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Ken and Ben Lerer Share Their Top 5 Secrets to Success for Young Entrepreneurs

Ken and Ben Lerer Share Their Top 5 Secrets to Success for Young Entrepreneurs
Ken and Ben Lerer at speaking at TechCrunch NY Disrupt
Image credit: TechCrunch

Young entrepreneurs are always agonizing over how to scale their startups into successful ventures. So, who better to help resolve this conundrum than the powerhouse father and son entrepreneurs and investors behind Lerer Ventures, a New York City-based seed-stage venture-capital firm.

The eldest Lerer, Ken, is the co-founder of the Huffington Post and chairman of Buzzfeed. And son, Ben, followed in his father's entrepreneurial footsteps with the launch of men's lifestyle brand Thrillist.com.

At Lerer Ventures, the duo has invested in big-name startups like Birchbox and Warby Parker, among others.

Speaking at a fireside chat during TechCrunch NY Disrupt on Wednesday, the pair provided a few tips on how to be successful.

1. 'Be psychotic.'
Ben jokingly said this was the number one quality he looks for in an entrepreneur. All kidding aside, though, the team does focus far more on the passion and drive of a founder than the actual product, says Ben. "We focus on people, not companies," he adds. When they've slipped up and become more excited about a sector or product and put less emphasis on the person, the companies tended to not be their best performers in the portfolio.

Related: Thrillist's Ben Lerer on his Success as a Young Trep

2. Reach out to others.
"I leaned on a lot of people when I was starting the Huffington Post who knew a lot more about some parts of the world than I did," says Ken. He advises people to get out in the community, ask a lot of questions and meet individuals who are more knowledgeable in areas you aren't.

3. Be the customer.
Don't start a company that you wouldn't use as a consumer. It may seem obvious but many people are looking for a get-rich-quick business with little interest in the product or service. And as mentioned at a separate investor panel about raising VC funding on Tuesday, entrepreneurs in it for the wrong reasons tend to bail on a startup once the road starts to get bumpy. "I think it is important that the person who is founding the company is their own customer," says Ben.

4. Don't leave your investors in the dark.
"You can't communicate too much with your investor, it is a big mistake when things go wrong to hide," says Ken. Investors don't only provide money, they offer numerous resources and advice. Utilize their experiences and keep them in them in the loop.

Related: 5 Reasons a Young Entrepreneur Should Raise Outside Funding

5. Be able to switch gears.
"Successful entrepreneurs are the people who can figure out when to pivot, and they have to be really good at it," says Ken. "Rarely do you meet someone whose idea is ultimately the end idea that is going to make the business successful." Acknowledging that you're wrong -- or that your target moved -- and taking what you've learned to change your startup path could make all the difference.

Check out the discussion in its entirety in the video below

What are your tips for running a successful startup? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

Andrea Huspeni is an article editor at Entrepreneur. 

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