The following post is from an upcoming study by Endeavor’s Center for High-Impact Entrepreneurship (C-HIE) on key success strategies for start-ups. The study is based on interviews with 55 High-Impact Endeavor Entrepreneurs from 11 countries. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’re sharing five of our favorite “Rules for Becoming a High-Impact Entrepreneur” from this study, with input from some wise Endeavor friends. The full report will be available soon.
Some of the world’s most iconic entrepreneurs founded their businesses in the garage of their parents’ home. Their success often raises the question: how can young entrepreneurs with limited business experience build major corporations? It’s because a little experience goes a long way- to be high-impact, entrepreneurs often need some prior experience, but not enough to prevent them from taking risks and being flexible.
Michael Dell is the perfect case study of the rule “a little experience goes a long way.” Dell is a longtime friend of Endeavor, and his eponymous company is one of Endeavor’s leading global partners.
“When I was 16 my job prospects expanded because I was able to drive. That expanded the potential job opportunities pretty significantly. And I got a job with a local newspaper in Houston. My job was to sell subscriptions. And turns out I was supposed to do this over the phone. And I observed that people buying the newspaper had two common characteristics. One is that they were moving into a new place to live, or they were getting married. And it turns out that you can get a lot of information about people that are moving into a new place to live because they have to apply for a mortgage, and that information’s actually available. And in the state of Texas , when you want to get married you have to apply for a marriage license, and when you apply you have to put the address where you want the license sent. So I created a direct mail campaign to send an offer to subscribe to the paper to all the people in the 16 counties surrounding Travis County where Houston was. And it worked out really, really well. It was a lot of fun. It was kind of an early learning in direct marketing.
If you don’t have a lot to lose, failure’s no big deal. When I started the company, it wasn’t as if anybody was really paying attention. Learn by making mistakes, learn by doing.”
-Michael Dell at University of Texas, Austin
Michael Dell certainly seems to have learned from his mistakes as a young entrepreneur! Today Dell is a Fortune 50 company with over $60 billion dollars in annual revenue.
A study by Endeavor’s Center for High-Impact Entrepreneurship confirms that “a little experience goes a long way.”
Seventy-eight percent of the best entrepreneurs we interviewed – those whose companies have grown at an average of 20% or greater over the last three years – started their business before they were 31 years old. In addition, the best entrepreneurs already had some experience as an entrepreneur. Fifty-eight percent of the best entrepreneurs had previously started a business and ninety-six percent had some entrepreneurial experience, either with family or in school, even if they had not actually started their own business.
Endeavor Entrepreneurs corroborate that “a little experience goes a long way.”
The background of Endeavor Entrepreneur Wences Casares in some ways mirrors that of Michael Dell. Wences similarly caught the entrepreneurial bug at a young age, creating a phone book directory for Patagonia, Argentina, for which earned an $80,000 profit while still in his teens. When he was just 20 years old, he took a semester off from college, borrowed $75K from friends, and started the first Internet Service Provider in Argentina. His third venture (for which he was selected by Endeavor), Patagon.com, came three years later in 1997, when he was only 23 years old. At this point in his career, Wences had already proven himself and learned a lot about start-ups as a serial entrepreneur who had felt the thirst for success and the sting of disappointment. Yet he was still a young man who could afford to take big risks and be flexible. Patagon.com, an online stock trader, ultimately became the premier financial destination in Latin America and Spain. In 2000, Wences sold a majority stake to Banco Santander for $585MM.
Wences has gone on to found several more ventures and is a dedicated mentor to many Endeavor Entrepreneurs.