CEO Sundays: “Step 0” To Becoming An Entrepreneur

By July 31, 2011

Written by Vince Leung, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Monster of MentorMob

When I told my parents I was quitting my cushy job with benefits like health insurance, 401k, paid vacations, and a regular salary, I was expecting to be disowned. But what came next, I wasn’t prepared for: full support. This may be hard for some to understand, but not all parents are unconditionally supportive of their kids’ decisions, especially traditional parents. I took “Step 0” to become an entrepreneur – quitting my job to go full-time on my venture.

Why would I leave such “cushiness?” I’ve always had it in my blood to own a business. Note: There’s a difference between owning a business and running a business. Owning means you get to call the shots and are in control of the company’s destiny, whereas running means you could be trying to fly a plane from coach (disclaimer: this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just saying there’s a difference). I started my first “business” when I was 5 years old. I used to take trips to Indiana to buy fireworks and then I would sell them individually to the neighborhood kids. Although that was my first business, it was also the best profit margin I have ever had – around 100 percent and no tax!

It’s funny looking back at my drive for wanting to own a business. At 5, my main motivation was to make money to buy more Transformers. They were tangible rewards. While my motivation has since changed, the game has not. With the current venture, my old college buddy and co-founder, Kris Chinosorn, and I have the opportunity to do something cool, something bigger than either of us. With the Internet you can affect tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of lives for the better. We started MentorMob to help make sense out of the chaos of learning on the web. We find that 66 percent of the time is spent searching for content to learn, while the remaining time is spent learning. My motivation is not tangible anymore. My reason to get out of bed in the morning is to make 100 percent of everyone’s time learning on the web productive. How did my co-founder and I get to the point we’re at with MentorMob? We had to take Step 0.

What’s Step 0? It’s giving your hair-brained idea the full love and attention it deserves to grow into something, thus, quitting your job. Think of it this way, if you’re only giving half attention to anything – rebuilding your car, tending your garden, or raising your kids – the result will take twice as long or it’ll be so screwed up that it’s unfixable. I’m not saying that everyone who has an idea for a company should quit their job. No, no, no. What I’m saying is quit your job to pursue your dream iff (That’s not a typo kids. It’s for all those math geeks who had to prove theorems. It means “if and only if”) you’ve thought through your idea (product, revenue, marketing, customer acquisition, etc.) AND you have a team that is complementary to your skills to have a high degree of making it a success. Yes, this is what I did and it is starting to pay off.

We were invited to the esteemed TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2010 competition, MentorMob won the Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS 2011 New Concept Award, and we’re seeing how MentorMob is actually helping people learn – this is all very encouraging.

But believe me, starting up your own venture isn’t easy and it’s not for everyone. It’s something I had to do. It was in my blood. I have no regrets and I am happy with how things are. I’m happier working my ass off than I have ever been. I’m extremely happy with the team we’ve built – everyone is super young (ie. not exposed to the evils of corporate bureaucracy), energetic, and has that feeling we all had where we could change the world. I’m happy with the support that my friends and family have given me. I’m just happy that I don’t have any regrets and I wasn’t afraid to take Step 0.

Vince Leung is co-founder and Chief Operating Mobster @MentorMob. MentorMob is improving the way to navigate the web to learn anything by allowing the community to crowd-source the best content to learn.