Why Microsoft is backing a technology incubator for teens, an idea that Daniel Brusilovsky came up with at 15 years old.
Daniel Brusilovsky started his first business when he was 14. With his next venture, he wanted to help other young entrepreneurs, so the then 15 year old launched Teens in Tech Labs in 2008. And now Microsoft is backing it.
“What I realized is there was a lot of young entrepreneurs out there who had great ideas, but they didn’t know what to do with them,” Brusilovsky says. “So I wanted to create this platform for young entrepreneurs to come to us from anywhere in the world and get the support they need.”
The first form of support was a conference in 2009 ran by then 16-year-old Brusilovsky and held at Microsoft’s San Francisco office. This was a huge form of validation for the young founder and CEO.
The Teens in Tech Incubator followed in 2011, with six companies, a total of 15 teens, going through the eight week program. The incubator will happen again this summer with five companies participating. There’s also the Teens in Tech Blog and Teens in Tech Connect, a social network for youth entrepreneurs to keep in touch that currently has over 300 young entrepreneurs on board. The five conferences Teens in Tech Labs have held also drew in a crowd, with 600 attendees in all.
The funding for the business originally came from Brusilovsky’s parents who both work in tech. Now Teens in Tech is completely backed by corporate sponsors such as Microsoft, General Motors, and AT&T. It also brings in a profit through conference ticket sales and strategic partnerships. The business has taken no outside funding and has under $500,000 in revenue for 2011.
Brusilovsky is now a sophomore at the College of San Mateo, but says he’s always focusing on his business, even in class, which can pose certain challenges. “You’re sitting in a math class and are supposed to be learning equations,” he says, “but instead you’re wondering, ‘how can I get Microsoft to commit more money?’”
The founder recognizes that there are a lot of non-profits trying to do what they do, but says they’re more focused on building apps while Teens in Tech Labs is very focused on building something sustainable during the summer.
Brusilovsky has two others working with him, a CTO in New York who is a current senior in high school and an editorial director attending boarding school in Boston who returns to Palo Alto during the summers. Brusilovsky handles all of the business and operational side of things while the CTO, a young developer who actually reached out to Brusilovsky about a year and a half ago, leads Teens in Tech Connect. Even with the help and the events taking place during the summer, Teens in Tech Labs is very much a full-time job.
In the future Brusilovsky would love to see Teens in Tech Labs go global. “I feel like we’re just scratching the surface in terms of what we can do,” he says. Currently the business, founded in Mountain View, has stayed in California. But Brusilovsky is very serious about expanding the conference and incubator to cities like Boston, New York, Miami, London and more.
But while Brusilovsky enjoys working with Teens in Tech Labs and will graduate in 2014, he’s unsure if he’ll always be the one leading the business. “I’m an entrepreneur, I’m going to keep building things,” he says. But no mater what he knows he’ll always stay involved. It comes down to a matter of timing, and making a difference. “If I have a good enough idea and I feel like I can really make a bigger impact then I’ll probably go with that,” he says, but admits this could happen anytime from tomorrow to ten years from now.
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