This 22-year-old Founded a Startup to Help Other Young Entrepreneurs Grow

Andy McCune, COO & Co-founder of Unfold

Dylan found his passion early. After successfully launching and leading a college advising business while still in high school, Dylan started to recognize just how difficult it was to set his ideas in motion with the lack of resources available to young entrepreneurs. He set to change all that by co-founding (at the age of 19) a community-centric organization called Next Gen Summit which aims to support innovation and provide resources young entrepreneurs need to change the world. Read on to hear Dylan’s story, his perspective on community-focused marketing and what it takes for brands to “win” with Gen Z.

 
Authentic brands that verbalize their purpose, values, and goals ‘win’ – and winning with younger consumers means securing a consumer base for decades to come.
— Dylan
 

Tell us a little bit about your story.

I’m a 22-year-old sports junkie and startup fanatic seeking to improve people’s lives. I grew up in Westchester, New York, where I graduated as the valedictorian of my high school before studying Economics and Public Policy at Duke University. As a first-year student, I Co-founded Next Gen, my second startup, to make it easier for young entrepreneurs to grow. I recognized from my initial experience that it’s difficult to be a first time founder, and often our schools and communities don’t provide the entrepreneurial support or resources we need to grow. Next Gen was designed as a simple solution to fill that void.

 
 

What are you working on right now that you think is interesting or innovative? 

At Next Gen, we’re really passionate about providing opportunities for our community members to get in front of investors. Oftentimes, fundraising is a crucial endeavor for a young company, and we want to ensure we’re giving our entrepreneurs the greatest chance at succeeding. Finding new ways to have startups hone their stories and presentations, both online and in-person, is a key component of what we’re building.


What is unique about your generation?

I believe, as a whole, members of Gen Z want to push the limits. Growing up with ever-expanding technological resources, we don’t like to hear something isn’t possible - if anything, statements like that are fuel for our fires. This stubbornness takes shape in great ambition, driving society forward. As the leader of a startup community, I’m fortunate to sit on the forefront of such innovation.

I believe, as a whole, members of Gen Z want to push the limits.


What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Gen Z?

Our ambition can sometimes be misconstrued as naiveté or arrogance. Sure, Gen Z-ers don’t want to stay at the same job for more than two years – but that shouldn’t be a surprise, and most certainly shouldn’t be considered negative. While idealism is a factor, young adults in our generation are constantly attempting to find the next big thing, and are thus willing to endure multiple career 180s. This drive is part of what pushes society forward.

What can brands do to better connect with youth?

The best products won’t sell without strong brands. Today’s consumer – especially Gen Z buyers – want to feel aligned with the company, or at least aware of what they stand for. Having a solid product is nice, but it’s barely half the battle in 2018’s market. Authentic brands that verbalize their purpose, values, and goals ‘win’ – and winning with younger consumers means securing a consumer base for decades to come.


What are the most exciting things happening in marketing right now? Are there any brands or campaigns that you admire?

I’m encouraged by the shift from mass social media marketing to campaigns directed at curated, like-minded, albeit smaller groups.

As a community organizer I am certainly biased, but I’m encouraged by the shift from mass social media marketing to campaigns directed at curated, like-minded, albeit smaller groups. Brands that are “winning” have tapped into this community model. Brian Chesky recently changed his title from CEO to Head of Community, Facebook altered its mission to incorporate supporting communities, the list goes on and on. Humans tend to replicate the actions of those around them, and thus reaching consumers through the communities they are already a part of is a recipe for success.

The Fun Questions

  • Favorite place to vacation? Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

  • If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? While I’d love to fly, a really cool skill would be teleporting. Traveling would be a lot easier and more enjoyable.

  • Name something that most people don’t know about you. I compete in triathlons and plan to tackle a half-Iron Man at some point.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to be making a positive impact through empowering leaders, perhaps in the form of venture impact investing.

  • What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently? Harvey Mackay’s Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive + Joe Rogan’s interview with Elon Musk.

Want to connect with Dylan? Visit dylangambardella.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.