For many entrepreneurs, it takes several years of following the conventional path which has been laid out for them by society before they realize that they are not cut out for anything conventional. Those individuals often become entrepreneurs simply because they realize that the concept of working for someone else until retirement age seems more like a nightmare than a dream to them. But there are some people who skip the conventional path entirely, as if they knew from an early age that a conventional path just isn’t going to work for them. Jared Kleinert is one of the people.
Jared’s entrepreneurial journey began at the age of 15 when he started his first website. Determined to not get “trapped in the vicious cycle of normalcy”, as he describes it, he started a web application that offered affordable online tutoring. Admittedly, that venture failed spectacularly, but that wasn’t enough to discourage Jared from pursuing new ideas. At the age of 16, he launched a crowdsourcing platform for social entrepreneurs called Synergist. Despite his efforts, that venture didn’t pan out so well either.
It wasn’t until Jared obtained a remote internship for two startups in Silicon Valley simultaneously that that he began to acquire the skills and build the network that would serve as a foundation for his eventual success as an entrepreneur. “I ended up working for an enterprise software startup for over 2 years”, says Jared. “I learned more from that experience than any schooling had ever taught me in terms of how to run a business.” Evidently, learning from other entrepreneurs can sometimes be more fruitful than learning from our own trial and error.
In November of 2012, Jared was invited to the Under 20 Summit hosted by the Thiel Foundation, an event which brought together many of the top young entrepreneurs from around the world. Inspired by a specific talk at that event, Jared came up with the idea to write a book that would feature inspiring stories of various people under the age of 20 (aka the millennial generation) from around the world. “I heard a talk about how there were 2 billion people in the world under 20 years old, and I became inspired to start 2 Billion Under 20, which recently came out as a book and did very well”, says Jared.
Call it a twist of fate, but Jared was actually supposed to miss the presentation that ended up inspiring him to work on the book. Thanks to a delayed flight, he was able to stay at the summit long enough to watch the presentation. His idea for the book remained in the back of his mind for a few months after the summit, but eventually he decided to voice his idea to gauge the level of interest and support it would receive. “I just pitched it to the Facebook group that we had for the Thiel Foundation Summit”, says Jared. “Within half an hour there were 50 likes on the thread, 60 comments, and 2 or 3 people willing to be my co-author.”
As with any major project, going from idea to reality definitely does not happen overnight, but the initial responses Jared received from that Facebook group were enough to convince him to take additional steps towards making his idea a reality. He partnered up with Stacey Ferreira (the book’s co-author), and together they began assembling stories of various millennials who are making a positive difference in the world.
It took approximately 2 years to write and publish the book, but thanks to the support of Jared and Stacey’s combined network and the help of their publisher, the book was an instant success. 2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing the World was ranked the #1 New Release on Amazon in Business and Leadership the day it was released, and has been endorsed by several notable entrepreneurs including Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com), Keith Ferrazzi (New York Times Bestselling Author of Never Eat Alone), and Brian Scudamore (Founder & CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?), among others.
“It’s been a fun experience,” says Jared. “It’s really opened up a lot of other doors.” Reflecting on the experience, Jared offers the following 3-step process for anyone who is searching for their next big idea. These are the steps that Jared credits as being cornerstone to his willingness and ability to make the book a reality:
“My life has taken me in a bunch of weird directions. But it’s all happened for a reason, and it’s all taught me different things and has served a good purpose.”
One of the keys to Jared’s success as a young entrepreneur is his ability to build mutually beneficial relationships with successful and influential people. He credits Keith Ferrazzi, New York Times Bestselling Author of Never Eat Alone (who was also Jared’s first consulting client), and David Hassell, the CEO of 15Five (the enterprise software startup that Jared worked for as a teenager) for learning this critical skill. “Those two really taught me more about connecting with people and networking than schooling or other resources”, says Jared.
According to Jared, one of the keys to connecting with people is to always find a way to provide value upfront first. “If you’re going to go into any interaction, whether it’s a sales interaction or a marketing interaction, or whether it’s just trying to build a new connection, find a way to provide value to them”, says Jared. “There are always different ways to provide value and even just showing the willingness to provide value, even if you can’t at that time, goes a long way.”
