If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Zach Kaplan - CEO of Inventables

Zach Kaplan, CEO of Inventables, talks about how his early education helped shape his entrepreneurial roots and describes how a popular movie taught him an important lesson in entrepreneurship. He then recalls the moment when he had to decide between starting a company and taking a job.  Created by Kauffman Foundation.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- My name is Zach Kaplan. I'm the CEO of Inventables, an online hardware store for designers. For me, it started when I was a little kid. I built everything from LEGOs, to constructs, to you name it. If there was a construction toy out there, I had it. At my high school, they had a team-taught class called Site Tech and so this is high school engineering. It was Jim Howie who was the shop teacher and Jeff Jordan who was the physics teacher, those guys had vision, they were way ahead of the maker revolution so to speak. They saw that abstract or the analytical things like physics needed to be combined with the practical let's make it. That's where I got really excited because when they were separated, I didn't see the point as much just learning physics or just learning how to use a lathe but when you combined them and there was a goal of let's build a rollercoaster, that's when I lit up and I was like really excited. I would dig in to what are the physics of a rollercoaster or how do you learn how to weld so those two guys totally inspired me, got me going in this track. It was towards the end of high school and I just wanted to get going and figure out can you sell anything? The first time I dabbled in this was with eBay so The Matrix came out, it was huge, everybody wanted that phone and the only place that we could find it was in London, they were selling them, it was a Nokia phone, so we imported 'em from London for about 50 bucks a phone and mind you, at that time, we had different systems between United States and Europe, those phones didn't work in America, we put 'em up on eBay, people were in an auction buying them for about 350 bucks a phone and this was a huge lesson because why were people paying $350 for a phone that didn't work? So if you talk to these people, they were paying 'cause they wanted the phone from the movie and it was worth that to them and that was like a big eye-opening, educational experience that really just started to shape my ideas of so what is a business, really doing it, how do you price these things and how would you even learn about that, but the whole experience blew me away. When I was in college, I actually started my first company during school and I remember towards graduation, there was this decision point, do I continue with the company or do I get a job? My parents encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do but really they said just go start the company because they knew that's what I really wanted to do, they believed in me and they were just supportive in the best ways possible. My goal at the time was when I graduated, I wanted to be making just as much money as the job offers I got to go be an engineer. One of my friends talked about how some entrepreneurs are living in the future, they're seeing it a little bit differently or a little bit before the rest of the world and coalescing the ideas so that people can realize wow that's really interesting, I would love to buy that product or share that experience. When you learn about something unexpected, it expands your understanding of what's possible and now you can come up with all these new ideas. Entrepreneurship is, to some extent, a same kind of process where you're starting a new business and you're starting it with just a subtly different take on the way that maybe people have done it before so think about the difference between Southwest Airlines and United or American, right, they're all three airlines but Southwest approaches the problem from a different point of view and so entrepreneurship, in many ways, is having that point of view and then delivering a new experience from that point of view or assembling the pieces together in a different way that yields a different result. It really comes down to your motivation to just go do it and go try so I hope that they get inspired to realize like they can do it too, it's not that hard.