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How to get $1.2 Million from Richard Branson

A couple weeks ago, I went to a book signing here in Austin. My friend Taylor was launching his book The End of Jobs, and decided to co-host a meetup with two other authors that were in town promoting their book 2 Billion Under 20. Don’t let my extraversion confuse you, meetups are not generally my favorite things. I’ve talked about my aversion to “networking” in another post, but my desire to connect with new people, and my enthusiasm for all things The End of Jobs pulled me out of the house and downtown to mix and mingle.

Per usual, I was glad I went as it was truly an inspiring and eye-opening event. The other two authors at the meet up, Stacey Ferreira and Jared Kleinert, were not only successful entrepreneurs, but they were both under 25. One of them, I later learned, was in fact 19.

That’s right. By 19 Jared had built 2 businesses and written a book. I’m pretty sure by 19 I had managed to skip at least half of my 8 am classes, and attend all of the “Welfare Wednesdays” at the Sigma Chi house. Impressive, I know.

For the record, I ended up getting straight As and transferring to a bigger better school, and I turned out all right and my mom loves me…

Point being, these kids had chops. They were doing big things.

And even more importantly, they were on a mission to show the world (especially other millennials) that anyone under 20 has the potential to do big things. Technology and the accessibility of knowledge means that any teenager can pretty much learn any skill and affect any sort of change they wish to make, just as much as any “adult”.

I was so intrigued by these two.

Stacey and Jared told me about how they had met at the Thiel Foundation Summit. As in Peter Thiel, as in cofounder of Paypal. In case you don’t know what the Thiel Foundation Summit is (I didn’t), it's a gathering of young entrepreneurs, hackers, scientists, etc. who are looking to change the world.

They gather to inspire each other and collaborate with one another to build new companies and even new technologies, all with the goal of affecting a positive change.

Did I mention these people are all under 20?? Okay, just making sure.

A handful of the attendees, including Stacey, are part of the Thiel Fellowship Program. This program may be controversial to some, but I think it’s amazing. Probably not shocking given a lot of the content on this blog...

The Thiel Fellowship is a grant - a $100,000 grant (!) - given to young applicants who show promise and passion for achieving big things. The money is then used over a 2 year span to pursue their business and personal growth. The not-so-fine-print states that all the fellows must participate in the program away from university. AKA they must drop out of college to get the dough.

I won’t go into the “you don’t need college to have a successful career” spiel in this post. One of my favorite writers, James Altucher, says it better anyway. If you’re interested I’ll let you pick from a variety of his articles on the topic.

I know, I know, I’m halfway through the article, and I haven’t yet mentioned Richard Branson. I’m getting there.

So after Stacey and Jared blow my mind apart with the reality of this amazing subculture of under 20-somethings doing ridiculously big and inspiring things, I learn that Stacey and I actually have something in common. Other than wanting to inspire people, and write books, and wear peplum well.

Earlier, I wrote about my foray into the world of location independence, and how I used twitter as a vehicle to accelerate that journey, and it turns out that Stacey’s story of early entrepreneurship began in a similar way.

When she was 18, she and her brother had just moved to LA to focus on their business and try to hunker down for a few months to build their technology company. Their parents had said, if you want to skip college to build a business like an adult, then you need to move out and support yourself like an adult.

So there they were living in LA, sharing a room, writing code all hours of the day, when they saw on twitter that Richard Branson was hosting an open meet up in Miami in just 2 days. Anyone that could donate $2000 to the charity he was supporting, could fly out and meet him for cocktails.

Both Stacey and her brother were too young for cocktails, but they knew that this would be a game-changing move and they needed to try nonetheless. So they tweeted back that they were not 21, but were really interested in meeting up with Branson, and was there something that could be worked out.

Branson’s assistant told them that if they could pull together $4000 to donate, then they were welcome to attend the meet up.

Stacey and her brother didn’t have $4000 + airfare (remember, they’re sharing a small apartment in LA eating ramen and coding all day) so they reach out to their parents for help. They did what any parent in that situation does, and they told their budding entrepreneurial kin to provide a business proposal.

One badass business proposal, and 48 hours later, Stacey and her brother were on their way to Miami to meet up with Branson and his business partners. They were able to impress Branson, as much as they had impressed their parents, and the $4000 loan was quickly repaid.

Stacey walked away from that meeting with $1.2 Million dollars in funding for her new company My Social Cloud and would go on to sell that company before the age of 21.

You can build and sell a multi-million dollar company, but you can't legally have champagne to celebrate the sale? Makes sense...

I digress.

Jared and Stacey are just two of the people I've encountered lately who are walking examples of everything this site stands to teach.

By being bold, taking risks, and ignoring societally imposed (or self-imposed) limitations, you can go on to do really amazing things. There's no such thing as "too young." There's no such thing as "not college educated enough." Many employers would disagree, but then that's why you opt to employ yourself!

Jared and Stacey's book 2 Billion Under 20 is full of amazing stories of young people doing inspiring and interesting things.  They took it upon themselves to show the world what their generation is capable of. I can only hope that older generations can feel inspired to follow in their footsteps.

Richard Branson_dreams
Richard Branson_dreams

So. How does one get $1.2 Million dollars from Richard Branson?

We already know how Stacey did it, but these are the fundamental principles I've come up with.

1. Shed your limiting beliefs. If you think you're too young, you are. If you think your idea isn't good enough, it isn't. Whatever you think is your truth because you create your reality.

Eliminate any negative internal dialogue because successful badass people don't cater to that. Billionaires, dream employers and dream clients don't cater to that. They show up for people who believe their worth. So know you're worthy and get over the rest!

2. Be clear on your purpose. Be so confident and clear on your ideas and your pursuits that you let the money (or the job or the relationship or whatever opportunity you're after) come to you.

Having such clarity around the use for the money gives it a reason to find you. Investors' money wants to go somewhere, that job you want is created to be filled. So get clear and get out of the way.

3. Ask. Be tenacious. Be bold and freaking ASK already. If you don't send the tweet, or the email, or if you don't *show up* you're just leaving the money and the opportunities sitting on the table for someone else.

What proverbial $1.2 million dollars have you left sitting on the table because you just didn't show up to ask? What life-changing opportunities are you foregoing because you're letting your self-doubt or your fears keep you from them?

Ditch your excuses, get clear on your goals, then articulate the hell out of them and let the universe freaking deliver.