Teenagers take on the tech world

January 22, 2015

By Stephen Haag The Wired World in 2015: Wired Magazine UK

Teenagers and perhaps even pre-teens will be among the leading innovators and inventors in the tech space in 2015 – so much so that we will see a growing emergence of millionaires who aren’t old enough to drive. 

The trend has begun. In the UK, Nick D’Aloisio launched his iOS app Trimitin March 2011,when hewas 15.Two years later he sold it, renamed Summly, to Yahoo! for a reported $30 million. 

In the US,at 16,Juliette Brindak started Miss O & Friends, a girls-only social networking site for tweens. According to early investor Procter & Gamble, the site was worth $15 million in 2012. 

Also in the US, Cameron Johnson started his entrepreneurial ventures at the age of five by selling vegetables to his neighbours. He then launched Cheers and Tears, a greeting-card company that earned him $50,000 per year by the age of 12. By 15, he was earning up to $400,000 per month,due mainly to his online advertisement service Surfingprizes.com.

Teens such as these have benefited from the low-risk, high-reward environment of internet business, unhampered by the traditional baggage and concerns of adult life, in particular the way traditional university education emphasises scepticism over creativity.By the time most adults leave university, they have developed the ability to show why an idea isn’t wrong instead of focusing on why an idea is right. That may seem subtle, but it’s significant in the entrepreneurial space.

Teenagers haven’t yet heard “no” often enough not to believe that every idea is a great one. 

The same applies to business. In traditional business practices and planning,people are taught to avoid risk and uncertainty.In short,they try to predict the future based on historical data.That approach doesn’t work in the tech world, especially for market-creating products and services such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.Today’s youth do not look backward; they look forward to invent. As such, they see risk and uncertainty as a normal market condition, and they embrace it to create change.

Teenagers will also be less exposed to the financial risk of a project, as the costs of developing and launching a
technology product – especially if web-based – fall to almost zero. And they have more resources to devote to their idea. As people get older,an“all-in” bet on an entrepreneurial venture can have a significant downside: the loss of a
consistent income,less time with family,and potentially the loss of savings. Teenagers don’t face those obstacles.
When there is little or nothing to lose, an “all-in” bet on a venture is nothing more than, at worst, time wasted on
something that doesn’t work out.

Technology, especially software, is the ideal space for entrepreneurship. With some skill in development in HTML5, CSS, Python, Objective-C, Java and the like, anyone can start a tech business with little capital investment. Moreover, the marketing and distribution costs for an app or web-based service are almost zero. When fixed costs are low, the barriers to entry in an industry are greatly minimised. Even a teenager with no capital can get in the game and compete against the giants.