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Young money: how kids start their startups

Luke Quinton May 7, 2015
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If you’ve seen TV shows like “Shark Tank” and “Dragon’s Den,” you can probably picture what a day looks like at 3 Day Startup.

It’s a program in Austin, Texas that helps college kids think up a business and pitch it to real tech entrepreneurs — all in a single weekend. But recently, technology nonprofit STEMed Labs had a new idea. Instead of college students, what if high school kids had a shot? 

Fifteen-year old Quinn Buoy is on day two of his 3 Day Startup. Yesterday, his team thought up a product: it’s a robot motor that drives different vehicles. Now he’s found two guys in a hotel lobby who’ll hear out his pitch. Quinn was one of 40 kids picked by STEMed Labs, which teaches technology at weekend and summer camps like this.

And this weekend is about day three, when kids pitch their ideas to real tech entrepreneurs.

“Ebraille is a small, slim, 17-inch, portable device to teach braille to the blind. Our revenue would be around $899,” Riya Aggarwal said to a panel of these entrepreneurs. She and the other high schoolers got a surprisingly rigorous grilling from the panel.

“Do you have an idea what the total market potential is for this product?”

“My question to you is cost. You gave a price on that — where’d you come up with that price? ‘Cause it seems like incredibly complicated, so I’d like to know more about that. “

Aggarwal responds, “We have a cost breakdown of our components, so each of the solenoids…”

“There are some startup companies that have been operated for four to six months — they couldn’t stand up to the same level of grilling and questioning,” says Michael Henderson of Developers Doing Development, who was one of the panelists.

3 Day Startup project manager Maia Donohue says if one of these pitches actually takes off, the program don’t take the money.

“There is not money for us, and we’re a nonprofit, so we don’t take any sort of equity,” she says. “So if one of these kids founds the next Facebook here, great, but we don’t see any of the money for that.”

At the recent weekend in Austin, no one wrote a check. Investment? Turns out to be a process of months, not days. And for these kids? Probably a few more years.

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