Inspired by our contestant Matt Culkin’s desire to start his own comedy website business, we decided to chat with entrepreneurs who have been through similar journeys. We ask them about their entrepreneurial experiences, and what advice they might have for Matt.
Meet Elizabeth Yin, co-founder and CEO of Launchbit, an ad network for email, helping email publishers monetize their lists while connecting advertisers with very targeted audiences.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I was in 9th grade, and my current co-founder Jennifer told me that her cousin was starting an internet company (this was 1996, mind you) and did I have any interest in helping them set up their office over winter break? I’m not sure we were very helpful, but I was so inspired that a group of people could just come together and build stuff, that I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
So now that you had this goal, how did you set about accomplishing it?
Well, the first thing I did was to give it a shot. I learned web programming. Jennifer and I tried to start a web design company in high school. This was a dismal failure. We had no idea what we were doing on the business side. Yet every failed web project I did helped me become an entrepreneur. The best way to learn is to take the plunge. Not carelessly of course, not without regard for your personal life and financial situation, but it’s important to just get started.
How should Matt think about taking the plunge?
He should consider taking a few hours each day to work on various aspects of his business. It sounds like through his freelance work, he’s already working on the “Product” side. He should then spend some time focused on marketing his site, learning as he goes. If the business grows, he may find himself spending increasing amounts of time on the business until it’s a full-time occupation! The value of dabbling is that it can illustrate quickly if you’re a good fit for entrepreneurship!
What are your views on incubators? Would it be worthwhile for Matt to investigate this path to entrepreneurship?
I think an incubator program can be a good path if he wants to take the plunge now. If so, with the proliferation of incubators out there, it’s important to do sufficient due diligence on the backers and mentors involved in the program. I’d talk with incubator alums to learn what really happens in a particular accelerator, what the pros and cons are, and what a particular incubator track record is.
What were your top financial planning tactics when getting Launchbit off the ground?
1. Living at home with my parents had the biggest impact on my financial situation. Rent can be one of your largest expenses. This may be hard since it seems Matt wants to live on his own.
2. I used to join social events halfway through to save money (I’d eat at home, then join friends from drinks). On the scale of things, this was not super-impactful. I was pretty disciplined about cooking regularly and not eating out though.
3. At the very least, I always put money in my Roth IRA, even when I wasn’t making very much. It’s important not to lose sight of your future, especially if things go belly up. In the scheme of things, this maxing your Roth IRA is very doable, ($5,000 annual contribution limit), especially if you are able to save on rent by living at home. But, you should treat it as a priority.
Any final words of advice for Matt?
Talk to other entrepreneurs. This has been so helpful to me in my career – learning from others’ experiences in marketing, sales, management, etc. Good Luck!