The Startup Kids (2012) Movie Script

The growth of the Internet has
changed small startups to some
of the most influential
companies in the world.
Behind these companies are more
often than not young visionary
entrepreneurs who grew up with
the Internet and now seem best
positioned to direct the future
of the web.
Who are these new entrepreneurs
and what drives them?
A really great founder seems to
be building a groundswell even
if there is nothing there, and
so he in effect is a magician.
He creates something from
You are always kind of just on
the edge of your comfort zone
and everything you are doing is
basically something you are just
barely qualified for or not
qualified for, it is like
jumping off a cliff and having
to build your own parachute
I think an entrepreneur, that is
A difficult one, how do you
define an entrepreneur. I think
an entrepreneur is a person who
dares to have a dream that not
that many people have and even
more importantly dares to chase
it with their money where their
mouth is and their time and
their career and dares to take
the risk to going out there to
realize that vision.
Entrepreneurs are some of the
craziest people you ever meet,
they are people who have a dream
or an idea, something that keeps
them awake at night and they get
the opportunity to hopefully
solve that problem or do
something about it.
So the best entrepreneurs are
often either solving their own
problems or solving some huge
things and they can really
Entrepreneurship at the moment
is kind of like the new smoking,
it's cool to be creative and it
is cool to be making something
and I just love that energy.
Over the last couple of years
the cost of starting
a web-based startup has
decreased dramatically.
I think over the last couple
Of years it has changed
dramatically. If you think back
to the turn of the century,
two thousand, what you had
was very large companies often
creating websites like Yahoo,
AOL, these were much bigger
companies creating new kind of
products on the internet.
With the crash those went away
but the Internet didn't go away
and what actually happens was
that new initiative, young
innovators came along looked
at the web and said we can do
Ten years ago if you wanted to
start-up a company you got to
pay a lawyer to tell you weather
you should do a "C" Corp or
a "LLC". Bam, that is a Google
search, done, free, in like five
minutes. You know by that time
you would not even gone past the
lawyer secretary ten years ago.
It is really interesting to see
What entrepreneurs will look
like ten years from now. Before
they were managers, maybe little
engineering but now they are
young tech people and hackers
Anybody now with a laptop
and a Wi-Fi connection
can build anything
Today a lot of people will be
able to start companies who
never could have before. This
applies specially to younger
people. They are willing to put
in the long, unpaid hours
and have nothing to loose.
As you get older you get certain
ways and certain patterns and
you recognize them and behave in
certain way but I think that the
young entrepreneurs see things
differently in a way that is often
times refreshing and therefore
One of the great benefits of
starting young in business is
that you have less to lose than
you know, once you have four
kids and something where you
have to re-mortgage your house
in order to finance your
company, that is a bigger risk
to take then if you come
straight out of university and
all you kind of have to choose
between is either you take up
a job or you start a crazy
company to do crazy thing
I have met kids out here who are
still teenager and starting
companies and all the way down
to sixteen years old, which is
pretty crazy when you think
about it.
Younger people have been
affected by less and they are
often times more idealistic and
they have bigger dreams and
bigger vision because they do
not know, necessary,
It doesn't really matter to me,
I could be fifty for all I care
because removing the age
element is really what I think,
what makes the Silicon Valley
area so fascinating. That I know
so many people that could be
really young or really old,
they still take you seriously,
they will still listen to you.
And that is why there is culture
of listening that is so
conducive to entrepreneurship
which is why this area is so
valuable to people
Brian Wong grew up in Vancouver
Canada. At 19 he had raised
4,3 million dollars in funding
for his company, Kiip, a reward
network where you play games on
your phone and get real rewards
through Kiip's network.
My parents at one point thought
I was addicted to my computer
and wanted to take it away
from me and I'm glad that
they ended up not doing that but
I spent, like, eight to ten
hours a day on my computer this
was at a point when I was very
addicted to Counter Strike
Source, which is a first person
shooter game which was extremely
popular when I was young and
still very much is and I spent
hours and hours playing that
game to maintain my top of
server status and I was at the
top of like three servers and
it takes a lot of time
I spent a lot of time on
Photoshop. I taught my self how
to design because I figured
it would be pretty fun to learn
how to do that. I taught myself
through forums and tutorials
and all that fun stuff. It was
all about wanting to create
something out of nothing.
I studied marketing and I also
did a minor in politic science
I wanted to study something
that was completely unrelated
to tech, that was in liberal
arts so that I could learn how
people on the other side of
the table were thinking
and it was very enlighten. I was
able to learn a lot about
perspectives around politic
theory and one of the things
it helped me do was to
understand power structures
and politics is inherently turn
around power and if I could
learn how to navigate these
power structures, I could be
successful in other areas and
so that is what political
science really made me do
I started a web design company,
like every other web
entrepreneur ends up doing at
some point and I called it a
design consultancy and we
basically charged people to
make layouts and it was really
me and my buddy, like, hammering
out code and then sending it off
to someone on a freelance
website to make it all work and
then send it off to that client
and charging a lot
of money for it.
