There’s been a lot of debate around what the right age to be an entrepreneur is, and if there’s really a correlation between age and running a successful business. Well, we have some new input for you on those questions: We met three extremely smart entrepreneurs – aged 13, 16, and 22 – on a youth panel at TiEcon 2013, and they’ve been up to some cool stuff.
Jordan Casey, 13
If you think Mark Zuckerberg was young when he started Facebook, wait till you meet Jordan Casey, a self-taught programmer and the 13-year-old founder and chief executive of Casey Games from Waterford, Ireland. He hands you his business card with a smirk on his face and tells you, “I run an independent mobile video game company called Casey Games.”
His inspiration was Club Penguin, a Flash multiplayer game. “I saw some of the users of the game were making websites about it, so I thought this could be a fun hobby, and so I went to the store and bought a book on programming,” said Casey, who started programming when he was all of nine. A year later he started working on programming projects and got himself into building games.
Casey founded his company when he was 12 and already has four mobile games and one web game on the market. His first game, Alien Ball vs. Humans, which released in February 2012, was No. 1 on the app store game charts in Ireland. Casey has built key partnerships with Adobe and Microsoft, who provide him with free software and support his initiative. He has one staff member, a designer, and he tells us, “My parents have to be the directors of the company because I’m too young.”
His parents are super proud of him, and they accompany him to conferences and events. “At first my parents didn’t understand what I was really doing. Instead of making games, they thought I was playing games,” said Casey. “Once they realized what I was doing, they became very supportive of me.”
Tanay Tandon, 16
Nick D’Aloisio made waves when he sold Summly, his news summarization app, to Yahoo for a whopping $30 million this past March. That put 16-year-old Tanay Tandon, founder and chief executive of Clipped, a content summarization app, in the spotlight.
Although Clipped provides an output similar to Summly, they use a different approach, Tandon told VentureBeat. “Summly has taken a keyword based approach to summarization, while Clipped is more grammatical,” he said. The Clipped algorithm “analyzes how humans might actually read content” based on “subject-predicate-object-pattern-like sentences” to draw summaries.
A sophomore at Cupertino High in Cupertino, Calif., Tandon founded Clipped in January 2013, and he’s already seeing some traction. To date, he’s had 130,000 downloads for his iOS and Android apps, with 10 million summaries provided. He was incubated at Teens in Tech and is now “in talks” with some investors.
He got started with programming on Android apps and wants to study “something computer science,” going forward. “People would drop out but I value education. I definitely want to go to college,” said Tandon, who wrote pattern recognition algorithms for his app from the ground up. When he catches time between school and his startup, Tandon like to play tennis.
Aron Beierschmitt, 22
Aron Beierschmitt founded his company, Foundation Games, in 2010 when he was 19. He employs 15 people and has offices in San Francisco, Philippines, and Sydney today. He has raised $850,000 in funding from angel investors, including the founders of Treyarch – the guys behind the popular Call of Duty series – and some other veterans from the gaming industry.
Interestingly, he stumbled upon his very first investor, Steve Vachani, on LinkedIn. “I took advantage of the early LinkedIn ability to send a lot of InMails without paying for them,” said Beierschmitt.
So far, Beierschmitt and his team have developed five iOS games and are working on three more. “Most of our titles have seen typically 500 to a million downloads” with no real marketing, Beierschmitt told VentureBeat. Lumi, the team’s second release, was featured as Apple’s app of the week; it retails for 99 cents and has seen over a million downloads.
“Born to develop, produce, and sale [sic] amazing products,” reads his LinkedIn profile. Beierschmitt, a firm believer in “putting out really really high quality” games, says, “I aspire to publish my own network.” He attended a startup accelerator program at YetiZen and recently earned a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee. He draws inspiration from his dad, loves to run and ski, and met his girlfriend at a physics lab.
Photo (left to right): Jordan Casey, Tanay Tandon, Aron Beierschmitt. Photo Credit: Chitra Rakesh/VentureBeat