Jason Young



Young, 33, knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle economically. He grew up in a single parent household and his mom had a difficult time with her finances. When he returned home from Harvard one Christmas, his family was evicted from their home. That’s why Young, who majored in economics, cofounded two firms to help empower people economically: Nonprofit Hidden Genius teaches computer science to young black men in high school. And day-to-day, Young runs startup MindBlown Labs, which teaches finance to students through educational games.

What about your job most excites you?

My role seems to change every three months or so, but there is one constant. I love bringing something new into the world, especially something that will make people happy and change lives. I also take great joy in solving problems with my team. A few years ago, I realized that I really don’t have to have the all the answers. I just need to bring people together in order to find them. There is nothing like being a part of a group of really smart people working together to solve complex problems. Intellectual stimulation + purpose + comradery = AWESOMENESS


How many hours do you sleep?

I’m allergic to caffeine, so sleep is even more important to me than it is other entrepreneurs. I generally aim for about seven hours, although I’m not always successful. I don’t sleep through the night. I’m somewhat pre-industrial in this respect. I generally sleep for about three and a half hours. I then do work for about two hours before going back to sleep for a few more hours. I also try to take a one-hour nap each day.


What do you eat for breakfast?

Eating is one of my favorite pastimes. I generally eat two to four small meals for breakfast: a bowl of plain rolled oats before my workout, a wheat bun with some strawberry jam and sautéed greens and scrambled eggs afterward. Around 10 or 11, I’ll eat a snack of some sort.


If you could pitch to one person, who would it be?

Steph Curry. Through my work at both MindBlown Labs and The Hidden Genius Project, I’ve interacted with a lot of young men who are striving to make it to the NBA. Most of these young men aren’t really thinking smartly about how to position themselves to be financially successful in the future. How powerful would it be if Steph Curry and others used their celebrity to push them to learn about money and wise financial decision-making?


What’s on your home screen?

Google Maps, Tripit, Kindle, Uber, Kayak.


How often do you exercise?

I generally work out five days per week. I feel so much more productive when I work out. As an entrepreneur, you never know what the day is going to throw at you. When I complete a workout in the morning, it gives me the energy to take on the challenges and opportunities that will inevitably arise later in the day.


What app can’t you live without?

Google Maps. I’ve traveled the world, but I have yet to develop a sense of direction. Google Maps changed my life.


What's your favorite city and why?

I love Rio, but I’m going to go with Amsterdam. Ironically, I don’t smoke weed, so that aspect of the city is lost on me. That said, I found plenty to like when I visited: The city was much more diverse than I was expecting; the people were extremely friendly; the food, especially the Indian food, was delicious; Amsterdam is also physically gorgeous. Of course, I went during the summer time.


What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?

Amino is doing really interesting stuff. They’re helping people find the right doctors for them.


Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?

Not really. I’m not an early adopter though. Tech addiction is a real thing. I’m a lot less interested in new social apps these days and much more interested in spending quality time with people I care about (in person).


What are you reading right now?

I’m an avid reader. Into my early twenties, I read about 60 books per year. My favorite genre is fantasy. I also like books on business management. I highly recommend Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings.


Do you think there’s a tech bubble?

Quite possibly. The private markets have been frothy in recent years. I’ve seen some astonishing valuations for some really dumb companies. That said, there are also a lot of real companies making real products and generating billions of dollars in real revenue, so it’s not the same as the late 1990s. I do have some concerns about the sustainability of the current levels of VC and Angel funding. Bubble or no, there is a misallocation of investment dollars. There are many good teams, products and ideas that should be getting funded but are not due to a lack of diversity and vision among investors.


Best piece of advice you've been given?

I’m a purpose-driven individual. I can also be very serious. Years ago, one of my closest mentors told me to have more fun. I’m happy to say that I took him up on it.


What keeps you up at night?

The world can be a very dark place. I often lay awake wondering what it will take to disrupt the systems that perpetuate this darkness and rob people of the opportunity to be less than their best selves.


If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of failing. Failure is a necessary prerequisite to growth. Besides, you’re going to fail anyway, so you might as well learn to acknowledge and overcome it.

Photo Credits: jason young & getty images