7 Brainiac Teens That Made it Big Before 21

It’s the startup stereotype of the new millennium: a young teenage entrepreneur whose very first startup sells for millions, allowing that teenager to retire before they can legally vote.

Those young success stories get all the media attention, but the truth is that most successful entrepreneurs are older than you’d think: Successful entrepreneurs are 40 years old on average. There are actually twice as many successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are under 25.

Older entrepreneurs often have the benefit of decades of industry experience. They also have years of education, more established networks, highly developed skills, and the experience managing teams.

In fact, the benefits of age and experience seem to give all the advantages when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Which makes you wonder just exactly how these teenagers beat the odds to become highly successful entrepreneurs at such a young age. What factors did they all have in common to contribute to their successes?

You might think a high IQ or top-rated education would be a prerequisite for startup success. And you’d be right for some of them: Brian Wong, founder of Kiip.me, skipped four grades in school and graduated from the University of British Columbia when he was just 18.

But that trend doesn’t hold true for every teenage success story. In fact, Chris Phillips, founder of Dot5Hosting, JustHost, and JustCloud, barely passes his business studies class in school—yet that didn’t stop him from selling his company for millions before he turned 18.

Even the stereotype of millennials being successful with websites and apps doesn’t hold true for all of them: Though many of these successful teens went the stereotypical way of starting apps with names like Kiip.me, Summly (now know as Yahoo News Digest after it was sold to Yahoo for $30 million), other teens started more traditional businesses like a computer repair service, or even selling office chairs.

So is it just luck, or a fluke? Or did these kids have something different that set them apart and allowed them to succeed?

No matter what the cause, these teens all created successful businesses that cashed in millions before they were even legally adults. Check out their stories below, and read their own words on how they made it in the sink-or-swim world of startups.

7-Brainiac-Teens

Transcript: 7 Brainiac Teens

According to the Kauffman Foundation the average age of first-time tech entrepreneurs is 39, but some have managed to make it big long before then. These entrepreneurs started early and made millions when they were just teens.

Nick D’Aloisio

Age:

  • Age when he made millions: 17
  • Current age:18

Money Maker:

  • Summly, an app that summarizes the day’s news in 400 characters or less.
    • An earlier version of this news summary app was called Trimit, it debuted on the App Store in 2011 when Nick was only 15.
      • It caught the attention of Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest man, and Nick received a $300,000 seed investment from him through Horizons Ventures.
    • He sold Summly to Yahoo for $30 million in 2013 at the age of 17.

What Now?

  • He currently works full-time for Yahoo as a product manager in their London office.
  • He is still in the UK equivalent of high school and has not yet decided whether or not he will go on to college, stay with Yahoo, or do both.

Did you know?

  • Someday Nick would like to use some of the money from Summly’s sale to be an angel investor.

Brian Wong

Age:

  • Age when he made millions: 19
  • Current age: 22

Money Maker:

  • Brian founded Kiip.me in 2010, a mobile advertising platform that offers rewards for game and app users when they reach a new level or achievement.
  • True Ventures invested $200,000 in Brian and his platform, making him the youngest person ever to receive venture capital funding.
  • As of January 2014 the Kiip team has raised $15.4 million.

What now?

  • Brian is still the CEO of Kiip and continues to move the company forward.
    • In the past year Kiip has partnered with VivaKi, SparkReel, and Nativo.

Did you know?

  • Brian was so advanced in school that he skipped four grades and graduated from the University of British Columbia when he was 18.
  • At the age of 19 (and before he started Kiip) Brian ran business development at Digg.
    • While there he launched the Digg Android Mobile App.

Juliette Brindak

Age:

  • Age when she made millions: 16
  • Current age: 25

Money Maker:

  • Juliette first started working on Miss O and Friends when she was 10 years old.
    • She decided to make it a website when her younger sister was about to start middle school.
  • She launched the site when she was 16 years old.
    • It is a place for tween girls to talk, publish their stories, take quizzes and seek advice from their peers.

What now?

  • Juliette still runs MissOandFriends.com which continues to grow.
    • The site receives more than 10 million monthly visits and is worth about $15 million.

Did you know?

  • Maxine Clark, the CEO of Build-a-Bear Workshop, is Juliette’s role model.
    • The best advice she’s been given was from Maxine, “Be a sponge, soak everything up.”

Cameron Johnson

Age:

  • Age when he made millions: 15
  • Current age: 29

Money Maker

  • He had many ways of making money when he was young, but his big money maker was surfingprizes.com, an ad service that put scrolling ads at the top of web browsers.
    • When he was 15 he was bringing in $400,000 each month.
    • He sold the company and name when he was 19.
  • While in college he started CertificateSwap, he also sold this company when he was 19, but for a six-figure amount.

What now?

  • He currently travels to colleges, high schools and other speaking engagements around the world.
    • He aims to empower the youth by encouraging them to succeed in their own way.

Did you know?

  • Before he graduated high school his combined assets were worth more than $1 million.
  • By the time he was 21 Cameron had already founded more than 12 internet-based companies, consulted for Fortune 500 companies and written a book.
  • He was a contestant on the game show Oprah’s Big Give in

Chris Phillips

Age:

  • Age when he made millions: 17
  • Current age: 29

Money Maker

  • When Chris was 17 he launched a web hosting and e-commerce company called Dot5hosting.
    • When he was 18 he sold 90% of the company for around $3 million and continued to run the Dot5hosting for at least three years.

What Now?

  • Chris has started many other companies, including Just Host and Just Cloud.
  • He is also beginning to invest in start-ups.

Did you know?

  • He barely passed his A-level (high school) business studies class, clearly it didn’t affect him.

Sean Belnick

Age:

  • Age when he made millions: 14
  • Current age: 27

Money Maker

  • Sean started BizChair.com, a site that sells office chairs, when he was 14 years old.
    • With a $500 investment, mainly spent on advertising, he made a profit after the first sale.
    • After five years Sean estimated that the company had brought in $30 million.

What now?

  • Sean and his stepfather Gary currently run BizChair.com.
    • It is still running strong with more than 165 employees and over 500,000 customers.

Did you know?

  • His first experience with web design was creating a South Park website for his friend.
  • When he was just a kid he sold Pokemon cards on eBay for three months and made about $3,500.

Tyler Dikman

Age:

  • Age when he made millions:17
  • Current age: 29

Money Maker

  • Tyler’s teachers knew he was into computers so they would come to him for repairs and help with their computers.
    • He decided to run with it and started CoolTronics when he was 15.

What Now?

  • CoolTronics is still going strong and now offers services to small businesses as well as individuals.
  • Tyler also founded LoungeBuddy, which is an platform focusing on airport lounges.

Did you know?

  • While still in high school and running a business Tyler’s employees, which were also his friends, would even help clean his room, walk his dog and help his mom around the house.

They may be young, but they have great stories and even better advice:

“If you have a good idea, or think there’s a gap in the market, just go out and launch it because there are investors across the world right now looking for companies to invest in.” — Nick D’Aloisio

“Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Don’t be afraid to ask anything.” — Cameron Johnson

“As far as being young goes, this is a phenomenal industry. They’re biased toward it, if anything. They discriminate against old people, not young people.” — Connor Zwick

Sources

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