At the very young age of 14, Zachary Collins bought and sold his very first company,
. Now, at 21 years old, and with three successful businesses under his belt, it's clear to see that this young man — who's currently getting a degree in entrepreneurship — has always had a knack for it.
Rapid Growth: You are going to school for entrepreneurship and management. What does the curriculum for that entail?
Zachary Collins: Fortunately, a lot of the classes I have to take pique my interest in some way or the other. Classes for an entrepreneurship major mainly deal with new product development, marketing, and the whole picture of running your own company. Management is more about effectively managing resources - people, financials, etc. - in a business.
The reason I am double majoring in entrepreneurship and management is because of two things. One, You have to double major for entrepreneurship. Two, Management was the only second major that didn’t require an internship. They wouldn’t allow me to make myself an intern at the company I co-founded in Oregon – go figure.
RG: Some of the most well known entrepreneurs don’t even have a college education. With success at such a young age, why didn’t you choose to follow a similar path?
ZC: Those are always very inspirational stories, however my goal is to never be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg. My goal is to only be Zachary Collins. I’m still writing my own story and don’t want to get caught in the wannabe entrepreneur’s trap of confusing inspiration with imitation. I’d rather strive to be an entrepreneur others are inspired by. In my story, I prove that I can receive a college education. Not because I think it’s the key to success, but because it’s there to open doors when needed.
is the very first company you founded (and sold) at the age of 14. What encouraged you to believe there was a level of market demand for this tool?
ZC: I am an avid tech blog reader. Back then, major publications like TechCrunch
(when it was all tech-focused) were covering the rise of Twitter
. It really seemed like they could not get enough of it. During those days Twitter didn’t have a lot of the native functions we know now, like the “Retweet” button, so developers took it upon themselves to start building off the Twitter API. Some of these applications were very simple, such as a service that estimated how much your profile was worth based on followers. Others were more serious like Tweetie, which is the mobile and desktop app later acquired by Twitter, that enhanced the overall Twitter ecosystem.
Every day I would read about new Twitter tools being launched by 3rd
party developers, so I thought it would be useful for everyone if there was a central database of Twitter apps. So I setup a Wordpress blog, found the simplest theme, and launched Twtbase.com, which was quickly picked up by Mashable and later sold to a company overseas.
RG: If you founded and sold your very first company at 14 years old, how young were you when you first got your start in web development?
ZC: When I first discovered the ability to make money online via display and text advertising, I immediately took it upon myself to learn web development through books at the library. Fortunately for me, I had such a drive to learn new things that I caught onto everything fairly quickly and began experimenting with new ideas.
RG: After Twtbase came Yazzem. What inspired this second venture of yours?
ZC: The way I describe Yazzem nowadays is a cross between Twitter and a discussion board. Initially, I wanted to build a way where anyone could create their own microblogging website, similar to the way Ning works. When that proved to be a bit too much for my skillset and financial situation at the time, I decided to simplify the idea. So I had a developer build the initial version of Yazzem which allowed one to create a profile and start topics others could join. After playing around with the code, I discovered how to build status updates, user following, profile pictures, and more.
Overall, the inspiration came to me because I was in love with the idea of the next wave of social networking: microblogging. I wanted to be a part of it.
RG: Today you co-own two very successful businesses – Dot Dot Dash
and ZaCo Technologies
. What has the journey been like going from a $2,000 sale for Twtbase, up to over a million dollars’ worth of sales with ZaCo?
ZC: Exciting! This is exactly what I dreamt of when I was first starting out.
The million dollar mark is just the first milestone in many goals I hope to accomplish. I’m only 21 years old, so I know I have a lot ahead of me, I was just very fortunate to start at a young age.
RG: How do you get connected with like-minded people that are interested in pursuing these endeavors with you?
ZC: Every business partner I have worked with has come into my life through different means, but I have never approached anyone myself to be my co-founder. It usually happens naturally – I’ll be introduced to someone, we’ll begin to talk about our own ideas, and then if we have an idea that we’re both excited about through casual conversation, we begin to work on it together, and sometimes, those ideas turn into companies.
If I’m looking for a strategic business partner, cold emails or intros always tend to work.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.