3 lessons I learned from meeting with a 21 year old entrepreneur

My friend, Dan Levine, introduced me to a nice young Jewish boy named Grant, the 21 year old. Grant is going to graduate UW in May 2013 and wanted some life advice.  Grant emailed me and asked me if he could bring his friend, Tony, the 22 year old who graduated in May 2012.  I scheduled to meet them this week at Zoka, a local coffee shop for 30 minutes.  We were scheduled to meet at 4PM.  I showed up at 4:10 and Grant and Tony were sitting by the door.  We had never met but I knew it was them that I was meeting.  They jumped up and introduced themselves.   I got a soy latte and sat down with them.  Grant started to talk. I wasn't sure exactly where the conversation was going to go but it was the end of the day and their enthusiasm was engaging.  It became clear -- 3 minutes into the conversation -- that they wanted to talk about their mobile app and business that they had been working on for the last 6 months.  I heard about the founding of the business -- Tony had started it while he lived in San Diego.  He had moved back home to Seattle and had partnered with Tony while Tony was finishing up at UW.  They weren't making any money yet.  But they had this little business and were trying to figure out whether it was worth continueing to pursue. I'm not going to divulge their business idea -- but in the past 6 months they clearly demonstrated some learnings from the market. I was impressed with what they had figured out -- and I was more aware than them of what they didn't know that they didn't know.  But in the end -- I end up staying and talking with them about their idea for 2 hours. Trying to help them and give them tips so they might actually turn this thing into a success.  At the end of the coffee meeting, I reflected and realized I had learned at this meeting...

i) Naivete and enthusiasm are an entrepreneurs friend.  These attributes can be a HUGE asset and what may seem impossible ...may in fact not be. 

ii) Writing down ones key assumptions and figuring out what tests one wants to run is the entrepreneurs job.  The definition of the test reflects the frame or lens of the entrepreneur.  These assumptions and tests point the direction of the most likely learning that will be obtained. A lot of the learning that one actually does in these market tests can not be known a-priori. 

iii) Listening AND selling are equally critical skills to accomplishing the entrepreneurial goal.