Wasn't work at all. It was just
me spending time, to have fun
and it happened to pay us well.
We were able to pay most of our
college tuition from it, that
was great but other then that,
I didn't think too much of it
After skipping four grades in
school and finishing college at
only 18, he decided to move
to San Francisco.
I realized if I were to do
something meaningful for the
rest of my life it had to be in
a city that was larger,
that had more money in it and
more people I could relate to
and I knew that Silicon Valley
was the place to be, so I'm
going to go check it out and
see it with my own eyes
was it really "Nerdtopia", as
they called it, is it actually
that awesome. So I flew down and
cold emailed just people.
I figured, you know, what is the
worst thing could happen if I
email all these people and they
say no, OK great, I was not even
going to meet with them, in the
first place
By emailing people in Silicon
Valley Brian managed to get
meetings with some of the
world's most respected venture
capitalists and entrepreneurs.
He got a job at a startup named
Digg, a popular social content
website. Digg had to lay off
40% of their staff, and after
only a year Brian was fired.
I had like 2000 dollars left on
my bank account, I was about to
go bankrupt, bed was like
fifteen hundred, it is not cheap
to live in the city and I
remember talking to some of
my friends that I made over the
last few months and I was like
hey I have got this idea and
they were like, hey I know this
VC, Adam. And I met with Adam
for coffee and Adam was like,
well, this is cool, you know,
cool pitch, bla bla bla
Usually you never hear back from
them ever again but then Adam
the next day called me and he
said, hey, you want to do
a partners meeting. I didn't
even know what a partners
meeting was, at the time, you
know, what is a partners meeting
And I realized it was a very
important meeting, clearly,
because that is where they were
making the decision and the week
after that I had a term sheet
and as a nineteen year old,
sitting looking down at that
many zeros you are freaking out
because this is the most amazing
thing you have seen in your
whole life then I realized it
was my ticket, it was a very
chance thing, I got very lucky.
True Ventures's investment made
Brian able to start the company
he had dreamed about. He was 19
years old at the time which
makes him the youngest person to
ever receive funding by
a venture capital firm, beating
founder of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg by one year.
Next 6 months was very clear to
me beyond that I couldn't see
anything, but I didn't really
care because I knew we had six
months or less to prove a lot
out so it was just a race
against time to make things
happen and I was so determined
to sit down, and be like, I'm
not leaving this room until
something happens and this is
going to make the world
a completely different world in
the next few years and you are
going to help me change that and
people were there to be a part
of this vision and I couldn't
thank them more, there were lot
of very early supporters that
believed in this crazy Asian kid
and his random idea about real
rewards and virtual achievements
it is like the people who have
supported me, I thank them and
they are part of their lives
even till this day
Being an Internet entrepreneur
is hard work. The freedom of
not having a boss comes with
strings attached.
Vacations disappear into the
mist of long hours, money
problems and sleepless nights.
Bootstrapping, the art of
building a business with little
or no money, is the most common
way to start a company today.
Sometimes I get worried about
these young entrepreneurs who
spend 10 years trying to be the
next Steve Jobs or Mark
Zuckerberg and they are sitting
in a dark room coding and they
miss out of the best years of
their lives. You need to
When I was an entrepreneur and I
think still now, it was, go to
sleep after a long night of
coding you wake up late usually
because you just need to sleep.
You drink a lot of soda, eat a
lot of junk food, you don't
dress necessary that well, I
didn't dress that well, and you
kind of just work all the time
and that is your entire life.
It is always a roller-coaster
ride, you know, every time I
hang out with one of my
entrepreneur friends, it is
always like, let's just get it
out of the way, are you on,
like, are you on a high part of
the cycle or are you down in the
depths because it is pretty much
going to dictate how the dinner
or the meeting goes, you know,
a lot of times, people are like:
we are killing it, we are going
to change the world, and you
like talk to them tomorrow and
they are like, dude, I don't
know why I am doing this, I
should have just been a banker.
This is the most manic
depressive way you can possibly
live life, right, you are never
having a good day, you are
either having the best day ever
or you think you're about to die
I know people who run a startup
who manage to balance things and
do other stuff in life as well.
I'm not one of those people.
Alexander Ljung is the CEO and
co-founder of SoundCloud,
an audio platform that enables
anybody to upload sounds on to
the web. SoundCloud is one of
the fastest growing companies
in the music world. The
company's headquarters are in
Berlin but because of their fast
growth they have opened an
office in San Francisco so
Alexander splits his time
between Berlin and Silicon
Alexander grew up in Sweden
and went to the Royal Institute
of Technology in Stockholm where he
studied human computer Interaction.
