"We raised seed funding from Tech Coast Angels as the youngest team they have ever invested in and still managed to graduate college a semester early." By Anna Sergeeva (Co-Founder, Planana)
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur.
Growing up, I didn’t operate a lemonade stand or lawn mowing business like the entrepreneurs who are “born with it.” My parents and I immigrated to America from the Ukraine and, like in most immigrant families, it was understood that I would get good grades to get into a good college to land a good, stable job.
But my life paradigm completely changed when I found myself in a community of Western entrepreneurs who were trying to build their lives and fortunes. They were passionate, tenacious, independent and a little bit crazy. They were in control of their destinies in a way I never knew was possible. That glimpse into their world was one of my most defining moments at USC. I declared a concentration in entrepreneurship. I had no clue what business I would start or how I would start it, but I knew I had to start somewhere.
I co-founded Planana with a fellow Trojan, Fei Xiao. We won a DEMOgod Award, were named one of the Coolest College Startups in America by Inc Magazine, raised seed funding from Tech Coast Angels as the youngest team they have ever invested in - and still managed to graduate college a semester early.
Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a young female entrepreneur:
#1 - Entrepreneurial drive cannot be taught but everything else can be.
There always seems to be a debate around whether entrepreneurship can be taught. From my experience in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, I definitely have to say that answer is yes. These courses provided me with a foundation in entrepreneurship that gave me the knowledge and inspiration to eschew a traditional career path.
However the mentality of an entrepreneur cannot be taught in a classroom. Most of the successful entrepreneurs I have met are insanely driven, have an insatiable desire to learn, build, improve and are incredibly resourceful. They thrive in uncertainty and won’t stop until they get what they want. Some are born this way; others develop these characteristics by living, making mistakes and getting dirty.
#2 - Make your own mistakes.
When you are young and relatively clueless, lots of people want to give you advice. They usually have the best intentions and want to spare you the grief they’ve already experienced.
Whether it is being smart about how you divide equity or being incredibly passionate about the problem you are trying to solve or other topics entrepreneurs like to blog about, there are some lessons you can only learn by making your own mistakes.
#3 - Stop making excuses for why you can’t do it.
I’ve spoken with many aspiring young entrepreneurs who continuously make excuses for why they can’t start a company. They don’t have a technical co-founder; they don’t have access to capital; they don’t have a genius idea. I think all these excuses are rooted in fear. Fear of failure.
When Fei and I stumbled into startups a year ago, we didn’t know the difference between frontend and backend coding. We didn’t have money or real world experience. We just had a bunch of terrible ideas. I’ve learned that no one is certain of anything in startups, so when you’re young and naive, you have nothing to lose.
The moral of my story is just do it, just start something.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Brian Auer on Flickr. About the guest blogger: Anna Sergeeva is a Co-Founder of Planana, a customizable tool that leverages Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to help event organizers sell more tickets. Currently residing in Los Angeles, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the business and film joint program at the University of Southern California in December 2011. She loves to travel, learn and explore. Follow her on Twitter at @asergeeva.