Catapult Ideas Blog

Sharing stories of young entrepreneurs, what it takes to run a successful startup, and more.
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Catapult Mentors and Speakers Dominate Shark Tank

High School Shark Tank – Catapult Mentors Lead by Example!

Catapult mentors and speakers Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang, Founder of Chirps, won a $100k deal on Shark Tank from Mark Cuban! But they aren’t the first Catapulters to impress the sharks. In honor of their deal, we are featuring the long history of Catapult Mentors and Speakers being featured on Shark Tank’s eight seasons.

Chirps Chips

Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang are the Co-Founders of Chirps Chips and have been a part of the Catapult family for multiple cohorts. Chirps Chips makes “delicious soy, grain, and gluten free snacks made from high protein cricket flour.”

Most recently, Laura and Rose were Catapult Speakers for our Summer 2016 Incubator at the Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley, and shared their story of how they built up Chirps Chips as roommates at Harvard.

Chirps Co-Founder Rose Wang speaks to Catapult about Marketing

high school shark tank Chirps founder Laura

Chirps Co-Founder Laura leads a master class on CPG logistics

Catapult Founder Josh speaking with Chrips Founders Rose and Laura

Our cohort loved being able to hear the challenges Chirps Chips initially faced with crafting the recipe, reaching consumers, appropriate messaging, and captivating branding. Since their inception, they have done a brilliant job of showcasing the health and sustainability benefits of crickets as an ingredient.

Chirps Chips are sustainable and nutritious

Chirps Chips are sustainable and nutritious! Image courtesy of Chirps Chips.

When talking about other competitors that used nutritious insect ingredients, Rose explained that the entire pie of the insect industry still had room grow and benefit all players. She then gave one of our favorite quotes from the day: “Don’t think of your competitors as people you should distrust but people you can work with & learn from.”

Of course, there was taste testing involved too!

Young entrepreneurs trying Chirps Chips

Catapult Team Teo Foods enjoying Chirps. Mmm, bugs…

“Don’t think of your competitors as people you should distrust but people you can work with & learn from.”


-Rose Wang, Co-Founder Chirps Chips


Fortunately for them, they convinced Mark Cuban to join their team! After some negotiations (and a hilarious grand entrance in a bug costume by Laura), they accepted a deal from Mark for a $100k investment worth 20%.

Congrats to Rose, Laura, and the entire Chirps Chips team for their feature! We can’t wait for you two to share more of your journey as Catapult Speakers for future cohorts.

See the snippet of their feature on Shark Tank here and go to ABC to watch the entire episode!


Jason Li, the Founder of iReTron, came to speak to our Summer 2016 cohort while we were hosted at University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. As a high school entrepreneur himself, Jason was able to shed some tangible insights with the high school entrepreneurs. Jason originally founded iReTron as a sophomore in high school, and was featured on Shark Tank as only a senior. iReTron allows consumers to sell old gadgets in an “easy, safe, and responsible way.” By reusing and recycling old electronics in a sustainable manner, the company manages to reduce the amount of waste that heads to a landfill.

Jason Li of iReTron is one of the many Catapult Speakers to be featured on Shark Tank. He walked away with a $100k deal.

Jason Li of iReTron is one of the many Catapult Speakers to be featured on Shark Tank

“There are no re-do’s or re-takes on Shark Tank, it’s very genuine!”


-Jason Li of iReTron about his Shark Tank experience

As one of the students’ favorite Catapult speakers, Jason shared a bit about his Shark Tank experience saying, “There’s no re-do’s, it’s very genuine!” As a college student at the University of Chicago now, a student asked Jason about the benefit of attending and college and he responded saying, “Without college & programs like [Catapult], you’ll never meet people who can help you in your journey.”

At the end of his pitch, he negotiated a $100k deal for 15% with Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran!

Lovepop Cards

Co-Founders of Lovepop, John Wise and Wombi Rose, were featured a little over a year ago on Shark Tank and were talented enough to walk away with a $300k investment from Kevin O’Leary. Lovepop specializes in providing cards with “intricate 3D paper sculptures” and was launched out of the Harvard Innovation Lab which hosted Catapult’s inaugural cohort in 2014.

