells.
And when I was 16 years old I started a company called Buzz
Marketing Group.
I'm pretty old.
That was 15 years ago.
And I -- I feel old every day -- I was always interested in
fashion and beauty and started writing product reviews for a
newspaper for girls called The New Girl Times and this was in
1996 so the idea of being a trend spotter or, you know,
buzz spotter is the term we own of cool people who do cool
things was really something that was completely new.
And so I started out as this original person that different
companies, whether it was SockOnEars, New Balance,
or Nike would say there is this girl, if you send her sneakers,
she'll tell you what she thinks.
It's really cool.
And it became too much for me.
And my parents wondered why UPS was coming to our door every
single day with more and more stuff.
And I hired my friends and within a few months I had 250
buzz spotters, and I had friends saying I have a cousin here or
there, you know, in Texas, she wants to be a buzz spotter.
And again remember this was 1996.
And I said how would I communicate with her?
E-mail, I had just gotten my first e-mail address.
And so fast forward to 2000, Cosmo Girl wrote a piece about
what I was doing, we got 15,000 applications.
Our panel grew to 9,000.
We now have about 40,000 people worldwide who report trends to
us and we have, you know, hundreds of corporate clients
who want to know what's next and new with young people.
We've actually did some research with the YEC on Youth
Entrepreneurship.
And so a big part of our business is predicting trends
in youth culture and then for me personally two years ago I
authored a book series for Harper Collins Children's Books
called McKenzy Blue So many of you who have 12-year-old sisters
you might be a little obsessed with this really cool red head
girl who is like a 21st century Ramona.
So that's kind of what I got to do for fun.
Sway Calloway: Thank you.
(applause)
Alexis Ohanian: My name is Alexis Ohanian.
I actually didn't really get started in the entrepreneurship
until my junior year of college when I talked,
I guess it was kind of late on this panel,
(laughter)
I happened to be good friends with Steve Huffman,
a guy I met in freshman year and we were really into video games
and thought maybe we could start a company where we made video
games for a living.
And that seemed fun but not practical.
So we had a different idea.
And we were fortunate enough during our senior year spring
break to be in Boston to hear a guy named Paul Graham give a
talk called "How to Start a Startup."
And we met with him afterward and he was so, I think,
either impressed or horrified that we came all the way up from
Virginia, we went to school at UVA,
to hear his talk that he said, all right,
let's get coffee afterward.
And pitched him on this startup idea.
And he said you got a pretty good shot.
About a month later he announced something called Y Cominator,
which, today, is like the seed stage venture firm,
he was on cover of Forbes a few months ago,
but back then we just thought he was a really cool, smart guy.
And we applied to Y Cominator thinking
this would help our chances.
We went up for an interview.
And Steve and I were rejected.
We got drunk that night.
And then that is how it went down.
The next morning hung over on a very long train ride back to
Charlottesville, I got a call back on my phone from Paul and
he said, listen, still don't like your idea but we like you
guys so if you want to be in Y Cominator, change your idea.
Come up with anything else and we'll fund you.
And it took us about two seconds to get off that train and get
right back to Boston.
And we'd been thinking about our original idea for about a year
but with that opportunity open to us we quickly jumped on it.
And we happened to be in the first round of Y Cominator,
we had spoken with Paul for about an hour after we got
back to Boston.
What would come out of that was a website called Reddit
which about 16 months after we launched it was acquired by
Condé Nast and I am proud to say today is one of the top 50 most
trafficked sites on the Internet.
Most of that growth, I will point out,
happened after Steve and I left Reddit,
so whether or not that is related I'll leave up to you.
But I haven't been able to kick the startup bug.
And I helped Steve launch a travel search site called
Hipmonk, chipmonk without the C.
And I have also launched a sort of Newman's Own for nerds called
Breadpig which creates geeky things,
sells them and donates the profits.
What's fascinating about all three of these startups I have
been involved with launching is they have cute animal logos.
So if that's a good concrete takeaway for you all to have,
it's have a cute, adorable logo.
But very --
Jeff Avallon: That's really, really good advice.
(laughter)
Alexis Ohanian: Thank you.
(applause)
Dina Kaplan: If you learn one thing today it's cute animal logos.
We can tweet about that. John will be very happy.
I do want to, by the way, thank you Ronnie for having us here.
Scott, that was an incredibly inspiring talk so thank you.
(applause)
And Sway you are truly not a host but an entrepreneur also --
Sway Calloway: Oh, thank you.
Dina Kaplan: -- so we're excited to have you lead this session.
Sway Calloway: Thank you.
Dina Kaplan: My life as an entrepreneur has definitely been changed
by people just like Alexis.
So you will get something out of this even if it's not from us.
My first story of my career will be from having met this really
charismatic guy when I was really, really, really young.
I was a republican at the time, sorry.
But I told my parents, mom, dad, I just met a guy who's going to
be President; his name is Bill Clinton.
Oh, my God.
I want to go work for him some day.
And they said, oh, honey, he's Governor of Arkansas.
Nobody's heard of Arkansas.
He'll never even run.
But sure enough, he ran and I dropped out of school,
dropped everything that I was doing, drove to New Hampshire,
volunteered for him.
I ended up working in the White House for a couple of years.
From there I actually -- this is so bizarre to be here because I
ended up working MTV for a bunch of years right after that.
(applause)
Then I was on air as a TV reporter for a while.
But I had met another really charismatic guy while I was a
reporter who also changed my life just as Bill Clinton did
and at the time I met him I said if I know anyone that is going
to be the next Bill Gates, it's this guy.
I met him at a bar, believe it or not.
So one of my lessons to you guys is going to be make note of the
charismatic people that you meet in your life who others
are drawn to because they can change your lives.
