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13-Year-Old CEO Steals the Show At TiECON 259

Posted by kdawson
An anonymous reader tells us about a 13-year old Silicon Valley CEO with a plan to change the way kids learn chemistry. Yesterday he stole the show at TiECON 2007, the big entrepreneur conference held in Santa Clara, CA. VentureBeat has the story and a video interview. The company's VP of sales is the CEO's sister. She's 11. They're looking for $100K to ramp up production and distribution.
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13-Year-Old CEO Steals the Show At TiECON

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  • 13-Year-Old CEO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gutnor (872759) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @06:12AM (#19196889)
    At least that help to demonstrate that a CEO only need to know how to make a keynote. Technical knowledge, experience, ... : that's only required for low salary workers.
    • Hey, it takes a lot more than that to be a CEO.

      Specifically, it requires a deal with the devil. Trade in your soul and common sense for investor cash and lawyers. (It's not like the devil has a shortage of the latter)
      • by zaguar (881743) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:07AM (#19197109)
        Oblig. Futurama reference: Fry: That could be my beautiful soul sitting naked on her couch if I could just learn to play this stupid thing. [Bender stands up.] Bender: Oh, but you can. Though you may have to metaphorically make a "deal with the devil". And by "devil" I mean "Robot Devil". And by "metaphorically" I mean "get your coat".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by markov_chain (202465)
        What he says, I saw it on TV. First you put a picture of you in a little box. Then, you need to find a dirt road crossroads, and bury the box in the middle. A demon will appear and give you around 10 years unless your day job is demon ass-kicking, in which case they could offer you a lot less.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233)
      He's a little Prince. The USA is drifting towards little personal kingdoms. Just ask Prince Cheney who has an entourage bigger than any royal visit when he travels overseas. Look that mentality of CEO's like Darl McBride - they see themselves as barbarian kings and act accordingly.
    • And yet CEOs make more money for less work than any of us can imagine. Got to wonder who the smart ones are.

      -- From a guy who got a Computer Science degree and is now working on an MBA because he knows he's screwed.
      • by Bobby Mahoney (1005759) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @11:18AM (#19198397)
        Despite what the Dilbert strips will show, being a CEO is generally much more difficult/mentally draining than being a technical grunt with a well defined job. Take a look at a construction related industry for example: some steel worker setting beams for a structure curses the engineer all day, because the engineer has an "easy job", and sits in an office, and "doesn't know what he's doing." As someone whose been on both sides, I can tell you: being an engineer is much more difficult/stressful/ambiguous/stressful, than being the laborer. If this analogy isn't enough, think back to frosh economics, and try to explain why the supposedly "easier" job makes more money. So this engineer/worker analogy applies to the CEO/engineer comparison as well. As someone whose been on both sides, I can tell you: being a CEO is much more difficult/stressful/ambiguous/stressful. Specifically, a CEO, practically by definition, deals with more uncertainty and ambiguity than anyone else in the organization. While you think you're a rock star, because you have a well defined(or at least semi-defined) job, that you, well, rock; the CEO (the successful ones anyways) must continually "micro-invent"(yes, my phrase) in the face of near complete ambiguity, all the while playing the whole political side with investors/boards/etc... In summary, the laborer who knocks the engineer doesn't know shit, which is why: a)he makes less than the engineer. & b)he knocks the engineer. And the engineer that knocks the ceo, doesn't know shit, which is why: a) he makes less than the ceo. & b)he knocks the ceo. I know, its all generalizations, and isn't meant to be taken as a catch all for every person/ceo/engineer. But you get the idea-- I'd take physical labor any day (all other things(salary)constant, of course).
        • by WilliamSChips (793741) <full.infinity@g m a i l . c om> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @12:01PM (#19198699) Journal

          think back to frosh economics, and try to explain why the supposedly "easier" job makes more money.
          Because the CEO sets his own salary?

          Also, go talk to Paul Graham. He knows more than you do, given the fact that when he was running a startup he was juggling the jobs of CEO, programmer, system administrator, sales, and just about everything else a big business shuttles off to seperate departments. He defines the PHB as a manager who doesn't program.