I didn't have the typical
entrepreneur background of, you
know, opening up a lemonade
stand and, you know, selling
magazines to the neighborhood,
but I realized in hindsight like
that, I was always doing these
intense projects.
I would come up with an idea and
then, you know, cut out
everything else in my world and
only focus on that idea so in
that way I was very
entrepreneurial in terms of
doing projects and creating
things but it wasn't in business
sense but I definitely always
had the tendency to go, you
know, over the top with project
that I was doing, weather it was
installation of interactive
shoes that made noises or ping
pong table that you could make
music with or what ever it might
be so I had a strong drive to
create things, but it wasn't,
I didn't think of it as business
quality or anything like that.
Alexander met his co-founder
Eric Wahlforss, in college when
they bonded over being the only
ones using Mac computers.
They both had a background in
music and were familiar with the
problem of collaborating with
other musicians. They decided to
create SoundCloud to solve that
In the beginning we were really
excited but I think it was, we
were more excited about it
because like we wanted this
product, and we were like, this
has to exist because then we can
do this and we can do that. I
think we were so obsessed with
what it would do for us that we
didn't necessarily see the full
potential of how big of an
impact we could actually have on
the web and the world outside
of it.
After graduation in 2007 he and
Eric decided to move away from
Stockholm to be able to focus
totally on building of the
company. They traveled around
Europe looking for the best
place for a tech startup.
We went on a trip to London,
Barcelona, Vienna and Berlin
Berlin was the last stop, and
the idea was just to feel out
the city a little bit and see
if it would be were we wanted to
move. We were in Berlin and we
were there for about a day, I
think, and we immediately
thought, okay, this is the
place. There are so many
creative people here. It's a
good tech scene so actually that
same evening when we got back to
Stockholm, we were like, you
know what, screw it, we are
moving to Berlin next week. We
took one week, rented out our
apartments, packed a big
suitcase and then moved over to
Berlin, and the next week we set
up an office at a local caf
there, and, yeah, it turned out
to be even better than we
thought, so we stayed.
You know, a lot of people talk
about bootstrapped startups but
that was like, should be in the
dictionary of bootstrap. I mean
we literally, moved over with a
rucksack each and that was it,
We were in a caf, and then our
next office was a conference
room of a friends start-up, I
think we lived there for a
couple of days, then they kicked
us out. We found our own office
which was this, almost like an
old abandoned attic, were we
pulled the cable outside the
window to get internet in there.
We had five good chairs in
Stockholm, we had gotten them
from another entrepreneur for
free, so those we decided to
bring down from Stockholm to
Berlin, so I think we had a
friend who took them in his car
or something, and then we were
rolling them around Berlin.
The music scene in Berlin is
fantastic so on the weekends we
would be out clubbing at all
these fantastic Berlin clubs,
from Friday until Sunday evening
and then, you know, back on
Monday, just like coding, you
know, the whole week through,
and I thing that went on for
like half the year or something
just no break what so ever.
In October 2008 SoundCloud
launched their product after
being in private beta for more
than a year.
When we decided to open the site
for the public, we thought, well
we are in Berlin, so the right
way to do that is at a club,
so we actually threw a launch
party at a club that our friends
have called Picnic. We actually
launched at twelve o'clock at
night at the club, like, we had
Sean, our chief architect was
sitting upstairs in a small room
with a laptop deploying the site
and we were like, Eric and I
were behind the DJ desk
launching the site on the dance
floor and we were just like
okay, it's going to crash, it's
going to crash, but it survived
it survived the whole night and
the morning after, I was a bit
tired but, first thing, when we
woke up, were just like, is the
site online and it was online.
We started seeing, we had
sign-ups through the night and
from there on we were
open and full on.
Alexander drew attention to his
company in a creative way.
It involved a leather jacket
and some spray-paint.
Every time I was doing a talk at
a conference I made sure that I
had some point in the talk were
I could turn around so that
people could see this jacket,
the back of it. It's good, like,
there was pictures of this
jacket, all over the web and
people were talking about it
because it looked kind of cool
and I know so many investors
that remember that jacket so
that was actually a good thing
for us to, you know, to get the
VCs who see tens of new
start-ups every day, to actually
remember ours, and so you know,
a jacket, some spray-paint, and
a cheap H&M jacket, it was
probably, you know, a pretty
good 50 euro marketing
SoundCloud now has more than 10
million users and 60 million
dollars in funding. Their users
include such high profile
musicians as Rhianna and
Kylie Minouge.
You know, almost, everybody in
the company, knew about it.
