What Entrepreneur Would You Go Back in Time to Meet?

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews Entrepreneurship Startup Advice / October 11, 2013

Q. If you could go back in time and talk to one (no-longer-living) entrepreneurial type, who would it be and why?


The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie built one of the largest pieces of industry in history (steel), all while treating people right. He was so good at dealing with people, employees included, that the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was born and became one of the most widely sold books, second to the Bible. – Adam Callinan, BottleCamo

2. P.T. Barnum

He is the unrivaled king of buzz via creativity, and I’d love to see how he approaches creative problems and unlocks value in very unlikely places. – Brennan White, Watchtower

3. Thomas Edison

Edison may seem like an obvious choice because he invented the lightbulb and the phonograph, but I would meet with him to learn about his failed projects. Edison was known for his perseverance and “smart mistakes,” and I think there are good lessons to be learned in failed attempts. – Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

4. Pharaoh Khufu

The guy had the vision for the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the world. I’d love to hear Pharaoh Khufu’s thoughts on creating something built to last. – Brett Farmiloe, Digital Marketing Agency

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5. Walt Disney

I’ve read every single biography on Walt Disney and still have a million questions for him. I’d ask him about the grand vision he had for Disney, the risks he took in diversifying the company, the magical touch he lent to all the things he did and the calculated path he took to build a media empire. – Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

6. Steve Jobs

Steve jobs was inspired by the world around him and had a high level of spirituality. I believe a lot of his success came from understanding how the world worked in its simplest form. A lot of entrepreneurs tend to overthink things and make the world more complex than it really is, and Steve Jobs is one person that refuted that notion. – Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

7. Quanah Parker

Born into the Comanche nation as the son of a kidnapped Texas woman, he went on to hold the Comanches’ last stand against the effort to contain them. I have never heard of a more improbable rise and brave fight. I think of him, and all my problems are first-world problems — especially since he scalped. – Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

8. John D. Rockefeller

I’m fascinated by his (seemingly) contradictory nature. He was a person who dominated his industry with shrewd tactics, all while remaining dedicated to his wife, church and civic responsibilities. – Panos Panay, Sonicbids

9. J.P. Leggett

I’d love to chat with my great-great grandfather, an inventor named J.P. Leggett. He invented numerous products, including the modern bed spring, clay pigeon thrower, front-wheel drive and even something called the endless necktie (which, surprisingly, never caught on). I’d love to chat with him about his curiosity, invention process and perspective on the world. – Brent Beshore, adventur.es

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10. Leonardo da Vinci

To me, no one better embodies the mixture of creativity and activity required to be a great entrepreneur. I’d love to spend time with da Vinci and learn how he structured his day to produce so much, attack so many problems and challenge so many “known” things. It would be fascinating. – Eric Koester, DCI

11. Nikola Tesla

Forget Edison. This eccentric guy had 300 patents worldwide and helped develop electric current, radio, radar, X-rays, hydroelectric power, transistors, wireless technologies and more. He also figured out how to tap into an unexplainable source of creativity and inspiration and had an admirable, unyielding dedication and a sole focus on his work — apparently to the point of lifelong celibacy. – Cody McKibben, Digital Nomad Academy

12. Ben Franklin

Great entrepreneurs have to overcome odds and take risks. Franklin did both. His parents could only afford to send him to one year of school. During his journalism apprenticeship, he wrote articles under a pseudonym so he could get published without anyone knowing. He later escaped to Philadelphia and began a series of inventions, mostly for the civic good. I’d love to know what motivated him. – Susan Strayer LaMotte, exaqueo

13. Alexander Graham Bell

Telephone is an invention that took down the communication barrier and shaped the world we have today. I would like to have a phone call with Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, and tell him about the communication technology we have today. I want to know how he would react and what he would do to improve the technology. – Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics

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14. J. Paul Getty

I would love to have a conversation and hear firsthand the story about how he grew his oil empire and what type of legacy he intended to leave behind when he associated philanthropy with his businesses. – James Lin, SkyFront Capital

15. Coco Chanel

Ironically enough, I would love to speak to Coco Chanel. She single-handedly revolutionized women’s fashion, perfume and accessories in war times before female business ownership was socially acceptable. She not only created a fashion empire, but also turned herself into an icon, all while proctoring deals with the most successful men of the time. – Liam Martin, Staff.com

16. Henry Ford

His ideas were the catalyst to a whole new way of doing business, from concept to operations to innovation. He delivered what the customers didn’t know they wanted and operationally changed delivery through assembly line production. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.