5 Lessons Learned From a 12 year old

I founded Elevatr because everyone has great business ideas, but not everyone knows how to turn those ideas into businesses. Our first product, an iOS app that guides raw ideas into concise business plans, launched in May, was featured on the App Store, and now has more than 70,000 users.

A few weeks ago, Akiva Lipshitz, a 13 year old heading into 8th grade, emailed me to ask for an internship with Elevatr. He said he’d love nothing more than to meet the team and contribute in some way to the company that created his favorite app.  We said yes because Akiva validates everything that we’re doing with Elevatr: There are more and more aspiring entrepreneurs seeking help everyday who we’d love to help out.

Akiva interned for us on July 8 and his task was to translate the app into Hebrew (he did a great job). We spent the rest of the time talking about his ideas and my entrepreneurial experiences. I know Akiva learned a lot from us that day, but I think we learned just as much from him. Here are some lessons we learned by hiring the 13 year old ideasmith.

Internet entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age requirement.

Akiva may only be 13, but he has the passion and savvy of an entrepreneur twice his age. With nearly unlimited information available to everyone at their fingertips, anyone, even children, can be in tune with the markets. Akiva knew what was going on and picked my brain for first-hand advice. It’s great to see younger generations making use of the Internet rather than taking its power for granted.

Startup founders are to younger generations what rock stars were to older generations.

While our parents had Beatlemania, todays generation of kids have startup founders. Akiva may be the exception rather than the rule, but he is fascinated with meeting founders. He constantly reaches out to companies he’s interested in to see if he can spend some time talking with them. This 13 year old was talking about famous founders as if they were Michael Jordan or Mick Jagger. It shows how the times are changing and that startup founders can be celebrities without even knowing it.

Startups are safer than corporations.

Something happened during the recession of 2009 that showed people that traditional corporations aren’t as safe as we once thought. Subconsciously we reacted by wanting to create our own startups. Now, these kids have grown up through the rough economy and are raised thinking that corporate jobs aren’t safe. This is changing the way of thinking for many young people like Akiva who are seeing more ideas turning into businesses than ever before. The business landscape is evolving.

With a little bravado, you can connect with anyone.

Saying I was shocked by Akiva’s bravado would be an understatement. How many of us would have had the courage to reach out to a young CEO and ask for a chance to meet and work with them? It should be motivation for anyone hesitant to reach out to an investor, business partner, or media outlet. Take the chance and see what comes of it, a little bravado can take you a long way. Like Akiva told me when I asked him if he was afraid of being rejected, he said, “the worst they could say is ‘no’.”

Anyone can create a successful business if they make moves one step at a time.

One thing a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of, and Akiva was no exception, is being overzealous with planning. He wanted to build his entire vision at one time. After talking with him and further breaking it down, he began to understand that it was important to take things one step at a time. I suggested that he build something small just to get started. This would help validate his idea and vision and allow him to evolve it over time. That’s exactly what he’s done by creating a Tumblr account.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is everywhere. It expands across multiple generations and is always evolving. I can’t wait to see what ideas Akiva and his peers turn into businesses.

David Spiro graduated from the University of Michigan Business School and College of Engineering in 2012 where he became the first undergraduate to receive the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. He played baseball for Michigan, loves to chat about quantum consciousness, and is a startup lifer.