Ben Pasternak isn’t your average Australian teenager. At 15, he has created an iPhone game that rose up the App Store charts at an incredible rate. In the first six weeks after its October launch, Impossible Rush had been downloaded 500,000 times. It overtook Vine, Google and Twitter as it quickly clocked up downloads with its addictive nature.
Pasternak, from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, created the app with another teen in Chicago, Austin Valleskey, while he was bored at school. Now, the whiz kid is in the United States being sussed out by some of the biggest tech companies in the world including Google, Facebook and Yahoo — where he hopes to secure an internship.
Facebook’s internship department has invited Pasternak on a tour of the company’s headquarters in California, while Google’s Vice President of Search, Yossi Matais, asked him to the search giant’s campus, after his son became aware of Pasternak’s work.
The teen entrepreneur is keeping his cards close to his chest on what this means for his future. “We shall see,” the cool-headed Pasternak says to Mashable.
Pasternak traveled to Silicon Valley with his family for a Google and MIT Launch sponsored event, Hack Generation Y, this weekend. It invites applications from high school students around the world, with 450 young entrepreneurs accepted, who go on to create a product in 36 hours. Pasternak was one of just 20 students to be invited from outside the U.S., among the others are a 17-year-old Lebanese CEO who is raising money for his startup and a 17-year-old Israeli CEO who recently raised $300,000 for his projects.
The lead organiser of the hackathon and son of Yossi, Michael Matias, told Mashable Pasternak stood out from the crowd during the application process especially with the work he has completed on his new social network aggregator app, One.
“[Pasternak is] a young entrepreneur and clearly ambitious, he has shown the world that age is just a number. His work with the app One, and the previous iPhone app was extremely impressive and if we were to guess — we would never imagine it was run by a 15 year old!” Matias said.
Pasternak told Mashable he is hacking at the event with American teenagers Helena Merk and James Harnett, who he met in a Facebook group for high school hackers, and the team plan to re-code One. The app brings together all your social networks into one platform, in an easy to read timeline and messaging service.
“At Hack Generation Y my team and I hope to re-code my main project One from scratch although my main motive is to meet as many creative people as possible,” Pasternak said.
Pasternak explains he needs to re-imagine the app, due to limitations by Twitter that only allow 100,000 user tokens from third-party apps. This will mean instead of the app being free to millions, it will have a price tag and only be available to 100,000 users. Investors have already been circling.
But Pasternak isn’t in this for the money. He sold Impossible Rush, which at his last count had 750,000 downloads, to his friend in New York Carlos Fajardo, for $US200. Fajardo marketed the app and helped it skyrocket to the top of the charts.
“My biggest motivation is knowing that my apps make people’s lives just a little bit easier and simple. There is no better feeling than seeing people using your creations,” Pasternak said from his hotel room in San Francisco.
He didn’t expect the success of his first app, but it has made him realise that it is possible to create things people will engage with — with the right marketing.
“I knew Impossible Rush had potential as it was extremely addictive but I didn’t think it would be discovered,” Pasternak said. “Once the marketing guys found it I had no doubt it would be a hit.”
Pasternak is going into Year 10 at Reddam House in Sydney this year but he says the school work is the last thing on his mind. “I am struggling to keep up with school but at this current point I want to focus on my apps as much as possible,” the teen said. No doubt to the dismay of his parents, who he says have been supportive of his wild chase across the U.S., yet wary about him moving too fast.
It seems there is no stopping this young entrepreneur who has his sights firmly set on success. In 2015 he plans on “breaking the U.S. top 5 charts, going to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, coming back to the U.S, and maybe getting an internship.”
He has one last message about his top secret side project: “Watch out, eBay.” This is one kid who is going places.