Millennials make up the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs today. According to reporting from the Harvard Business School, 34% of startup founders are between the ages of 20-29. Experts point out that young entrepreneurs often make “rookie mistakes” starting a business.
While still in college at just 22, Mike Matousek launched his Boston-based tech startup Flashnotes.com, the student-to-student study materials marketplace, which he started as a senior at Kent State University. Now, at age 25, the CEO and founder just recently raised $3.6 million in a Series A venture funding, acquired competitor Moolaguides, and is poised for rapid growth at colleges and universities across the U.S. this year.
He is eager to share what he’s learned on his way to startup success to help other owners avoid some common pitfalls. Here are his top five mistakes to avoid as a young entrepreneur:
1) Thinking your age matters. It doesn’t! If you’re willing to put your blood, sweat, and tears into building something truly great, the only thing that will matter is if you execute. Don’t be timid about expressing your ideas because of your age. It’s these new and fresh ideas that are shaping our future – don’t wait and miss out on your turn to create change. Also, don’t blame your age or lack of experience when you lose a deal. Chances are it wasn’t your age, it was because you didn’t convince potential partners or investors the value of your idea.
2) Failing to focus. You need to have a clear set of goals and objectives – and stick to them. Some ideas – even if they sound great – might need to be put on the back burner to prevent you from losing your focus. Avoid chasing “shiny baubles,” and stay the course. If something doesn’t directly help you achieve one of the goals and objectives on your list, just say no.
3) Not understanding you can’t do it all yourself. Instead of trying to wear 10 different hats and insisting you can do it all as your business grows, hire a great team to help you. Empower them with your vision – it will be necessary for success and create an amazing environment where everyone is working toward a similar goal. There’s also no shame in asking for help or advice. You should aways be willing to learn from those who have a type of expertise that you might lack.
4) Not talking about your idea because you’re afraid of copy cats. Don’t be paranoid that someone will steal your ideas. When I first started Flashnotes.com, I hesitated pitching it at conferences because I thought someone would just copy it. But the reality is that not everyone has the drive to really see it through. And how are you supposed to grow your web traffic and customer base if you’re secretive about your great idea?
5) Hiring your best friend. Don’t just hire a friend because you like hanging out with them. Hire a friend if they have a relevant skill set, and if it’s the right move to help grow your business. It’s also important that everyone within the office – including yourself – can work together effectively and accept constructive criticism, without it being misconstrued as personal.