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Angela Lin Fuels Teen Entrepreneurship in Washington State

January 24, 2018

This article “Geek of the Week: Teen entrepreneur Angela Lin aims to get adults to take her and her peers seriously” first appeared on GeekWire.


OK, let’s be serious. This teenager is worth taking seriously—all you have to do is read some of her answers below.

Angela Lin is a teen entrepreneur driving collaborations between the corporate and education space to create more career-connected learning and entrepreneurship opportunities for students. She thinks her peers, while perhaps not possessing a lot of experience yet, nevertheless have ideas worth hearing.

The 16-year-old from Mercer Island, Wash., is GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.

“Two years ago, I founded a social venture called Innovateen to connect students to influential industry leaders and real-world career opportunities through guest speaker sessions, mentorships, and a powerful network of local industry professionals and schools,” Lin said. “Innovateen has received multiple corporate and school sponsorships for its initiative.”

Lin is also the West Coast Regional Director for a program called LaunchX, which helps students create and run actual profit-generating startups, and a co-founder for the first youth track of Techstars Startup Week for Seattle.

A student at Seattle Prep, in her free time she loves to play piano, hike, read, and “geek out about 20th century art.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Angela Lin:

What do you do, and why do you do it?

Angela: After founding Innovateen, I realized how much students valued the connections and real-time interactions with both student and adult leaders — all of whom were entrepreneurs, not because they were ‘founders’ of a company, but because they were ‘self-made.’ One of the biggest obstacles of being a teen entrepreneur is getting other adults to take you seriously. You’re 16. You don’t have an MBA. You have very little professional experience. And while teens often do have AMAZING ideas, they’re often JUST ideas. That’s why the cause I’m leading is to help my peers take CONCRETE actions to realize their dreams or ideas. I want to help them gain the confidence to pitch to adult investors, or build actual prototypes; whatever it is, to just take the first step.

One of the biggest obstacles of being a teen entrepreneur is getting other adults to take you seriously. You’re 16. You don’t have an MBA.

Looking around me, there’s an incredible amount of talent in my generation, but all of that is untapped potential if they don’t do something with their talents. My mission is to build partnerships between schools and companies, between students and adult professionals to make this happen. This year, I led the first Youth Track for Seattle Startup Week through Techstars with another high school senior specifically targeted toward stimulating an entrepreneurship spirit among middle and high school students in Washington. In leading the west coast expansion and growth of MIT Launch, I’ve been securing partnerships between universities and tech companies and recruiting dozens of mentors to make this happen. It’s been extremely rewarding to see my own peers turn an idea into reality.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field?

A: If you want to partner with an organization, figure out what’s in it for them. One of the biggest things people forget is that a business partnership is mutually beneficial — it’s not just about your pitch, your ask, and what the other party can do for you. It’s about building an alliance and helping one another in ways that the other party cannot. A win-win proposition is a receipt that never goes out of style in forming a partnership.

Where do you find your inspiration?

A: In talking and collaborating with people smarter than me. I’ve often heard the quote, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.’ But I never appreciated that quote until I realized the kind of intellectual energy, creativity, and ideas that I can absorb from people smarter and bolder than me. I often find my best ideas in building on others’, in those late-night conversations and brainstorm sessions with impatient, excited voices talking over one another. I’m always trying to surround myself with smarter people, trying to enter new and smarter rooms so I can continue to learn and expand my knowledge and have more of those kind of conversations.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why?

A: My iCloud account, or cloud technology in general. Unfortunately, I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve lost important pictures, videos, or documents because I just didn’t back things up. Definitely a lesson I’ve learned in a hard way.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you?

A: A large, open space with several couches, windows, my laptop, and a whiteboard. Usually, this means a co-working space or my basement. When I’m strategizing or problem-solving, I like to walk around and ruminate in my thoughts; hence, the large open space. When I’m brainstorming, I need a whiteboard to visualize my ideas, and have a written record of it. A whiteboard facilitates more collaboration and just makes the process more stimulating.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life?