I had this thing that the day
that Bjrk signs up I'm going to
take the day off, then we are
done and it was probably about
6 months ago that she signed up
in preparation for the new album
and started posting this really
awesome little sound bites where
she was talking about the new
album and that just made my day
and then I was just, okay, I
have to take the day off and ten
minutes later I realized that
the only thing I wanted to do at
my day off was to work, so then
I ended up going back to the
computer and actually ended
up working that day anyway.
To turn an idea into reality the
entrepreneurs often need to meet
additional costs. That's where
the investors enter the picture.
They give the entrepreneurs
funding in exchange for a part
of their company. Venture
capital firms and angel
investors are attracted to
start-ups because of their
potential to grow rapidly
for a limited investment.
Well I think, that angels tend
to be private individuals
people who have probably had
successful businesses themselves
in the past, and now they are
looking to invest some of their
own capital into early stage
companies and they are usually
doing it partly to get a return,
to make some more money but
partly, also because they enjoy
doing it, they see it as a great
way of mentoring and working
with young people in early stage
companies a venture capitalist
is someone who is really doing
that as a job so we have
typically raised money from
bigger funds like pension funds,
like government and we are doing it,
to basically return money to our
If I'm loaning money to someone,
I kind of want them to succeed,
but mostly I just want them to
pay me back. In the case of
making an investment in a
business, I want them to succeed
really big.
The process of venture capital
is either we find you or you
find us and generally when we
are looking for you, that is a
good thing. When you come to
find us, it is more of a shot in
the dark, fifty-fifty.
First and second time you start
a company, it is very difficult
to get VC money instantly, you
have to know some angels and it
is also a very good education to
have some angels to help you out
who can then take you to the VCs
because if you are just fresh
out of school you do not know
the VCs, you don't even know
what a VC mean, maybe you think
it is a toilet.
You give your pitch and you meet
all these different investors
and visit
the venture capitalists
at their offices down in Menlo
Park. You give maybe a half
hour, forty-five minute pitch
and you talk to bunch of
different investors and after a
series of more meetings then
they decide if they will invest
or not.
We raised about a million
dollars and the feeling until we
finished raising was the feeling
of fear, would any investor buy
into this and would we actually
be able to raise the money.
Jessica Mah is the founder and
CEO of InDinero, a company that
creates software to help small
businesses better track and
manage their finances. Jessica
has been building businesses
since she was 12 years old. She
finished high school when she
was 15 and at 20 she had raised
over a million dollars for her
own startup. I was pretty bored
in school when I was young, so I
was always trying to find a way
to make more money on my own so
I was doing stupid stuff like
lemonade stands or going to
neighbor houses to try to rake
their leaves or anything to make
my own money. I got my first
computer when I was in third or
four grade and I started
programming when I was, I think,
thirteen years old and just really
wanted to make my own game and
websites so I picked up some
books from the local book store
and did that in my spare time.
My mom is an entrepreneur so she
told me, why not take your
programming skills and make a
business out of it and that is
when I first started thinking
about building my own company
when I was working on my first
company when I was thirteen I
had at least a few hundred
customers and all of them were
paying me recurring revenue
every single month. I was
selling stuff on eBay and I was
selling my programming services.
I made some money, I didn't make
big money but enough. I was
making like high five digits.
Jessica went to Berkeley where
she studied computer science,
there she met her co-founder
Andy Su.
At first we were just doing
homework with each other but
after we do our homework we
thought why don't we do other
fun things, when we are not
doing our homework so we started
brainstorming startup ideas and
just programming project ideas
and we started building stuff in
our spare time and then that
ultimately led way to us wanting
to build a real company together
In college Jessica and Andy
started to build what was to
become InDinero. She and her
team lived together in a small
apartment in Silicon Valley.
I thought it was so much fun to
live in an apartment with my
co-founder and with our early
team because you are just. You
are literally eating and
sleeping and breathing your
startup 24-7, when you do that
and it was just a few of us in a
small tiny room, the living room
and we got our computers there
and just wake up, roll out of
bed and build our startup and
then we cooked meals and then
just went back to working again.
It was a lot of fun. The first
version of InDinero was really
bad it was just my co-founder,
Andy and I, going to a hackathon
and we had a weekend to build a
project and present it to about
a hundred people. We didn't
really care about product
quality or anything. We just
programmed all weekend
long to build it.
InDinero launched in 2009. She
and her team needed more money
to build the product. She
initially set out to raise 500
thousand dollars for the company
but received so much interest
that she eventually had to turn
investors away.
Our launch went really well and
I think it went well because we
took our time to build our
product and we didn't just
launch it when we felt ready but
we knew we were ready because we
demoed it with dozens of
entrepreneurs. We saw them sign-up
and we knew which common
problems they had so we knew
that it was ready for the public
and then people started offering
checks and it all rolled in and
then it was the feeling of
optimism and excitement and
finally when we had all the
money we decided to spend it
really slowly. We didn't just
spend it over night on random
stuff. We were really cautious
about it because, I had never
seen that much money in my life
and all though it not that much
for a company it was a lot for
Andy and I.