          Also, way too often, the CEO often doesn't know anything about programming, Ballmer just to name one, and in those cases, disaster results. A computer company CEO that doesn't know how to program is like an engineer who doesn't know the laws of physics or how his building materials work. This would never even be considered for an engineer but is almost par for the course for a bad computer company.

          Also, ambiguity isn't the end-all-be-all for difficulty. Actually, your primary job should be to know enough to remove that ambiguity. The only way you can have near-complete ambiguity is if you're given no input at all. And if you're a CEO with no input at all, there is a communications problem on your side which needs to be fixed.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Miseph (979059)
            "Also, way too often, the CEO often doesn't know anything about programming, Ballmer just to name one, and in those cases, disaster results. A computer company CEO that doesn't know how to program is like an engineer who doesn't know the laws of physics or how his building materials work. This would never even be considered for an engineer but is almost par for the course for a bad computer company."

            Only coders ever seem to think that. Ballmer may be a poor CEO, but it has nothing to do with his not knowing
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Actually not all do. It's like Sportsmen. You see the Top, and they earn millions.

        You can start your own company and make yourself CEO. Doesn't automatically make you rich (or evil ;) ).

        The CEOs I dislike are those "Slash and Burn" CEOs - these are usually those who come from outside. They come in, sack and burn stuff every quarter for short term gain, pay themselves bonuses with approvals from the stupid board. Then they leave with a "Golden handshake/parachute" and the company in worse shape then when the
  • His site (Score:5, Informative)

    by l-ascorbic (200822) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @06:14AM (#19196891)
    I would've been helpful if there was a link to his site [elementeo.com] in the summary.
  • by renesch (1016465) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @06:22AM (#19196913)
    11-year old... shouldn't this be 'senior' VP of sales?
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @06:40AM (#19196979)
    I find it kind of sad. Yeah, the world probably needs the capitalistic natural selection to move forward, but I'd wish the kids would aspire for something else too, apart from trying to be rich.

    The kid's idea is stupid anyway, sure you can roleplay very basic things with it by providing an analogy, but that analogy doesn't work consistently and does not allow for a deeper understanding of chemistry. So unless you are satisfied with the "iron card and oxigen card equals rust card", it does not allow for a deeper understanding. Don't tell me kids are not supposed to learn more at that (around twelve) age, you're probably expecting too little of them.

    Either this kid is a gifted one, in which case he'd better spending his time working on something that has use or he's not and probably articles like this are doing a disservice by encouraging him and by taking his idea seriously. The kid apparently has charisma, but that is only enough for deluding people.

    Talking about public education, initiatives like this boy's degrade education. For example not teaching children proper algorithms [wikipedia.org] for basic multiplication, division and addition but instead encouraging them to come up with their own reasoning is the equivalent of starting a coding project with two tonnes of sand and some heavy metals. Most of the kids fail at it. It is not against self development and creativity to build upon the work of others, as progress is incremental.
    • by cperciva (102828)
      For example not teaching children proper algorithms for basic multiplication...

      Have fast fourier transforms ever been taught in elementary school?
      • By proper I mean that works, gets the job done and doesn't require higher mathematics education.

        Btw, to reply in style to your question, yes [wikipedia.org].
    • by sloth jr (88200) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @09:31AM (#19197781)

      I find it kind of sad. Yeah, the world probably needs the capitalistic natural selection to move forward, but I'd wish the kids would aspire for something else too, apart from trying to be rich.

      Honestly - how about aspiring to TEACH KIDS IN WAYS THEY WANT TO LEARN?
      There, read his webpage [elementeo.com] - find out what his intentions are, rather than just making stuff up.

      The kid's idea is stupid anyway

      If you can impart two or three important concepts in this game, which seems more than likely, you've basically got Super Flashcards. And frankly, just getting kids to KNOW the names of elements is one step to getting them to ask questions about elements. What happened to slashdot's ability to dream? I don't get it, I really don't.

      Bottom line is, Anshul Samhar inspires, whereas YOU just piss on the parade.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Heck, he even has better spelling and grammar skills than lots of Slashdotters, or he knows how to use someone/a program to do it for him.

