Who is your favorite “startup celebrity” and what’s the number one lesson they’ve taught you about entrepreneurship?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Tony Hsieh of Zappos
Tony is definitely my “culture hero.” I had the opportunity to tour Zappos in Downtown Las Vegas and was blown away by the positive energy coursing through the hallways. Tony preaches “causing collisions.” Get your people to mesh well and enjoy spending time together. Millennials are changing the way we need to attract and retain the best talent, and all of them want a good culture fit.
2. Howard Schultz of Starbucks
Here is a man who grew up in Brooklyn, brought up in the NYC housing authority, attended Northern Michigan on a scholarship, was the first family member to go to college, graduated and fell in love with a small Seattle-based coffee company called Starbucks. He decided that he wanted to sell coffee. He essentially turns a $400,000 investment (from friends and family) into a $55 billion market cap company.
3. Richard Branson of Virgin Group
Branson teaches us all to follow our passions, even in spite of our lack of experience or expertise. He has built a conglomerate made up of unrelated businesses, simply because he wanted to. Impressively, he has turned a number of them into wild success stories. At One Mall Group, we hope to do the same, while marrying happiness and success.
4. Marc Andreessen of Mosaic
Probably better categorized as a trend rather than a lesson, but for me it’s “Software is eating the world.” When thinking about entrepreneurship and startups, the winners are usually the ones who are able to skate to where the puck is going to be. Marc’s prophetic words provide a framework for me to evaluate the quality of ideas I see both as an investor and a founder.
5. Elon Musk of Tesla Motors
Elon Musk consistently inspires me to think bigger and faster, and then to advance that exponentially. He comes up with concepts that change our lives on a global level, and brings them much farther into the future — ways that have improved and democratized payment systems, space travel, environmental friendly luxury, solar power, technology sharing and high-speed transportation. He’s not afraid.
6. Jason Fried of Basecamp
I’m a big fan of Basecamp co-founder and author Jason Fried. Basecamp is vital in the day-to-day operations of ZinePak, and Fried’s books, “Rework” and “Remote” are staples for new employees of our company. My favorite lesson from Jason is to not be afraid to rethink a problem to find a new solution. If something has been done the same way for a long time, chances are it needs to be redesigned.
7. Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank
8. Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban is a sharp entrepreneur and investor, and one of his top pieces of advice is about not being afraid to work hard! He is always sharing insight about how putting in effort can be one of the biggest determinants of success, and that his only regrets are the times when he was “outworked” by someone else. The big takeaway is that each of us controls our own effort to achieve our goals.
9. Alexis Ohanian of Reddit
Alexis Ohanian taught us the power of embracing and creating communities through the web. While you may never be able to meet your fans face-to-face, creating a platform for your users to engage, laugh and educate each other is a great way to create meaning in their lives. We’re currently working on ways to connect our audiences to one another to help build a presentation community ourselves.
10. Marcus Lemonis of Camping World
I don’t know that this is necessarily a startup celebrity, but Marcus Lemonis has always been a favorite of mine. I’m addicted to his TV shows. He takes startups and other small businesses from struggling to successful with a proven and stellar strategy. He taught me that making tough business decisions are a part of life for an entrepreneur.
11. Steve Wozniak of Apple
My “startup celebrity” is Steve Wozniak. He taught me that you should create things for the love of creating them. People will always desire things created by passion, and that’s what I experience with our presentation folders. People love our products because we’re passionate about creating them.
12. Derek Sivers of CD Baby
I admire Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, so much. Not only does he have a model entrepreneurial startup story of “see problem/fix problem,” but all his work on the venture stemmed from his passion. His hard work eventually led to a very financially rewarding acquisition for him. Instead of taking the money and retiring, he set up a trust and donated most of it to charity. What a guy!
13. Peter Thiel of PayPal
I just finished reading Peter Theil’s book “Zero to One,” and it has changed my life. His premise is that there are two different types of progress: horizontal (globalization) and vertical (technology). I’ve realized that I’ve been focusing a bunch of time on the horizontal, but not investing in things that can make the world better by leaps and bounds.
14. Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty
I’m privileged to call Ajo a friend, client and mentor. Not only is she a female founder who has built a seven-figure business, she has committed herself to using her power and privilege to facilitate positive social change. Whether it’s helping build wells in Africa or investing in her employees’ leadership development, she has taught me to see my legacy as what I do in the world with my influence.