Starting Up Right
A young entrepreneur goes back to school to bolster his dreams of running a startup
When Max Page was just 17-years-old, he came astonishingly close to launching a startup.
His friends were all breaking off into this trade or that after graduation, but Max was never the handy type. Instead, Max came up with a bright idea to help his friends: he would start a business that finds work for tradespeople using an app.
The tenacious, ambitious idea wasn’t out of character for Max. His friends would describe him as an enthusiastic and spontaneous person who is full of ideas. But this time he was determined. This time, his idea would stick.
“I went super crazy obsessive over it,” Max, now 20, tells from his home in Fredericton, NB. Truly—he busted down obstacles that most 17-year-olds wouldn’t even fathom attempting. Finding a development company to partner with, Max had an app prototype built. Next he brought a marketing company on board. Then, with a well-developed pitch in hand, he sat down with investors to talk funding. Amazingly, things were on track towards a launch.
But it all came crashing down when the development company he had partnered with unexpectedly pulled out of an agreement. “That’s where it ended,” Max says regretfully.
A new approach
The failure was a big disappointment. But Max wasn’t done with his entrepreneurial ventures. He’d gotten a taste of foundership; he would be a founder someday.
Upon meeting with his mentor, Max received some sage advice: pull back, regroup, and gear up. In other words, leave the startup idea for now and do some more learning. “He told me to put the startup on the back burner and go stick my head in the industry,” Max explains. “He recommended getting firsthand experience with people who have done that before.”
Since Max’s first crack at a startup had been in the tech sector and likely would be again, his mentor recommended gathering some skills in web development. The place to do it, he said: RED Academy in Toronto.
Signing up for the Full-Stack Developer program, Max felt a little nervous. “I really don’t do well in the classroom environment,” he says. “But RED didn’t make me feel like that at all.”
The first thing he noticed was the starkly different energy in comparison with his past school experience. “Right when I walked in I was like ‘oh yeah, got it,’” he says. “It was just such a welcoming vibe.”
Despite the warm reception, though, Max had his work cut out for him. In the first two months, he says, he didn’t retain much. “It was quite a struggle, because I really sucked at school,” he admits.
But luckily, Max wasn’t in a typical classroom environment. Noticing he was having trouble, Max’s instructors didn’t let him weather that storm alone. “They took me outside of the class and worked one-on-one with me,” he says. “Whatever I needed they provided.” Words of encouragement helped to keep his spirits up. “The staff kept telling me that it was normal—even though everyone else was flying along just fine,” he adds with a laugh.
And it turns out the determination of both Max and his instructors paid off. “One day it just clicked,” he says. “And then I got really passionate about it.” As he had proven in the past, Max could do just about anything once he got excited about it. By the end of the program, he had excelled so much that RED invited him on as an intern after he graduated. “I came in and helped the instructor with the next cohort of students,” he says proudly. “That was pretty cool.”
A hearty offensive
When it came time to enter into the work world, Max was ready. He prepared to get a great gig at a startup. “My resume was pretty sweet—it was very creative and in-your-face,” he says. “The staff at RED helped me out with that.”
With his impressive new skill set and snazzy CV, Max launched a hearty offensive. Geographical location was no object. “Ireland, US, the east coast of Canada,” he lists. “I applied to probably a hundred jobs all over the world for two weeks. Then I stopped and that was it.”
A month into the job search, Max already had a couple of job offers. “There’s definitely a giant demand for this kind of work,” he asserts. “And in the end I actually got to pick the job I wanted.” That job? Software Developer at a security company in Fredericton, NB.
The tricks to running a startup
After making the big move to the east coast of Canada, Max quickly found he made the right choice. And five months into it, the job is ticking all of his boxes. “It’s really cool, it’s exactly what I wanted,” he says. “I wanted firsthand experience at a startup, and I work with thirteen people so it’s very ‘startup-y’. Also I work closely with the founder, who founded a startup 15 years ago as well, and he’s really good to learn from.” Even Max’s coworkers have a lot to teach him. “I definitely hit the jackpot with where I work for sure,” he beams.
One thing he’s learned, looking back now on his first startup attempt: even if things hadn’t gone sour with the development company, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere. “It’s kind of tough to start a tech business when you don’t have any tech experience,” Max says, three years wiser. “I also was pretty young, with no experience in the industry and not a lot of capital.”
Today, Max’s entrepreneurial goals are still there, simmering on the back burner of his mind. “I see myself running a startup again when I have the right experience,” he says, although what that startup will be he’s not sure. “My ideas are going to evolve, so one idea today will be very different from the next.”
And in the meantime, Max is soaking up the invaluable experience of being part of a successful startup.
Written by Carly Walde
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