Zero to 60: A Billion-Dollar Startup… Before 30

Perhaps you’ve heard the news. In March, General Motors bought Cruise Automation, a startup that specializes in technology for self-driving cars. GM paid an impressive $1 billion in cash and stock for the acquisition.

Dan Kan, the 29-year-old co-founder of Cruise Automation, had originally intended to go into finance. But when the world of traditional employment left him without his dream job, he turned to startups for a solution. Working at UserVoice in San Francisco, Kan witnessed firsthand how a startup could operate and grow. He co-founded Cruise seven years later.

To what does he owe his success?

Connections – Kan’s older brother was the creator of online video platform Twitch, and this connection put him in contact with several people that proved invaluable in Kan’s endeavors. The most prominent example is that of Kyle Vogt, who later became Kan’s co-founder of Cruise. “That’s probably the most important thing,” Kan explains. “Not just having an idea or executing on an idea – it’s all about the connections that you have, and the people you know, and the people who support you.”

Initiative – Kan is a “get up and go” superstar. Prior to his involvement with Cruise, he launched Appetizely, his own company that built restaurant apps for the iPhone. When Apple interfered with his business, he shut it down and moved on to his next venture. Kan launched Exec, an on-demand personal assistant service. The business flourished when he shifted focus to house cleaning, but Kan recognized that this was not his passion. He sold Exec. Then, of course, he teamed up with Vogt to found Cruise. Kan is clearly a mover and a shaker.

A cool head – Highs and lows are inevitable in the life of an entrepreneur, and success depends largely on how those extremes are handled. Kan believes that stressing about a problem becomes a problem in itself. “The way that I approach it is […] think about it rationally, step back and say, ‘OK, what can I do to make this work?’” No good ever came from getting flustered. Kan analyzes a situation, develops a plan of action, and then solves the problem.

There are certainly unique challenges in the life of a startup entrepreneur. However, the rewards can more than make up for the risks. Just imagine… Kan originally wanted to work a traditional job in banking. If he had settled for that life, would he now be taking his slice of a $1 billion deal?

And, more importantly, would he be happy in his career?

“The big thing is, for me, it was unexpected,” Kan said. “But now I can’t see another way that I can have a bigger impact on the world. And that’s a big thing for me, really doing something that I enjoy and that I want to be doing.”

Clifford, Catherine. “This 29-Year-Old Entrepreneur Was Rejected by 35 Potential Employers. Now, He’s the Co-Founder of a $1 Billion Startup. Here’s How.” Entrepreneur 360. Entrepreneur, 26 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 May 2016.