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Young entrepreneurs

17-year-old Perth entrepreneur sets his sights on San Francisco

By Michelle Hammond
Friday, 22 June 2012

A 17-year-old Australian entrepreneur is desperate to obtain a visa to work in the United States in order to launch a start-up there, having already launched and sold three others in Australia.

 

Lachy Groom is a serial entrepreneur who graduated from his Perth high school in December last year, and is currently in San Francisco.

 

Since the age of 13, Groom has launched and sold three businesses: PSDtoWP, PAGGStack.com and iPadCaseFinder.com. The financial terms of these deals remain undisclosed.

 

His fourth start-up, Cardnap, allows users to search for discounted gift cards as well as reselling their own. The site is currently only available in the US.

 

According to Groom, the Australian start-up scene just doesn’t compare to the likes of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

 

“The only reason to stay in Australia – other than it’s a great place to live – is if you’re targeting the Australian market,” Groom told StartupSmart.

 

“The reason why Australia doesn’t work is because the valuations are so much higher in the US.”

 

“In San Francisco, there’s a whole community – every company is a start-up. You’re not going to get that back home… Ultimately, I see myself in my own start-up in the US.”

 

A number of tech companies have expressed an interest in Groom. He has been interviewed by big names such as Twitter and Zynga, as well as a number of other San Francisco start-ups.

 

However, the interview process always comes to a grinding halt because Groom does not have a work visa. This is due to his age and lack of traditional qualifications.

 

In essence, Groom doesn’t qualify for the primary visa used by specialty field immigrants in the US because he does not have a degree.

 

According to Groom, there are pros and cons to being such a young entrepreneur.

 

“It’s something I’m very aware of and I’m very aware it’s held me back in a lot of ways. I feel I need to validate myself to people,” he says.

 

“The great thing about the internet is it’s not face to face. People don’t know my age unless they do a little bit of research, so I can hide behind the internet in a lot of ways.”

 

“If I was 48, that article in The Sydney Morning Herald wouldn’t have happened because it’s not as newsworthy. There are lots of pluses and minuses but I try not to let it stand in my way.”

 

Groom admits Cardnap will not remain his main project, saying he’ll probably sell it off at some stage and turn his focus to “something in education or something else”.

 

“It’s a bit clichéd, but you’ve got to have passion. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing,” he says.

 

“If you’re doing it just to reach the end, whether that be money or prestige, it’s not going to work. You have to enjoy the day to day.”

 

“Being an entrepreneur is such a rollercoaster ride. There are such high highs and such low lows, but it can be so rewarding at the end of it.”

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