        What I'm wondering: how is game balance achieved in his game.

        I was doing machine code programming when I was 8, so I don't agree with "forcing kids to have a childhood" nor do I think forcing kids to not have a childhood is good either. Just don't underestimate what children can do - if you take the time to _help_ they can learn to do quite a lot AND find it fun. And that
  • I'd spend it all on hookers and blow. And maybe blackjack.
  • by WannaBeGeekGirl (461758) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:04AM (#19197091) Journal
    My personal rule of thumb is to not invest anthing in companies unless the CEO is at least old enough to buy me a Guinness.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Seriously though, an issue I'd consider is legal contracts may not be binding on minors.

      A smart evil minor might legally take advantage of stupid adults in so many ways and get away with it ;).

      But I guess this whole thing is genuine? :p.
  • by WannaBeGeekGirl (461758) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:16AM (#19197155) Journal
    With upper management so young, there might be some decent perks. Maybe snacktime, naps, and cartoon netwoork and console games in the breakrooms. (Naptime especially if the parents are overbearing.) I could always go for on the job naptime and ice cream Wednesdays at Coldstone.

    *shrug* never worked for someone younger than me
  • Chemistry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zaguar (881743) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:20AM (#19197167)
    As somewho knows something about Chemistry (going to the 2007 Moscow IChO), this idea is flawed. A high school chemistry syllabus is structered the way it is for a reason. I can think of several examples. 1. Chemistry is not all about elements, even at this basic level. For example, how will they teach acid-base chemistry? How will they teach gas laws? Even if this is just a small component of the syllabus, it is a waste. 2. There is too much of a gulf, knowledge wise, between the reactions that are listed in this RPG. For example - 2Mg + O2 -> 2MgO . This is simple to explain, using an Ionic Bonding Model. But then, using similar cards, you have 2Al + 3O2 -> Al2O3. Now you have to teach valencies. Then you have H2 + Br2 -> 2HBr. Try explaining that with an Ionic bonding model (If you can, account for it's properties). Then, lets say they do do acids. Mg + 2H+ -> Mg2+ + H2 . But how do you then account for Au not reacting with dilute acid, whereas Mg will? At this level? How do you account for Mg + Cu2+ -> Mg2+ + Cu ? Teaching electrochemistry cannot be done at similar times to teaching a simple valence bond theory, but that is what will happen with this stupid solution. My take - chemistry may be boring in high school, but so are most things. It's structed in a way that builds upon previous knowledge, and this guy is just hoping to make a quick buck off VC's with a product that is clearly not thought out.
    • Re:Chemistry (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dr.Boje (1064726) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @08:19AM (#19197407)

      You make some good points, but I think you're overlooking a couple important things.

      First of all, I really doubt that the intention of this game is to completely replace a chemistry class, much less a high school chemistry class; after all, this is a 13-year-old still in middle school. I think the intention of this game is to get kids interested in chemistry and teach them the basics (regardless of how basic it may be) without alienating them from the subject.

      Secondly, it's understandably easy for anyone who sees "13-year-old CEO" to start hurling criticisms and nitpickings. If you just put those aside for a moment though and look at what's been produced, you'll see that the game really could be beneficial to kids that played it. Sure, they're not going to learn about acid-bases or gas laws or this and that, but that clearly wasn't the point of the game. It is what it is and it certainly has the potential to teach kids chemistry, perhaps even instilling a fondness of the subject in many of those who play (and ideally I suppose they would register for chemistry classes and enjoy learning the subject in much more detail). After all, things are apt to stick better in your memory once you associate them with something and, since a ton of kids love games, this may just be a great way for them to learn.

    • All these posters are clearly missing that there is a reason why underage kids are sent to school. It would be much better entertainment not to go to school at all for a lot of them. Guess what, this is one of the reasons why they have adult parents that are supposed to be more experienced and knowledgeable, so they know that it is in the interest of kids to learn. Schools should make sure they do, not by trying to entertain them like in a circus, but by strictly checking their knowledge and if they fail, w
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Easy! havent you seen pokemon cards?

