CEO by 15. Starting 3 companies by 18. Ph.D. by 19. Building websites, apps, and changing the future of technology all before turning 20.
It sounds crazy, but these are some of the accomplishments of several young entrepreneurs who shared their startups, thoughts and advice at the Teens in Tech conference on Friday, August 5.
Daniel Brusilovsky, the founder of Teen Tech Labs, a company which provides tools and resources to young entrepreneurs, organized the event to connect teen entrepreneurs and give six teams the opportunity to share their projects.
“It’s really making an impact in young entrepreneurs’ lives,” Daniel said. “When everything was done, to see the happiness they had from an entire summer of really hard work; they saw that people would actually appreciate that.”
Daniel himself is only 18, but he’s already had work experience at multiple startups. He first got started at age 14, when he discovered a passion for media and entrepreneurship. After blogging and podcasting for over a year, Daniel decided “to take it to the next level.”
“I realized what really needed to be done when I was starting my first company,” Daniel said. “Young media producers, podcasters, bloggers all talked about the same problems they had when they started their companies and I realized it shouldn’t be this hard to start a company as a young entrepreneur.”
Thus, the idea of Teen in Tech Labs was born, to give young entrepreneurs an “extra push” and a support system to get started. The Incubator program, a seven-week summer program, is offered to give teens advice in entrepreneurship.
Raphie Palefsky-Smith, 15, is a budding entrepreneur from Teen in Tech’s inaugural class of 6 startups. He is one of the co-founders of Codulous, an “online code editor that makes it really easy to code on the go.”
Raphie draws inspiration from the success stories in the Silicon Valley.
“I can look at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and the like and think, ‘Hey, they all started with just a couple guys. If we really try, it’s possible we could achieve this,” Raphie said.
Raphie loves being a teen entrepreneur because “firstly, almost everyone is willing to help” and “secondly, it’s a great time to experiment.”
“We don’t have to put food on the table or pay rent, so we’re free to take risks without worrying about paying the bills,” Raphie said.
Ben Lang, 17, also began his entrepreneurial journey early on, starting his own eBay business when he was 14. Ben is currently the co-founder of MySchoolHelp, an online platform that allows high school students to share notes.
“I launched a note-sharing site in my high school Ramaz two years ago,” Ben said. “Now 70 percent of the school uses it regularly. Without it I never would have passed through high school.”
Like Ben, James Maa, a senior at Palo Alto High School, sees problems as areas for potential solutions. James came up with the idea for Bubbls, an app that serves as a social platform allowing teens to plan hangouts and events.
James was inspired to create Bubbls when he realized that some of his friends stopped bothering him with phone calls or asking to hang out because they assumed he was busy.
“It was a matter of fact that I was generally particularly busy, but I still had pockets of free time I could dedicate to my friends,” James said. “That’s when I decided that a common-day nuisance is widespread and needs to be solved. I want to be able to instantly pull up a list of my friends who are available, all of whom would also like to hang out with me.”
It’s not easy being a teen entrepreneur. James is preparing for the toughest semester of his life, juggling startup work, college applications, five AP classes, a class at Stanford University, and running the entrepreneurship club at his school.
“It’ll be tough no doubt, but I’m up for it because challenging myself is the best way to enjoy life,” James said.
[photos by Niki Moshiri]