5 Success lessons from Sean Parker – “Billionaire Boy Genius” for entrepreneurs

Sean Parker has never done things the normal way. He co-founded Napster, became the first president of Facebook, now fills that role at Spotify, and was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in David Fincher’s film, The Social Network.

The media often portrays Parker as a “billionaire boy genius. Who could argue … “Parker went from apprehended 16-year-old hacker—he had managed to break into the computer networks of numerous multi-national corporations and even military databases—to world-class Internet entrepreneur.” He skipped a formal education and went straight from high school into business.

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Here are the 5 success lessons from Sean Parker – “Billionaire Boy Genius” for entrepreneurs,

1. Don’t be traditional

Let’s be honest — tradition is not for everyone. While in high school, Sean “interned for Mark Pincus (the current CEO of Zynga) and by his senior year of high school, Parker was earning more than $80,000 a year through various projects, enough to convince his parents to allow him to skip college and pursue a career as an entrepreneur.” This example should serve as a reminder to follow your passion and do what you know you were meant to do, no matter how risky and unconventional it may seem for the moment.

2. Learn from failure and keep going

Napster crashed, and it crashed hard. But before that happened, he revolutionised music and how we experience and acquire it. He didn’t give up there, though. He was mired in intellectual property law, corporate finance, and entrepreneurship lessons that would last him a lifetime. He used Napster’s collapse as a lesson learned and moved on to the next big thing, which, for him, was Facebook.

While most of us will never find ourselves in two revolutionary companies in the same decade, it’s worth examining, and it plays into the previous piece of advice. Your own business challenges likely won’t be this dramatic, but the important lesson to learn is that failure is only a lesson to be learned from.

3. Founders can get fired – by VC’s

It’s a mind-numbing scenario but it happens, more than you may suspect. Founders get the boot. Rob Kalin, the CEO of Etsy, a handmade goods retail website he founded in 2005, was ousted by VC’s. Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple and Sean Parker was unceremoniously kicked out of Plaxo, an online address book and social networking service he launched in 2002.

You’re not untouchable just because you’re at the top. This should keep you honest with your employees and understand that they’re in this just as deep as you are. If you’re the reason they’re failing, then they’re going to work to get you out. Even a wildly successful founder of a startup can be replaced, so always prove your value.

4. Reach out and connect … with complete strangers

Years later, Parker’s Napster experience led him to pursue his mission to share music — legally. In 2009, he learned about Spotify, a Swedish streaming music service, and sent an email to Daniel Ek, Spotify’s founder. Sean later invested in the company and now sits on the board.

One of the quickest ways to take your company to the next level is to partner up and connect with others. It’s not often taught, yet it’s one of the most important factors of business growth. Who have you been meaning to connect with? Don’t be afraid – do it now. You never know what the future holds.

5. Pay it forward

Parker was one of the first people to see Facebook’s true potential and he met with Mark Zuckerberg to ensure he didn’t fall into the same traps Parker had fallen into. He helped Zuckerberg negotiate and retain the majority of Facebook’s board seats. This gave Zuckerberg control and freedom. Every lesson you learn can apply to a multitude of situations and industries, so don’t hold back. Use everything you’ve learned to help yourself by helping those around you. No one will give you anything if you don’t offer them something of value. So use your knowledge to your advantage.