Alexander Levine is most recognized for starting OldVersion.com at 12 years old. OldVersion.com now serves over 1,000,000 unique visitors per month and successfully generates enough revenue for the young entrepreneur to cover his living expenses & tuition. The web site is a repertoire of old versions of software with the philosophy that “newer is not always better.” It has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, PC Magazine, Popular Science, TechTV, Buffalo News as well as the UB Reporter – among many others. He has been nominated to win the Global Student Entrepreneur Award and is currently working on another startup that has people in the Buffalo community excited!
Alexander is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo and is actively involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem there. He says his current mission is to “Continue to grow and evolve by pushing myself out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I love the process of creating a business and truly believe business has the power to change the world for the better.”
What are you working on right now?
Right now my focus is split between a number of areas: scaling my company, starting a new company and my education & research. OldVersion.com recently launched a social component to its site which allows our visitors to get rewarded with iPads in exchange for their contributions and participation. Me and my partner, Travis Dane are continuously staying up nights to discuss and implement the direction we want to see the company grow. We want the site to be the number one resource for downloads and information of software of any kind as well as have it facilitate a robust community of technology enthusiasts.
Another startup, which I’m also currently working on with Travis Dane will revolutionize the way that students think about completing their homework. I’m so excited about this project because I truly see a huge need for it that is completely unfulfilled. Since I’m still in prefunding stages and working with the University at Buffalo’s entrepreneurial incubator to set up the necessary meetings for the funding necessary (this project will probably require a couple hundred thousand dollars to be kick-started – a modest sum relative to the millions being raised to simply develop a phone application) I can’t give out too many details on it yet, but stay tuned!
I’m also working on researching the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Russia and am working on a thesis that outlines the challenges that Russian entrepreneurs face and how those challenges may be bridged.
What does my typical day look like?
I wake up at 7AM, drink the organic “Rainforest Blend” of Green Mountain coffee (it’s so good in a French press!) and get started with my day. I try to find time to meditate and clear myself of distractions throughout the day, as well as ask for God’s guidance on my day-to-day work. I want all the things I create to be of value to the world and God is my compass to help make that happen. After work, I’ll either go out for lunch with my girlfriend or make a sandwich at home and then go swimming, running or biking. Afterward, I’ll return home, do some necessary housekeeping (cleaning, etc.) to keep my living space conducive to inspiring new ideas and get to bed. Rinse & Repeat and I save my weekends for fun outdoor activities such as hiking, white-water rafting or even skydiving (where I just recently completed my first jump!).
3 trends that excite you?
- Social entrepreneurship / New Model for Entrepreneurs (See Derek Sivers new book!)
- True Green Entrepreneurship
- Younger entrepreneurs being empowered!
How do you bring ideas to life?
- Get real excited about the idea
- Find like-minded people and form a team
- Work, triage, work (no short-cuts there)!
What inspires you?
The beauty of this world, entrepreneurs like Derek Sivers and the loving capacity and potential of human beings.
What is one mistake you’ve made and what have you learned from it?
I used to try to perfect an idea and a project and this always caused endless delays and frustrations. Now, I accept that a first iteration of a product may not be perfect and just want to get an early-version out the door as soon as possible (thanks to the advice of Stefan Doering and Derek Sivers). Then I use input from visitors/customers/clients to improve upon it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
On-site recycling technology. Picture this: McDonald’s needs a lot of help with its brand due to the their ungodly environmental record. Invent a technology that will allow McDonald’s cups to be recycled on-site through a washing chamber that is designed to wash these plastic cups without emitting any BPOs/other harmful chemicals. McDonald’s and other fast-food chains can pay and use this technology and save money on supplies as well as improve their environmental record by becoming a leader in the most efficient reusing/recycling process.
What do you read every day, and why?
Daily meditations from the Dalai Llama and other inspiring figures to remind me to be kind and think unselfishly in my creations. I also tend to read TechCrunch to keep up with other ideas and entrepreneurship in general.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
Extreme Entrepreneurship – A Student Manifesto to Success by Michael Simmons
This is a great book for students in particular, even ones who do not plan on starting a business. It has inspired me to take advantage of my University education to the fullest and the fact that it was written by a 21 year old is just inspiring in and of itself.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
Toodledo configured with the “Master your Workday” by Michael Linenberger configuration.
Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
@sivers – amazing, inspiring.
@UVConnect – Because I’m passionate about entrepreneurship in the Upstate NYcommunity.
@UNYStartups – Upstate NY entrepreneurship news / events!
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
The Dalai Llama, Michael Linenberger, Kevin Rose.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.
Going up in a plane waiting for my first sky dive. I think the nervousness and adrenaline is what caused it. I still smile thinking about it J.
Best business advice:
I think the best advice in business comes from a 5000 year old text originally written in Chinese: The Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu writes that “the best businessmen serves the communal good.” Apply that in business and you will be successful, no matter what.
Photo credit goes to Douglas Levere.
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