And why can't they?
The young minds of teenagers are filled with ambition that can only be killed by a rigid education system and the common stereotype - that held some truth to it in the past decades - of parents preferring that their kids only major in the same "money-yielding" fields. Fast forward to the great era of technological advancement and its partial incorporation in schools as well as camps, and you will find a tenacious generation of teenagers.
"I was 6 when I cracked my dad's office computer's password," said 14-year-old Aadithyan Rajesh, Founder and CEO of Trinet Solutions. "My passion was to be a developer, and I didn't want to wait until I was 18 or 23 to start doing what I wanted to," he added.
It is incredible to witness talent at such a young age, especially when the persistence pays off in ways commonly thought reserved for adults.
Rajesh taught himself how to code just like anyone born post the 90s taught themselves anything, via the internet. For the 14-year-old CEO, the internet is "an opportunity to lower the barrier for kids/teens of all ages and backgrounds to learn how to program and encourage them to explore the world of computer science in ways that were once considered impossible."
Taking a look at Rajesh's LinkedIn profile, one can be taken by surprise with how rich it is. From interning at BankOnUs and Trift, to being the CEO of his own startup and the Vice President Marketing at Next Generation Nations, the Dubai-based Indian teenager is already absorbed by the entrepreneurial sphere all while rarely missing out on school.
For Simran Chowdhry, a 23-year-old with big titles and even bigger dreams, being an entrepreneur at such a young age comes with seamlessly endless failures. "There were several times it felt too hard to continue, but we persevered and reminded ourselves why we started. Every day, we would have another idea, try, fail, learn repeat – until one day the results changed," she told StepFeed of her journey along with her team to build BluePhin, a technology-based waste management solutions company in the UAE.
Chowdhry believes in balance, though not the one falsely advertised by people. "If your mind is on a task, finish it. If you don't feel like going to that party – don't," the founder and CEO said, arguing that a break is necessary for recharging but not when it's imposed by those who don't believe in your work.
Teenagers and young adults tend to focus on their studies and social life, with many adding extracurricular activities and volunteering to their weekly schedules. Add to the agenda building and operating a startup while keeping in mind the exams they ought to study for, and the result is a bundle of anxiety that could keep an adult up at night.
"This taught me discipline, the importance of scheduling and the time I had in a day and what I could do with it. It took a long time to learn this and implement it," said Chowdhry. "We had our fair share of non-believers and naysayers – we just put our noise cancelling headphones on and got back to work," she continued.
Rethesh Pradeep Kumar, 13, believes in the same balance. Kumar is the Founder and CEO of UAE-based apps and software development consultancy Tech Swap all while being a full-time student. Family and friends are a priority and a great push, but first comes school, his startup, and learning various topics.
According to Kumar, teenagers going into entrepreneurship will be offered an experience that could help them "decide their future" as well as develop their skills.
Among older peers, teenage entrepreneurs are "out of the box" thinkers.
Muhammad Chbib, CEO of Tradeling, an innovative technology company building the leading business-to-business eMarketplace in the MENA region, can be considered a fan of young minds. Mr. Chbib is continuously supporting the youth by offering them internships that introduce them to "people issues in organizations" and "leadership challenges," among other topics.
Mr. Chbib himself was once a young boy yearning for financial independence from his parents, a mindset that led him to trading used bicycles at the age of 12.
"This was the beginning of my entrepreneurial development because I first-hand experienced the basic equation of input+value=output," Mr. Chbib told StepFeed.
One key point agreed upon by all interviewees is that acquiring the mindset of an entrepreneur is achievable by anyone.
"It's about changing your default thought pattern from thinking about problems to think[ing] about ways to solve [them], no matter how small the problems," explained 15-year-old software engineer and Founder of Teens Who Code Nasir Hussain.
"Once you've found the solution, you would find yourself in a loop to improve that solution from time to time and as long as you would be using it yourself, you would be able to gain first hand experience of how you can improve & learn from it," he continued.
With supportive parents, teachers, and friends, these young minds are blooming into problem solvers ready to change the world.
"It's possible that I may not perform well in a particular exam someday, but the kind of exposure and knowledge I'm gaining now will help [...] a lot in life," Rajesh explained. "I never found [entrepreneurship] stressful because I always found happiness in what I was doing. Even now, the love for entrepreneurship wraps me," he continued.
The feeling is mutual among his peers as well.
"[E]ntrepreneurship is like riding a bike—a kind of muscle memory that deepens with practice," according to Chowdhry.
The same point was reiterated by Hussain, as he believes once someone is acquainted with the many facets of a subject and after connecting with its experts, starting a project becomes slightly easier. After that, growth and progress will be witnessed at a "remarkable speed."
The great advice
It's one thing to hear of young wizards already leaving their print on the world, but it's another to learn from and join them on their journey... or even create your own.
Muhammad Chbib: "I believe every teenager should learn the following:
- how to code
- understand the basics of social media engagement
- understand the basics of social media advertising
- be proficient in web/app analytics
"I urge every teenager to search for ways to generate income, to put themselves under pressure to earn [their] own money without the help of parents. Tell your parents that you do not want any financial support from them and try to stand on your own feet. The earlier the better… The most basic form of entrepreneurship is trade.. If you have used items, start selling them in garage sales. If you do not have anything for sale but have savings, use the savings to buy goods you think people in your school and/or neighborhood need and resell them with a margin."
Simran Chowdhry: "Being an entrepreneur changed my entire perception [of] life. The way I perceive failure, quickly [adapt] in uncertain situations and stand with reliance – were all built along my journey to building my own startup. [...] Be patient. Fail, learn and try again. The term overnight successes mean [sic] it was '10 years in the making', so don't be afraid to do the time."
Aadithyan Rajesh: "Finding the right idea is one of the most important aspects of becoming an entrepreneur. It's all about taking the first step through finding your niche, doing the research and knowing that you're going to make mistakes along the way. [...] You should be constantly learning and improving."
Nasir Hussain: "One thing I've learnt in my experience is no single article, book, person can completely help you in your journey. We all are different by how we approach things and how we think although being biologically similar. One universal advice I find most helpful is 'to be always open to newer ideas and growth'."
Rethesh Pradeep Kumar: "Creating a startup can help [teenagers] gain experience and skills which can be extremely helpful for their future... Plan, Develop, Succeed."