So I met this guy, kept in touch with him for years.
And five years after we met he said I'm starting a company;
do you want to come with me?
And I said, just as I made that promise upon meeting
Bill Clinton, I made that promise about meeting you,
no matter what I'm doing -- at this point I was in
my dream job.
I was reporting on air at WNBC.
But I said, no matter what, whatever I'm doing at this point
if this guy invites me to co-found a company,
I'll drop it and I'll join him.
And that was how I ended up becoming one of the
cofounders of Blip.
Are you guys familiar with blip?
Anyone?
We are basically -- the people on the panel,
great -- we are basically the platform for web shows.
So for people creating original TV shows for the web,
what we do is bring in ads, bring in revenue for the shows
through advertisements, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Disney,
et cetera -- run ads on the shows and share the revenue back
with the producer so that the top producers on Blip are now
making close to a million dollars a year, if not more,
just from us.
More than any of the founders of the company, go figure.
But it's been really exciting.
When, yeah, when we started the company of course we had
no views.
We were five first-time entrepreneurs.
And now we do about 330 million video views a month.
We are actually the largest independent video network in
the world, which is cool.
So it's been a really, really exciting journey.
And I have also started something called the Founders
Club where we bring together all the top entrepreneurs on the
East Coast and celebrate the startup community.
Outside of Silicon Valley there is one.
Hopefully you guys will be part of it.
And I am also a founder of a group called Calliope where we
support and mentor women entrepreneurs.
We gather together all the top women entrepreneurs on the East
Coast also and try to spur entrepreneurship,
not just among men who are probably 98,
if not 99% of the founders with VC backing in the country,
but women also.
So I'm happy to talk about that as well.
(applause)
Nick Friedman: Good afternoon. I'm Nick Friedman.
So cool I don't need a name tag so you can just write down Nick
Friedman, that's my name.
I'm cofounder, President, of College Hunks Hauling Junk.
And we are the largest U.S. based junk removal
and moving franchise.
Opportunity I actually started it when I was in college,
believe it or not.
I was very modest at the time.
The summer before my senior year of college we were just back
here in Washington, D.C. for summer vacation trying to think
of ways to make extra money and my buddy had a cargo van from
his mom's furniture store, so we borrowed that,
put computer printout fliers in people's mailboxes that said
College Hunks Hauling Junk.
Got a decent amount of business that summer.
Went back to school for our senior year.
We wrote a business plan and entered it in to an
entrepreneurship competition.
It ended up winning first prize.
So that gave us a little more confidence and credibility to
the concept.
But we had always brought up to kind of follow that traditional
career path.
You study hard, you get good grades,
you get a good corporate job after college.
So we moved back to D.C. We actually used the business plan
as a way to make our résumé look good to get a good job.
And we were working consulting about three months.
I e-mailed my business partner and said, you know,
what's our timeline for starting College Hunks Hauling Junk on a
full scale?
And he e-mailed me back in all capital letters,
my timeline is right now exclamation point,
exclamation point, let's do this.
So we took the business plan off the shelf.
And at the time our vision was no longer to be just a couple of
guys with a truck running around town chucking junk over our
shoulders, we wanted to build a national brand that was
respected for its creative branding,
it's fun company culture, its customer service experience.
And we have actually really leveraged mainstream media to
allow us to grow.
We actually now have 40 franchises across the country.
We have a central call center down in Tampa, Florida.
And I guess some of you guys may have seen,
we have been on two reality TV shows, ABC Shark Tank,
and Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker.
So I was not the guy.
My business partner picked his date up in one of our trucks and
made her clean out a garage for the episode.
(laughter)
It was pretty tremendous.
But we're very passionate about entrepreneurship.
Our vision is to be the largest employer of young adults and
college students in the nation and really a launch pad for
entrepreneurs because we treat our employees as if they're
business owners.
When they go out on the truck they control the cost,
the pricing and the estimating.
So they're really learning and being empowered with skills that
will carry them throughout their careers.
So that's really become our vision and our passion.
Sway Calloway: Let's give him a round of applause.
(applause)
So, I'll start.
I'm going to just throw out a few questions based on some of
the things you guys said.
Okay, I'll just start on the other side of the table, Nick,
how can I get a job working for you?
That would be the first question.
I'm joking.
So, Nick, you actually -- your company is number 156
on Inc.'s 500 list of fastest-growing businesses.
And you have been all over television.
And you guys kind of, your perspective,
you come from a humorous perspective.
You guys don't seem like you take yourselves so seriously.
But you are very professional.
How do you draw the balance between being funny and having
people actually take you seriously?
Nick Friedman: Sure. Well, for us it's been a challenge because anybody with
a truck and some labor can be in our business.
There is pretty much no barriers to entry.
So what we've had to do is try and really separate ourselves
from the rest of the pack.
The independents with the truck and a logo on a website and a
phone number; how do we sort of set ourselves apart?
And for us, you know, what we're selling,
what our customers are buying are our employees.
And the only way to attract the coolest and fun,
best customer service employees, is to create a fun company
culture that people are going want to be a part of.
So we tell our staff and our customers that, you know,
we don't hire junk haulers and movers;
we hire the future leaders of the country that want to learn
sales and marketing and customer service and want to have fun
while they're at work.
And it is a playful name and it's a catchy brand.
And all of that is creating ultimately the company culture
which will allow us to deliver a fun experience to the customer
which will create the repeat business and the
referral business.
And I think a lot of companies need to start out kind of
defining what the internal, the inside of the company is going
to look like as opposed to trying to design the customer
service experience first because if you design the inside to kind
of be a reflection of yourself and your own personality you're
going to attract the people that want to be a part of that and
then ultimately they'll deliver the experience that you want to
deliver to the general public.
