When Ankur Jain and Alex Fiance were growing up, neither dreamed they would end up as serial entrepreneurs launching, investing in or advising multi-million-dollar companies, the pair said in a recent interview with Mic.
Jain, 27, said he wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, while Fiance, 28, hoped to become a lawyer or basketball player. But in adulthood those goals changed — after "the dunking ability and growth spurt ... never arrived," Fiance joked.
In 2008, Jain founded the Kairos Society, a global nonprofit foundation dedicated to "solving the world's problems through business, technology and innovation." In 2012, Fiance joined as the organization's CEO. Now the pair are launching the Kairos Society Ventures, to provide financial support to startups.
Their projects include Me Salva — one of the fastest growing education institutions in Brazil, bringing mobile-based courses to students — and Radish Fiction, a company aiming to upend the publishing model with a mobile-first serialized fiction platform.
Mic caught up with Fiance and Jain to get seven practical tips for aspiring young entrepreneurs. Here's the best advice the pair had to offer for leaders of tomorrow looking to advance their careers — and launch their own companies.
1. Be picky as you look for a first job.
Alex Fiance: Put yourself in a position to either learn by doing — the entrepreneurial approach — or learn from the best: the apprenticeship approach. The workforce is changing too quickly for you to be a cog in the wheel, so prioritize long-term learning and skill development over short-term salary.
Ankur Jain: The big, stable, corporate jobs aren't going away anytime soon. So take the opportunity while you're young to find a unique job that gives you exposure and experience your peers aren't getting. That unique perspective will serve you well and help you differentiate yourself in the long run.
2. Make your resume tell a story.
AF: Emphasize tangible things you've built, contributed to and accomplished. Employers and colleagues want to know that you're a doer.
AJ: Ask yourself what your story is. What is the clear, consistent theme that defines you? If that story comes across clearly and consistently in your resume, you'll immediately stand out. On the other hand, lots of accolades with no clear story doesn't make you memorable.
3. Remix your interview skills.
AJ: Be real. Any experienced interviewer can sense when you're telling them what you think they want to hear. Be totally honest about why you want to work at that company, specifically. And if you don't have a good enough answer, than you probably shouldn't be interviewing there. Also: Tell lots of stories. It's easier for an interviewer to get a sense for how you work and your personality type when they hear stories of things you've done in the past.
AF: Come prepared with examples of specific problems you've solved and projects you've completed. Everybody can look good on paper — show the intangibles.
4. Steel yourself before launching a business.
AF: Once you start and decide to fully take the leap, expect that there will be the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and be mentally prepared to never ever quit.
AJ: Make sure you're building something that people actually want. There are a surprisingly large number of startups that sound cool in concept, but aren't things that consumers really need or care about in practice. Does the product you're building solve a real problem? Does it take something people already do and make it meaningfully simpler, cheaper or more efficient?
5. Avoid this "one mistake we wish we hadn't made when starting out..."
AJ: I wish I had gotten our product out faster. Instead, we spent almost a year of development trying to make it "perfect" before getting a beta into our first customers' hands. That was months of lost time for feedback and iteration.
AF: It took me a long time to internalize why every serial entrepreneur emphasizes the importance of "focus." As an entrepreneur you want to maximize every opportunity and say "yes" to anyone who believes in you, but eventually you realize that time is your biggest asset. Entrepreneurship is inherently risky, so a singular focus will sharpen your time management and ensure that your time goes to the single biggest driver of success.
6. Read the book every young entrepreneur should read.
AF and AJ, both: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
7. Know that the secret to success is...
AJ: Don't ever forget behind every overnight success is seven years of hard work. Things are never as easy as they seem.
AF: Focus on the single most important action item to achieve your goal every day, and don't go to bed until you've hit that goal.
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