Going for it: Young entrepreneurs have little to lose

By By Edward M. Eveld

The Kansas City Star (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Nick d'Aloisio displays his mobile application Summly, as he poses for photographs after being interviewed by the Associated Press in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs hit the jackpot after selling his top selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo. Seventeen year old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars.

Matt Dunham, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

A little humility in the young is always appreciated, right?

So go apply for a job, and once you’re in, listen a lot and talk very little. Learn the ropes.

With experience and the wisdom that comes with it, maybe you can strike out on your own someday.

Forget that.

Tyler Beckett, Katie Yeager and Pete Mesh — all in their 20s —wanted to launch themselves and their new ventures now, not later. They have their reasons, but the shared and biggest one is this:

“Nothing to lose.”

No spouses, no kids, no personal stuff they really need to acquire, no futures beyond their own to consider — nobody depending on them not to fail.

They also have no intention of going down, of course. But even more, they have no intention of taking loved ones with them.

“I could risk everything and lose nothing,” said Beckett, who launched Hugo Tea Co. in Kansas City last December. “Why would I not do it?”

“It’s just my personal situation I’m risking,” said Yeager, head of a startup real estate company in Overland Park, Kan., called Your Future Address. “I can pick myself up.”

“I can take the chance,” said Mesh, who has revived a venerable Kansas City deli. “It gives me an edge.”

They have other things in common, particularly passion and high energy.

And a certain ghost of a fear: If they don’t light their entrepreneurial fire now — before the advent of family and regular paychecks — maybe they never would.

The three inadvertently have become part of the ongoing discussion in the entrepreneurial world about which path is best. Do it now or do it later?

Turns out early-onset entrepreneurship still isn’t the norm. While some famously successful ventures were begun by the young — Facebook, Google, Apple — the average age of startup leaders is actually close to 40.

For starters, Tyler Beckett, 26, never thought of himself as a company kind of guy. That is, getting good at a specific task and moving up the ranks.

He got his MBA from the University of Missouri after an undergraduate degree in “interdisciplinary studies,” which he acknowledges sounds a little unfocused.

“I wanted to take the courses I wanted to take,” he said. “And I never wanted to be a robot in the corporate world — not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Well, maybe a little. But if not that world, what?

Beckett doesn’t believe there’s one “soulmate of a job” for every person, but he does believe in finding and following one’s interest. His happens to be tea.

That goes way back to his growing-up years in Cameron, Mo. His mother served lots of iced tea. He never did get hooked on coffee. At all.

“I’m a tea drinker in a coffee culture,” he admitted.

The entrepreneur thing started early, too. When he was in second grade in the mid-1990s, smack in the middle of the dinosaur unit, his grandparents bought a computer, color printer and Microsoft Encarta, a digital encyclopedia.

“I was amazed by this,” he said. “You could look up anything.”

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