Sway Calloway: Okay, one of the things we want to talk about are the pitfalls
that some of you guys might have faced along the way and how did
you work through it.
Did you face any pitfalls in developing your company?
Nick Friedman: Me?
Sway Calloway: Yeah, or has it just been smooth sailing?
Nick Friedman: No, it's never been smooth sailing.
I mean --
Sway Calloway: Can you talk about one specifically?
Like a time you hit a brick wall and --
Nick Friedman: Yeah, I would say the biggest brick wall for us was probably
in 2009 when I guess the recession/depression hit,
whatever you want to call it.
When we first started our business was 2005,
the housing market was booming, everybody was moving,
everybody was spending money on getting rid of junk or moving to
their new house that was bigger and better than the one they
were moving out of.
So all we really needed to do to make the phone ring at the time
was put a sign out or park our truck on a busy intersection and
people were calling for our services.
But in 2009 everybody's budgets were tighter;
everybody was cutting back on their spending.
People were moving less.
So for us it kind of forced us to actually, I think,
step in to becoming a real true business person.
No longer was it just a matter of a flashy logo
and a catchy name.
We had to become strategic of who we were marketing to and how
we were marketing to them and what our messaging was.
And what life event triggers does our service best cater
to and what type of Internet advertising and positioning will
our website be best suited for.
So we had to really learn all of that when we already had five or
six franchises opening and we thought we were just going to
be printing money all the way to a hundred, 200 franchises.
So we kind of had to take a step back and become better business
people ourselves and really become more strategic,
surround ourselves with guys like these folks that understand
Internet advertising and so forth.
Sway Calloway: Okay, Jeff, let me ask, Avallon, let me ask you a question,
because you started at 12, you know, you and
your brother, right?
You started a business at 12.
When you start a business at 12 obviously you don't know
everything that there is about business.
You're 12!
(laughter)
You know, so who were some of your mentors?
And then how did you begin to pick mentors even beyond your
first mentors and what kind of advice and, you know,
direction did they give you that you felt was helpful?
Jeff Avallon: So I would say our first mentors were probably my
father and my grandfather.
Family, you know, are mentors first and that is strictly just
in the sense of them being generally supportive of what
you're doing.
I think, you know, as, you know, I have grown in life I think
mentorship is one of the most important things so developing
somebody as a person and developing a business.
I think there is a difference between mentors and advisors.
I think that an entrepreneur's job in the early days of
starting a concept is to filter the advice from mentors.
If you go down just the path of listening to one mentor,
a lot of times you might end up in a poor spot or you might end
up in a great spot.
But I think you should seek out different people with different
opinions and your job as an entrepreneur when you are
starting out is to filter the advice for what's most pertinent
and relevant to yourself.
Sway Calloway: Hum-hum.
I want to talk to you, Dina, about that, because as a woman,
your experience in the world of business is extremely unique
which is why I am assuming, you know,
you're on the board of all of these organizations that
specifically help women, there are a lot of young women in the
audience today.
Can you talk about that experience, you know,
that uniqueness?
Dina Kaplan: Yeah, definitely.
And I can say that I have incredible mentors.
In fact, I don't know if Blip would have gotten off the ground
if it weren't for one of my mentors.
There is one named Gerry Laybourne,
who you guys may be familiar with,
she ran Nickelodeon for a long time.
She started Oxygen.
At the time that she was running Oxygen,
I had another mentor of mine that I was serving on a board
with called the Women's Media Center say who in this room --
we were in a roomful of many celebrates -- who
do you want to meet?
And I said, Gerry Laybourne.
She walks me right over, Gerry Laybourne was actually talking
to Barbara Walters at the time seated at a dinner table,
and she grabbed Gerry and said, come here!
And Gerry said, okay.
Sure, what's up?
So this woman said I want to introduce you to this young
woman who's just started a company called blip TV in the
web video market.
And Gerry said, perfect.
Can you come see me tomorrow?
What? You're running a network.
She said I'll clear my schedule, call me in the morning,
come see me whenever you're able.
So I call her the next day thinking they're going to
say thanks, click.
They said, great, Gerry is expecting your call.
What time can you come in?
I said 3 o'clock.
I come in, she sees me immediately.
She says what do you need?
And I said what I need, Gerry, is I need a revenue deal.
The company has been up and running, we have users now.
We have viewers, we have producers,
but I need a revenue deal to help me close the first round
of funding for the company to show investors there's a
business model here.
And she said I can do something for you.
Bring your team back, I'll bring my team.
We're going to meet in two weeks.
We met in two weeks.
We figured out a deal that we could close.
We closed it a week later.
And as the deal was closed our first revenue deal,
which did lead to a much bigger deal with CNN,
which led to the closing of our first angel round and got us off
to the races.
She held back and she said, Dina,
I want you to know I know what I'm doing.
I feel like my job right now is to enable the next generation of
women leaders.
Pay it forward some day when you can.
So this is why I've started Calliope Group with Susan Lyne
as the Chairman of Gilt Groupe and Pat Mitchell who runs the
Paley Center to help other women entrepreneurs.
We can make a difference in other people's lives.
I would just say for folks that are very busy,
everyone on the panel, the folks who have invited us here today,
at some point you can scale your mentorship.
It's very -- it's hard to do one on one with everyone that
reaches out to you.
But if you can scale your mentorship with Callioipe Group
will meet with 30 women at a time who are entrepreneurs who
need advice and then that's a way to, you know,
get more bang for your buck and to use your
time more efficiently.
But my huge advice which is echoing what Scott has said
and what Ronnie referred to is immerse yourself in
the economy of favors.