A: Calendarize. Ever heard a teacher or parent advise you to ‘take notes’ or ‘write things down’? The same logic applies here. The moment you schedule a meeting or phone call, agree to attend an event, or realize you have a test or paper due, mark those deadlines on your calendar. Knowing your commitments will help you better plan out your day and avoid forgetting about important events. If possible, setting up reminders or push notifications in your calendar app on a regular basis will be a tremendous help in being more focused and productive. (Also try to find some apps that capture random notes efficiently, something like Evernote).

Mac, Windows or Linux?

A: Linux.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway?

A: Janeway, definition of a female leader!!

Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility?

A: Time Machine. Imagine how much you could improve our world if you travel back in time with knowledge powered from the future. On the other hand, I hope I don’t accidentally get stuck in an infinite time loop.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would…

A: I would create an incubator specifically for helping high schoolers find the resources and mentorship to build their own startups.

I once waited in line for…

A: The midnight showing of Harry Potter Deathly Hallows (Pt. 1 and 2).

Your role models:

A: Ada Lovelace—A pioneer of computer science and a true badass. Everything from her thought leadership to the legacy she’s left as a female figure in STEM (during a time when women did NOT study math or science) has given me the courage, especially as a female leader as well, to voice my thoughts and pursue my dreams regardless of what others say.

Satya Nadella—Current CEO of Microsoft. He truly lives out Microsoft’s mission of using technology to empower individuals and organizations to achieve more, which really aligns with my career ambitions as well. Technology can often been seen as a dehumanizing tool, decreasing face-to-face interactions, driving people apart, but Mr. Nadella has inspired me to use technology to help us engage with each other in more discerning, empathetic and more human ways, whether that’s in art, education, at work, or in our daily lives.

Oskar from ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’—His imagination, curiosity, and spirit for adventure and discovery are truly infectious. I wish I had his boldness and energy for life to live and learn as much as possible. I think the world needs more people who are there to ask questions, not just answer them.

My grandma, an extremely strong and resilient woman, who always reminds me, ‘The worst answer you can get is no.’

Greatest game in history:

A: Tetris!! So beautifully simple, and challenging at the same time. You keep telling yourself, ‘this will be the last round,’ but once those shapes start coming at lightning speed, it can’t be stopped. Also, without Tetris, there would be no Candy Crush. Not to mention — it has great music too!

Best gadget ever:

A: Sonos One, which has everything that Amazon’s Echo has, with better sound. Already at the top of next year’s Christmas wishlist.

First computer:

A: Mac Book Air (I remember there was a slight conflict of interest with my parents who both worked for Microsoft at the time.)

Current phone:

A: iPhone 7.

Favorite app:

A: How Stuff Works. It’s amazing sometimes how we’ll know dozens of esoteric Calculus formulas (thank you CollegeBoard) — stuff most of us won’t use again — but don’t know how the internet, or our phone works — stuff we use every day. This app is actually one of the best educational tools out there, I would highly recommend.

Favorite cause:

A: Tough one, but I’d say education — especially as a student myself, it’s a cause that I can bring first-hand knowledge and perspective into — the problems, the pain points, because I deal with it on a daily basis. It’s a cause where we should be having more collaborations between students and adults, and a cause every can and should benefit from.

Most important technology of 2016:

A: Virtual reality or augmented reality. Both had a huge breakthrough in 2016 with the ways they’ve been impacting our daily lives (anyone remember Pokemon Go? Probably one of the most successful apps in AR) as well as on a larger scale, in the education and health sector. I’m excited to see further developments of consumer VR and AR.

Most important technology of 2018:

A: Blockchain. Although the technology was developed several years back, with the recent rise in BTC and other cryptocurrency, blockchain has huge business and economic implications. Its potential to create value and authenticate digital information will drastically alter our payment methods, enhance our shared economy, and ensure data security. Blockchain being a ‘wisdom of the crowd’ technology will hold all of us accountable.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks:

A: To all the teens out there, this is for you. For some reason, too many kids grow up thinking that living one’s dreams is only for certain special ‘other’ people. It’s not. The only thing special about those ‘other’ people is that they were just the ones who hit the send button on the email pitch, who swallowed their fear and cold-called that busy executive to ask for a meeting, who went door to door to test their product. The future starts now. Get a jump on it.

Want to encourage entrepreneurial collaboration for teens in your school or community? Start a LaunchX Club.

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