LovePop Founders are some of the many Catapult Speakers to be featured on Shark Tank

Catapult Speakers: LovePop Founders received a $300k investment on Shark Tank

Lovepop on Shark Tank

At Catapult, John was an advisor for Switch Port, a dry-erase light switch with founder Nick Bain. Nick went on to be come one of the youngest people on Kickstarter to have a “backed” project. Likewise, Wombi was an advisor for Park Pass, which aimed to solve the problem of major backups when trying to exit parking lots – think EZ-Pass for parking lots.

Check out their update on ABC since being featured on Shark Tank here! Along with Kevin O’Leary they talk about their hopes of hitting $5-8 million in sales.


Catapult Speakers: LuminAID Founders received a $200k investment on Shark Tank

Andrea Sreshta, one of the co-Founders of LuminAID, was one of the Catapult speakers for our Chicago Spring 2015 cohort. Along with her co-founder Anna Stork, Andrea managed to score a $200,000 deal from Mark Cuban for 15% during their time on Shark Tank in 2015! LuminAID “develops innovative, solar-powered products for humanitarian relief aid and outdoor recreation.”

At Catapult, Andrea shared her personal journey as an entrepreneur and was a source of motivation for others to take immediate action to solve social problems.

Check out LuminAID’s press release of how things have progressed since their investment on Shark Tank!

A huge congratulations to our Catapult Speakers for their features on Shark Tank!

How to turn your passion into a business: A true story with 500,000 downloads

Brandon LaRouche

Brandon LaRouche is a self taught software developer, successful teen entrepreneur, and founder of Double Trouble Studio. Most recently, he’s released the addictive iOS game Lowest, and is working on QBeat, an app that makes music social and geolocalized (watch the videos to find out what that means)

In this 4 part series, Brandon shares his background and how he went from a 6th grader with no programming skills, to a high schooler developing 30+ mobile apps with 500k+ downloads, and now a college student studying computer science and continuing to launch new ventures.

Today we are releasing parts 1 & 2 (videos at the bottom of this post)

In part 1, Brandon talks about who he is, how he got started developing apps and the important elements in his life that lead him to entrepreneurship.

In part 2, Brandon shares how he went from his very first app, to releasing 30 apps, making a few thousand dollars a month (while in high school) and eventually writing a how to book for other young software minded entrepreneurs.

Stay tuned for parts 3&4 where Brandon discuss how he turned his passion for software into a business, what he is doing today, and his advice for other teenage entrepreneurs.

Here’s a bit about Brandon in his own words:

Age: 20
Hometown: North Attleboro, MA
Favorite Book: Calvin and Hobbes (all of them haha)
Total Revenue: $80,000k
Major: Computer Science BA and Entrepreneurship concentration
Where do you draw your inspiration: Honestly, a little bit from everyone in my life. Of course a lot comes from typical Silicon Valley success stories like Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Musk, but everyone around me pushes me to go forwards and challenge myself; from my parents to anyone sitting next to me in class who seems to grasp things better than I do that makes me study harder and my friends who take interest on my hacked-together projects.


I started developing apps in 2008 as a hobby when I founded Double Trouble Studio. In 2012 Double Trouble Studio officially became an LLC.

Some of the apps that I have created include applications to help expand the ROBLOX user experience as well as apps that are meant to create general entertainment. I have also created apps as per client requests.

My apps reach the devices of over 500,000 users with millions of app interaction sessions.

In 2012 I published my first book “Basic ROBLOX Lua Programming”. A year later, 2013, I released a second follow-up book “ROBLOX Lua Programming: Intermediate.

I have been mentioned in the Boston Herald, San Jose Mercury News, and Venture Beat for my achievements as a young entrepreneur.

Currently, I am a student at Boston College studying computer science. I work in the ITS department as a student Technology Consultant where I deal with enterprise system management.

During my freshman year I started developing and launching QBeat, which was incorporated in the Spring of 2016 as QBeat, Inc. – a geolocalized social music curation platform.

If interested in talking about my experiences, employing my services, geeking out, or about investing on any of my projects please email me Brandon LaRouche

Read about other successful high school entrepreneurs here.

Part 1: How I Got Started In 6th Grade

Part 2: From 1 app to 30

How to Get Additional Funding for Catapult: Summer Incubator

Young Entrepreneurs Working on A Startup Venture

How to Get Additional Funding for Catapult’s Summer Incubator

We’ve already told you about our Needs-Based Scholarships and our Merit-Based Tuition Awards worth up to $1000, but today we are talking about how to get additional funding for Catapult’s Summer Incubator. We are highlighting two main routes: personal crowdfunding and local scholarships.

