How can teens ages 13-17, become design-entrepreneurs?

In the summer of 2015, teams of teens ages 13-17, presented their business pitches to VCs and angel investors at the Dolphin Tank event organized by Young Outliers. The Silicon Valley audience were in awe of the high level of creativity and entrepreneurial thinking exhibited in each of the presentations. Sand Hill Road VC’s and angel investors commented: “These are totally doable business ideas! It is amazing that teens ages 13-17 can think like adult start-up teams.”

Indeed, when challenged, young people have done astonishingly “adult things.” Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire-Hathaway now owns the Hill railroads once headquartered in St. Paul, was keeping accounts for his first business at age 11. William Kamkwamba, a Malawian teen at age 14, facing poverty and famine, built a windmill to power his family’s home and became the single source of power for his community’s cell phone users.  

What do we learn from these accomplished teens?

They had a goal. They were determined. They were not afraid to fail. They were resourceful. Most importantly, they transformed obstacles into opportunities.

Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computer was a teen when he took computers apart and observed that $600 worth of parts were sold at $3,000. He found an opportunity and created a revolutionary business model.  

Innovator-entrepreneurs ask “Why?”, “Why not?”, and “What if?”

The Game Changers Design Entrepreneur Camp engages its teen participants in hands-on and socially-interactive lessons that highlight their “unique strengths.” The camp advances innovative and analytical thinking by tapping into and elevating participants’ abilities through fun and exciting games and challenges. They learn to look at status quo from the perspective of making things better. They learn to challenge assumptions and formulate alternative ways of doing, working, learning, and living. Through their engagement in camp activities, the participants transformed into analytical, inventive, and problem-solver teens.   

When interviewed after their presentations, the Game Changers Camp participants were just as amazed at what they had accomplished. They remarked, “The activities at the Game Changers Camp were fun and nerve-wracking! Yet it was the best experience we’ve ever had! We didn’t want it to end.”

The Game Changers Design Entrepreneur Camp is transformative. In the beginning of the camp, many of the participants did not think they were passionate or interested in any project or career. At the end, it did not matter whether they were 13 or 17 years old. Teen participants discovered how to value and grow their abilities and work as teams, to shape ideas and business models. They learned to think like design entrepreneurs.