Last Friday, I attended the Teens in Tech conference at PARC in Palo Alto, an event aimed at entrepreneurial young folks who want to turn ideas into startups, or at least be part of the startup culture. (No, I’m not a teen–but it’s a good conference, and I was invited.)
The highlight of the day was an hour devoted to teens–who were part of an incubator program sponsored by Teens in Tech–demonstrating their startups. Most of their ideas were clever, and many of the demos were as slick as typical grownups-in-tech conferences such as DEMO and TechCrunch Disrupt. (That’s probably both a sign that the teens practiced a lot and that some adult entrepreneurs don’t practice enough.)
My favorite startup was MySchoolHelp, a Web-based system that lets high school students share their class notes. The site was created by 17-year-old Ben Lang and developed by 14-year-old Jake Essman, and looks slick. Their goal is to work with schools, particularly private ones–which should help alleviate any concerns that this idea is a form of cheating rather than collaborative learning–and they hope to reach 500 schools in the not-too-distant future. (The idea is a spinoff of RamazHelp, a site Ben started for his own school.)
Also cool: Codulous, a collaborative, Web-based editing system for programmers. It’s a joint project of Kai Tamkun, Ralphie Palefsky Smith, Andrew Amis, and Marc Laugharn–and their young age is irrelevant. It just looks useful and neat.
It’ll be interesting to see where MySchoolHelp and Codulous are, say, a year from now–and what sort of companies the Teens in Tech entrepreneurs hatch once they can work on them full-time. The Web is certainly a boon to young people with good ideas; when I was a teenager, these opportunities simply didn’t exist. Then again, I wasn’t anywhere near as ambitious as the teens who demoed at Teens in Tech.