I think about the business
almost all the time I try to not
think about on Saturday but
every other day, I think that if
you are not thinking about your
startup then you are not doing a
good enough a job if you are
the founder at least. Because
you are going to come up with
your best ideas at the most
random moments, when you are
driving in your car or thinking
in the shower or just walking
to work and so I think you have
to think about it all the time.
The Lifestyle is hectic, you
have to be working long hours
and you have to be enjoying that
So why are they doing this? Is
it about walking away with
millions of dollars? Or is the
ultimate goal having satisfied
users and a good product?
I was supposed to be unemployed
I was supposed to have no money
And here I am, I'm able to eat,
sleep, live under a roof and
have an office. It is already
amazing for me so I could live
on sustenance, right, and I
couldn't care less.
I think a lot of people, jumps
out of them, how wealthy some
tech entrepreneurs get. Look at
Bill Gates or Larry and Sergei,
in Oracle, or, you know, Steve
Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and you
think, it is all about the money
but if you ask them, it is
really not. If you talk to those
guys who are entrepreneurs,
they are not in it to make big
money and it turns out, if you
think about how much you are
going to make of money, you
might make money, but it is not
really a good indicator. So I
think the primary motivation
really is that the best
entrepreneurs try to change
the world.
I think that it is always very
different and I think it is
sometime very personal too what
drives them. I think we have
certain entrepreneurs that
really want to change the world
others just realize that this is
incredible way to build a lot of
wealth, and others are really
just passionate about their
product and are really not
thinking about the business
itself. I think too many
entrepreneurs are in it for the
wrong reasons. I think they are
in it for the money, for the
fame, for the glory, and a lot
of them are going to say they
are not in it for any of that
but they are just cheating
themselves. The first time
entrepreneurs when they first
get funded they at first are
really thrilled that they got
funded and then the weight of
the money is on their shoulders
and they say, ohh wow, we really
got to do this and we are going
to make sure it works because
we have now raised money from
somebody else, from other
I think that a lot of
entrepreneurs are spending their
twenties working all the time
because, there are a few different
reasons. One, a lot of them see
the opportunity for fame and
success and more than that,
the best ones just really have
these great ideas and realize
they can do something right now,
it's cheap to do it, you can
just come up here and do
something and potentially really
alter the way the world works.
I'm not building software to
build a business and make
a ton of money and get
rich of it.
Leah Culver is the CEO and
co-founder of Grove, a real-time
group chat service for teams.
She started her first company in
2007, when she co-founded a
social network site named Pownce
which a year later got her
selected as one of the
"Most Influential Women in
Web" by Fast Company.
So I first became interested in
programming and sort of doing
little bit more with computers,
when I was about fifteen, it was
kind of trendy at the time to
make your own webpages and
everyone wanted to have their
own homepage so I got one of
these free Angelfire, GeoCity
homepages and started to
learn HTML. I wasn't quite sure
that that was I wanted to for
a job, I think it was kind of I
always thought was really fun
but I actually wanted to be a
graphic designer when I was
younger because my mother was a
graphic designer and I think it is
easy as a kid to just want to do
what your parents do because my
mother always loved her job and
I thought that it would be so
cool to love what I was doing.
She graduated from college in
2006 and decided to move to
San Francisco. After graduating
from college I really wanted to
move someplace warm because I
grew up in Minnesota which is
very cold and I got a job at a
start-up in San Jose and I
worked for startups for a little
while and then I realized that I
wanted to do my own. I wanted to
work on my own projects. That is
why I got into programming
because I wanted, you know,
to work on my own things.
Leah needed a new laptop but
couldn't afford it. She came up
with a unique way to generate
enough money to buy a new one
when she sold ad space on her
computer to several companies by
laser-etching their logos on the
surface of the computer.
So I said: Buy a space of
advertising on this laptop and I
made like a corny webpage for it
like, hey if you buy an ad on my
laptop I show it off on all this
San Francisco cafs and things
and I didn't actually think that
anyone would pay attention to
this stupid website. I did it kind
of as a joke and out of the
frustration that I didn't have
enough money and people ended up
actually buying ads on it and
paying for these cute little ads
and it was fun. It was a lot of
work to get people to buy the
ads but I ended up getting
enough money to buy the laptop
and etched it and made a video
of it and made the whole thing a
production and tried to really
get the most value to the people
who actually did buy the ads and
I felt a little bad, you know,
somebody have to get something
good out of it but it was a
really interesting experience
and probably, like, really good
lesson in marketing and sort of
following through on a project.
Leah's first startup began as a
hobby when she started playing
around with sending messages
and media to her friends. She
got two of her friends involved
and they turned it into a social
network. The site got a lot of
attention and at some point
invitations to use the service
were being sold on eBay.
