In 2012, 19-year-old Douglas Lusted won the University of Waterloo's Innovation Showcase and Velocity Venture Fund competition. Following his win, Lusted co-founded WestonExpressions, a digital signage network that drives innovation in the outdoor advertisement industry, and now serves as the CEO.
It seems that tech entrepreneurs are getting younger and younger these days. Douglas Lusted, co-founder and CEO of WestonExpressions, started his company at age 19 as a second-year business student at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. Lusted's digital signage startup is a leader in outdoor advertising innovation, and its flagship product, Linkett, allows marketers to customize digital content based on consumers' proximity using information from their mobile devices. The young entrepreneur shared his insights and advice for fellow small business owners, especially in the tech industry.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Douglas Lusted: An entrepreneur. I didn't know what business I would create, or what industry it would be in, but for as long as I can remember I wanted to start my own project and take it to market. In studying environment and business in my first year at the University of Waterloo, I was thinking a biomimicry invention or consulting, possibly as a future project.
BND: Can you talk a little about WestonExpressions and how you got your start?
DL: WestonExpressions is a technology company that creates new inventions for the outdoor advertisement industry. We employ seven people and are actively looking to grow the team. I started the company in 2012 during my second year at the University of Waterloo when I was 19. I enrolled in something called "E-Coop," a program that gives a select group of students the opportunity to start a business during their co-op term instead of working for an established company. I had an idea of putting advertisement screens in escalator handrails; however, during that process we started experimenting with screen to mobile communication. After several meetings with potential clients and investors, it was clear that the screen to mobile technology we had created was a much more in-demand technology. From there, we created Linkett, a product that gives standard TVs mobile and motion capabilities while instantly providing new analytics to promoters.
BND: What was your main motivation to start this business?
DL: A lot of my classmates and friends wanted to be entrepreneurs but never actually "went for it" because they thought they were too young. That really motivated me to prove it could be done. As time went on, I started understanding the advertisement industry and it was obvious that a lot of companies were charging enormous amounts of money for advertising with no concrete proof or analytics to actually validate that it worked. When someone advertises online they receive stats on their ad's efficacy, and I thought to myself, why isn't there a system like this for the outdoor advertisement industry?
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
DL: Going through the struggles with my initial handrail project gave me a ton of experience that really helped.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
DL: Finding the right team to put this together without funding in the early days was difficult. It took a lot of time and networking but eventually I found my co-founders Ashok and Vlad, who really believed in the business. I think that I overcame the challenge by being "coachable." A lot of young entrepreneurs think they have everything figured out and don't always listen to their mentors, partners, investors, etc. I always try to pick up advice from everyone I meet and analyze the situation, and I think my co-founders, advisers and investors really liked that because they knew I would always include them in major decisions.
BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?
DL: My favorite part is watching an idea we conceptualized that didn't exist become a reality. I always find that amazing. I also love the constant hustle: There's something new every day and you always have something to do.
BND: What's the most important lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
DL: Realize that there is an unlimited amount of knowledge you can gain from the resources available today and constantly continue learning. Even if you assume to be an expert in a certain field, you can always learn more.
BND: What is the best advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
DL: I have three things that immediately come to mind – be coachable, look for a customer before you look for a solution, and constantly be on the move. Speed to market is always really important in the tech industry.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.