READ: Noam Scheiber on The Brutal Ageism of Silicon Valley
Name:Nick D’Aloisio Age*:15 Start-up:Summly
In 2011, a 15-year-old D’Aloisio became the youngest person to ever receive venture-capital funding for his news synopsis app, Summly. Two years later, he sold it to Yahoo for $30 million. Critics said Summly did not have many users or any revenue, failed to coherently summarize the news, and was actually built by two outside companies. Nonetheless, D’Aloisio was WSJ. Magazine’s “Technology Innovator of the Year” in 2013.
Name:Daniel Gross Age:19 Start-up:Greplin
Gross, an Israeli teenager who moved to the Bay Area after graduating high school, set out in 2011 to build a search engine to challenge Google’s—and received $5 million from Sequoia Capital to help. When that didn’t work, he re-branded Greplin as Cue, a personal-assistant app that processed users’ e-mails and files. Competing with Siri was a better idea: Apple acquired Cue for more than $40 million last year.
Name:Lucas Duplan Age:22 Start-up:Clinkle
Duplan’s app, Clinkle, received $25 million of venture-capital backing (which its p.r. reps say is the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history) in 2013, even though no one quite knows what it does. The app, which has not been released, will supposedly allow users to pay for things with their phones; details beyond that have yet to be made public. The mystery did not stop Duplan from taking a selfie with $30,000 in bundles of cash.
Name:Josh Buckley Age:19 Start-up:MinoMonsters
Buckley’s gaming app, MinoMonsters, lets young users “collect, train, and battle” digital creatures, à la Pokémon. MinoMonsters was projected to make $15 million last year and is backed by the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Buckley, who has been called “the Harry Potter of start-ups,” cites Disney as the model for what he hopes to do. “It can be a pretty big responsibility to receive such a big check when you are still in your teens,” Buckley said. “However, I have always seen age as merely a number.”
Name:Andrew Hsu Age:19 Start-up:Airy Labs
Hsu graduated from the University of Washington with three science degrees before his seventeenth birthday. He was a Ph.D. student at Stanford when he dropped out to found the educational social-gaming company Airy Labs—and raised $1.5 million from Google Ventures and others in 2011. A year later, the company was looking to rent out part of its Palo Alto office space and was laying off staff members, some of whom said Hsu’s dad was actually running the show.
Name:Tim Chae Age:20 Start-up:PostRocket
In 2011, Chae’s dad had to drive 88 miles from Sacramento to co-sign his son’s lease in San Francisco—yet Chae was already the chief executive and co-founder of PostRocket, a start-up that helped users trick out their Facebook posts for maximal exposure. “Thank God for Zuckerberg,” Chae told Reuters, attributing his ability to raise more than $600,000 to investors’ obsession with the Facebook founder’s youth. PostRocket shut down last summer, recommending in a customer e-mail that users switch to Facebook’s “Page Insights.”
Name:Brian Wong Age:19 Start-up:Kiip
“People start thinking of me as the next Zuckerberg,” Wong told The Wall Street Journal. “I can use that to my advantage.” Wong’s app, Kiip, syncs smartphone apps with major brands to offer rewards and has raised more than $4 million in funding. For instance, a Kiip user could earn free packets of Propel Zero for logging his longest workout—which, in the example on Kiip’s website, totaled only five minutes.
Name:Aaron Levie Age:20 Start-up:Box.net
In 2005, when he was 20, Levie received $350,000 from angel-investor Mark Cuban for Box.net, a Dropbox competitor that has since raised $113 million in venture capital. By 2011, when he was 26, Levie considered himself a wise old man. “When you’re 22 years old or 25 years old . . . you have no context for the enterprise,” Levie told Business Insider. Before starting Box.net, Levie’s business experience consisted of two internships in film.
*When first got major funding.
Lane Florsheim is a production assistant at The New Republic.