Personal Crowd Funding for Catapult

Finding the Right Platform

The idea of crowdfunding is popular in the startup world, but many people don’t consider it for personal ambitions. There are various platforms out there that you can consider depending on how much you are trying to raise & what your situation is. Some good places to start looking:

  1. GoFundMe
  2. IndieGoGo
  3. YouCaring
  4. FundRazr

Questions to ask yourself when picking a platform:

  • Is this platform mainly for developing products or reaching personal goals?
  • What types of fees are involved in this platform?
  • Are there parameters around when and how you can receive the money? Some websites are goal-oriented and are all-or-nothing models.
  • What is the most user-friendly option for your community?
  • Is there a certain platform that is already familiar for your community?
Young entrepreneur preparing pitch

Focus on storytelling to get someone to join you in your journey!

Telling Your Story

Storytelling is one of our main pillars at Catapult. The way that you communicate your goal is going to make a difference in how your story resonates in people’s hearts. Here’s how you can get people to “join you on your journey”:

Give them background:
Don’t frame this as just a fundraising opportunity for “yet another summer program.” Explain your overarching entrepreneurial ambitions and how Catapult offers a real-world startup experience you can’t get elsewhere.

Explain what Catapult is and what you will get out of it:
Highlight your role in the Incubator (Founder, Team Member, or Free Agent) to better explain what you are going to be learning, doing, and experiencing. Tell them the hard work you have done to get accepted and the amount you will pour yourself into your future venture.

Paint a picture of your future for them and invite them to join you:
What do you want to do after the Catapult Incubator? Tell them how you will be joining a cohort of strong young entrepreneurs. Explain how Catapult alumni have raised over $3million and counting and how 70% go on to explore a new startup idea. Point to them other stories of incredible Catapult alums to let them see what your own potential is. Help them see your future dreams of growing your existing business or launching your own startup.

Take advantage of your age and your unique ambitions:
In case you haven’t realized, young entrepreneurs are not common! You will be surprised at how many people will admire how early you are diving into the world of business & entrepreneurship in such a tangible way. Invoke a little inspiration in adults who are far older than you who wish they had an opportunity like this in their youth.

Fundraising Far & Wide

Once you have your page up, share your story as far as possible!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst someone can say is “no.” It may seem scary, but you’ll never get a “yes” if you don’t try.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail! Another one of our pillars at Catapult is “failing fast.” The more you ask, the more you will learn what resonates and what doesn’t. Every time someone says no, take a note of what you could have said or written differently.
  • Don’t be afraid to step beyond your immediate circle of friends & family. Ask your own friends and family to share your page as much as possible on social media. If someone can’t contribute, you can always ask them to share the page instead to see if anyone in their network might be interested. Ask them to include a personal note of why you are deserving of support to help emphasize the cause.

Local Scholarship Funding for Catapult

Beyond crowdfunding within your personal network (and beyond), don’t forget that there are plenty of local scholarships available. Most people think scholarships are only available for college tuition, but there are many local foundations or nonprofits (neighborhood, city, or state), that are willing to fund incredible summer enrichment opportunities.

While a bit more formal, the tips of how to write a successful scholarship application are largely the same as the themes we highlighted above on how to write your crowdfunding story. Keep in mind that there is a human on the other end of the application and you want your story to resonate in their hearts as well. Let your passion come through and get them to see the same vision for your future.

One of our biggest recommendations here is to begin your search early! Many foundations are on a pre-planned schedule with application deadlines. Make sure to do your research and submit your application in time. To help you get started, below is a list of various local scholarships that focus on summer enrichment opportunities:

Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented (AAGT) – Student Enrichment Scholarship
If you live in Arizona, the Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented (AAGT) is picking 40 students per year to fund up to $200 for enrichment activities. Check it out here.

Ohio Association for Gifted Children – 2017 Student Scholarship
Each year the Ohio Association for Gifted Children offers scholarships to K-12 Ohio students for special activities that extend their special talent/interest areas. Note: The deadline is February 15, 2017 for applications. Check it out here.

Support for Talented Students (Central Ohio) – 2017 Scholarships
Support for Talented Students provides scholarships for gifted and talented Central Ohio students currently in grades up to 11th grade whose families could not otherwise afford the costs. These scholarships are specifically for summer enrichment programs. Check it out here.

