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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.

How I Used Twitter to Quit My Job and Travel

I’ve always hated the word “networking”. It makes me think of college career fairs. You know the ones. You’re carrying a leather resume holder that you bought at the school bookstore, wearing the grey pant suit you bought at Express. At this point, it probably smells like B.O. because you can’t machine wash those things and what college student is getting shit dry cleaned on the regular.

If you’re a girl, you have those stereotypical black pointy toed heels on, because god-forbid you show your toes at a career fair. You’re supposed to approach potential employers and act like you have acquired some sort of skill set at your overpriced university, while meanwhile all you want to do is take their free mints and airplane-shaped paper clips and run. (Thank you Boeing, I still use those).

What were they even hiring for? What did a Marketing Major really know how to contribute to a company at that point? The answer: nothing. No one was hiring anyone with Marketing degrees! HA! I might as well have majored in liberal arts.

The point is, for someone who prides herself in being outgoing, “networking” events always made me feel forced and unnatural. And sweaty.

I’ve since grown out of that to a degree (alcohol helps) and can comfortably approach strangers at these once-dreaded “networking” events.

But what if I’m trying to network with people who aren’t nearby? How do you go about doing that?

A lot of people would say LinkedIn. And good for those people. I’ve yet to master the Facebook of professionals.

For me, the secret was Twitter.

Two years ago I successfully networked my way out of a 9-5 job--and around the world--through my use of twitter.

It wasn’t about followers. I think I had like 30 at the time. Yeah… I was a big deal.

It was about conversation. I engaged people I wanted to know in conversation. I didn’t ask them for anything, I didn’t try to sell them anything. I just wanted to talk to them. And somehow this made them want to talk to me.

I’ll give you a little backstory… I was working a 9-5 job at a Web Marketing Agency in Maryland. I had attempted to take my position remote, and failed. I was working 12-14 hour days on the regular and it was making me miserable. In addition to the fact that I would go to sleep thinking horrible things about mean clients, I knew that I wasn’t living the type of life I always pictured for myself.

Traveling 10 days a year and maxing out PTO in the process just wasn’t cutting it.

Enter, The Four Hour Work Week. I won’t dive into the book in this post, but let’s just say it’s a game changer. For me and millions of other people who have fantasized about slow travel and being their own boss.

So there I was, riding the Tripper Bus back to D.C., after spending New Years Eve in New York with my friends, when I finished the 4HWW. It clicked in THAT moment. My life would be drastically different in 6 months and I knew it.

Anyone who has ever had one of those "holy shit" clarity moments (some people call them "aha moments") knows what I'm talking about. From that moment on everything just seemed to fall into place.

I recently heard it referred to has "Pronoia." Instead of thinking that the universe is conspiring against you, instead you feel like the universe is conspiring to help you.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I had started throwing money at any info product or online community that would take me. Digital Nomad Academy led to Location Rebel, led to CopyHour. And ultimately, the DC.

Often those communities are targeted towards newbs who want to start a business and quit their jobs to travel. Ideally working 4 hours a week on a mostly passive-income-generating business. (Of course that’s not how it works for most people).

The DC was different though. I had to have a business to get in! That made me want it more. I knew if I just got into this community that everything would change.

So the only logical next step was to befriend everyone I could who was inside the forum and hope for the best. Hope that I could learn from them enough to get my own thing going and get accepted.

I took to twitter and started following everyone I could. Note: once you’re inside the entrepreneurial, location-independent, internet marketing world, you realize how small it really is. This is probably true for most subcultures.

It was pretty easy for me to see who was connected to who, and actually where in the world they were living.

Following Sean Ogle of Location Rebel (and a former Tropical MBA/ DC Intern) led me to Derek Johanson of Copy Hour. Derek was in the DC at the time and seeing who he was chatting with on Twitter led me to a whole slew of people.

There was a big DC contingent in Chiang Mai back then, so I started following anyone who was using the DC Chiang Mai hashtag. It snowballed.

Maneesh Sethi was another person I began following through Derek and one day I saw he was hosting a meet up in New York. Derek Johanson would be there, along with Derek Halpurn and some other people that were doing business online.

As if I needed an excuse to skip work and go to New York….

2 Days later, I took a half day from work and hopped the train to NYC. I was the only female at this meet up of successful internet entrepreneurs. I was the only person who didn’t have a business. And guess what? It didn’t matter.

We drank beers, we talked travel, and to this day I still count some of those people as friends.

How I Quit My Job to Travel
How I Quit My Job to Travel

A couple weeks later Derek referred me to the DC (along with another person that I’d connected with on Twitter) and I was in! I finally got to give them my money and pretend I was an entrepreneur. All of a sudden my conversations were moving from Twitter to inside the forums, and people were treating me like they knew me.

A few weeks after that, the creators of the DC posted a job opportunity for the Community Manager. I applied, and because of my twitter stalking networking, they already knew who I was. My ability to connect with people across the world who had no idea who I was made them think, "hey maybe she's good with people?" A pre-req for managing them, it would seem.

So I got the job. (I hope you saw that coming. So much build up and all...)

And 2 weeks later I moved to Vietnam.

The End!

Not really, that was just the beginning. But it was a start that would not have come to fruition if I hadn't used the resources available to me to MAKE SHIT HAPPEN.

If you want something, don't be scared to do unconventional things to make it happen.

I didn't have a business. It didn't stop me.

I didn't know anyone living the life I wanted. It didn't stop me. It was out there. I had read it in a book (!) and that was enough for me to get started.

I may have had an advantage, in that I've always been comfortable getting to know people virtually (my AIM game was strong in my youth) but the reality is that anyone can do this.

Here are 3 tips to start networking on twitter today:

1. Find the right people to follow

Understanding who you want to be talking to (and why) is step one. In my situation, I just wanted to talk to people who were doing what I wanted to be doing. Who were living where I wanted to be living.

I could tell who was influential, and who would be likely to respond, based on their tweets with other people. It may sound like a lot of work (and perhaps creepy) to go through people's twitter history, but I assure you it's worth it. Some of those original tweets I sent were to people I have since lived with and become best friends with. We've seen each other in countries all over the world, and it all started with a single tweet.

Follow people who look like they will engage in conversation!

2. Retweet. Retweet. Rinse. Repeat.

Retweeting content of people you follow is one of the quickest ways so show them that you're interested in what they have to say, and you're willing to share it. If you're uneasy about sending them a tweet, and they haven't yet followed you back for you to send a DM, start by retweeting.

Be sure to balance retweets with original content of your own. If people do take note of you, you want your twitter log to have show some representation of who you are. Avoid looking like a retweeting robot.

3. Learn their lingo.

If you're naturally a sarcastic person, but the people you follow seem to be more literal, avoid banter in the early stages. On the other hand, if people you want to connect with seem to respond well to humor and wit, offer it up freely. Give people a reason to bond with you. 140 characters is not a lot, so use every one of them wisely.

If you combine these tactics, and are able to offer up some value to the people you're looking to connect with, you'll be ahead of the game.


I'd love to hear stories of how other people have used Twitter in a bold way to make strides in their business, or in their life. Leave a comment below or send me an email to tell me about it!