How I Raised $1 Million Straight Out of High School

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An extraordinary young female founder tells the story of how she met Richard Branson and raised $1 million for her business, all before her freshman year of college. Plus, the top five lessons she's learned on her startup journey so far. 

By Stacey Ferreira (Co-founder, MySocialCloud)

After a fatal computer crash, my brother’s computer was fried. Goodbye pictures, goodbye software and goodbye documents. As he was recovering all the usernames and passwords that previously were stored in an excel spreadsheet on his computer, we began talking in the brother/sister fashion we always did - coming up with crazy ideas and solutions to problems we had. We knew how to code (a little bit). He more than I. But why couldn’t we build an online platform to store usernames and passwords (one that was easy to use and free to us)?

Shortly after the crash and brainstorming session, I graduated high school and moved to Los Angeles with him where we rented a small apartment in South Central LA. My brother and I, along with our friend Shiv Prakash, decided to dedicate the summer to building this online password manager that we called, MySocialCloud (the name taken at random from a list of domains my brother had previously bought). And once I saw a tweet from Sir Richard Branson asking people to fly across the country and donate $2,000 to meet him - our whole life changed.

We borrowed $4,000 from our parents to donate and flew cross country 48 hours later in order to meet Sir Richard Branson in an intimate room of 18 people at the Versace Mansion in Miami, FL. After telling him our story and about MySocialCloud, we found ourselves talking to a friend of his, Jerry Murdock, just two weeks later. Within two months of the initial event in Miami, Jerry was standing in our office and telling us that both he and Branson would invest about $1 million in our seed round. And today, twelve months later, after a lot of hard work, hustling and dedication, we have an amazing team, a fully functioning product, and lots of lessons learned. Here are my top five lessons learned throughout the past two years of building MySocialCloud.

Surround Yourself With People You Can Learn From

A lot of people say, surround yourself with people smarter than you. But the truth is that a lot of people are smarter than me in topics I know nothing about (i.e. working in the food industry, and flying helicopters) and I am a lot smarter than some people in regards to other topics (i.e. starting a business, marketing, etc.). I, as well as a lot of other entrepreneurs, just have a hunger for learning that applies not just to my industry at the moment, so I constantly try to surround myself with people who I clean learn something from - no matter if they’re a janitor or a Fortune 500 CEO.

Not Everything Works Out As Planned...

... And it’s 100% okay! I’ve learned that in starting a business, things don’t go according to plan more often than they do - introductions to people I thought we needed for help on the business fall through, events and meetings get canceled and product timelines don’t always get met. Learning to roll with the punches, not get stressed and know that everything will be okay is vital.

Connections Are EVERYTHING

It’s cliche, but true: “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” Connections are everything - they help you get introductions to the best employees, the best investors and the best friends. So always be connecting.

Learn Your Own Work/Life Balance

When I first started MySocialCloud with Scott, I had no work/life balance. I broke up with a great guy I was dating, moved to a different state and did nothing but work for four months straight before going to college and working full time. It was totally fine in the beginning and my brother and I were able to successfully launch the company and raise our seed round, but keeping my head buried in work for two years straight changed my relationships, and consequently, me. So do what you have to get your business launched, but don’t forget that relationships and having fun are things that change with time and if you miss out, it’s extremely hard to get them back.

Take Notes & Never Forget

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take notes every night before I slept about building the business. Now, people are always asking me questions about things I did when my brother and I were first starting the business or how events played out. And even though it’s only been two years and I do have notes from some of the major events and occurrences, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details and how I felt, which might have been the most interesting part of the story if only I’d written it down.

About the guest blogger: Stacey Ferreira started MySocialCloud, an online password vault, directly after graduating high school. A couple of months later she and her brother acquired $1 million in funding from notable investors including Sir Richard Branson, Jerry Murdock and Alex Welch after replying to a Tweet from Sir Richard Branson. After the investment, Stacey ventured to NYC to attend NYU while also working full time on the business. After one year, she took a leave of absence to pursue MySocialCloud full time. Photo credit: Cynthia Smoot via Flickr