There is an increasing push in the UK to direct young people the way of entrepreneurship. While progress appears to be happening in fits and spurts, in the United States young enterprise has long been celebrated and supported nationwide, with incredible results.
Last week Nokia compiled a list of the young people to watch in the field of technology in the future. Such ingenuity should allay any doubts people may have about the abilities of young people to become entrepreneurs and encourage adequate funding in all disciplines of enterprise for them.
Jenny Liu and Kevin Modzelewski, 20, Eclectyk.
Jenny explains: “We want to replace a user’s wallet with a phone so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of taking out all their cards and looking for the right one.” The result of this ingenuity is Eclectyk; an application that allows users to consolidate and use all of their credit cards from their mobile phones. This would work by getting consumers to swipe their phones over an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) at a cash register. Much of Eclectyk’s future will depend on whether RFID takes off but it is slowly gaining wider acceptance at retail shops, such as McDonalds. For now, they don’t yet have any funding or revenues. Liu and Modzelewski are trying to build business relationships, as getting companies to use Eclectyk will determine the success or failure of the application.
Daniel Brusilovsky 16, Teens in Tech
Daniel started out as a 14 year old helping out his father’s work colleagues with their IT problems. Two years ago he realized there was no online community catering to teens – and Teens in Tech was born, a platform that allows users to create blogs, upload pictures, presentations audio and video files using SlideShare. Daniel has also expanded the brand to include an annual Teens in Tech conference, the first of which was staged last January on the Microsoft campus in San Francisco. He is now in talks with business angels to help take his business to the next level.
Ryan and Ashton Clark, 20, Dynamik Duo
At the ripe old age of 20, twins Ryan and Ashton Clark have an impressive portfolio of successful web enterprises to their names. Since the launch of their first site in 1999, they have created nearly a dozen web businesses that sell everything from consumer electronics to parking spaces.
Their first web site, Circuitbreakers.com, was created when they were 11 years old; they saw an opportunity to sell affordable electronic products online. They persuaded a Chicago-area electronics wholesaler to let them sell its merchandise via their site. They sold Circuitbreakers.com less than two years later and the proceeds helped finance their future web sites. Today, the twins preside over Dynamik Duo, their holding company, which operates a number of web operations.
Jessica Mah, 18, InternshipIN, Indinero
At 15 Jessica dropped out of school to attend college three years early. While at the University of California at Berkeley, she created InternshipIN with her classmate Andy Su, a web site that connects students to small, hip companies instead of big, impersonal conglomerates. They built the site over two weekends. The pressures of college kicked it, and they had to let go of the enterprise.
Their latest project is Indinero, a programme which helps small-business owners track and manage their money online. Indinero will compile their accounts, run analytics and project cash flow, a service for which a number of companies have already signed up.
Jake Jarvis, 17, Developer
This 17-year-old whizz-kid already has a number of successful applications to his credit. Among them Middio, a music video search and indexing engine for YouTube, and Meebo, an instant-messaging service that works across several partner sites.
Jake’s biggest success so far is the Facebook application, Courses. Courses allows college and high-school students to plug in all of their courses and connect them with other students taking the same courses. The students can have discussions, upload files and share information. Soon Courses became one of the most popular applications on Facebook with more than 200,000 people using it. In 2008, Jake sold it to the college study-guide publisher Cramster for an undisclosed sum. Today, Courses has more than 500,000 users.
Lucas Cruikshank, 15, FEE Entertainment
When Lucas received a video camera for his 12th birthday, he could never have predicted how it would change his life. He filmed and uploaded to You Tube a video starring a character named Fred Figglehorn, his impersonation of an out of control 6-year-old, which received mass acclaim. Fred videos—38 of them so far, have been viewed 285 million times and counting.
The huge playcounts on YouTube generate tens of thousands of dollars a month, and have made the young Nebraskan the highest-earning partner in YouTube’s ad-sharing program. With his eye on his future, he recently signed with Hollywood’s United Talent Agency and the powerful law firm Ziffren, Brittenham and Branca to handle his legal affairs.
Ben Gulak, 19, Uno
When Ben visited China he couldn’t help but notice that they had a serious air pollution problem exacerbated by the fact that a great number of the population rode around on motorcycles. After pondering the issue for a while, he came up with a solution – emission-free bikes.
The design earned Ben a spot at the International Science and Engineering Fair, it got him the cover of Popular Science magazine, which put Uno at the number one spot on its list of the year’s top inventions, and a slot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The huge publicity attracted a number of investors to fund a second prototype, for which Ben has hired a full team of engineers. They are aiming to get the first models out in November. “Everything that is happening right now is so exciting”, Ben enthused, “but I still have to focus on my education and getting my degree.”
Kayvon Beykpour, 20, MobilEdu
During his first year at university, Kayvon and his childhood friend set up Terribly Clever Design, a company that works with large corporations to give them a strong presence on the web.
During that period, Facebook was starting to take off, and recognising its potential, they started going to cutting edge companies and encouraging them to use Facebook for their brand campaigns. In just a few months, the pair was managing the Facebook presence for Sprint, Best Buy, Comcast, Doritos amongst others.
Kayvon and his friend also launched iStanford, a mobile application that would allow students and faculty to access all Standford university services, from a course catalog to the athletic department schedule, on their iPhones. This application launched successfully last autumn and Kayvon is rolling out the application to other universities. A venture source familiar with the company said that by the end of the year, mobilEdu will have brought in upwards of $1 million in revenue.
Ashley Quall, 18, Whateverlife.com
Little did a 14 year old Ashely Qualls know that experimenting with HTML code to create funky web pages would blossom into Whateverlife.com, a company worth more than a million dollars today. Her site is a favourite destination for young girls looking to “pimp” their MySpace page which a choice of 5,000 layout designs.
Within a year of Ashley designing customized MySpace pages, her site was generating 60 million pages views a month, which was generating more than $50,000 a month in sales. Qualls has since landed a couple of big marketing deals. Such is the popularity of Whateverlife.com that three years ago, Columbia records chose to promote the Jonas Brothers, barely known at the time, exclusively online, placing a three-part video on Ashely’s website. Within two months 60,000 fans of the boy band uploaded the video to their MySpace pages. Ashley dropped out of high school to run the business, which she manages today from the new four-bedroom house she bought near Detroit.