20-year-old USC student Alex Banayan not only has the title of Youngest Associate Venture Capitalist on his resume, having signed with Alsop Louie Partners at age 19, but now he has become the youngest person to sign a business book deal with Crown Publishers (Random House, Inc).
I first met Alex in Sedona, Arizona at an entrepreneurial retreat organized by serial entrepreneur Andrea Lake, a former contestant on Donald Trump’s show “The Apprentice.” What first intrigued me about him was a story he shared with the group about how he paid for the initial phases of a book he wanted to write about the behind-the-scenes struggles of some of the world’s most inspiring people, ranging from world champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard to TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie.
So what was Alex’s plan to raise funds for this project? Winning the Showcase Showdown on “The Price Is Right.” The crazy part is that this plan actually worked.
Alex had never even seen the show before, but on a whim, in the midst of finals week his freshman year at USC, he decided he would try to compete on the show. Instead of cracking the books for his exams, he studied how the show works online. The moment he realized he wasn’t catching the attention of the producers, he suddenly blurted out in a loud voice to one of the key principals of the show, “Stan, Your scarf! I’m an avid scarf collector. I have 300 in the closet of my dorm room and I’m missing that one around your neck.” That act of randomness got him selected as a contestant, and the rest is history. He worked his way up to win $30,000 in prizes, which he sold for cash to fund his book.
I knew the moment I met him that I had to tell his story. Not only is this kid writing a book, but he flies around the US to participate in panels at high profile conferences, including one upcoming conference sponsored by Dell. Also, he is still a student at USC, working as an Associate Venture Capitalist for San Francisco firm, Alsop Louie Partners. The firm has a Campus Associates program in which they hire students on various campuses including USC and Stanford, to be their eyes and ears for new entrepreneurial talent and innovation.
I spent an entire day with Alex (7am to 1:30am) as he met with entrepreneurs and attended board meetings, then flew to Los Angeles where he had to attend class, meet with members of USC’s Entrepreneur Club, and write a chapter in his book. All the while, I was trying to figure out why such a reputable firm would hire a young man with no entrepreneurial experience and simply a great spirit.
Watch the video and you’ll understand.