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High Schoolers Getting Start-up Chops Early

Forget sports and band practice. These Silicon Valley teenagers start companies as their extra-curriculars.
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In Silicon Valley, it's never to early to become an entrepreneur. In fact, at one Palo Alto high school, teenagers are launching start-ups well-before they make it to senior prom.

Last September they organized an extracurricular club for entrepreneurs called, appropriately, the Paly Entrepreneurs Club. One of the club’s founders, 18-year-old Matthew Slipper, has already created two failed start-ups, but that hasn’t stopped him.

“I want to build something that is tied to what is happening next,” Slipper told The New York Times.

According The Times. the club meets weekly during the school year. They discuss ideas, talk about business and money-raising strategies, and welcome guest speakers. The start-up failures the students endure are part of the Silicon Valley start-up initiation process, which club member Vicent Gurle told The Times is better to get over with early.

“If you fail at business you might have to go live with your parents,” he said of those who begin later in life. “But we’re already doing that.”

Gurle, who plans to attend University of California at Santa Cruz this fall, started a software business last year but wasn't able to get enough customers. Gurle told The Times the failure was a small success though, as the people he met along the way will remain future connections. Gurle is currently learning how to program for Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

The 12-member cohort remains true to the Silicon Valley founder’s demographic: There are no female members. But the club members hope to have more of a female presence in the coming years.

And they're optimistic about the club’s future, too. They believe their think tank of ideas will continue as younger members join the club.

“The goal here is inspirational,” club founder Aaron Bajor told The Times. “A great idea can hit you any time. Even if you do not have a great idea yet, if you have capabilities and passion others will want you on their team.”

Last updated: Jul 4, 2012




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