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Selling a startup at the age of 15 (dkume.com)
139 points by dkulchenko on April 2, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments

Congratulations on your first successful venture, and best of luck on your new project. At your age, I was busy making just about every questionable choice possible, and while I don't regret anything, I admire your ability to stay focused and determined at that stage in your life, along with the confidence to experience life on your own terms that such an experience must have brought you. You will not have wasted much of your life living out someone else's plan.

Know what I'd do, with hindsight, if I had successfully closed a company sale at that age? Go to a big college in a nice college town, party my ass off, take a bunch of classes in every subject imaginable, and see what interests me. Then, do something in that area, diploma or no. Not too different from what I ended up doing, but I may have been presented opportunities you may not have, and my goal was an eventual (probably mistaken) career at the time.

I wish people hadn't down voted you. Your point is extremely valid. College can be a great learning experience, in so many ways other than classes.

Chances are if he ends up in College he will spend his time as efficiently as he did in high school.

No matter what, he will probably love it.

Definitely the best suggestion. He may not need to graduate to get a spot at a new company, but you learn a lot more than just books at college.

What I want to know is, how does a 15 year old in 2009 end up working primarily with Perl? That's basically where I started a decade before that, but I can't imagine that many high schoolers were coding in Perl in 2009.

That's entirely my father's (http://notebook.kulchenko.com) fault. His favorite language is Perl, and he got me started on it many years ago (2000-2001?). I've recently moved on to Ruby, but Perl was my go-to for a long time.

Did you really start programming at the age of 4? That is incredible.

5-6, yes. Started out with 90s-era web development (Perl/CGI and some basic HTML).

That's awesome. I usually raise eyebrows, even from colleagues, when I mention that I started programming at the age of 8.

Of course, times were different back then. You had a computer that booted straight into Basic. You didn't need to install anything, register anything or even open up an editor. The prompt was your editor.

All I knew back then was that there was this prompt and this manual. You typed commands, and the computer would reply with something (at first, just 'Syntax Error'). Then I discovered conditionals (and called my parents to show off). And got an assignment from my father - he wanted me to draw a grid that he could use to calibrate TV sets (TV was the standard display device for personal computers). I did it, after working for most of an afternoon. Some time later, I discovered the 'for' loop (or rather, finally understood what it was for) and rewrote all of it in 5 minutes and 4 lines. And the rest is history.

EDIT: Even more impressive is that the author managed to keep himself focused and finished the job. At 15, I had already started the trend that would lead to a huge string of corpses of unfinished projects.

If/when I have kids (hopefully a long ways off) I'm going to find a way to get some sort of BASIC machine in my house. That's where I started (at about the same age as you) and I still remember a long drive from Cheyenne to San Francisco, sitting in the back seat of our van with a toy VTech computer and a book on BASIC I found in our school library.

That feeling was awesome.

My kids have my old Oric-1/Atmos machines (I got a couple spare, heh heh..) and they love 'em. Nothing better than giving the kids a 'safe' computer to use (no Internet!) and coming back to some wild creation a few hours later ..

Today's equivalent would be a TI calculator. I had a similar experience coding in BASIC on a TI-89 during a road trips with the TI-BASIC manual. There is indeed a very awesome feeling about coding on a simple device with a physical manual.

How did you remedy leaving unfinished projects? I yet have to truly finish a project I have begun and I just can't seem to keep at it.

Very cool. Any advice on how to get a kid started so soon (also learning how to read, which I suppose is a prerequisite)?

My 4-year old is currently programming on my old Oric-1/Atmos machine. Simple loops, sound effects, chars on the screen - its amazing what he can do when given a little encouragement and things are explained to him ..

It's nice to hear, for once, about acquiring companies not screwing you over. I've read countless HN articles about people getting screwed by their "potential" acquirer that I am now starting to feel apprehensive about getting acquired.

Daniil, you did not exactly go much into the acquiring process for obvious reasons but any advice you can depart on us? I.e. what can we do to avoid the "rollercoaster"? Also, would like to hear about your experiences (bad and good) being a kid in the industry at that time and how you dealt with it.

Anyway, congrats on achieving what most of us can dream of at a really young age.

Sure. About avoiding the rollercoaster, two things, and they go hand in hand:

1. Be realistic. Try to not let your ego get the best of you.

2. Look at the big picture. Sometimes you get so focused on one thing, you lose sight of what's around you. Evaluate everything that goes in: be able to compromise on some to win in others.

About being a kid in the industry: it's really no different. You get additional attention just for being your age, but aside from that, everything else is the same. I like it that way.

Words of wisdoms from someone wayyy beyond his age. thanks!