Do favors for people even when you're in college and someone
is asking you for help in an internship help them?
And then when you need help, like I asked Gerry Laybourne for
a favor, don't be afraid to ask.
But there's a wonderful economy of favors that all of us will
tell you that powers the world of entrepreneurship
and of startups.
And the more that you can immerse yourself in that,
the better off you'll be and eventually your company as well.
Sway Calloway: Okay. Thank you.
We'll jump to Jeremy over here.
You mentioned that on Tutor is working you guys are partnered
up with Georgetown, UNC, Chapel Hill, USC, other institutions.
You went to Princeton, right?
Jeremy Johnson: Uh-huh.
Sway Calloway: And you dropped out of Princeton?
Jeremy Johnson: I did.
Sway Calloway: He dropped out of Princeton!
(laughter)
Jeremy Johnson: It seemed totally reasonable at the time.
(laughter)
Jeff Avallon: Stay in school, everyone.
Sway Calloway: Stay in school.
But some of the wealthiest people the world didn't.
Never mind that. Okay?
Jeremy Johnson: It often doesn't work out that well.
Sway Calloway: Right. Well, the statistics show.
Do you ever regret not continuing at Princeton
or was it worth the gamble?
And who -- what did your mentors tell you when you decided to
make that decision?
Jeremy Johnson: They were a little split, to be honest.
Sway Calloway: Okay.
Jeremy Johnson: One of my closest mentors and actually a partner of mine at
Tutor, John Katzman, he founded the Princeton Review and who I
met through my previous company, you know,
I literally cold e-mailed him and said, hey,
I'm leaving school to start a company in your space,
and I'd love to meet you.
He's like, sure, come on up to New York, sounds great.
Sat down with him for two hours.
The first hour he tried to convince me not to drop out.
And then I explained the idea to him and what we
had done thus far.
He was like, all right, maybe just take a year off,
but come do it with me.
And I said, thanks, John, I really appreciate it,
but we're going to see what happens first and, you know,
I'll be in touch.
And so I think the reality is that it's a risk.
But it's a risk that I had calculated at the time.
I knew at that point I had funding for the company.
Not a huge amount but enough that I knew I could run it for
a year and a half and see if we'd get off the ground.
And so, and so I talked to the people in my life whose opinions
I valued, various mentors, coaches, parents,
and ultimately decided that it was an opportunity that I wanted
to explore and something that, yeah,
I very well might get again, but I knew it's what I wanted to do
so why not give it a try.
And, you know, who knows what would have happened.
But thus far I'm pretty happy with the decision.
Sway Calloway: Let me ask you something, because I had a similar
situation, I took courses, I was attending San Francisco
State and I wanted to go into law.
I wanted to go to Hastings Law School.
And but I started taking courses in this extended curricula
program that they offer it where they have people from the field
teach you about the field you wanted to be in.
An attorney came in and taught me about, you know,
the law aspects of the music industry.
Had another guy taught me about distribution and marketing.
So what I did is my plan was, well,
let me take all of these classes and I learned what I felt like I
needed to learn to apply it to my everyday life and my
passions, and it worked out fairly decent -- I mean,
I'm not on the panel, I'm actually moderating,
maybe next year I'll be at the table -- you know?
So what advice would you give to -- I'm sure there's plenty of
people who are on the fence about should they continue
school or not because they are bubbling to just get into this
workforce, any courses you would recommend or, you know,
classes or, you know, resources you think they should utilize to
work in their favor if they choose to do so?
Jeremy Johnson: Yeah, absolutely.
And I think it's important to note, like,
my company partners with elite schools to build out incredibly
high quality online degree programs.
There's clearly a huge value to academia and to what colleges
and graduate programs offer the world.
There are some career paths where you fundamentally need
not only an undergraduate degree, but actually a graduate degree.
Entrepreneurship doesn't happen to be one of them.
What you need is credibility and the willingness to fail
repeatedly, quite frankly, as you're trying to figure out a
way to add sustainable value.
And so please don't take my leaving Princeton as sort of
a knock against academia.
I had a fantastic time.
And for me it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.
But I will say that the classes that were most useful for me
across the board actually wasn't just at Princeton,
it was in high school as well, were the ones that help teach
you, one, that you don't and can't know everything.
And, two, that teach you how to learn.
The way that you sort of find information and that could be
using Google or knowing which friends might have the answer
and reaching out to them.
That actually is immensely helpful in any career path
you take.
So it doesn't have to be an entrepreneurship course.
It's any course that really challenges you
to learn how to learn.
Those are by far the most valuable.
That discipline across the board, will be really,
really useful.
And it's something you should, I would say,
take very seriously as an undergraduate.
You may not use all the content knowledge,
but you absolutely will use the knowledge of how to learn and
how to challenge yourself.
Sway Calloway: That was beautiful, man!
(laughter)
I like you, bro.
Jeremy Johnson: I like you, too.
Sway Calloway: All right, thank you, man.
(laughter)
There's a "Bromance" brewing.
(laughter )
Alexis, you're an interesting guy, you know.
Most people are here because they want to make money.
Alexis Ohanian: If only you knew.
Sway Calloway: If only I knew?
This guy gives away money.
You have what you call an "uncorporation" with Breadpig
and it donates all of its proceeds and thus far you
have donated over 175,000?
Alexis Ohanian: Yeah, we're just coming up on 200,000 now.
Sway Calloway: 200,000.
That deserves a round of applause.
(applause)
Alexis Ohanian: Well --
Sway Calloway: Hold up.
