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By David Wither
By David Wither
Startups

20-Something CEO: What Makes A Silicon Valley Tech Founder Tick

Pay no attention to what older generations say; millennials are a hard-working group.

According to a survey by Manpower on millennials in the workplace, 21% work two or more jobs and over 23% of millennials work at least fifty hours per week. While it’s likely that these stats are a product of a cutthroat job market, they also reflect a common ideal shared by millennials: to make the world a better place and take ownership for doing so along the way.

For Studypool™ founder Richard Werbe, that ownership stake is something he doesn’t take lightly. In 2015, Werbe became the youngest member of 500 Startups to raise over $1 million in seed funding. His Microtutoring™ company, which he co-founded with Jiaming Zhong, offers a peer-to-peer learning platform that allows students to post questions for verified tutors from other universities to answer. Users specify how much they are willing to pay for an answer to their question, how long they are willing to wait for a response, and which tutor they’d like to work with. Popular subjects include programming, accounting, writing homework help. Becoming a Studypool tutor, which anyone with a college degree can apply for, is equally beneficial since tutors can make quick cash on their own terms. Werbe’s company is in step with the growing trend of multi-sided marketplaces,such as Ebay and Uber, and is aimed at a demographic Werbe and Zhong know well since they themselves were college students once upon a time. It didn’t take long for Silicon Valley to notice Studypool’s growing success.

Given Werbe and Zhong’s tender ages (24), the two college dropouts-turned- entrepeneurs are in a clss class of their own. Though we love perpetrating the myth that most startup CEOs are in their 20s, that is not necessarily true. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, the average age of a Silicon Valley founder is 31, which is similar to the national scene (Source: First Round). However, Werbe and Zhong are, in fact, the proverbial 20-somethings. With a formula that helps their peers make money while going to school, they are poised for an Uber-like level of success.

Part of what has made Studypool so successful is its relentless pursuit of growth. Quite simply, the platform depends on it. Even though Studypool has been able to provide help to several millions college students, those numbers are a small fraction of the 50.4 million students attending school in the United States alone. Furthermore, Werbe’s model not only relies on students who need their questions answered, but also on an adequate supply of high-quality tutors. This requires a fair amount of volume, but for Werbe and his companions in Silicon Valley, that’s the name of the game.

One thing that makes Werbe’s efforts unique is the fact that Studypool’s traffic is entirely organic. That is, most of the students and tutors that visit the site come from referrals, as hard-working students generally flock together. Of course, it also helps that students always seem to be looking for some last-minute help and can get answers almost immediately using Studypool.

The ability to learn something faster or even just get an answer quickly is something new in the tech world, but it is swiftly catching on. And, as most marketers would agree, any advertising that’s based on word of mouth is a shoo-in for growth. However, with such a rapidly growing platform, Werbe isn’t necessarily focused on obtaining more volume, but more on how to keep up with its growth.

Scalability can make or break startups. Even with a steady cash flow, keeping up with an already growing business while attracting more volume can be tricky for any company. But for Werbe and his team, a multi-sided marketplace combined with the advantage of knowing the minds of their demographic, i.e. college students, first hand, has created a reliable and solid foundation for the company as it continues to expand.

Believe it or not, Werbe’s efforts are going to outlast the tired old joke of the “lazy millennial.” Why? Because he has a product that’s out to change the world by helping others learn and grow. Werbe’s career isn’t like that of most millennials his age, but his work ethic and vision couldn’t be more in line. It’s a true millennial company—one built on a set of principles that will last a lifetime.

Will we see their model expanded beyond just college kids? That is still up in the air. But for now, they’re staying busy … really busy.