March 5, 2013
Cynthia: Why become a teen entrepreneur at all? What motivated you? Most teens just want to go to high school and hang out with their friends, starting a business doesn’t cross their minds.
Josh: My motive changes from day to day. Sometimes it’s because I want to buy things that my parents won’t buy me, other times entrepreneurship is a way of for me to make up for other things my life lacks. In high school, most teens don’t think about starting a business because they don’t think they can until they graduate. I think it may be some sort of side affect or notion that we’ve received from attending school.
Going to university for business doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, it simply gives you a couple of resources, the biggest being networking and contacts. That’s a big misconception that I have to explain almost on daily basis. You’re not going to be instantly rich if you get into business school.
Cynthia: You said your teachers were jealous of your success. Did you get treated differently in school? My daughter aspires to be an elite athlete, and her teachers are always commentng that if she just quit sports, she could dedicate more time to her studies. Do you feel the teachers are supportive or unsupportive of your business?
Josh: Yes, my school life is completely different now that I’m an entrepreneur, in many ways. I’ll talk about something I’ve never talked about in an interview – what I now choose to wear. I no longer wear graphic t-shirts or Hollister hoodies, but instead Ralph Lauren and Lacoste ironed collared polos. Some may think I’m crazy but I believe in anyone becoming anyone. In 10 or 20, or even 30 years, I want people to remember me as a professional, serious businessman, not a punk. Outside of school, I remain to dress in a professional mannerr. You never know who you might run into on the streets. I need to make a good impression with everyone. I also of course carry business cards with me, so I’m always ready for any tech business opportunity.
As for teachers not being supportive, I completely agree. I have one teacher, actually two that have been strong supporters of what I do. The rest being not so much. One is my math teacher in high school and the other was my grade 8 teacher. Both were always very supportive of anything I did. Sure in grade 8, I wasn’t quite launching impressive products with a dozen employees yet but I was still a computer “geek” if you will, but he still enjoyed that I was able to fix almost any technical problem from helping other students with simple video editing for a school project to setting up the sound system for a school dance. He truly made me believe that I could do anything with computers. At this stage, I was about a year into learning about online business and internet marketing.
However, after grade 8, I moved onto high school where I met my supportive math teacher in grade 9 and then was taught again by him in grade 10. He didn’t know me too well, but he knew my family. I know the word gets around about people, so I’m not sure where he started to realize I was a programmer, and then even more, I employed programmers. However, last month I asked him to write a recommendation for Harvard, Cornell, UPenn, UMich and BU, as I know he had somewhere of a handle on what I did outside of school. So I showed him a few interviews I had, like this one, which explained what I do and a few of my business beliefs and strategies, to clarify things. He’s now more curious than ever.
So to summarize, about 70% of my teachers know I’m ‘good with computers’ and of those, 50% know I run a business online. From those remaining 20% are supportive, 50% are jealous and nosy, and the remaining 30% are confused. I also want to say there have been a couple other teachers that support me, but those two motivated me beyond belief and stood above all.
Many teachers don’t realize there are other forms of expressing intelligence. A huge misconception in our society is everyone with high marks is smart and vice versa. I went through high school being the outlier in the stats. My marks are generally average, but I’ll beat almost anyone in any competitive math contest. Here’s how I explain my intelligence. On day 1 of the semester, give us all the final exam, without teaching us a thing. We will use only what we’ve taught ourselves out of curiosity on our own time, common sense, psychology, data analyzation and of course, social engineering for the long answer problems. I’m sure I’ll have the top mark. However, in 5 months after we’ve been spoon fed to death, I’ll have an average mark. Excellent marks are simple to get. Anyone can get them. There’s a clear linear relation between marks and time studied. There’s almost no other factor. If you take the time to study, you get marks.
I feel the school system has a lot of flaws, but of course the biggest flaw to me is the lack of support for exceptional students. I believe their should be an accelerated program for students to apply to. Where school is concentrated down to 3 days. I know in 10 years, something like this will be complete reality, but for the remaining 5 months, I’ve got to put up and pull through with a 5 day school week.
So all in all, only a small portion of teachers are truly supportive and the school system itself is almost completely unsupportive.
Cynthia: Let’s fast forward 10 years in the future. What is Josh MacDonald doing? What has he accomplished in those years?
Josh: Well it depends who you ask… my mom, or I? If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you, hopefully I have my degree in computer science from a reputable university or college, and I am working somewhere I enjoy, which she knows is Silicon Valley. My story is similar, except I may go for my MBA, but only if it’s at a truly remarkable university. If I don’t, I’m probably be working on my own projects. Straight out of college, to work with whatever projects are at hand in a gorgeous office, or 2 – one in Canada and one in California. On the other hand, I also wouldn’t mind working with Mark Zuckerberg.
Here’s the sentence you’ve all been wanting to hear: I can see myself having a net worth of a million by the age of 20. I can’t tell you I will, because I obviously don’t know that for a fact, but if I stay concentrated and on track, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s certainly feasible. However, right now, money isn’t a goal. My goal is to create something different.
For the first part of the interview with Josh, click here.