Alexis Ohanian: I should be very clear, though, so some of our products,
they are all very geeky, one of them is a book,
we actually publish popular web comics and so the proceeds from
this particular book, XKCD Volume 0,
very popular nerd comic, actually gets donated to
Room to Read which builds schools to promote literacy.
And in doing so, we're increasing our market because
illiterate children can't buy our book.
So it is not selfless at all!
(laughter)
It's just business.
Sway Calloway: It's just business?
Alexis Ohanian: Yeah, I was very motivated by Paul Newman,
"I can't make salad dressing" because if you know Newman's
Own, it's the exact same business model.
Read his book.
It's not at great book, but it was informative.
And yet I modeled it right after that and came up with
another cute logo.
Sway Calloway: Really?
(laughter)
Okay, and so what are some of the pros and cons to this?
This is very, you know, unconventional approach.
What are some of the pros and cons?
Alexis Ohanian: Well, you know, you guys are probably all familiar
with Tom's Shoes? Yes?
Is anyone not familiar with Tom's Shoes? Okay.
What's interesting now is we are starting to see I think a lot
more it is called social enterprise.
The tax structure hasn't really been figured out for it,
but it is a lot of new upstart companies that are actually
taking consideration, sort of, the social good.
And whether they are doing it explicitly by making donations
which is awesome in a sustainable way.
Or whether it is just trying to build a business that is
not doing harm to the system or to the world.
And I think what is really exciting right now is in this
generation, I think a lot more people are starting to look at
more creative ways to run a company.
Our general ethos at Breadpig is to simply make the world suck
less, which is, if you think about it,
the exact same thing is making the world a better place,
just a slightly different, slightly different flip on it.
And I think it's something that folks are responding to in large
part because we can be so honest about it.
We visited the schools we build in Lao.
We send photos.
And we do this for actually a small amount of money,
because we get a few photos taken from someone's camera
phone in Nepal and we put them on our website, right?
If we can see what people are having for breakfast,
halfway around the world on Twitter,
why can't we see where our donations go?
Why can't we see the projects that we are affecting with our
ten or $15 and make them feel like something bigger?
And what's very cool is about, you know,
a generation that expects to see what their friend in France is
having for breakfast, also gets to get really excited about some
of the good works that they can do as well.
Sway Calloway: All right. Okay. Cool.
You seem real happy right now.
You happy with life?
Alexis Ohanian: I am a very fortunate dude.
If you think about it, even statistically,
like I as a middle class, growing up middle class,
white male, two happy supportive parents, paid for my college,
and I am six four, which correlates with CEO salary,
like if my life were a video game it would be on easy mode.
(laughter)
And I am -- (laughter) -- that was a slow one there.
Few of you were gamers.
A few of you didn't want to admit that you are gamers.
But it is all right, we are all friends here.
And so I am very, very aware of this.
And one of the things that excites me the most about the
Internet is that there are no meritocracies in the real word.
Right.
None of us know meritocracy, in industry or in business,
you know, it is not a fluid marketplace.
But the Internet actually is a meritocracy.
An Internet with neutrality, an Internet without pipa and sopa
is a place where any entrepreneur regardless
of his or her background, so long as they have the access
can build something.
And that is really, really powerful.
Sway Calloway: Cool. Tina.
Tina Wells: Yes.
Sway Calloway: How are you, Tina?
Tina Wells: Good. How are you?
Sway Calloway: Interesting panel so far. Right?
Tina Wells: It is fascinating.
Sway Calloway: It is fascinating.
You guys all right?
Everybody learning something so far?
All right.
I am taking all kinds of notes.
I will be the richest guy here next year.
(laughter)
Plus I have got MTV, this big old brand we have.
Right? Viacom. Viacom stand up.
Right. Go ahead, stand up.
(laughter)
Big old corporations you have a unique experience.
You know you are named -- I mean from American Eagle to,
you have worked with a lot of big time corporations being a
small business.
You could -- can you speak on was there any frustrations
dealing with the bureaucracy of big business and how did
you cope with that as you started to grow?
As your business started to grow and expand?
What advice would you give to Liam over there who I am sure
is going to be big?
He told me wants all of the money.
So I am sure --
(laughter)
-- what advice would you give in that process?
How did it work for you specifically?
Tina Wells: Yeah, well, in 1996 there were not a lot of people like me.
And I remember the first time my local papers said they were
going to do this story on me.
And I was like I am not excited about this.
I have to make calls and tell people they have been talking
to a 16 year old.
And half of them didn't believe me.
They are like, no, you are not.
And I am like, yes, I am.
I can tell you.
So for me, I remember trying to dress so corporately and
wear suits and really fit in.
And one thing I always tell people,
I always get this question, how did it feel being young,
black and a woman?
And I said I am in marketing, the only color that matters is green.
And I can 100 percent tell you that that is true.
You know, I think my dad always told me, knowledge is power.
And so make sure I go in a room knowing what I am talking about.
So I think coming from a research background,
whether it is writing a book series for girls,
or developing new products, I like to think about, you know,
what do people want, what do they need,
how do we get it to them?
And I think it's that thinking that sort of propelled me to
these groups.
I mean, the CMO of American Eagles Outfitters has no time
to waste on anyone who has nothing to offer him.
So it is also not wasting people's time.
And to piggyback off of something that Dina said
earlier, I have a really great friend who always says,
"you can't make withdrawals where you don't make deposits."
And I think a lot of times people email us saying, can you,
can you, can you, instead of saying I would like to take
you to coffee.
And there is that one of our YEC fellow entrepreneurs Jordan
Goldman has a great story on how he built his company taking
people to lunch.
And so for me, I think it became that -- when you talk about
mentorship, really saying, okay, what do I need to learn from
this next person and and what can I do for them to get there?
You know when I started at Buzz, I worked for free.