Tennessee Association for the Gifted – Educational Programs Scholarships
The Tennessee Association for the Gifted (TAG) offers scholarships to Tennessee’s gifted students for educational programs that provide enrichment, acceleration, or independent study. Scholarships are available up to $500. Check it out here.

Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented – Summer Enrichment Scholarships
The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented offers summer enrichment scholarships for gifted students grades K- 12. The maximum summer scholarship award is $400 and can be used for academic, fine arts, or performing arts programs. Check it out here.

Wisconsin Association for the Gifted and Talented – Out-of-School Enrichment Scholarships
The Wisconsin Association for the Gifted and Talented provides out-of-school enrichment scholarships for students in K-12. Check it out here.

Know of any other local scholarships we should be highlighting? Contact us at admissions [at] so we can include it!

Now that you have a good starter guide to additional funding, get cracking..and good luck!

What it’s really like at Catapult – San Francisco Edition

Day at Google

Being an Entrepreneur is fun. Being a young entrepreneur at Catapult, is the bee’s knee’s.

We get a lot of questions about what Catapult is really like, when you are there. And we usually answer with all the incredible skills and tools you will learn all adapted from the best startups and most innovative businesses. And we always talk about how much fun we have. But instead of just tell you, today we’ve decided to show you.

Here are the moments in between, where the entrepreneurial journey is happening in the real world. Some of our favorite candid shots from San Francisco.

If you want to apply to Catapult  – you can access the application here

What Catapult is Really Like – in 31 Pictures

what catapult is really like with advisors

Introductions to the teams business advisors at Google

what catapult is really like hanging out with friends

During break at the startup space 5-Stars in downtown San Francisco

Matt Doka, the founder of 5-Stars, a loyalty program startup that raised $50 million this year – leading a master class

Surav presenting results from their teams design sprint with customers the night before

Read more

10 Habits of Great Ideators

Catapult Alumni - ultimate ideators

10 Habits of Great Ideators

Creativity is a Skill that Can be Learned

It’s a commonly held belief that some folks are born with an innate ability to be creative, and others aren’t. Actually, everyone can have great ideas with the right environment, prompts, and habits. Creativity isn’t about creative people, it’s about creative acts.

Everyone has good ideas

Each of us has come up with at least one good idea in the past. Maybe you figured out ways to make a process faster, a product better, a service cheaper. Yet even in the face of that proof, we often dismiss our own abilities to be creative. The first step to being more creative is acknowledging that it’s a skill, not a talent.

Everyone can get better at solving problems

Ideation is a skill. And like any skill, it takes dedicated, conscious practice to improve. What spurs you to have your best ideas? Whatever it is, do it more often. When can you practice More? Make it happen. What other techniques can you employ? Brainstorming is not the only kind of ideation. As you work to enhance your creativity skills, you’ll be amazed at how many great ideas you have.

You are better at ideating than an adult

Seriously, you are inherently better at ideation than adults, but you lose this as you get older so you need to practice, that’s what the following steps are for. While you are naturally better at ideation, you also have a tendency to overlook existing solutions that you could augment, tweak, and mash together creatively to build a new solution. Don’t always try to reinvent the wheel.

Want more tips to become a young entrepreneur? be sure to check out our Essential Guide

5 Step GuideHigh School Entrepreneurship

10 Habits of Great Ideators

Consistently coming up with great startup ideas isn’t luck. With the right practices, environments, and habits, we can all get better at generating ideas.

  1. Start with a Need – it was Ben Franklin who said that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ A principle he applied throughout his life to a host of innovations that are impressive for their breadth and variety, as well as their ingenuity.
  2. Create a supportive environment – The iconoclastic designer Yoshiro Nakamatsu has created an extremely personalized, sophisticated environment to stimulate and nurture his creativity, including sensory deprivation tanks and special stereo goggles that project patterns intended to put him into his creative sweet spot.
  3. Gather different Voices – People who are similar often think the same way and come up with the same ideas. Since we are looking for variety, get lots of different people involved. Keep group size under 6 people
  4. Feed your head – Charles Darwin was astute not only in his observations, but also in his own process of learning and relating to the world around him. For him, travel involved seeing diverse data and making connections
  5. how to come up with a great startup idea like disney width=

