I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I was 22. Time flies when you’re having fun with what you’re doing.
For some context, I graduated college in 2007 from USC’s Marshall School of Business, and now I’m the CEO and Founder of XYZ, which I call the next-generation domain registry. We successfully launched the top new domain extension .xyz last June, and we’re in the process of bringing the world .College, .rent, .car, .cars, .auto and probably some others later this year.
It’s been a long road from undergrad to where my company is today, and I’ve actually been thinking about how to build a business since I was a teenager. Here are some tips and suggestions for you graduating seniors who are thinking about starting a company.
Work with people you trust.
When I started my company XYZ, I hired several friends of mine from USC. While some executives would caution against hiring friends, I have a different perspective. Personally, I want to work with people I like and know I can count on. I also know they can be honest with me, and open communication is extremely valuable in a startup (or really any company).
Be flexible about your work terms.
When I was 16, I met a local mortgage broker and bartered technical services (teaching him how to get on the internet without AOL) for lessons about real estate. Those learnings provided an important grounding for the real estate business I was later involved in. If I had charged him a fee, he never would have agreed to be my teacher.
While it’s critical to be able to support yourself without racking up debt, I also think it’s wise as a young entrepreneur to prioritize education over money whenever possible.
When I was 22, I was a regular at Subway. A $5 footlong, almost every day, was my habit. It was either that or I waited for happy hour deals at Islands (a place next door to my first office). At 29, I still often find myself at Subway, except now footlongs are $8 because of inflation.
Invest it all.
The biggest risk in life is not taking one, and one thing that has consistently worked for me is taking calculated risks.
With any savings, regardless of how big or small, I recommend investing — and investing all of it. When I was 22, I opened up a ROTH IRA. I’ve beat the market, and one of my best investments was in something I knew and understood. In 2008, I invested $289.20 in Tucows — at the time the third-largest domain registrar in the world — and that’s grown by more than 10x to be $3,591 as of mid-May.
So, by all means, invest. And invest in businesses you understand.
Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
Bob Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy, taught me that one. Know your limitations and fill in the gaps with smart employees, partners and investors.
Pay your bills. All of them.
Never short anyone. Your reputation just started. Build your credit. Get a credit card. Or three. Get a “secured credit card” and pay your bill in full every month.
Don’t live above your means; it will come back to haunt you. If you’re starting to get underwater, then find a second job and wait tables or be a valet. (I was.)
Be an intrapreneur.
One of my professors at USC taught us this term. An intrapreneur is an entrepreneur inside an organization. #IfIWere22, I would want to work at a company with this kind of culture. (And yes, XYZ is full of intrapraneurs. Want to be one? Apply @ careers.xyz.)
Okay, enough shameless plugs. Either way, good luck out there!