And my first client was Neil Cole, Kenneth Cole's brother,
who created Candies and Bongo.
And it was the best education I got to how retail works,
how shoes go from a show room to being created,
to hitting stores.
And so, that was a lot of my early education,
but I will really will say no matter how old you are,
go into a room knowing as much as you can about what you do.
That's what matters.
Because the worst thing ever is to get introduced to someone
that could totally change your life and you have
nothing to say.
You can't tell someone what your business is.
And I can tell you as a person that gets pitched a lot of
business plans, it does not take ten pages via email.
It should take two paragraphs to say this is what I am
trying to do.
So I think being concise and really being very specific about
what you are trying to do is probably the most important
thing you should be able to do as an entrepreneur.
Sway Calloway: Okay. So I want to mix it up a little bit.
Any question I might throw out, if anyone wants to chime in,
let's just get a dialogue going.
Okay. I am going to use Liam; you are just my
go to guy right now, Liam.
Liam, stand up.
Give Liam some love, man.
(applause)
Juju Bars. Get your Juju Bars soon.
All right.
Go ahead and sit down, Liam.
So Liam, Liam at some point, he is going to want to -- where are
you located at right now?
Liam: Springfield.
Sway Calloway: Springfield.
Liam: Yeah.
Sway Calloway: That is where?
Liam: Springfield, Virginia, right outside of DC.
Sway Calloway: Virginia. Virginia.
At some point he is going to want to grow,
he is going to need you know some type of financing;
you know somebody is going to have to back it.
Jeff, you were very instrumental in raising money.
Right? You have raised how much?
Maybe, 14 million?
Jeff Avallon: Yeah, my greatest is 14 million.
Sway Calloway: 14 million dollars.
What advice -- how did you go from point A to getting that 14
million deposit, how does that happen for someone likely am?
Jeff Avallon: So in our case, it actually tied in mentorship and advisership.
So I personally believe that in order to find great
opportunities and find what you love to do in life,
you have to be almost opportunity-obsessed.
And seek out as many different things that you can.
And a core piece of finding new opportunities is your adviser
network and your mentor network.
A lot of them, you guys are all in school.
A lot of them are your college professors initially.
They all have experience; they have connections in the world.
They can be a great source of advice and support for you.
And their doors are always open.
And it was I know in my case for -- for everything.
Our funding, our strategic investors, breakaway ventures,
and firm and capital partners, some of the key people,
founder of Reebok and the previous chief marketing
officer of Reebok, they were advisers and mentors to us.
And it came from us being you know kind of young,
asking for advice, everybody is always open to give advice to
young entrepreneurs or young people trying to do something.
And when the time is right, their door is
open to help you out.
So I would say as your -- as you are in school,
look for people to help advise you, look for mentors,
and constantly be open to seeking out new opportunities.
And a lot of those relationships,
can very likely lead to starting to get funding and starting to
create investor bases and you know soft circles of investors
and so forth.
Sway Calloway: What -- I have been to a couple of meetings with VC's.
And the first one I want to pretty much,
I wasn't dressed even like this.
I was, you know, Sway from the block, if you will.
You know.
And needless to say, we didn't get the funding and stuff.
(laughter)
But I learned a valuable lesson.
What advice would you give to some of these young
entrepreneurs out here in terms of their approach?
Their look?
Their vernacular, their presentation?
Jeremy, what would you say?
Jeremy Johnson: So before we even jump into the funding conversation because the
best advice is to be compelling and have people believe they are
going to make a lot of money and they are going to miss the train
if they don't get on right now.
But that is -- that is aside from the point.
One thing to take -- to keep in mind, Liam,
more importantly than anything else,
is that funding is actually often times
not helpful for start-ups.
So actually one of the best books I have read --
actually a woman involved with (inaudible).
And Jessica Livingston, wrote a book called, Founders at Work.
Which tells the story of really the birth of some of the most
famous technology based companies, you know,
of our time.
And what you will notice across the board, almost all them,
at some point the founders started off doing something
because their goal was to add value and build momentum.
Ultimately, realized that what they were doing really wasn't a
good idea at all, but that there was something else about their
business that they learned because while trying to sort of
advance down the field, they realized there was something
that actually was a good idea and was scalable.
And the only way that you can sort of realize that,
the only way you can hit that inflection point is to actually
not have enough capital to really gloss over it.
If you have $14 million in the bank and you don't need it and
you don't know what you will do with it,
then what you will do is you will continue down a path that
doesn't actually build a business.
Because a business only works if it is sustainable.
And if you are just giving away money,
you can spend money on lots of things.
If it is not sustainable, you will actually, literally,
kill your chances of success.
So money is useful when you know what you will spend it on.
Money is useful when you have a system or a business that can
scale and additional capital will help you do that faster.
But until then, what you really need is to figure out something
that works and that requires again throwing yourself at a
problem and learning as much as you can as quickly as you can.
Sway Calloway: Okay. Cool. Did you want to add to that? Dina?
Dina Kaplan: Yeah. That is definitely true.
We looked out at all of the video companies.
We started in 2005, very early.
And the ones that raised the most money early on are all the
ones that went out of business within the following two years.
Because they had so much money, they didn't have to focus.
We had raised so little money, that we had to focus.
And I think it was a big reason for success.
I will say to your point, Sway, I actually think you should be
very authentic.
I mean, if you look like Mark Zuckerberg male or female with
the most awful shoes in the world.
But if that is you, own it.
And I think that is okay.
I would say you probably don't want to pitch VC's
when you are starting.
In terms of how to meet them, you can be very strategic about
it with advisers, which is great advice from Jeff.
You can also work it.
And there are so many Tech events.