My first startup was actually
Pownce and it is sort of a funny
story because most people will
go through several big failed
start-ups or little failed
start-ups that no one ever heard
of before they end up making a
product that is fairly popular.
Pownce was very popular for a
first start-up It is not really
the traditional way that
start-ups are built most of the
time you will have some small
start-up that don't work out
that well but I was lucky enough
to work with Kevin Rose on
Pownce who is fairly well known
and ended up getting a lot of
publicity for my first
Your first startup is really,
really exciting. Everything is
a big deal and everything
matters and you get T-shirt and
stickers and it is so exciting
to have sort of your own startup
A year later the company was
struggling due to a lack of
revenue. The team decided to
sell Pownce to a software
company called Six Apart.
Two weeks later the site
got shut down.
How did it feel to sell the
company. It was interesting.
It's kind of exciting because
you are like someone wants to
buy my company and it's
exciting but at the same time it
is kind of sad because you lose
sort of the independence and
freedom to work on the project.
They ended up shutting down the
site which I wasn't super happy
about so that wasn't a great
experience. Things can go wrong.
You can end up blaming people.
You can end up, having a lot of
fighting when things aren't
going super well and they never
go super well. I don't know why
anybody thinks that startups are
rainbows and sunshine. It's a
lot of hard work, I mean if you
want rainbow and sunshine work
a 9-5 job and have a hobby on
the side because hobbies will
always be rainbow and sunshine
cause when they don't work out
you don't want to work on them.
I think there is a part of our
generation, my generation where
you need to be perfect and good
in everything and part of being
an entrepreneur is: You will
fail, you will mess up and do
things wrong. I mean even
Pownce, the site got shut down,
like, acquired and shut down
because we ran out of money
that is kind of a failure but
you need to be able to say that
is okay and move on from that.
Or something might not work out
in the way you expect and I
think that is hard for a lot of
people to know that they are
going to do something wrong.
Failure is a part of the startup
culture. In the news we only
hear about the successful
companies but what about all
the others. 90% of all start-ups
will fail.
You can't have everyone be a
success, it's just not a
tenable situation so most
start-ups still do fail but the
good news is that when those
start-up do fail it is a great
lesson often times for the
entrepreneurs and you usually
see a lot of them come back
and try again.
What is really important is to
make sure that, you know,
I'm not really putting my
whole identity in this start-up
and I realize that this
might fail.
In our experience about 6 out of
10 out of the investments we make
fail and we lose all our money
and maybe 2 out of 10 float
along and maybe we make our
money back or maybe two times
our money so really one or two
of those ten investments that
make it a huge success that
make venture capital worth
pursuing and those are the one
or two that make us many, many
times our money.
Yeah, failure is totally
accepted here. It is actually
even better if you failed in
your profile, people value a lot
that you failed and it's totally
okay, I fail every day
in something. Guys who do really
well they are guys who have
crashed another company before,
and the guys who haven't crashed
another company yet this is the
company they need to crash.
I made 30 million dollars when
I was 17 and lost it all by the
time I was 20, and that
experience really made me
realize that in life the most
important thing is the people
around you and it is easy to
forget that and get caught up in
the hype. You only get one
life. You got to live it.
Don't forget to actually
enjoy it.
Ben Way is an English serial
entrepreneur. He grew up in
England and was early fascinated
with building businesses.
He started a computer
consultancy at age 15. At 17 he
had raised 40 million dollars,
making him one of the first dot
com millionaires. By twenty he
had lost it all.
I was always very different in
school. I'm severely dyslexic.
I was told at 9 years old that
I would never read or write
because I was pretty useless.
I still have trouble spelling
business and entrepreneur is a
word I couldn't even possible
hope to spell but I was very
lucky and one of the reason
why I got into computers and
technology is that I was
actually given a laptop at 9
years old to help me with my
dyslexia and I was one of the
first of kids in the whole of UK
to be given a laptop for
My first semi proper business
was at twelve years old. I
bought some chickens and I
sold their eggs and I had a
proper cash flow where I used
to look after the fee and check
the sale of the eggs. You know
eggs have very good margins
at twelve years old. After my
chicken business I started my
first computer consultancy on my
15th birthday, charging 10
pounds an hour and that was
really how I started a proper
business. I think at the time I
was the youngest company
director in the country and it
wasn't until few years later I
raised twenty-five million
pounds for what was back then the
first e-commerce search engine.
At 21, after the Dot-com crash
in 2000 Ben's company
went bankrupt. When I failed I
failed in spectacular fashion.
I lost twenty million pounds. I
lost my car, the girl I loved,
my house, I couldn't even
buy a tube ticket in the
same day I was in
the rich list.
