2013-04-16

At 17, Getting A License For A Self-Driving Startup

Like a 3-D printer manufacturing parts for itself, today's lone, non-technical entrepreneurs can fabricate a startup from almost nothing but their own time. One enterprising teenager from Florida takes a particularly lean approach.



Jared Kleinert isn’t a money guy. He isn’t a coder. He doesn’t have much experience. He’s not particularly well-connected. He can’t buy alcohol or even vote, because Jared Kleinert is 17-years-old.

But Kleinert is a CEO. His startup: Synergi.st, is a crowdfunding site for social entrepreneurs. Next week’s splashy debut promises something never attempted before. Synergi.st will be the first crowdfunding site to attempt to crowdfund itself (recursive crowdfunding?).

Like so many self-replicating nanobots, micro-enterprises are able to form, re-form, and evolve from the smallest starting point. A high school student in Miami with a fondness for going to tech meetups has near-immediate access to the same tools of business creation--money, parts, people, even ideas--as anyone else, and for free.

"I'm a very big believer in the Uncollege movement and the under-20 community," Kleinert says, citing Peter Thiel's 20 Under 20 fellowship for wet-behind-the-ears entrepreneurs and one of their number, Dale Stephens, a proselytizer for self-education. Kleinert continues, "Everyone in that group is a go-getter. We’re all out to create our own lives and not have someone put it on a platter for us."

Actually, everything an instant-entrepreneur needs to get started is pretty much on a platter. It’s like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord, with everything from web hosting services to payment services. You can outsource your logo to 99 Designs, your software development to China, and your business philosophy to any of Fast Company's 30 Second MBAs.

As Kleinert has already learned the hard way, this road is not entirely lined with roses. In fact, there are bandits. At 15, Kleinert was fleeced of a few grand (aka "one-third of my capital") by a dodgy outsourcer who promised to build him a videoconferencing environment for another startup idea and never delivered. Two-years later, older and wiser, his optimism (or is that self-promotion?) appears boundless. "It's definitely an industry first," he says of the self-crowd-funding idea. "It's a very disruptive move within a popular business. Add to the fact that I'm only 17 and this is socially driven...," the story practically writes itself!

Synergi.st isn't an original idea, and it may or may not be the best execution of that idea, but it hardly matters. If Kleinert succeeds, it will be because he managed to convene and cultivate a community around the powerful idea of creating, building and collaborating on social movements. If he fails, he's got a great learning experience under his belt. There's nothing to lose.

[Image: Flickr user Geerd-Olaf Freyer]