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CEO at 21: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Young Founders

At an age when most college grads are happily taking orders on the bottommost corporate rung, CEOs Zach Sims and Nikhil Sethi (22 and 23 years-old, respectively) are leading fast growing businesses. Sims heads Codecademy, an interactive website that trains users in software programming, while Sethi runs Adaptly, a company that helps brands advertise across social media. With limited experience, these young entrepreneurs are successfully navigating the enormous challenges of building a business: raising capital, hiring and managing team members, closing partnerships and dealing with the press. In this panel, moderator J.J. Colao, a 25 year-old Forbes magazine reporter covering entrepreneurs, speaks with Sims and Sethi about their experiences running top-tier startups and their advice for the next crop of young founders.


  1. How can young founders convince important people (partners, investors, potential hires, etc.) to take them seriously at a young age?
  2. Should young founders drop out of college or avoid it altogether?
  3. How can young founders use their age to their advantage? (Press, culture, domain expertise, etc.)
  4. How can young founders pick and leverage mentors to make up for shortcomings in experience?
  5. Entrepreneurship isn't right for everyone, especially at such a young age. When should potential young founders opt to gain work experience and a stronger network in lieu of founding a company?



J.J. Colao, Reporter, Forbes

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