Even in Virginia, there are certainly a ton on the East
Coast and the West Coast.
We raised money in 2005, 2006, when there was basically --
there was no set money for start-up's,
but just through spending let's say 80 percent of your time on
product head down, but 20 percent head lifted up,
which is what my practical advice
would be to everyone here.
Engage in the community that you want to serve
and provide value to.
And ask every single solitary person that you meet with in the
day, including your friends, including your parents,
your parents' friends.
Have no pride.
You have to think you are providing these people with an
opportunity that they might be angry if you don't offer it to
them, because you are building something very valuable.
And you can't be shy as an entrepreneur.
So work the crowd.
Work your industry and you will absolutely be able to raise
money for your project.
Sway Calloway: Okay. Cool. So we have got about ten minutes.
Okay. So I will just keep firing questions as I learn
from you guys.
I am going to go to over to Nick.
You mentioned that you were with the Millionaire Match-Up.
What was it? What shows did you appear on?
Nick Friedman: The two reality shows were Shark Tank on ABC and Millionaire
Matchmaker on Bravo.
Sway Calloway: And Bravo, you received a lot of press.
You have gotten a lot of national recognition.
How important is that attention?
Like when you received that kind of press to building your
business and how would you advise these young entrepreneurs
to go out and do that or not?
Nick Friedman: Okay, so any time that you have third party recognition,
whether it is news media or pop culture media,
like a reality television shows, it is an opportunity to gain
brand awareness, exposure and credibility for your -- for your
brand or for your company.
The benefit to a company is going to vary based on the
type of company.
The benefits of our company is huge,
because like I said before, there is hundreds of thousands
of moving companies out there.
So how do we become top of mine?
How do we become one that people recognize when they
see the truck drive by?
It is because they saw it on their television or they saw
it on a news interview.
You know, there may be Internet businesses that aren't
necessarily or business to business companies, you know,
B to B companies that don't necessarily have the same
benefit from main stream media or from the publicity.
But, the way we have approached obtaining it and acquiring it,
is very different than most companies do.
We've approached it much like a sales job.
The idea being that when a reporter gets up every day,
they have a story that they have to tell.
They need something that they need to report on, write about,
talk about, so their audience will be interested and continue
to watch or read.
And so the way we looked at it is,
we would come up with two or three different angles that
we would call up reporters or producers or editors as well
as email them and say, hey, do you have a couple of minutes?
I have got a great story for you.
You know, here is -- here is the angle we are talking about.
And here is how we think it fits into the type of stories
that you report on.
Just like if you had a product or service that you are calling
somebody to sell to them; we came up with story angles that
we were calling to pitch to reporters and journalists.
So it wasn't just sending out press releases that end up in
a stack of paper that nobody reads.
It was actually trying to build relationships with the reporters
and journalists who actually do them a favor by providing
them these -- these stories.
And it is worked to a huge amount to our benefit.
It creates a snowball effect where you know you become an
authority figure or you become a recognizable brand or name that
people want to reach out to.
And Scott will be a great person to attest to the power of main
stream media.
I mean, the YEC has benefited immensely from the exposure that
Scott has been able to generate for the young entrepreneurship
council which, in just such a short period of time.
Just a year.
So anybody starting out a business,
it is a great way to gain credibility.
Start with your local media.
The local media is excited about feel good stories.
They want to talk about a local person,
starting a new business that has a unique angle to it.
And so that is where I would get started.
Sway Calloway: Okay. Did you guys do calendars?
Nick Friedman: I am sorry?
Sway Calloway: Did you do calendars?
Nick Friedman: We actually did calendars one year believe it or not.
Sway Calloway: Yeah. Easy way in bro.
Nick Friedman: I was Mr. January, so.
Sway Calloway: You were Mr. January. All right. Great.
(laughter)
My man. My man.
Tina, how important is failure?
Tina Wells: It is good and it is bad.
I will tell you my dad, my line that I lived by,
my dad always told me growing up, if you failed a plan,
you plan to fail.
And so every time I said dad, I am going to do A, B, and C,
he is like that is great.
But what is the plan?
So I think for me, I am always a planner.
And so I always think where do I want to be tomorrow?
How do I get there?
I am big on making plans.
But I have to say I have learned a lot from the times
I failed in my life.
And a lot of times I think you don't -- because I started so
young, the one thing I will say to all of you,
is starting young is great because ignorance is bliss.
And I think if I had had some of those failures or mistakes
at 31, I wouldn't have survived it.
You know, then you have I have a house, I have this.
And I think when you are 16, there is nothing you really have
to lose and something completely falls apart, you are like,
all right, well, I am going to get up and try again tomorrow.
So there is something to that youthful energy that you have,
where, you know, I always say it is not a failure if you can
learn something from it and just do it better the next time.
So for me I -- I have learned the most from the times that I
failed in life.
Nick Friedman: I was going to add something to that real quick.
It is just a mantra I have heard many entrepreneurs talk about.
Just the idea that failure is not an option.
And so while there may be actual small setbacks or what somebody
may label as a failure, you look at that as just a stepping stone
or a learning opportunity to succeed the next time or to
succeed in the long run.
And I think you know Ronnie mentioned the word moxy and,
you know, there is other words that can be used to describe the
most successful entrepreneurs and I think it is that mentality
of perseverance and determination and discipline
to achieve the vision no matter what obstacles might set out for
themselves and you know learn as you go through the navigation
and adjust the plan as-needed.
I think those are sort of intangible elements that
need to be sort of reminded to yourselves as you are going on
that journey.
Sway Calloway: All right. Real quick.
We have about five minutes.
I want everybody to answer this.
And the question is have you ever been burned on a deal?
