I had the opportunity to meet a young fellow last night who is at the beginning of his race. I connected with this guy through the "pro bono" entreprenuer assistance program sponsored by the Kellogg Alumni Club of Chicago. Brad Wilson is 24 years old and is in the middle of an internet adventure. He had a "hobby" web site that aggregated all the good deals on various products (big screen TV's, MP3 players etc.) that he found on the web. Many people began to visit the site, and he discovered that merchants would pay commissions for sales that came through his site. Brad thought, "Score - this will be a great part-time activity while I soldier through the University of North Carolina" and took a semester off to build a proper web site. This was about four years ago, and he hasn't returned to school yet. His web site, dealsdujour.com, is getting traction and is generating about $1 million of revenues. Dealsdujour.com is one of the larger marketing affiliate web sites. Brad's little company got a big boost recently - he was profiled in the Wall Street Journal.
Brad finally hired a couple of part-time employees a couple of months ago - he is getting too swamped, wearing too many hats. He works out of a small office in the Technology Innovation Center in Evanston IL. He is a pretty low key guy, and very together (at least when compared to the other early-20's folks that I know). He showed up for our meeting in a suit and tie! (I was in a sweater and khakis). Brad speaks well, but fast - and in spurts. He is deeply engaged in what he is doing and sees a long open road stretching in front of his little business. This is a young fellow who has been learning fast on the fly. He is truly at the beginning - he has a lifetime of wins and losses ahead of him.
I am supposed to advise him, but I suspect I will learn more from him than he will learn from me.