"It took a few months of learning about network topologies, Redis, ØMQ, LXC, redundancy, distributed systems" <- what did you read exactly? books? blogs? thx D:

A lot of Googling, most of which concentrated on StackOverflow discussions. Redis and ØMQ both have fantastic documentation, so it's easy to get started there; LXC was really a matter of trial and error. As for the more abstract concepts (networking/distributed computing), I would start on a Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_computing for instance) and click links and jump from article to article for hours.

Books are great, but I prefer using solely online resources to learn; I find it to be a more efficient use of my time. Though there are notable exceptions: The Pragmatic Programmer (http://pragprog.com/the-pragmatic-programmer) and Getting Real (http://gettingreal.37signals.com/) come to mind.

thanks for the hints :D

Wow, impressive. I don't know your philosophies, but you would be a prime candidate for the Thiel Fellowship:


I wish you best of luck and success for everything you do.

He already sold a startup. He should enjoy college. Its awesome.

Definitely! College isn't totally about the classes or the books. A lot of the experience is just being around a lot of people who are interested in the same subjects (and being around people who are interested in different subjects!). It can be a really enlightening experience to be around people who aren't hackers. I think from the perspective of skills and finances, college is becoming less and less appealing. But as a social and personal experience, college is becoming more and more valuable as a way to learn how to connect with people from diverse backgrounds.

Even if your only goal in life is to make better technology, you still have to interact with people who aren't hackers, and college is an easy way to expose yourself to a very diverse group of people.

It most certainly is and both are not mutually exclusive. He is 16, he can take it and then go to college when he is 18/19. The only reason why I am in college is exactly for that reason.

First: congratulations; doing something meaningful AND succeeding at the same time, moreover at that age deserves some congratulation, and some nods. Good work.

Second: With rather good spirit and having something to say (obviously, you know your stuff), I'm rather surprised that your blog doesn't mention the obvious design inspiration, and even adds some copyright.

I'm a senior in high school and building my own product, and this is very inspiring. My only question is about how you manage your school work with your, well, "actual" work. It's an issue I've had and after getting your hands on a real product and being able to build something cool, school work just seems so uninspiring and dry.


If you're in high school, you can choose your own classes, right? I find ways to challenge myself with schoolwork (taking college-level calculus, which is no picnic). Physics and history/political science interest me, so I have no trouble with being motivated to learn in those arenas. I'd be lying if I said I particularly enjoy homework, but I try to make it interesting.

Cool, thanks man. Can't really pick classes now but heading into college I can.

Think and plan about what you need to do when you're at getting ready in the morning, when you're in the shower, and when you're at school. Then you can work efficiently when you're at home.

This is really impressive.

What are your thoughts on college?

Are you going to ditch it all together and keep working on your startups, or are you planning on getting some degree (possibly from MIT/Harvard, trust me, you probably can)?

I haven't decided yet (still have about 7 months to do so). I guess it really depends on which direction life takes me, but I really can't commit to either option at this point.

Very impressive...I'm ashamed of being in the 30's and not achieved something that high...but I've been trying...if not 15 could be later one day...but your's is a great motivation. Congrats!

Very cool. I do miss all the free time I had when I was that age. I wish I had gotten into programming more seriously then, and had used that time more productively.

So true. 24 now, 3 months in to my New Years resolution to "get technical". I'm super satisfied with my progress so far, but have wondered once or twice about where I could be if I didn't stop at HTML/CSS in middle school.

Congratulations. Not only do you code and ship, but you also write extremely well. That was one of the most coherent, no nonsense blog posts I've read in a while.

Wow, congratulations. I can't believe you started this at 15. I'd like to hear some details about the architecture and how you got it to work so quickly.

Very good article.i was wondering which resources did you use for learning cloud concepts.

Google + GitHub.

The former is how I've learned near everything over the past 5 years; I can't remember the last time I bought a programming/reference-type book.

The latter is invaluable for browsing through others' code and I find it to be the fastest way to pick up new concepts. Why look through theoretical examples when you can look at real-world implementations?

Thanks. I agree with that. Can you refer some open source cloud management projects.( like https://github.com/nodejitsu )

Congrats -- when I was 15, all I thought about was the opposite gender.

Congratulations. Very inspiring.

Congratulations, that's awesome!

"Iterate, iterate, iterate" -- for me, its the most important part. I think sometimes people just drown themselves into the perfectionist cycle.

I think it's the Steve Jobs effect.

"I want to be as great as Steve Jobs, therefore I have to be as anal as he was about every last detail."

>"I want to be as great as Steve Jobs, therefore I have to be as anal as he was about every last detail."

The problem with that line of thinking. (Besides the whole "Not iterating" thing.) Is that Jobs criticized others work. (Example: Wozniak built the AppleII really, Jobs just leaned over his shoulder to make sure he did it right.)

In the absence of a magic design compass like Jobs, you'll have to iterate and test to see if your changes are worthwhile.

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