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In this undated photo provided by Homejoy, Adora Cheung and Aaron Cheung, siblings and founders of cleaning service Homejoy pose for a photo. Max Levchin, the co-founder of PayPal and a former boss of Adora Cheung’s, was the first investor in Homejoy.
Starting your own business? Here’s some advice
First Published Jan 08 2014 11:04 am • Last Updated Jan 08 2014 01:47 pm

New York • Hey twentysomethings, dreaming of trading in the safety of a regular paycheck to start your own business? There’s no secret sauce. Instead, founders of three companies have obvious tips: Work hard, network and ask for help.

Chicago venture capitalist Bruce Barron, who has invested in companies including food ordering service GrubHub and pet products website doggyloot seconds that. He counsels young entrepreneurs to be open to advice. Some young company owners "wanted us to write a check and just get out of the way. Those qualities don’t bode well for us. We want to see people who are collaborative," he says.

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Three entrepreneurs who successfully raised money for their companies underscore the importance of hard work, of course — and making friends and playing nice.

Homejoy

FOUNDERS: Adora Cheung, 30, and her brother Aaron Cheung, 25

STARTED IN: Mountain View, Calif., July 2012

THE BUSINESS: Now based in San Francisco, Homejoy’s website connects more than 100,000 house cleaners with customers in about 30 cities in the U.S. and Canada

MONEY RAISED: $40 million

BIG BACKER: Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal

Coming out of the University of Rochester, which had no entrepreneurial community that she was aware of, Adora Cheung wanted to learn how startups work. She joined a Bay Area company, Slide, which was started by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.


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— IMPRESS THEM: Slide didn’t have many employees when Cheung came on board. "I got to work closely with Max, and he came to know a lot of how I work. He and I work on a very similar sleep schedule," she says. They would find themselves talking shop at 4 a.m.

— FOLLOWING FRIENDS: After Cheung left Slide, she and her brother spent three-and-a-half years trying to come up with a business. They participated in the Y Combinator accelerator program, which helps startups launch. Friends who had been through the program recommended it.

— KEEP IN TOUCH: The Cheungs were in debt and needed money for Homejoy. Levchin was the first investor. "It was very helpful that Max knows me and I think he trusts me. He saw numbers that were going up and to the right. He gave us a bit of money," Cheung says. After that, other investors wanted in.

———

Sweetgreen

FOUNDERS: Former Georgetown University schoolmates Nicolas Jammet, 28; Jonathan Neman, 29; and Nathaniel Ru, 28

STARTED IN: Washington, D.C., August 2007

THE BUSINESS: Twenty-two shops and 600 employees selling salads, wraps, soups and juices, in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland and Virginia

MONEY RAISED: $40 million

BIG BACKER: Steve Case, co-founder of AOL

The trio launched Sweetgreen the summer after their senior year of college. Over the years, they raised $17 million from about 100 people before landing their first investment from a financial institution in December: $22 million from AOL co-founder Steve Case’s Revolution fund.

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