Tim Young on Funding, Mentors and Being a Young Entrepreneur

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews / September 27, 2010

Tim Young is not like the rest of us. He actaully thought entrepreneurship was the norm and never considered working for someone else. Tim comes from a long-line of entrepreneurs and that environment led him to believe that building something for yourself and making an impact on society was the only way to live your life.

Tim started Socialcast shortly after he graduated from The University of California Riverside. While running Socialcast Tim has raised millions in funding and worked with numerous mentors who are helping him build his company. Read his interview to learn some of his tips and find out what his advice for young entrepreneurs is…

Tell us about your background and how you got into entrepreneurship

I grew up in Southern California outside of LA. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and successful ones. Even a lot of my extended family were entrepreneurs. I grew up in an environment where making an impact on the world and building something whether it be a product or service was drilled into my head in childhood. Really the idea of building something of my own was the way I understood things. Working for someone else seemed like the crazy idea, not entrepreneurship.

My family business was irrigation and manufacturing, my Uncle also started a bio-tech startup and sold it to a pharma company. Again the concept of building something to make a positive impact was the focus. The real value in irrigation was it helped people grow food which then helped feed people.

Could you explain Socialcast and how it got started?

Socialcast is a lightweight collaboration tool for employees of large enterprises. The platform allows everyone to interact in real time. It is based around activity streams but with just the companies employees.

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As an employee you can get all the updates of whats important to you just like you would get facebook updates from your friends and important events you follow. The system reduces the meeting culture. It broadcasts what you are working on rather than having to call a meeting to show everyone. It really focuses on working with major corporations with 10,000+ employees around that world that need to harbor conversations.

The major difference with Socialcast and other social platforms is the focus on business. You bring a different personality to both environments. Having these conversations on a network like facebook would not work because it is a social group and not a business group.

You mentioned working with a network of mentors. How did this help you and where do you think young people should look for these advisors?

There are 3 key things to success.

1. Mentors
2. Reading (Tim reads roughly 100 books each year)
3. Persistence

Mentors give you the advantage of accelerating your knowledge of how a situation will play out. You can read or get generic advice from people but serious mentors can give you targeted advice about your projects. This advice can accelerate your own projects, teams, visions and company.

My advice would be to build a broad spectrum of mentors in your own industry. They can answer the question “Are you also seeing this happen?”. This is helpful when seeing if trends are just in your company or throughout your industry.

Then build a network of more experienced entrepreneurs. I think the best way to do this is through networking, twitter, blogs and even cold emailing. Our VCs have also introduced us to a lot mentors, entrepreneurs and industry people.

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It is also important to have mentors who are not entrepreneurs and that were not introduced to you through VCs. These people should be ones that are operating larger companies but did not start them. There is a difference between starting and growing a business to a point and then operating and scaling a business.

It seems like you have worked with a lot of big brand name companies at a young age. How did you get in the door with these clients and was your credibility ever questioned because of your youth?

I have not had a problem with credibility yet so I have not had to overcome anything like that. However it was a question we considered and structured the company to be ready for that question from a company. It really is not about your age but about being ready and prepared for anything a customer may ask or be concerned about.

We really spend a lot of time on preparation so nothing we do comes off as inexperienced. Our customers have actually appreciated our youth because we are bringing them software created by this generation. So they know that we know and understand it the best and how to apply it. In a sense it has been an advantage because we are the ones who have created these types of platforms.

Many young people looking for funding. What were your keys to finding it and what would you advise young entrepreneurs do?

1. Physical Location: Of course there are outliers but if you are really serious in technology you want to start a business in San Francisco or the Bay Area because of the intellectual capital. On any given day I can have coffee with any entrepreneur or someone who understands the space. Everyone is living and breathing software and startups. Not saying you can not be successful elsewhere but you have a greater chance in the right location because of the intellectual capital.

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2. To many details on the product or service they are building: Many companies don’t spend enough time developing the true vision of the company and the problem they are solving. How do you see the world in 5 or 10 years after your company is successful? What behavior change are you looking for beyond what your product is going to do? VCs are investing in big ideas and people, not just the product. Your business is bigger than a product or service!

3. Networking: Go through service organizations and meet the people who know VCs. Think about lawyers and accountants who work with the VCs.

There is a huge value in the VC community beyond the cash they will give you.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a young entrepreneur what would it be?

Whatever company you build as an entrepreneur is a reflection of yourself. The key to being successful as an entrepreneur is knowing yourself and your values, where you stand in the world and what change you want to make.

If you know that, that is the foundational key. Whatever company you build you are creating that environment and that is a direct reflection of you and your values. And then you can check as you build the company to see if it is truly an accurate reflection of who you are.

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