How do I get taken seriously as a young founder? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Jason M. Lemkin, entrepreneur and VC, on Quora:

Aaron Levie started Box at 19, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out at 19-ish, you know all this.

Here are the hacks:

  • Start with SMBs. It's easier to get taken seriously, not just as a CEO, but also as a company, with smaller businesses. They close faster, make quicker decisions, and the owners take the risks. The more gatekeepers there are, the more decision-makers, the harder it can be to break through. You get 1 or 2 bigger customers, but don't start in the enterprise unless you know the enterprise 95 times out of 100.
  • Always be on the front lines. Do all the sales, customer support, and post-sales yourself as much as you can. Secret: customers love to talk to the CEO. Even the CEO of a 2-person company. Even an 18-year-old CEO.
  • In 12 months, you'll be the best there is at your market and product. And you'll just keep getting better. You will get so much better. You will be so experienced once you have 10, 15, 100 customers, 1000 users, under your belt. You may know nothing now, but in 12 months you'll be an expert. Just watch.
  • Be respectful and don't pretend about who you (as CEO) are. You can pretend just a little bit that the product does more than it does. But don't pretend you are older than you are. Don't pretend you've been in business longer than you have been. The early adopter customers are looking not just to buy today, but to buy into you. And they know they are taking a risk. Lead them with truth, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Not everyone will take the risk on the next Levie or Zuck. But some will.

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Published on: Jun 28, 2016