Seventeen-year-old Nick D’Aloisio has the rare distinction of being a self-made multimillionaire before turning 18.
Former Australian resident D’Aloisio has signed a deal with internet giant Yahoo! to sell his business Summly for between ₤20 million ($29 million) and ₤40 million.
Like many young entrepreneurs, he has relied on mobile technology to build his business from his bedroom. He has been coding since he was 12 and attracted his first international investor at the age of 15.
Although the internet has created broad new opportunities, successes on this scale by teenagers are rare.
What can be done to foster entrepreneurialism in children? Here are some ideas gleaned from top young entrepreneurs.
Teach children the importance of failure
Parents don’t like watching their kids fail, regardless of any long-term benefit.
American Adam Horwitz started about 30 online businesses between the ages of 15 and 18. Most failed miserably.
He then launched Mobile Monopoly, which helps people generate business leads on the internet, and grew its revenue above $US1 million.
Horwitz is still only 21 and offers some telling advice in an interview with US website Junior Biz on the importance of failing.
“Even if you fail the first time, who cares?” he says.
“What’s going to happen? You’re young. The worst thing that could happen to you is that you wake up and go to school the next day. So just keep at whatever you’re doing and I promise you you’ll hit it. It’s all about perseverance.”
All entrepreneurs need support when they fail rather than being removed from situations in which failure may occur.
School attendance isn’t the ‘be-all and end-all’
Governments love to look at school attendance statistics as evidence of how we are become a smarter country.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of students who complete year 12 has risen from 71 per cent in 2001 to 78 per cent in 2010 and efforts are under way to lift it to 90 per cent by 2015.
While education has many benefits, it isn’t always conducive to making a fortune.
After finishing school, Young Rich member Patrick Grove was desperate to start his own business but agreed to complete a university degree to appease his parents.
He worked briefly as an accountant before quitting so he could start an online business.
Those close to him said he was making a big mistake.
“I just couldn’t wait any more,” he told BRW when joining the Young Rich in 2011 with a $55 million personal fortune.
Grove is typical of many young entrepreneurs who endure school due to a weight of expectations.
To them, entrepreneurialism is about individualism – something they say schools and universities struggle to foster.
Encourage them to be crazy
Ruslan Kogan from online electronics retailer Kogan and the youngest self-made entrepreneur on the BRW Young Rich List claims to have started about 20 companies since the age of 10.
Kogan’s personal wealth was valued at $145 million on the most recent Young Rich list, despite being only 29.
To Kogan, being unwilling to think differently is a bigger impediment to success than youth.
“An entrepreneur is someone who thinks differently to others,” Kogan says.
“You need to value-add, you need a clear competitive advantage and people have to think your idea is crazy.
“If you can check off those three boxes, then you have got yourself a successful business.”