When it comes to connecting with others, another thing that Jared has learned is the value of connecting with super connectors. Super connectors are people who have large networks, and can therefore introduce you to other people and opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. “Connect to as many super connectors as possible”, Jared suggests. “They’re going to have access to a lot of different places that you may want to be connected to, and you can leverage their name or their reputation for other things.” For example, even though Jared doesn’t speak to Keith Ferrazzi very often, he will often mention that he did some consulting work for Keith because a lot of people know and respect Keith. Leveraging Keith’s name has helped Jared to attract clients for Kleinert Ventures, Jared’s current consulting business. “When I mention that I worked with him that instantly boosts my credibility. It also opens up some more doors”, says Jared.
“There are a lot of different networking hacks but at the end of the day it really comes down to being a genuine person and looking to be of help and add as much value as possible.”
When Jared started his first two businesses as a teenager (the ones that failed), he learned some very valuable lessons that other entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, can benefit from learning. “I don’t advocate failing”, says Jared. “It’s just not a good idea. But even if you do fail there’s not really a specific thing you can pull from that failure unless you’ve been able to control all the different variables in your business. But what you can do is pull a lesson from it.”
One of the lessons Jared learned early on was how important it is to choose the right mentors. Jared later discovered that the person who was giving him business advice when he was 15 years old had actually served time in prison for securities fraud on Wall Street. Evidently, that person was not exactly the type of role model that Jared should have been taking advice from. “Rather than continue to associate with people like that, I did a complete 180 and started associating with people who had really high integrity and who had incredible expertise in their fields, and who were also just really great and knowledgeable people”, says Jared. “That one lesson has completely changed my life.”
“I’ve gotten world class mentors in my life. They forced me to become a better version of myself.”
The way to build yourself up as an entrepreneur, according to Jared, is to surround yourself with people who support you in building yourself up. Build relationships with people who support your success, who operate at a higher level than you, and who are living the kind of life you want to live. But in order for you to make room for new relationships with positive people in your life, you’ll need to stop associating with any negative people that are currently still in your life. “With the negative people, don’t do it gradually. Run away from negativity and run away from the terrible people in your life”, says Jared. “It’s like ripping off a band aid. You just have to do it. It will sting at first but you’ll be better for it rather than trying to slowly peel it off and it’s going to be painful the entire way through.”
As an entrepreneur, Jared finds himself working on different projects on a regular basis, but he seems to have created a balance that works well for him. He admits that on a micro level, he probably isn’t as productivity or as efficient with his time as he could be, but on a macro level, his priorities are clearly defined. “Rather than focusing on how I can save an hour here or an hour there, I’m very macro productive”, Jared explains. Whether that means choosing the right projects to work on, picking the right co-founders, or making sure his brand is aligned with his personal values, Jared gives careful consideration to every decision he makes that can impact the direction of his life and business in the long-run.
With the exception of consulting with his clients, writing articles for various publications online, writing emails and doing Skype calls (all of which can be done from his laptop), there is a plenty of variety in Jared’s daily routine, and that is how he likes it. Whether he’s travelling around the country to promote his book, co-hosting events with other entrepreneurs, learning how to break dance, and sharing meals with New York Times Bestselling authors such as Neil Strauss, Jared tends to have new and interesting experiences on a regular basis. “I do believe in lifestyle balance and I’m always connected and I’m always working or thinking about work”, says Jared, “but at the same time trying to incorporate fun, and new relationships, and new experiences.”
A true lifestyle entrepreneur, Jared has managed to create a lifestyle that is most definitely not conventional, but that offers him the chance to pursue meaningful work, build lasting relationships with positive and successful people around the world, and that grants him the freedom to steer his life in any direction he chooses. Will Jared ever decide to revert to a more conventional way of life? Perhaps, but at this point, it seems highly unlikely.
Enter your name and email below to join our growing community of lifestyle entrepreneurs, and receive instant access to our Lifestyle Business Startup Checklist.