Hypemarks, a website that links to other sites based on friends’ recommendations, Los Angeles

EMPLOYEES: 4

FINANCIALS: Bootstrapping, $20,000 seed investment from Start Engine and $8,000 grant from GE OMD.

What led you to start your own company?

I grew up with a single mother after she divorced my father when I was 2. My oldest sister (my role model) and older brother (my father figure) had to take care of me while my mother worked two jobs to keep our family stable. Seeing everyone do all this work for me made me feel humbled and I knew I wanted to make them proud one day. My answer: give back to make the world a better place before I leave it. I thought the solution was politics, but that process would take too long and it was way too confusing for me. I knew there had to be something better, and I found my love to lead people translated into starting a business: Hypemarks.

Where did you get the startup money?

The great thing about tech startups is that it does not take that much capital to begin. On the flip side, it does take a lot of manpower, especially developers programming. That being said, my passion is my currency. I was a participant in the inaugural GE OMD incubator in New York in summer 2011, and one of 10 companies in the inaugural class of L.A.-based accelerator Start Engine. They provided us the seed funding needed to take our business from concept to fruition, but before that, it was bootstrapping out of my minimal savings account.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

I believe that if you truly want something as bad as you want to breathe, you can do it. If you have that mentality, don’t doubt yourself and don’t let doubters stand in your way.

Does your youth lead to awkward situations, such as when you supervise older workers?

I have had the privilege of shadowing older chief executives and working with older co-workers, who have all taught me to be more confident. I always let my character speak and not my age. I connect with each individual team member on a personal basis to never let age come in the way. Being this young can be very helpful. You have no obligations; you’re full of optimism and the energy to push yourself.

Will you start another company?

I am a serial entrepreneur at heart. I find myself filled with ideas I would love to see implemented every day, which lets me know I would start another company only after Hypemarks either does well or completely flops. I know for sure that I will be dedicating all my efforts to my current company until I am satisfied.

Could you ever work for someone else?

I would first exhaust all options before working for someone else. But don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love working with other people. I thrive on engaging and conversing with others. I just don’t like corporate life because all the hierarchy and regulations hinder my creativity. My personal compromise would be to work at a tech startup so I could still exercise my imagination.

What do you do to relax?

Give me a hammock and a guitar and I could spend hours relaxing. In addition, I find myself fascinated with the world of programming and find myself coding during my free time. It’s mentally stimulating and makes me feel accomplished every time I understand something new.

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