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Early entrepreneurs: Teach kids success
Children can learn business basics
Published Monday, July 15, 2013 5:57 pm
by Daniel Brent Ruyter

Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age is looking less like an Ayn Rand novel and more like a sequel to "Revenge of the Nerds."

This is because innovation in technology doesn’t rely as strongly as it once did on engineering and mechanics or even on improving hardware. Rather, it relies on software that can be developed by anyone with the brain power and imagination to create what amounts to the building blocks of computer programming: algorithms.

Furthermore, with younger people learning how to use and create these algorithms, the landscape of the Digital Age is increasingly being altered by people under the age of 30. Whether it’s Nick D’Aloisio’s creation of Summly or Dan Wagner’s influence on the 2012 election, some of the most revolutionary changes to our world are happening because of incredibly complex computer codes that are being created by increasingly younger people.

Nick D’Aloiso
Though Mr. Wagner was not yet 30 when he began developing many of the models that would become so paramount to the reelection of President Obama, he is an old man compared to Nick D’Aloiso, who recently sold his news-reading app, Summly, to Yahoo for tens of millions of dollars. His age: 17.

The precocious programmer received seed financing from Li Ka-shing, the famous Hong Kong billionaire, back when D’Aloiso was only 15 and before the app was even called Summly. This investment allowed him to hire employees, rent office space and develop what would soon make him Yahoo’s youngest employee.

However, what could be considered as the genesis of  D’Aloiso’s multi-million dollar idea is his parents’ nurturing of their son’s interest in coding, which began when he was only 12. This eventually led him to create a technology that, as he recently told the New York Times, is an “automatic summarization algorithm,” which shortens long-form stories for smartphone users.

Daniil Kulchenko, another tech phenom in his teens, sold his startup, Phenona, when only 15. According to the Register, he began programming for HTML at the age of 6.

Parents promote curiosity
Most parents will not see their teenagers become entrepreneurs before adulthood. Even for those who do, very few will see their children create a startup that gets purchased for millions of dollars by a company like Yahoo. The odds of something like this happening before they even leave for college brings to mind statistics about potential lightning-induced fatalities, winning the lottery, the Cubs winning the World Series and carrying roses and a gold statue down the Red Carpet.

Still, the importance of creating an environment in which tinkering and curiosity are promoted is absolutely necessary if this is going to be a possibility. Even something as simple as encouraging building with tangible LEGOs or digital Minecraft mods will teach children how to construct things by using logic.

Hip to be square
Simply hoping for an interest in advanced technology to seep into your child’s head through osmosis doesn’t work. Teenagers currently spend approximately 7.5 hours in front of either a computer or a mobile device each day, reports Dr. Jim Taylor in his book, “Raising Generation Tech.”

However, this reliance on computers for entertainment and communication is not the sign of geekiness it once was. It has become a standard feature for the average American kid. Though many may be able to navigate through the digital world with an ease that is especially shocking to older parents, this doesn’t necessarily translate into anything more than knowing how to use technology.

It’s like cooking. Just about anyone can follow a recipe, but someone who understands the properties of numerous ingredients will be able to create their own.

If a child is to become a digital entrepreneur, they need to understand the technology on a fundamental level. With the exception of the Amish and a few other ascetic sects, virtually any American teenager will know how to use computer programs to accomplish a task. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, will be able to create a program that will accomplish a task. This is what is perhaps most important to the entrepreneurial spirit. It exists within those who possess problem-solving skills that not only recognize an absence in existing markets or technologies, but also the ability to create a solution.

Daniel Brent Ruyter is founder and editor of the blog Memoirs of a Single Dad.


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