Friday, 20 July 2012 Written by Puneet Lakhi
Young Entrepreneur Jeet Banerjee of London Speaks about his experiences
1. How old were you when you started out on your first entrepreneurial venture?
When I was 9 years old, I had a sudden inspiration to learn about web design so I began learning Dreamweaver and Microsoft Frontpage in hopes of creating my first website. Even though I had no thought of trying to make money on the website, I mixed my love for basketball and web design and created PowerDunk (which was a website featuring all my favorite dunks).
However, I really think I stepped into the world of entrepreneurship around the age of 17 when I decided to form my own web design & development company. I consider this my first entrepreneurial venture because I had a clear plan of monetization and was able to execute it.
2. How did you get the idea/inspiration for your startup(s)?
For my web design & development company (JB Media Force), my father actually also had a internet company and I used to spend a lot of time at his office watching what he did. I realized that instead of working as the secretary answering phone calls at his office, I could use what I learn and start my own internet company.
For the company www.StatFuse.com, my partner & I were recent high school students who had an extremely stressful time dealing with which colleges to apply. Worst of all, after applying we had to wait almost 5 months before hearing back from these colleges. We knew we had to find a solution for high school students and thus we came up with the idea of StatFuse. StatFuse helps make the transition to college easy for students by providing them with free tools such as the “Chanculator”, which allows students to calculate their chances to any college instantly.
3. What is the goal of your startup and why? What are you trying to acheive with your initiative, especially with your charity events (profit, charity, both)?
My goal with the startup is to help solve a problem in the world. My goal as an entrepreneur is not to make money or gain glory but rather to create innovative solutions to problems in the world. I would like to create multiple startups in the future that serve the same purpose before taking my efforts into the non-profit world.
4. Please tell us how you took your idea and made it a reality. How did you fund your project, how did you find and incentivize your co-founders and co-workers? Did you pay employees a salary or equity? How did you get your website built? Please share your story.
Once we knew the problem, we had to figure out a complete solution to it. We began in the first few weeks doing intensive research in the educational industry and learning about the college admission process. After we became experts at that, we began to take our vision and turn it into a reality through the web.
My partner & I both shared equal equity in the company and it was a great bonus that my father runs a web design & development company which allowed us to use his services for a small percentage in the company. Other than that, we had to spend a good amount of money on patents and other legal services which we got our parents to help us out with.
Currently, we are in discussion with an investor and are on the last step to officially locking in an investment for the company. We didn’t spend much money on marketing or anything like that once we launched the company but rather focused on looking for an investor who would take equity in the company but be willing to provide an investment.
5. What challenges did you face in the first year of starting your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced in the first year of starting my business was finding a way to balance all the things I had on my plate. I am going to college while I’m working on multiple companies so it becomes really hard to find a proper way to balance my time so that I can give the proper attention to everything. I found the easiest way to overcome this challenge was to prioritize my tasks, stay organized, and to never procrastinate. When you focus on the most important tasks at hand while staying organized, things become a lot smoother.
6. How did you market your business and build a following for it? How did you get coverage in the press?
For StatFuse, the funny thing was that we never really had any money to spend on marketing the website. It was quite lucky for us that after we launched the website, we got some media attention in places like Channel One (high school television network) because that allowed us to instantly become known nation-wide. I believe we gained over 12,000 users within 3 weeks of us launching the company.
We created a video to explain what our website did and began sending it out to all kinds of media outlets that had high school students as a large avenue of traffic. Eventually a few places picked our story up and we began to develop the brand throughout the nation. After that, students have just been signing up and utilizing our website just like that.
Here’s a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gnn7k8Cn_wE
7. What has been your most rewarding experience with your business so far?
The most rewarding part of the business has been the experience I have gained and the things I have learned. I don’t think I would have ever learned so many different aspects of the business world in any classroom that I learned through experiencing it first hand with my companies. The knowledge I gained helped open many doors and opportunities for me and that is why I believe that to be one of the most rewarding experiences thus far.
8. How did you get others (investors, advertisers, partners) to take you seriously as a young entrepreneur?
When I went to speak with investors, advertisers, or any business professionals I really didn’t come in worrying about my age. I focused on addressing the task at hand and coming in with a plan on what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. If you speak things that make sense, people will take you serious regardless of your age. Along with that, I also tried to make sure that I was always dressed in a professional manner to help me look a little bit more mature.
9. What part of your background/education has been most helpful to your experience as an entrepreneur?
Most of the learning I’ve done in the business world has been through either research or through the experience itself. I don’t think any major educational aspects standout as helping me with my entrepreneurship. My background has definitely helped me with my entrepreneurship skills and I’m very grateful for that.
My father has his own company and also thinks in a very entrepreneurial manner. Throughout my life, I have been extremely close to my father and spent thousands of hours at his office watching him work. I think the things I saw my father doing in the workplace really influenced me to pursue entrepreneurship while teaching me lots of valuable lessons.
10. What have you learned that you wish you knew when you were starting up your business?
Never try to take shortcuts when you are dealing with legal items, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Also, it is a lot easier to say something then it is to actually do it. Don’t just assume that something will happen because you say it will happen, go out and make it happen!
11. What overall advice would you offer young entrepreneurs who are looking to create an online business?
My advice would be to go for it! Do not listen to people that try to bring you down or tell you how stupid your business idea is. If you have something you’re passionate about, then go and do everything in your power to make it successful. If you fail, you fail….it is not the end of the world, get back up and try again!