    Disney is famous for it’s continual creativity from movies to theme parks

  6. Ask stupid questions – Albert Einstein had a knack for asking very good questions that were deceptively simple and childlike. His question, ‘what would it be like to ride a beam of light?’ Led to his Theory of Relativity
  7. Encourage wild ideas – Walt Disney pushed his creative staff to over-the-top designs for Disneyworld installations and movie plots. He continually challenged his team to come up with new ideas, to amuse and amaze him; according to several accounts he demanded independent and daring thinking outright.
  8. Keep an idea log – Leonardo d Vinci’s notebooks are the manifestations of an extraordinarily creative, inquisitive mind. A single page, for example, taking off from his interest in curves, shows an exercise in the geometry of curves, a drawing of curly hair, grasses curing around an arum lily, sketches of trees, curve some clouds, rippling waves, of water, a printing horse, and the design of a screw press. We recommend this Idea Log
  9. tips for teen entrepreneurs

    Page from Da Vinci’s Idea Log

  10. Go for quantity – Pablo Picasso said, “the fact that I paint such a large number of studies is simply part of my manner of working. I do a hundred studies in a few days, whereas another painter might spend a hundred days on a single painting. By carrying on, I will open windows. I will go behind the canvas, and perhaps something will be brought out”
  11. Use the buddy system – Having a partner to bounce ideas back and forth off of is key, you will noticing things in each others ideas and build off them.
  12. Make bad ideas better – Thomas Edison’s motto was, “there is a better way. Find it!” In his description of how he invented the kinescope, he said, “all I have done is to perfect what has been attempted before, but did not succeed.”

Want more tips for teen entrepreneurs?

This post is an excerpt from our Essential Guide to High School Entrepreneurship, Step 2: How to come up with a great startup idea. We recommend reading the whole guide!

Young Social Entrepreneur: Drones for Humanity Founder Feature

Mohammed Nasir, a young social entrepreneur and Founder of Drones for Humanity

Drones for Humanity Young Social Entrepreneur Founder Mohammed Nasir Demo Day Pitch

Mohammed Nasir at Demo Day

Today we are excited to feature a young social entrepreneur: Mohammed Nasir, the Founder of Drones for Humanity which participated in our Spring 2016 Chicago cohort.

“Drones for Humanity is a social enterprise aimed at using a system of heavy-lifting and rapidly-deployable drones to deliver humanitarian aid, ultimately saving many lives that would otherwise be lost by the conventional disaster response system.”

Since this Spring, Drones for Humanity has continued to thrive and Mohammed has begun his freshman year at MIT. It recently won a $15,000 grant from MIT Sandbox, has gained additional team members, and is developing its 5th prototype. We’re thrilled to be highlighting both their recent wins & challenges in the past year.

Drones for Humanity

Struck by the fact that the majority of casualties occur after a natural disaster rather than during the event, Mohammed sought to develop a heavy-lifting drone which could act quickly to survey a disaster area, find survivors, and provide aid.

Due to limitations in transporting aid, relief organizations are often forced to choose where to send resources. While traditional methods of aid are delivered via helicopter, they can cost up to $10 million, the equivalent of over 1,000 drones. HumanityOne is designed to carry over 100 times more pounds per power than a helicopter.  Beyond that, typical aid requires extensive logistics & supply chains including maintenance, pilots, and drivers, whereas the drone can be automated and rerouted during flight.

“We can’t change natural disasters, but we can change what happens afterwards.”

-Drones for Humanity, Demo Day Pitch

Along with other young social entrepreneurs (Free Agents Trevin Wisaksana, Shreya Chanda, Anwar Asante, and Gloria Yu), the Drones for Humanity team worked hard during the Incubator to go from an invention & prototype to a functioning social enterprise with market viability. In the final weekend at Catapult, the team focused on storytelling and creating a captivating pitch. Thanks to a successful pitch by Free Agent Anwar Asante, the Drones for Humanity team won the Overall Favorite Award, Social Impact Award, Most Innovative Award, a tie for Most Investable (FOMO) Award, and a $1,000 grant from our sponsor The Shah Family at Catapult’s 2016 Spring Chicago Demo Day (see video below).

