Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Entrepreneur Veteran at 27

My name is Craig Rabin and I’m currently based in Kirkland, Washington (right outside of Seattle). I’m 27 and I started my entrepreneurial drive while attending high school in the Chicago suburbs, at the ripe age of 16, with my first web design company. As it flourished I then honed my business skills further while studying at Illinois State University, where I received a degree in entrepreneurship and a minor in economics.

While in college my best friend and I teamed up to start UDPRO’s (Undergraduate Detailing Professionals), a successful car detailing company. The following fall, with a business plan in hand, we began Collegiate Poker Tour Events, Inc., where we traveled around the country and held poker tournaments for college scholarships. The company grew and was featured throughout the media until the concern for poker grew among parents (the check-writers). We decided to dissolve the company and move on.

I packed my car and moved to Seattle to be near the dot com boom. Three months later I started ShowMeYourSkills, Inc. with the mission of providing artists with a platform to create fully customizable e-commerce storefronts and interactive portfolios. After 18 months I was ready to acquire funding… and the financial sector crashed!

I went back to the drawing board and determined the main value was derived from my patent-pending ability to see a virtual preview in your home/office, without the need for a single measurement. Thus, ViewInYourRoom, Inc. was born. A few months after that I was struck by another idea that I thought could be a “game changer”. I patented a piece of search engine technology and hired a programmer in Argentina and continue to work on an idea that will forever change the face of search.

I was fortunate enough while working on my start-ups to win a trip to Europe to conduct meetings abroad. As the trip concludes, I recall all of the amazing connections that were made. I spoke with everyone I could! From businesses related and unrelated to mine. Every entrepreneur wears a creative hat that is tailored by their history and will give feedback based on their experiences. For example, I spoke with a gentleman who runs a water-filtration facility and he said the easiest way to succeed was to make every step of your process as simple as possible. When you find yourself complicating things, create another step so that the final process is broken down so far it’s understandable to someone with no experience in your industry.

As my travels winded down, I sat on a flight coming home from Heathrow and I hear a parent telling their child “don’t do that!” To no surprise the child continues behaving in the same manner. I contemplate; can a bigger lesson be learned from this?

As a 27-year-old entrepreneur who dreams to one day change the world (hopefully sooner rather than later), I find myself facing this very same predicament. When I seek funding for my three latest companies, I often hear venture capitalists and angel investors say: “You are too young to manage a company of this magnitude” and “You’ll be better off if you dream smaller” (I REALLY hate that one!).

Just like the child on my plane, those responses don’t make me stop. They make me continue with my actions and fight harder so that when I do get funded (and the child finally gets away with his actions), we can say “SEE – I knew I could do it!”. When you believe you can do something, don’t stop until YOU feel it’s no longer possible.

For me, with every form of “no” I hear I find myself getting stronger… like Popeye eating a can of spinach. The real success comes when the once un-thinkable becomes the now-doable.

This blog's tip to entrepreneurs: admire those who succeed and learn from their successes and their failures.