By Miles Young
What does it take to become a household name like Gates? Jobs? Zuckerberg?
It wasn’t just their great ideas that turned them into moguls. An incredible idea means nothing unless you can think of a way to deliver it to the masses in a way that’s hard to ignore. These four up-and-coming entrepreneurs are making waves in their respective industries because each of them has found a way to make a statement with their product. Each demonstrates a particular quality that set them up for success. They know what it takes, so what can you learn from them when starting your own business?
Australian native Nick D’Aloisio was just 15 when he released Trimit in 2011, an iOS app designed to condense text content down into 1,000, 500 or 140 characters. In an age when consumers like their news and information in tiny, tasty bites, D’aloisio’s idea was spot-on.
The proof is in the pudding. Apple caught wind of Trimit and featured it as a new and noteworthy app on iTunes shortly after its release.
As it gained popularity, it also gained the attention of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who granted D’aloisio $300,000 in venture capital to take his creation to new heights.
Just a few months later, a later version of Trimit named Summly hit the app markets and consumers went crazy for it. In March of 2013, Yahoo! bought Summly for a whopping $30 million, making D’aloisio one of the youngest self-made millionaires in history. Just recently, the Wall Street Journal named him “Innovator of the Year.”
Believe it or not, this 18-year-old isn’t calling it a day. He told the Wall Street Journal that he’s ready to keep going and start another company.
“I want to be passionate,” he said. “I feel really bad when I’m not doing something new.”
His passion for creating will serve him well, and all aspiring business owners would do well to take a page from his book. Success breeds success, so don’t settle for just a little. Aim high, and when you get there, aim even higher.
Not many people can say they became a millionaire before they could legally drive, but Madison Robinson is on track to do just that.
When she was only 8 years old, she came up with the idea of Fish Flops, light up flip-flops for kids. It’s a wonderful idea, charming in its simplicity, perfectly suited for a young demographic of future fashionistas and beach bums alike.
Robinson rallied her friends and family to help out with financing and was able to gather the materials to turn her drawings into a product that trade fair retailers adored. Powerhouse department stores Nordstrom and Macy’s, along with 30 other stores, caught wind of Fish Flops and have placed their orders.
Robinson still designs each pair herself. She has also learned how to pack shipments, stock warehouses, host a trade booth, and pitch her product.
Her willingness to learn and desire to stay close to her product have served her well. $1.2 million in retail sales proves that a hands-on approach is a major key to success.
You don’t have to be a 15-year-old girl to learn the trade by staying in the trenches. Your first business venture will be a learning experience, so take advantage of every moment.
When Shane Smith cofounded youth magazine Voice of Montreal in 1994, he probably never dreamed that his indie operation would grow into the 100 million user-strong Vice Media.
Voice of Montreal eventually evolved into Vice, a magazine that focused on arts, news, and culture. The company expanded its reach to include a film company, record label, publishing company, and a video journalism news outlet.
Forbes estimates that Smith is worth around $400 million. Smith’s company had no outside investors for years, but 21st Century Fox recently invested $70 million into Vice, setting its value at $1.4 billion.
Besides being willing to diversify, Smith said he owes his success to one piece of advice from Spike Jonze.
“The best piece of advice I ever got from anyone was when Spike Jonze said take money out of the equation”, he told Forbes. “And that’s actually when Vice started making lots of money. That’s when I stopped worrying about money and started worrying about what I wanted to do.”
Money is obviously a motivating factor for many when they think about starting a business, but that can cause priorities to become muddled. When CEO Shane Smith focused on growing his business in the way he envisioned it, the money part fell into place. It didn’t dictate his every move. It was a perk.
While on a flight, Brian Wong watched as his fellow passengers played games on their iPads. The games featured large advertisements that brought no real value to the experience, which Wong felt was a major oversight by marketing experts.
What’s more annoying than advertisements that do nothing more than take up space? Wong saw this as an opportunity to reach consumers when they’re most engaged: the moment of achievement.
So, he developed Kiip, a mobile apps reward platform that brands use to reward consumers when they earn an achievement: high scores, level ups, increased activity levels, etc.
According to Forbes, Kiip reaches 70 million users across 1500 apps. He’s partnered with companies like Victoria’s Secret, Amazon, and Best Buy who use his product to reward customers with coupons, gift cards, and more when they earn an achievement.
What can we take away from Wong’s success? Marketing strategies can mean the difference between a so-so business venture and an incredible one. Engaging consumers at just the right time is a great way to make sure your business stays with them.
You’ll have a lot to learn before starting your own business, but thankfully many entrepreneurs have come before you. Their stories are full of mistakes and triumphs that will help guide you on this new adventure.
Who knows? If things go well, future entrepreneurs could learn success from your story.
Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and business columnist. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.