10 Entrepreneurs Share Their Greatest Influences


Answers ranged from a parent, a mentor in their field, an investor, a co-founder or even someone they have never met.


1. Chieh Huang

1 / 10
Chieh Huang | Twitter

2. Merrill Stubbs

2 / 10

3. Kyle Hill

3 / 10

4. Jennie Ripps

4 / 10

5. Oren Frank

5 / 10

6. Tim Chen

6 / 10

7. Heidi Zak

7 / 10

8. Oliver Kharraz

8 / 10

9. Gavin Armstrong

9 / 10

10. Jeff Chapin

10 / 10
Jeff Chapin | Twitter
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Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Entrepreneurs have different backgrounds and philosophies and work in a variety of industries, but what they have in common is that they each have a person whom they look up to that affects and inspires their work ethic.

Whether it is a parent, a mentor in their field, an investor, a co-founder, even someone they have never met but whose life and ideas resonate with them, you never know who will profoundly shape how you approach your work and career.

We asked these 10 entrepreneurs, "Who influences you the most in your work?" Here are their responses.


Company: Boxed

Influence: I think it would be my mom. My mom started off as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant and ended up being an EVP of a decent sized company. Throughout that time, she never complained once. She just got up and did what she needed to do. In the morning if I’m sluggish, I think, if my mom could do that, I could do this.

Read more about Huang: The Surprising Reason Why This Founder Says Not to Be Afraid of the Competition


Company: Food52

Influence: My co-founder Amanda. I learn from her every day. One of things she is really good about is communicating directly with people about their performance and their strengths and weaknesses without it feeling like an onslaught of criticism. She's really good at balancing those conversations and people respond well to that.

Read more about Stubbs: The Life-Changing Book That Helps This Entrepreneur Think Big


Company: HomeHero

Influence: The CEO of Social Capital, Chamath Palihapitiya. He was one of the first to write a check to HomeHero. I trust what he says about growing company culture and ethics and establishing it early on. He encouraged us to take a team retreat, two days off site, to help figure out our identity.

Read more about Hill: What This Founder Does to Stay Completely Focused


Company: Owl’s Brew

Influence: My father has influenced me the most. He would always ask questions. Even when he had expertise on a certain topic, he would ask questions of people who weren't necessarily experts in the field. Through doing that he would question his own assumptions. I think asking questions, examining things from multiple levels and getting feedback from my business partner is something he taught me.

Read more about Ripps: The One Thing This Entrepreneur Does Each Day to Stay Productive


Company: Talkspace

Influence: I read a study once that interviewed people who worked in hospice care. The study quoted the top five regrets of people who were about to pass away. The regrets were very common, but none of the patients said, 'Wow, I'm sorry I didn't work enough.' That idea influences my approach to work.

Read more about Frank: This CEO's Favorite Productivity Tips Are Surprisingly Simple


Company: Nerdwallet

Influence: Coming out of that [hedge fund] environment, I thought it was the right way to run a company, and I was proved very wrong. Over the years, I’ve learned a ton from a lot of the people at NerdWallet. I’ve learned to approach things with more of an open mind. If I’m doing my job right, each of them is bringing something to the table that I don’t have.  

Read more about Chen: Nerdwallet's Founder Shares the Worst Advice He Ever Got


Company: ThirdLove

Influence: I think my dad is my biggest influence. He grew up on a small farm outside of Pittsburgh. Through a lot of hard work and by focusing on education, he has been really successful in business. I think it's true in life that when you work hard, things will work themselves out for you. That work ethic is also something that I look for when I'm hiring.

Read more about Zak: This Founder's Best Advice for Entrepreneurs: To Succeed, Entrepreneurs Need to Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable


Company: Zocdoc

Influence: My mother. She taught me about discipline, and if you say you're going to do something, you have to do it. She taught me about what it means to live up to my worth.

Read more about Kharraz: This Founder Says to Succeed You Need to Question Everything

Company: Lucky Iron Fish

Influence: Paul Polman the CEO of Unilever. He's been such an inspiration as far as leading a multinational company with a social impact. He put an ambitious socially-thinking strategy in place, because he felt it was the right thing to do, and he did it by going against the traditional approach.
He had to convince shareholders to eliminate quarterly thinking and focus on long-term success. He believes companies should embed value throughout the supply chain, which I believe is the future. And it’s paying off. Their sustainable living brands have increased in performance. He cares and shows his care through his work.

Read more about Armstrong: This CEO Has Helped Thousands -- and He's Just Getting Started


Company: Casper

Influence: My parents. They were builders. It was their passion and hobby to always be making things and fixing the house. It was this notion to not overthink something and just take an initial idea, build it and improve it over time. Nothing is permanent; you can make it better later.

Read more about Chapin: Behind a $100 Million Mattress Startup, Casper Co-Founder Shares Advice on Finding Success as an Entrepreneur

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