But even after this experience
he decided to continue building
businesses. In 2003 he started
Rainmakers, an innovation
and venture company.
So after I failed it did take me
a while to get back on my feet.
After losing everything, it was
very hard time in my life.
I ended up doing a reality TV
show and traveling the world.
But entrepreneur is such a deep
part of me. It took about
18 months, 2 years, to start my
own business again, but never
any second does business leave
me. I'm always thinking of
business so even after I failed
I was thinking of ideas for new
businesses I could do. Sometimes
I wish I could quiet my mind
a bit more often. But every
second by every day is consumed by
the thought of making the
world a slightly better.
It's been a, you know, a very
Long and challenging time. I had
some great successes during that
time and great failures also.
I just don't fear the failures
so much any more.
Even tough so many companies
fail entrepreneurs continue to
start new businesses in the
hopes that theirs will be that
one in ten company that
succeeds. What does it
take to build a
successful start-up?
Successful startups needs a lot
of things. They need a great
idea. They need a great team
and they need to be there at the
right time and they need the
right level of funding
There is a lot of luck in the
success of all business that
have succeeded. There were 25
search engines funded before
Google was funded. There were
Friendster and Linkedin and
Myspace and about 50 others
before Facebook became the
big winner in that area. There
is a little bit of luck that
just happens where somebody
gets it just right. That could
be skill, that they figured out
what the user really, really
wants and that's the thing that
makes those big businesses.
Some of it is that you are at
the right place at the right
time and you get lucky.
I think with any company there
is a lot of luck involved.
You can have great idea and
work really hard and be really
smart but the one thing that is
out of your control is timing.
Absolutely, team is super
important, you know, big market
I don't know, it's magic, it's
totally magic, it's all of that
stuff and 9 out of 10 times
they fail and the one time it
does work it happens in a
totally unexpected way.
Look at Twitter, right, how big
was micro blogging when Twitter
started. Look at Facebook, how
big was social networking when
that started. Those weren't huge
interesting markets but that is
what you hear from all VCs. That
is really what we look for in
those investments. These weren't
really big investment at the
time. Starting a company often
feels like series of miracles
and you have to have one set of
really good thing happen right
after the other. So it really
does feel like a lot of luck but
at the same time if you really
work hard and try a lot of things
and really experimental you can
create your own luck.
And you can make these
miracles happen.
When I was young I didn't know
what a entrepreneur was.
I understood it as a catchall
word to define any independent
small business person that is
just what I thought but it
sounded pretentious to me.
I can't even pinpoint where it
all came from but I just always
had the impression that I was
going to invent things.
Zach Klein is a 27 year old
entrepreneur. He is the
co-founder of Vimeo, a popular
video sharing site, visited by
50 million people each month. He
started his career working on
website called College Humor.
Two of his friend from college
started to post silly pictures
of themselves on the Internet in
1999. Pretty soon the site was
getting a thousand visitors
a week and Zach joined them
while he was still in college.
I never thought about quitting
college. I loved college,
The clich, I think it was some
of the best times of my life.
It was a really nice
intersection of innocence and
independence and it was lovely.
And I went to school in North
Carolina where I love and would
give anything to have four
more years there.
After graduation in 2004 he
and his three partners moved
the company to New York.
We were having a hard time
taking seriously by anyone in
the industry because we weren't
in San Francisco and New York
and I think all of us sort of
were attracted to the romance
of moving to New York City so
we decided to move there instead
The four friends rented
apartment together and ran the
website out of their spare
For the first three or four
months it was just the four of
us, so we sort of just got out
of bed, walked 20 yards over to
our office and just worked until
we got tired, and then we put on
clothes and go get dinner. I
remember it was a big shock when
we got our first employee and we
had to start wearing clothes to
work and having normal
business hours.
In 2005 The New Yorker published
an article named "The Funny
Boys" about College Humor
and the guys behind it.
It certainly made clear that
this wasn't fluke. That we were
very ernest business people,
very ernest entrepreneurs who
thought very carefully about
the things we were making
Within a few months of the
article being published they had
a book-deal and a movie
in the works.
Our office grew I think until
we were like 10 or 12 people,
it stayed in our apartment and
then when we could afford it,
we got the next floor above our
apartment so we would take an
elevator up the building to our
office and I don't remember what
the exactly the count was but I
think we had something like 30
people before we had our first
person above thirty and we had
to hire that person because we
needed an accountant and that
was the youngest accountant
we could find.
Vimeo started as a side project
by Zach and one of the
co-founders of College Humor
Jakob Lodwick. After hours they
built the site and began
experimenting with uploading
short videos for their friends.
Vimeo is definitely my proudest
work, it is certainly the thing
that I took the most time
designing. I actually haven't
had desire to design something
since Vimeo.
