Via Mashable : What do you do when your teenage son wants to drop out of high school, move to America and start a tech company? In Mark Pasternak’s case, you let him. Reluctantly.
At 15, his son Ben Pasternak created a hugely popular iPhone game, Impossible Rush. The teen, then at high school in Sydney, Australia had caught the startup bug. He travelled to Silicon Valley with his family in 2015 to participate in a hackathon and network with his idols.
After all that excitement, Ben, now 16, wasn’t quite ready become a student again. His parents, Mark and Anna, promised that if he could secure funding, they’d consider letting him stay in the U.S. to work on his new startup idea. To their surprise, he did, raising money from well known venture capital firms Binary Capital and Greylock, among others.
On Friday local time, he launched a free iOS app called Flogg that lets millennials buy and sell items in a social network. “We are excited to see Ben launch Flogg and where it can go,” a spokesperson for Greylock told Mashable Australia.
Ben is ready to be the boss, clearly, but spare a thought for his parents. “Ben Pasternak is now a high school dropout, which is not what I signed up for,” Mark told Mashable Australia. A former architect who now works in property development, Mark was particularly concerned his son is not likely to go to university.
“I’ve got two bachelor degrees in architecture and a masters degree, and my wife is also university-educated, so it’s not the expectation,” he said. “It’s very difficult in that respect. It’s uncharted territory.”
The couple have two other children, Jake, 13, and Maya, 6. For now, they’re staying in Sydney while Ben lives in New York alone. He has family friends around, but they’ve had to come to terms with the fact he’s striking out on his own at a young age.
Ben has always had a mind for business, Mark said. Like so many other entrepreneurs, there are plenty of anecdotes from his childhood demonstrating his precocious ability to hustle.
“When he was at school in Year 5, he bought one of those huge Chupa Chups [lollipop] boxes and wanted to sell them,” he related. “After the first day, he decided it was a waste of his lunchtime, so he hired another kid to sell them for 30 cents. He would get 20 cents and the kid would get 10 cents. I thought that was pretty resourceful.”
Ben has also been online since age six. Like many parents, the Pasternaks tried to discourage him from spending too much time with screens, but realised they were fighting a losing battle.
It was the 2010 film about the founding of Facebook, The Social Network, in fact, which helped the couple finally understand what Ben was after. “Ben loved that movie, but it was a game changer in a way,” Mark said. “It’s about getting numbers, and Ben was trying to do the same thing.”
Lest you think the Pasternaks are bankrolling all Ben’s hopes and dreams, Mark claimed he hasn’t provided a dime to his son for his projects. Ben told Mashable Australia he is currently drawing a salary from Flogg. “He did ask us once if he could have A$30,000 ($22,942) to promote the app, and I said no,” Mark related. “He managed to get it from somebody else, another kid. I was like: ‘Oh my god. Does this kid’s father know he’s given you A$30,000?’
“This was the sort of thing that happened with Ben. He’s been very resourceful in that way,” he said. “He doesn’t want to be in a situation where people say ‘you were helped by your parents.'”
Mark said he’s unsure where Ben’s business acumen has come from. “I think a lot of his information comes from online, because he spends a hell of a lot of time doing that,” he said. “These kids that are on the net and resourceful, the way they communicate, … university education is not necessarily necessary.”
While Ben’s lack of formal education still worries him, he’s starting to understand the chance that has landed at his son’s feet. “Here’s a child who has got an incredible opportunity, which if he finished high school and went to university and then got it, it would be amazing. But he’s got it now.
“If you have a child that’s driven, and that’s all they’re interested in, and you’re constantly fighting for them to do something else, you’ll never win.”
That’s the lesson, Mark suggested. You can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. “They’ll be unhappy, and you don’t want your kids to be unhappy.”
As for Ben, he said he had no second thoughts. But then, what teen does? “If I set a backup plan, I’d be saying that my original plan will fail,” Ben added.
“I’m not recommending everyone should drop out of school and start a company, but if you’re focused on apps and you’ve seen some success, nothing is stopping you from doing what I’ve done.”
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