      I trump your water card with concentrated Hydrochloric acid!

      Wait! did you add the water card to the acide card or the other way around?

      Water into acid, why?

      BOOOM! all your cards have acid burns on their faces!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Fear the Clam (230933)
      How will they teach gas laws?

      I think kids already know about the gas laws:
      (1) Whoever smelt it dealt it
      (2) Whoever accused it abused it
      (3) Whoever whines about "you guys being sooo immature" is doomed to grow up and have a bitter, loveless marriage.
  • Too young (Score:2, Insightful)

    by niceone (992278) *
    You can see from just the summary that they are too young and inexperienced - if they want to be taken seriously they should be asking for at least $5M. (hmmm, funny? insightful?)
  • I'm 26 (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:30AM (#19197209)
    I'm looking for $100000 too. By plain logic I should do twice better. I have charts to prove it :P

    Where did you guys all go :( ?
  • Instead of feeling outrage at a mere thirteen year old treading on adult turf, think of it as a learning experience, a project if you like, for what is obviously a very bright kid. I'd be impressed if he were my child. Is anybody truly surprised that he is inexperienced?
  • ferguson?? (Score:3, Funny)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <[ude.ogacihcu.inmula] [ta] [egnardts]> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @07:45AM (#19197257) Journal
    Lousy Ferg-breath, always stealing the spotlight. I bet he made his sister program a goofy video game for his company too.
  • For me, it still exists: Monopolistic Competition. It's like Monopoly, except actually based on economics. I'll spare you the details, but I'm sure if I sat at the kitchen table for a weekend, I'd have all the minutiae figured out and a game fully designed. I think we've all had ideas like this when we were this kid's age, and that he simply got lucky (parental intervention, a grant of $500, the support of some gullible VCs, media coverage). The idea is interesting, but it seems like something I'd see sitti
  • by Alicat1194 (970019) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @08:07AM (#19197331)
    ..in 1st year Japanese class when I was in highschool. All the basic katakana symbols were written on cards, and we used them to play various recognition games. Admittedly, it was only used to give us the basics, but it provided a platform to move on from, and since it was fun, it didn't feel like learning (always a bonus).

    From what I can see that's where this kid is coming from. Sure, the game won't teach you things like redox reactions, or actual experimental processes, but if you get a good grounding in the basics it makes it much easier to understand the more complex things later on.

  • I hope ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <.elmuerte. .at. .drunksnipers.com.> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @08:17AM (#19197395) Homepage
    ... that this one doesn't throw chairs when he's frustrated.
  • Do i detect the familiar setup of a stage mommy/daddy here somewhere going "you're not raising seed money fast enough! no dinner tonight!"
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @08:44AM (#19197555) Journal
    I was also making money before I was 13, and Elementeo doesn't surprise me. It is much more easier for children to be engaged in business than adults. First, children have lots of imagination, while in general few adults retain it after they turn 22-23. Furthermore, children are usually free of debt and get free food and financial support from their parents, and children normally have no responsibilities; compare that to an adult who is indebted, needs to work in order to eat, and has a family to support. Moreover, children have more free time than adults. Another important factor that is in children's favour is that they usually have good health, while many adults do not. Lastly, laws in general seek to protect children, an advantage mature entrepreneurs cannot have.
  • Just glancing through his website I hit a pretty glaring chemical error: "27 Elements: This is the bulk of your army... from gases like Hydrogen to metals like Iron to halogens like Phosphorus; these creatures are the ones that will bring you victory!"

    Hopefully this was done by his flunky webmaster and doesn't reflect the attention paid to chemical details in the actual game...

  • it's a gimmic. without fail there is an adult pulling the strings in these things.
  • But to make positive change is difficult. To change chemistry is taught in a sound manner and to consistently produce statistically significant results is a tall order.

    I smell vaporware and marketing hype. But hey, it's business. What should I be expecting from a bunch of suits? I do however pity any student which has to go through this program.
  • Edutainment (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orp (6583) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @09:58AM (#19197915) Homepage
    I think a lot of good points have been raised about this type of approach towards getting kids interested in the subject.

