When you’re 13-years-old, need money and can’t legally get a job, what do you do?
If you’re Berlin’s Keshav Patel, who is 14 now, you take matters into your own hands and start a company.
Keshav, frustrated with having to go door-to-door selling candy just before Halloween to fund a school trip to Washington D.C., told his father, Rajesh, of his desire to raise money differently. That night at dinner Rajesh challenged Keshav to come up with his own fundraising method.
Keshav’s idea was to create a project, in this case a video blog chronicling his trip, in exchange for funds. After realizing that no tool already existed for youths, he decided to create his own. This marked the beginning of MeritBooster.
The idea for MeritBooster came with great timing for the Patels. Just a few months after that initial dinner conversation the Kauffmann Foundation held one of their Startup Weekends in New Haven. The 54-hour event starts on a Friday with open-mic pitches with the attendees attempting to convince others to join their team. On Saturday and Sunday the teams work on customer development and fine-tuning their idea. Finally, on Sunday night the teams receive feedback from a panel of experts and winners are announced.
MeritBooster remained a team of two — just father and son — but they still won second place and the “Team Choice” award and received an office at The Grove in New Haven. Additionally, the Patels met Venkat Nettimi at Startup Weekend. Nettimi had a similar idea and decided to join the MeritBooster team.
Just last week, Connecticut Innovations announced their nine selections for their TechStart Fund Accelerator. MeritBooster was one of CI’s selections and they received $25,000 in financial assistance and over the next 10 weeks they will use that money to refine their idea and seek potential customers. At the end of the 10 weeks they will be provided with an opportunity to make a pitch to potential investors.
The Patels and Nettimi seem thrilled with the support they’ve received from CI thus far.
“They just aren’t giving money,” Nettimi said. ”They actually have interest in seeing it succeed.”
During the 10 weeks, Keshav will be homeschooled so he can focus on MeritBooster full-time. He says it all happened so fast that his friends’ heads are still spinning.
As far as how the rest of the (adult) entrepreneurial community is taking to Keshav, Rajesh is awfully impressed.
“[Entrepreneurs] all recognize how important promoting innovative thinking in young people is, and that’s something we’re about at MeritBooster.”
MeritBooster is looking for youths age 13-19 to apply for their Beta-Test Program. Visit them at www.meritbooster.com for more information.
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