Shubham Banerjee may not be the first entrepreneur inspired by Legos, but he is probably the first to raise venture capital for innovating on them.
Last month, at the ripe old age of 12, Banerjee landed a prestigious early-stage round with Intel Capital, the company's venture capital arm, for his prototype of an inexpensive Braille printer made of Lego parts. The terms of the round were undisclosed. The Santa Clara, California eighth-grade student has turned 13 since then, Reuters reports.
Banerjee told the outlet he was inspired to turn the building blocks into a device that could print in Braille after reading a fundraising flyer about the blind. He called it BRAIGO v1.0 to show everyone how he could help those in need. Over the summer he worked to incorporate an Intel Edison Chip into the printer, and to his delight, Intel invited him to highlight the uses at a conference in India.
There, from the conference stage, Intel executive Mike Bell announced the chipmaker would invest in his company, Braigo Labs. "I turned back to my dad and said, 'What did he just say?'" Banerjee told Reuters. "I was all over the place." Up until then, Banerjee had been using the $35,000 his parents had given as funding.
Though building the prototype and attending tech conferences remains "an after-school thing," Banerjee said he hopes to one day mass-produce the printers and sell them for roughly $350. The lightweight, silent device also has possibilities to be used in some of the most remote areas of the world. "This is a social impact project," he wrote in a press release, "and can bring relief to more than 53 million legally blind people in this world and more than 200 million people who on the verge of being blind... the Braille market needs dispruption from a price point and technological perspective."
The only question is, what will he do next?