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5 Lessons Learned By Hiring a 13 Year Old

I founded Elevatr because everyone has great business ideas, but not everyone knows how to turn those ideas into businesses. Our first product, an iOS app that guides raw ideas into concise business plans, launched in May, was featured on the App Store, and now has more than 70,000 users.

A few weeks ago, Akiva Lipshitz, a 13 year old heading into 8th grade, emailed me to ask for an internship with Elevatr. He said he’d love nothing more than to meet the team and contribute in some way to the company that created his favorite app.  We said yes because Akiva validates everything that we’re doing with Elevatr: There are more and more aspiring entrepreneurs seeking help everyday who we’d love to help out.

Akiva interned for us on July 8 and his task was to translate the app into Hebrew (he did a great job). We spent the rest of the time talking about his ideas and my entrepreneurial experiences. I know Akiva learned a lot from us that day, but I think we learned just as much from him. Here are some lessons we learned by hiring the 13 year old ideasmith.

Internet entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age requirement.

Akiva may only be 13, but he has the passion and savvy of an entrepreneur twice his age. With nearly unlimited information available to everyone at their fingertips, anyone, even children, can be in tune with the markets. Akiva knew what was going on and picked my brain for first-hand advice. It’s great to see younger generations making use of the Internet rather than taking its power for granted.

Startup founders are to younger generations what rock stars were to older generations.

While our parents had Beatlemania, todays generation of kids have startup founders. Akiva may be the exception rather than the rule, but he is fascinated with meeting founders. He constantly reaches out to companies he’s interested in to see if he can spend some time talking with them. This 13 year old was talking about famous founders as if they were Michael Jordan or Mick Jagger. It shows how the times are changing and that startup founders can be celebrities without even knowing it.

Startups are safer than corporations.

Something happened during the recession of 2009 that showed people that traditional corporations aren’t as safe as we once thought. Subconsciously we reacted by wanting to create our own startups. Now, these kids have grown up through the rough economy and are raised thinking that corporate jobs aren’t safe. This is changing the way of thinking for many young people like Akiva who are seeing more ideas turning into businesses than ever before. The business landscape is evolving.

With a little bravado, you can connect with anyone.

Saying I was shocked by Akiva’s bravado would be an understatement. How many of us would have had the courage to reach out to a young CEO and ask for a chance to meet and work with them? It should be motivation for anyone hesitant to reach out to an investor, business partner, or media outlet. Take the chance and see what comes of it, a little bravado can take you a long way. Like Akiva told me when I asked him if he was afraid of being rejected, he said, “the worst they could say is ‘no’.”

Anyone can create a successful business if they make moves one step at a time.

One thing a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of, and Akiva was no exception, is being overzealous with planning. He wanted to build his entire vision at one time. After talking with him and further breaking it down, he began to understand that it was important to take things one step at a time. I suggested that he build something small just to get started. This would help validate his idea and vision and allow him to evolve it over time. That’s exactly what he’s done by creating a Tumblr account.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is everywhere. It expands across multiple generations and is always evolving. I can’t wait to see what ideas Akiva and his peers turn into businesses.

David Spiro graduated from the University of Michigan Business School and College of Engineering in 2012 where he became the first undergraduate to receive the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. He played baseball for Michigan, loves to chat about quantum consciousness, and is a startup lifer.

Self-Storage Turned Sexy: Interview with Sparefoot’s CEO Chuck Gordon

“Self-storage is very sexy contrary to popular belief,” said Chuck Gordon in response to the idea that self-storage isn’t the most appealing industry for a young entrepreneur to pursue.  Chuck Gordon is co-founder and CEO of Sparefoot, the world’s largest online marketplace for self-storage.  Gordon described Sparefoot as the ‘Hotels.com for storage’.

Chuck Gordon is from Washington, D.C., and attended UCLA.  When he decided to study abroad in Singapore during his junior year, he needed a place to store his belongings.  As one can imagine, Los Angeles isn’t the best place to find affordable storage.  Instead of spending $1,000 on a storage space, Chuck put half of his stuff in his co-founder Mario’s attic in Bakersfield and the other half at his girlfriend’s place in San Diego.  We all know the light bulb moment comes next; ‘there had to be a better way.’

Five Reasons You Should Reconnect with Your Old Professors

At some point, everybody has had a professor who clearly didn’t give two sh*ts about teaching. Whether these “educators” were primarily focused on research or they were simply burnt out on pension, they somehow managed to make you feel even worse about yourself in class (if you decided to show up).

My challenge for you is to sift through all of the painful memories and recall those excellent teachers who genuinely improved the quality of your day-to-day life. These extraordinary people are the ones who care about the impact they have on young minds. They have dedicated their lives to teaching or they cashed out of the game early to spread their knowledge to the next generation.

It’s easy to forget about the subtleties of school once you have moved on to the next frontier, but as a young professional or entrepreneur, there are important reasons why you should reconnect with your teachers:

1. Gain Valuable Advice

Great professors are sages. They always seem to have useful input, and they relentlessly encourage your personal development. Whether or not you failed that particular class at school doesn’t matter; you can always learn something new from an old teacher. That advice might turn out to be exactly what you need to solve a major problem in your business.

As you move forward with your career, call on these figures to bounce ideas back and forth or to shoot holes in your plans. Who knows—over time, maybe you can build a strong relationship or add an experienced member to your Board of Advisors.

2. Expand Your Network

Launching a business or making a big career move requires an enormous level of interdependence. You need a broad network of contacts that can help you make things happen. Professors are great resources for connecting you to all sorts of people: from clients to investors and from expert opinions to new talent for your team.

The truth is, you’ll never know what opportunities you’re missing out on unless you reach out. Be enthusiastic and passionate about your purpose; you might be very surprised to see where that energy can take you.

3. Secure an Influential Evangelist

“One of my old students…” or “A few years ago, I had this student who…” fill in the blank, Mad Lib style.

How many times have you heard this one? Truth: teachers are proud of past students who have gone on to do great things. They’re even more proud of students who have done great things and who keep in touch.

In addition to their networks, teachers possess a captive audience of young minds. They shape the thoughts and attitudes of countless students. Keeping in touch with these instructors might turn your story into a reference that can inspire others or even promote your business. You never know the potential magnifying effect of solid evangelism.

4. Nurture a Supportive Friendship

When you graduate high school or college, your student-teacher relationships generally dissolve. Most people never realize that they can take these relationships to the next level. Instead, they move onward to the next adventure without ever looking back.

You have endured your old classes, and if you have done so with integrity, you can transform your ties with respected teachers into supportive friendships. These friendships can help you stay grounded while inspiring your ambition to succeed.

5. Show Your Appreciation

This one should be a no brainer.

If any particular teachers come to mind as you read this, then they obviously did a great job influencing you. Let those individuals know that their hard work paid off and that they left a lasting impact on you.

Even if you do have some other motive for reaching out, don’t forget to show your sincere appreciation. Positive feedback reinforces a person’s core objectives. They put in the time to help you learn and grow, so take the time to thank them for all of their effort.

Mike Darche is a 21-year-old student at the University of Notre Dame whose mission to inspire other like-minded young entrepreneurs.