Arjun Rai caught the entrepreneurial bug at the age of seven, selling knickknacks that he found around the house. Once in his native India, young Arjun set up shop to sell leftover wildflower necklaces after a wedding. He and a cousin put up a banner at his grandmother’s front gate, asking 25 cents.
TV shows like ‘The Oprah Show’ and ‘The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch’ inspired Arjun to take entrepreneurship to the next level. During the summer of 2009, he got a LinkedIn account (under the name Aaron Ray) and started connecting with other ambitious entrepreneurs, hoping to learn as much as possible about the art of entrepreneurship and business.
In 2010, Arjun became the COO of a quickly growing onlineadvertising company, but he soon set out to follow his own,unique vision. That vision is a brand-new venture called odysseyAds.Though he’s just getting started, Arjun plans to buildodysseyAds into a premier online advertising network with afocus on customer service, maximizing ROI, and catering to 21stcentury marketer needs. In the midst of all this, Arjun also justcompleted his junior year of high school. He’s 18 years old.
The following is a short excerpt from 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs (Volume 1).
Q: What drove you above and beyond, towards entrepreneurship?
A: Some people put their dreams aside. They never find happiness. They never find the satisfaction that would come from starting their own company and doing something that they know is an extension of themselves. Going to high school, college, and then working nine-to-five is the career path for many, many people. But they’re working for someone else, someone who couldn’t care less about their dreams and ideas.
There is a small group of people who try to build something with their passion, determination, and vision. For me, being ambitious means taking a risk and following a passion of mine. In most cases, that means building a company that caters to a need and is an extension of myself. It’s going out there and taking a risk – regardless of any discouragement or negative opinion.
I started with computers at age seven. I moved on to learning more advanced topics in computer science. From a very young age, I would sell a few household items to the public. Sometimes I would get in trouble for that. There was one instance where I was in Denver, CO and we were moving. We had some items placed outside the front door that we were throwing out or that had to be packed. There was a pretty busy road right next to our apartment, so I put up a sign that advertised a few items for as little as 25 cents. A few people actually came up to the apartment. My dad and mom said, “Who are these people?” We had to turn them away.
Moving forward from there, I would watch ‘The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch’. It was a show on CNBC where entrepreneurs came to share their business insights, promote entrepreneurship, and share their story of how they achieved the American Dream. These were young, brilliant people doing phenomenal things. So, Donny Deustch was a huge inspiration to me personally, through his books and through his show.
From there, I got on LinkedIn and started meeting other entrepreneurs. Some were three times my age and others were only a few years older or younger than me. My horizons expanded gradually as I networked and gathered as much as possible about business and entrepreneurship.
Q: You’re starting a new company right now? What’s that like?
A: I’m looking forward to building odysseyAds and launching it as soon as possible. The founding goal is to gain the clients’ satisfaction and really cater to the needs of the 21st century marketer, maximizing their return on investment. We want to provide a service that clients find useful to their marketing efforts. Whether you are a publisher (website owner) or an advertiser, we intend to create a service that brings efficiency to the process and assists the client in their needs. Like any startup, there’s a lot of uncertainty behind it, but there’s a lot of passion behind it at the same time.
I always think positively in any situation, because that’s all you can do – all you should do. So, I’m thinking very positively about this new venture and I look forward to scaling it as far as I can. For anyone starting out: it doesn’t matter if you’re 18, 12, or 50, and it doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, or what idea you have. What matters is that you have passion for it and you aren’t doing it for greed. If you have a bad month in sales, you need to have enough passion to keep moving forward. When you combine passion with hard work, it’s so much easier to run something at a larger scale.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: To any aspiring entrepreneur, you need to have passion and a drive to make it big. Go out there with so much passion that nobody can stop you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – whether they’re billionaires, millionaires, or aspiring entrepreneurs themselves. They can give you advice and mentorship. As you move forward with your business and your life, look at the “value proposition” when making decisions. Have a plan A, B, and C so that you are never in a state of confusion when something doesn’t go as anticipated. Whether in life or business, plan everything!
Don’t let yourself worry about people who are trying to bring you down. At the end of the day, it’s your life – your story that you have to write, your song that you have to sing, and your dance that you have to dance. Make your business for yourself. You will find a lot of people who will try to bring you down because they can’t do it themselves. Ignore them and move on. Even if you fail, at least you tried. So many other people didn’t take that chance, put themselves out there, and follow their dreams with passion. Always learn from your mistakes and get up the next day implement those lessons to attain success and make it big. Good luck!
This is an abridged version from Arjun’s interview in our latest project, 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs. Once we decided to interview Arjun, I was doing a little more research about him and found that he connected with me on LinkedIn last summer. True to his word, Arjun is a master young networker. This interview proves that young entrepreneurs can successfully compete with the biggest company in the world.
Arjun Rai’s Top Quote
“You always want to surround yourself with people who are rooting for you and who want you to succeed. Stay away from the naysayers who couldn’t do it themselves.”
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