I remember having an office
and having a door and sort of
shutting my self off for six
months while I sort of iterated
on this constantly. We weren't
very sophisticated making
websites then. We didn't have
any best practices.
We didn't know how we should be
building the site collectively.
Jake and I still considered very
much a personal project
and so he gave me a lot of space
and time to make something
I was really proud of. I
remember writing letters to my
friends and family saying "I'm
sorry, you don't know me
anymore" and that sort of thing
because I just sort of let all
of my relationship go because
nothing was important as this.
I remember breaking, I broke up
with a girlfriend cause I had no
time or interested really, it
was really more of an interest
thing. Nothing was exciting to
me as this thing. Knowing that
there were tenths of thousands
of people using the service and
in love with it and waiting to
see what we could do next
In 2006 IAC, a big Internet
company, acquired both
College Humor and Vimeo. After
being a side project for a time
in 2007 Zach and Jakob got the
go-ahead from IAC. Vimeo became
a full-time, fully funded
start-up. The website user base
was growing steadily but in 2008
Zach decided to leave the
company. I think what it was
there was something,
the entrepreneurial spirit had
been sucked out of the company
because we were know own by such
a massive company that was
making a lot of decisions for us
and I felt myself being squeezed
into this role of just a
designer and I didn't really,
I learnt design because that was
just the easiest way to make
myself useful to the process of
building those companies but I
wanted to learn so much more
and I had money for the first
time in my life and I never
wanted to work on the Internet
just for the sake of working on
the Internet. There were a lot
of things that I wanted to do
so I left to do them.
So buying some wood and building
cabins with my friends here is
something I wanted to spend time
doing so that's what I left to do
Zach now spends most his time
living in the woods, without
electricity and unreachable
by phone.
I've lived in this cabin behind
me for a year, for about half
the year. I spend three or four
days of the week down in
New York, cause I'm still
involved with Internet, and then
another three or four days I'm
here and there is usually,
I don't know, 8 to 10 people
with me, just to sort of make
a little place, that we all can
spend time doing whatever we
want to do. I came to this
place, I think, primarily,
because I love the outdoors, I
have always wanted a place like
this but I keep coming back
because it is in this place I
feel the most creative recently.
My entire career have just been
spent online, pushing pixels
around and there is something
novel and thrilling for me to
build with wood and stone, with
my friends. To iterate with
these materials. To make
physical things we can use,
that we can be inside of and
other people look at them.
I can't recreate that sense of
pleasure working online. I can't
explain it, I don't think it is
permanent. It is just right now
this is where I'm most inspired.
The most interesting place to be
is the place that allows you to
become very singularly focused
and when you are that way you
are really at your peak and I
think it is when you are the
most comfortable with your self.
I think it when you are the most
attractive to other people that
you are bound to be interested
in and you sort of become
magnetized. You just find other
people who are also driven to
make or to think the same things
and it puts you in a really
creative place where there is no
fear. Where people are just
really happy about the things
that you are making together
and it is in this space that I
think you achieve the
greatest things creatively.
Success is what you make of it.
I mean I know some of the most
successful entrepreneurs can be
unhappy. So I think for me to be
a successful entrepreneur is
both having a work and life
balance. You know, I want to be
successful but at the same time
I want to live life.
Don't be indirect about how you
think. Don't take a job to go
somewhere else. If you want to
be in Silicon Valley and you
want to do a start-up, go to
Silicon Valley and do a
start-up and don't let anyone
stop you because when you get
out here it is a whole new world
of all kind of possibilities.
So many people have the wrong
idea that they have to follow
some kind of path. Do your MVP.
Build your initial prototype and
then pitch it and have a initial
customer. It doesn't matter.
Everybody start a company in a
different way. If you are to
follow another guy's path you
aren't being a true entrepreneur
The most comforting thing to me
again was just the fact that all
these people that are on
magazine covers, they started
out just like you, in their
twenties, with no experience
and they were able to figure
things out. That I think should
give comfort to anybody who is
excited about starting a company
You can't teach entrepreneurship
you either are an entrepreneur
or you're not. I think if you
are you're going to end up
doing it and that is just who
you are. You can't change that.
As long as you have passion for
something and some fundamental
core idea I think that you
should just hone in on that and
really do everything you can
to explore that.
Follow your heart. Follow the
things that really matters to
you. If you do that you will
become a big success.
There has never ever been a
better time to do it than today.
You know you're only young once.
Life is too short to give it up.
If you got the opportunity to
do something like this you owe
it to yourself, you owe it to
the world, owe it to your
children to take this as
far as you can.
Not say you are going to wait
until after college or prepare
yourself to become entrepreneur
or to take classes even about
entrepreneurship but just to it
while you are still taking
classes and to not give any
excuses for building a company
because no matter what you could
come up with excuses.
The hardest thing is just
to start.