And if you can tell us what the deal was and how did you
work through it?
Let's start with Alexis.
Alexis Ohanian: Can I give some advice real quick?
Are you reading Orson Scott Card -- is it Xenocide?
They are all -- after Enders Game, they all just tank.
I am sorry.
(laughter)
Sorry.
I saw it and I was like I got to warn him.
Okay. Burned on a deal. All right.
One of the most important lessons I had to learn fairly
early on, is something that sounds really boring and
legalistic, but will save your butt.
And that is vesting.
Especially vesting founders stock.
So Steve and I started Reddit together in this little
apartment in Medford with $12,000 in funding.
And we were equal founders.
But none of the YC companies, none of the Y Cominator
companies back then, they did all of our legal organization,
were -- had vested founder stock.
So there was no vesting in involved.
It basically means you get all of your founder stock Day 0.
Now, fortunately, Steve is a wonderful person.
And I hope he thinks the same about me.
So the two of us didn't have a problem.
But later on in the life of the company,
when we did give stock that wasn't vesting,
we basically handed everything to an employee.
As opposed to a normal vesting schedule,
which is usually about four years.
So, you earn a quarter of it every year.
So let's say two years into the company,
you meet the man or woman of your dreams,
and you flee the country.
That's great, congratulations.
You only get half of the stock that was promised to you.
That is a lesson that when you have been burned by it,
you make sure to tell every single person you can.
But good news, there are so many -- I really believe MBA programs
are designed to try to intimidate people out of
starting companies and businesses with their jargon.
So many of these lessons, whether it is legal or business,
again, I am not a lawyer, but so many of these lessons are
available online by really awesome people.
I know YEC has built a great network of this,
but you will be amazed to see how many great resources there
are for you to educate yourself about a lot of this stuff so you
can learn from our mistakes.
So please vest.
Vest, vest, vest.
Sway Calloway: Okay. Anybody else been burned on a deal?
Tina Wells: Okay.
Sway Calloway: There you go, Tina.
Tina Wells: This involves MTV. But not in a bad way.
But actually MTV saved me.
All right. So we know I have a book series and this girl in the
series is a singer.
And so my very good friend who recently left MTV, Liz Gately,
really wanted to develop the show and Tony DiSanto and we
had a great plan.
And I was working with a very well known record label.
And this is bad deal point on their side.
Now, eight lawyers and this huge musical conglomerate,
had signed off on this deal with us, which was a five album deal,
sort of kind of gorillas, I don't know,
these kids -- eight kids in a band.
They are not real.
But we are going to make a show.
And we have an amazing meeting and decide that my friend Sophia
Bush is going to voice McKinsey.
And this record label did not have a deal with me that would
enable them to represent a non-real person.
So when Tina and MTV were very happy,
we are going to create this show, they said, oh, no,
you are not because we are not going to make any money.
We are like that sounds like a personal problem.
So we resolved this the right way.
But if you know record labels, I really thought someone was going
to like roll up on my office and shoot out my windows.
I am like, what is this yelling about?
And so for me, what I actually did,
and I don't cry in business.
I say, tears are reserved for my personal life and my family.
I have five younger siblings.
I do not cry in business.
It is just not appropriate for me.
I remember almost having like a meltdown,
on a Sunday night thinking I had to go to work the next day.
And one thing I say, is like, I am an entrepreneur because I
want peace in my life and I want to control my destiny and if
someone else is making me this uncomfortable,
I have got to be done.
So I called my agent and my attorney and said,
we are not doing this deal, because if someone is saying
that they will not release my record -- it is things I have
never heard of, I am like, I am not even a singer.
I don't know what you are talking about.
We'll withhold your single, we'll do all of this.
I said, you know, then this isn't a deal for me.
And so I think sometimes you have to realize as an
entrepreneur that if the early signs are there,
it doesn't matter how much I want the show on air,
if you are not going to release the single because you don't
have a deal point that is your fault.
What else are you going to do?
And I think so many times we say, I want this.
This has to happen.
It has to happen.
And I mean, McKinsey was on a wave to be Hannah Montana.
And now that I sit back and see what we have accomplished just
selling books, I am glad I didn't do that deal.
I am glad I didn't put my agents and people I really
trust through it.
And you know a few years later, Liz and I are still trying to
develop the show.
And I think it is going to come in a better way.
But, I think that is kind of an example of how you can have the
law on your side.
But one thing, one of my Wharton professors told me the first day
of class is, he said contracts don't matter.
And you have a bunch of Wharton kids that are like what are you
talking about, contracts don't matter?
He said leverage does.
He said always remember it doesn't -- I have so many
entrepreneurs who were legally right and bankrupted themselves
trying to prove they were right.
Always remember your leverage matters.
And so for me I realize -- I did a deal with Harper Conns where I
owned a hundred percent of my rights and what they create on
my behalf and the best thing I could do was to walk away and
still maintain all of my rights.
And if three years from now or ten years from now when I have
children I decide to do it, I still have the right to
make that decision.
So I would say to you guys, don't always think that that
first deal is the deal you have to do.
You know, think about if it is the best thing for your life,
because you want a happy life.
I could have sold 20 million records and be the most
depressed girl you have ever seen because I didn't
get paid from it.
So, you know, your happiness is really important.
Sway Calloway: Thanks for sharing that. All right.
Let's give a round of applause for all of our panelists.
(applause)
And we are going to do our breakout sessions.
I want to just acknowledge my public affairs team right here,
Alexis, Liza.
Just stand up, please.
Just, you know --
(applause)
Jay? Jay, stand up man.
(applause)
And our fearless leader of MTV News, Ben Wagner.
Benjamin Wagner, please stand up.
Please. Please.
(applause)