Today’s jobtalk is with the teen entrepreneur, Jeet Banerjee. At 19, he’s already sold his first business and launched his first startup, StatFuse, an online tool to help students manage the daunting college admissions process. On top of it, he’s pursuing a college degree. Think he’s busy!
Title: Co-Founder of StatFuse, Former CEO of JB Media Force
Education: B.A. Business Marketing, California State University, Fullerton, anticipated 2014
How did you get the idea to start your first business, JB Media Force?
My father has his own software company and I learned a lot from the time I spent there. While I was in high school I worked there, but I didn’t like working under someone and being told what to do. I had spent so much time in his office that I thought I could do some of the things that he did. So I said to my dad, “You know, I’d like to try to do something on my own and see where it takes me.” That’s how it all began.
When you told your father that you wanted to start your own company, what was his response?
He said, “Go for it!” and “It’s going to be a lot harder than you think it’s going to be.” But he was really supportive and told me that if I needed advice or help that he would guide me.
Are you a programmer?
No, I’m not. I can do a bit of web design and SEO, but what I’m really good at is marketing; that’s my strength. I focus on getting customers and finding other people who can do the designing and developing for me.
Once you got the idea for JB Media force, what were the next steps that you took to create your company?
Before I could do anything else, I had to get a website created for the company and come up with a name. So the first step I took was to find some developers that could make me a quick website for an affordable price.
How did you find developers?
I ran some Google searches and emailed a couple of different companies. I chose the people who I thought were the most capable of providing what I wanted at the best price. After that, I started to focus on finding a team of developers and freelancers in another country who could get work done but keep prices low.
Once I found people to employ, I started looking for clients in the U.S. I let everyone in my network know that I opened a web design company and put ads on places like Craigslist and Backpage. I also began working on ranking my website on search engines in hopes of generating more business.
I understand that you started JB Media Force when you were still a senior in high school. How did you manage your time?
When I got home from school, I would start working on my computer until 8 or 9 at night. After that, I would take care of my homework assignments. I learned how to prioritize my tasks. If I had a math test the next morning but had to give someone a proposal that night, I would get the proposal done first, then study for my math test.
What was it like overseeing people and hiring people at such a young age?
I faced some obstacles on occasion. One thing that really surprised me about having employees is how quickly people quit from a job, or how they are always looking for the next best job. I’ve had people get another job that paid more and just walk away on the spot. I was trying to build strong relationships with my employees and my team and if an employee got an opportunity where he could make 100 dollars extra a month he’d leave. That was hard to cope with because I had to constantly look for replacements.
How did you create loyalty with your employees?
I always communicate with my employees and find out what’s going on in their lives, if they are facing any problems… A lot of times employees will stay quiet and not mention anything that is upsetting them (about work) and then with the snap of a finger they will leave because they were upset but you will never know the problem. So I make sure to take a few minutes every day to check in with my employees to show them that I care.
When you started JB Media Force, had you intended to sell it?
When I first started the company, I never imagined being able to sell it to someone else because my blood, sweat, and tears went into building it. But when I started my next company, StatFuse, I realized that I needed to focus a lot more of my time on it. I also realized that there’s so much competition with web design, you are capped at how much you can grow a company. However, the potential with StatFuse is endless because it’s a unique idea.
How did you go about selling JBMedia Force?
I looked for buyers for a while but had no luck on my own. Then I decided to work with a business broker who found someone pretty quickly that was interested in buying the business.
How did you find your partner for StatFuse?
My partner is actually a childhood friend. One day we were just talking about college and we came up with this idea.
How has your original concept for StatFuse changed over time?
When we started, the idea was to make a website where high school students could enter information about their academic track record and it would calculate their chances of getting into any college in the nation. But as time went along, we needed to offer students more of a full package. Now we give them information about colleges, recommend colleges for them, and help students organize their applications.
How long has it been since you launched?
We launched February 1, 2012. But we started working on it in September of 2011.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities for StatFuse?
On a daily basis, we need to get back to our users when they have support questions or need help. That is our number one priority. We are also looking to work with other companies to partner with. We’re always taking care of bugs and updating the website. We also have another new section called College Help, so we’ve been working on that a lot.
A lot of people might be wondering why you’re enrolled in college when you’ve already been successful. What would you say to them?
In life you always need a back up plan. The thing with entrepreneurship is that there is no guarantee of success. If all else fails, at least I’ll have the tools necessary to find an alternative job.
How do you manage being in college and doing a startup?
I never procrastinate and always prioritize my tasks.
If you weren’t studying business and doing a startup what other fields interest you?
Law. But one of the drawbacks to becoming a lawyer is that it takes so much schooling.
What do you love about entrepreneurship?
The thing I love about entrepreneurship is when I know I have solved a problem with the simplest solution possible and have done a good job. And when people let me know that I’ve helped them, it really brings a smile to my face.
What’s challenging about entrepreneurship?
There are many challenges. But for me, one of the biggest challenges is being taken seriously at my age. It’s difficult because sometimes people will disregard my opinion. When I was starting my web design company, I shied away from meeting clients because I was nervous about how they would respond to how young I was.
It sounds like you’ve overcome that.
Nowadays, I’m more comfortable approaching anyone. So I definitely did overcome it.
Do you have time to socialize?
Every now and then I spend time with friends and play sports with them, but definitely a lot less than I used to.
What’s your favorite sport?
Basketball. I played a lot in my younger days.
That sounds funny coming from someone who is so young! How has working at your father’s office influenced you?
I learned a lot from my father by watching him work with clients and his team of employees. One day I was making a sales call from home for my web design company. I was making a pitch to the client and my mom overheard me and she said, “Wow, you just said exactly what your dad would say to a client.” It’s not like I was trying to copy my dad, it just happened.
What’s one mistake that you made that you recommend that others avoid?
One of the biggest mistakes I made was not taking the legal aspects of the business into consideration from day one. I found out that getting the legal paperwork done is extremely important. So, do not avoid the legal aspects of your business. It will save you headaches down the road.
What advice do you have for people who are your age who want to do a startup?
Go for it regardless of what other people think of it. If you have the passion, drive, and motivation to pursue your idea, you should pursue it. It’ll be a tough challenge but as long as you’re motivated and believe in your idea, the sky is the limit.
Who has inspired you?
Steve Jobs. I did research on him a couple of years ago for a school project, and I learned a lot about him that I had never known before. I always knew who he was and knew that everyone liked him, but I never knew why. After looking at what he accomplished and the way he did things, he really inspired me to think outside of the box.