    But for those of you who think this is limited to grade school... at the college level I am familiar with a professor who uses a similar approach. Imagine looking at a Snickers bar and talking about conglomerate rocks, or talking about geological stratification with a peanut butter sandwich. And getting numerous teaching awards for it.

    There are some of us who scratch our heads and wonder exactly what he is doing in college. He doesn't teach the upper level classes, but he is a hit with the intro classes. I have seen absolutely no assessment data indicating whether his approach is actually helping these students learn. Perhaps it is, perhaps not.

    Over the years I have come to the realization that there is no one right way to teach, and that not everybody responds equally to a given teaching approach. I (a college professor) and my sister (an MD) both like the "soak up as much knowledge from the knowledgeable professor at the head of the class" approach. Chalk notes on the board, copied by hand to to the notebook, working on assignments outside of class, asking specific questions after getting stuck on something for hours, etc... that approach works for us. I really hate games and interactive working-with-other-students approaches in the classroom. I find it to be a copout by the professor; he or she is the one with the knowledge, not my fellow students (who are likely to be less knowledgeable than myself).

    But some students do respond more to this approach. The "inquiry based learning" approach is catching on like wildfire in some schools, and some of this has bubbled up to the college level. There are many who sing its praises profess its superiority to "chalk and talk" but from what I can glean from conversations with those in the field of Education, this approach is not clearly better (as determined by test scores), but that it does work better for some (just like the traditional method works better for my sister and me).

    As someone in the sciences, I have found that learning is really hard, and not always pleasant, and I do not hesitate to remind my students who are struggling with the material. I feel their pain. But no amount of entertainment will substitute sitting down with the text/notes/assignment and slogging through this stuff alone in the library for hours. I think the idea of individual hard, grueling work as an approach to learning has fallen out of favor. The majority of my students do not study outside of class until a day or two before the test. I can pretty much gage what the scores will be before I even collect the tests based upon the kinds of questions I am asking, and the depth of knowledge required to answer these questions correctly (think thermodynamics here).

    In conclusion, I see some - not all - of these approaches as style vs. substance. I think we can all agree that engaging students with the material is always good, but that there is no single approach which will engage all students at the same level. Perhaps the best approach (one which I am gravitating towards) is a mixture of traditional and somewhat less traditional approaches.
  • Nike! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Internet Ronin (919897) <internet.ronin@g ... minus physicist> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @10:08AM (#19197997)

    It's gotta be Nike, and finally, thank god!

    We can credit them with tearing down the corporate 'ceiling' for children. They used to be stuck only in sweatshops, but now.... well, now the sky's the limit.

    Here's to you Nike!
  • by CompmanJX3 (1104725) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @12:41PM (#19198949)
    This kid is in middle school, he, like most kids, hates textbooks, but unlike most kids, he actually came up with an alternative. He's touting it like a replacement for textbooks, and of course it would work better as a supplement, but it's still a great idea. And if the parents are helping out, they're doing the right thing. If my kid came up to me with a brilliant, if not necessarily feasible idea, I wouldn't want to quash his dreams right away. I'd want to encourage him. Any kid that's come this far isn't going to be shaken by temporary failure. Look at the about the creator page on his website and read his quotes in the article. Just because he's thirteen doesn't mean he shouldn't be taken seriously, it just means that he has a different approach than most adults.

    As for the game's actual usefulness... I remember how much more exciting world history was for me because I recognized the names of cultures and cities from Civilization II. This could inspire the same kind of fascination in kids for Chemistry. Most kids aren't taught a lot of Chemistry until the middle of high school, and I don't think anyone other than the creators think this can replace textbooks completely, but how cool would it feel to walk into your high school chemistry class and already know about valence and the periodic table from a card game you played in middle school? If this game inspired a lifelong love of chemistry in a few kids and helped a few more understand the basic concepts... that alone, I think, would be worth it.
  • Finally somebody who thinks for the children

Always think of something new; this helps you forget your last rotten idea. -- Seth Frankel

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