Aaron Patzer: How I Started Mint.com
The online entrepreneur talks about ditching his day job, finding investors and hiring top talent to launch his startup.
Name: Aaron Patzer, 29
Founded: Mint.com, 2006 (acquired by Intuit Inc., 2009)
Business: Free personal finance management software
Location: Mountain View, Calif.
Challenge No. 1: The decision to drop my job -- a good-paying, challenging startup engineering job -- to dedicate myself full time to the creation of Mint.com.
Why: I had savings, but I had just moved to the Bay Area and had nothing else. No friends, no network, no support system. The only other engineers I knew I had hired to work with me at my former company, so they were off-limits for hiring, and I was on my own.
Solution: I took advantage of the Bay Area's community to build my own network. Joining hiking clubs, breakfast groups of entrepreneurs and meeting people however I could because I knew the development I was doing on my own -- 10 hours a day, 7 days a week -- would only take the company so far.
Challenge No. 2: Getting the first yes from an investor after receiving dozens of no's.
Why: Even though I'd saved enough to run the business for several months, build a prototype and hire my first employee, to really get the business off the ground, I needed outside funding. Investors in [Silicon] Valley have seen hundreds or thousands of proposals from eager young entrepreneurs -- so when they give a flat-out no, or worse, tell you your idea will never take off, it's pretty disheartening.
Solution: I continued to build what I knew was a good solution, and when I got really down I listened to Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" and got back in the game. Once I got my first yes, it was game on. The momentum built from there, and the rest is history.
Challenge No. 3: Hiring is always a challenge for a young entrepreneur.
Why: I was 25 when I started Mint.com. I was looking to disrupt the banking industry and encourage people to trust their financial information with a startup they'd never heard of. I was a CEO no one had ever heard of, looking to hire the best people in engineering, marketing, business development, etc. I knew I needed to surround myself by the best.
Solution: I worked really hard. I asked investors, friends and trusted advisors for recommendations. Then I made sure I went through the topgrading steps to be sure I got top performers in all positions. It was uncomfortable at points, because it took a long time, but it was worthwhile because I was confident with every single person on my staff.
The Young Entrepreneur Council is an advocacy group dedicated to fighting youth unemployment and underemployment by helping young people build successful businesses and offering alternatives to traditional career paths. Its members include successful young entrepreneurs, business owners and thought leaders. It was founded in New York in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Scott Gerber, author of the forthcoming book, Never Get a 'Real' Job.