Drones for Humanity Specs Young Social Entrepreneur

Developments & Prototypes

Catapult: Hi Mohammed! Since the end of the Spring 2016 Chicago cohort, Drones for Humanity has had some exciting developments as a social enterprise and for you personally as a young social entrepreneur. What have you and the team been up to?

Mohammed: Since Demo Day in April, we have been in talks with the Indonesian Disaster Management Authority to marshal our first field deployment, which is scheduled for this coming summer. We have also developed our fourth prototype over this past summer based on feedback and regulation changes. This prototype was exhibited at the EAA Airventure Airshow in Oshkosh, WI (Links to media coverage, demonstration flights, and pictures below). Upon coming to MIT, I had a plethora of opportunities for venture development, and was awarded a grant of $15k for developing the fifth prototype for deployment in Indonesia.

Catapult: Now that you are on your 5th prototype, what have you changed and what are you currently developing?

Mohammed: The fifth prototype employs a gas-electric hybrid propulsion system, essentially quadrupling its flight range. Additionally, we are incorporating an intelligent AI control system, which actively optimizes flight plans, automatically coordinates aid delivery efforts, all while generating a 3D model-map of the disaster zone and autonomously searching for survivors.

On Starting MIT This Year as a Freshman…

Catapult: It’s a pretty big change to enter college. How have you balanced Drones for Humanity with your new life at MIT?

Mohammed: It may seem daunting to balance college and a startup, but at the end of the day, it really depends on where you go. MIT is rather hospitable to startups, and offer numerous opportunities to take ventures forward. At the same time, I would recommend taking the time to delegate tasks effectively, as it will take a load off your back in the long run. Also, invest in automation; this may take numerous definitions, but I shouldn’t be doing anything that a machine can do just as well. Apart from the above, it’s all about scheduling and coordination.

Catapult: Many young entrepreneurs are wondering whether college is the right option for them. Why do you think it makes sense for you at this time?

Mohammed: That decision rests heavily on the college itself; does it provide resources for young entrepreneurs? In my case, MIT does exactly this; an ecosystem of mentors, entrepreneurs, and sources of funding is set up to help ventures grow. Additionally, the brand of the college stands out to many potential investors, and having the college’s support helps the company bootstrap on a very low budget. My new team members are students here at MIT, and I’ve found them simply through networking events and connections–college is ideal for this.

Drones for Humanity HumanityOne Young Social Entrepreneur

HumanityOne Drone

On Finding Funding…the Right Way

Catapult: You recently found some funding through MIT Sandbox – can you tell us a little bit more about the process & what you had to provide?

Mohammed: The process involved an application and a pitch to a funding board. The board included high-profile investment partners from firms such as Sequoia and Greylock. The pitch was relatively similar [to what we had to prepare for Catapult’s Demo Day], though we had to present specific financial breakdowns of our grant funding. Apart from that, it had a greater focus on track record. The breakdown of the grant was determined by a simple analysis of costs over the next few months, plus upgrade costs to the drone.

Catapult: That’s incredible to hear. What types of questions did the investment partners ask you as follow up?

Mohammed: Many of the questions to follow up was structured around the skillset needed to make this work, and the fact that we have four functioning prototypes already addressed that concern.

Photos by: @[400331290169235:0]

The drone being displayed at Demo Day

Catapult: Drones for Humanity tried to go the crowdfunding route and didn’t have as much success there as you originally hoped. What would you have done differently and recommend to others?

Mohammed: Taking the crowdfunding route is only for a specific group of ventures: those which sell consumer goods. Our company being a B2B-type business did not have much to give potential funders in return, and as such, the campaign was not as successful as we thought.

Catapult & Beyond

Catapult: What do you think was the biggest benefit you got out of Catapult?

Mohammed: I believe the most important thing Catapult provided me with is startup strategy. We now know the process of formulating an idea, building a business model around it, and launching it into a company. Additionally, the connections show up unexpectedly–I ran into Nick Bain, an alum of the first Catapult cohort at Harvard, because I was wearing a Catapult T-shirt on campus!

Catapult: Thank you, Mohammed! We are so excited to be following along on this incredible journey & can’t wait to hear more updates on Drones for Humanity in the future.

Watch Drones for Humanity’s Demo Day Pitch by Free Agent Anwar Asante:

Are you a young social entrepreneur?

5 steps to build a startup in high school

“Can I launch a startup even though I’m in high school?”

We get that question a lot. And it’s not that you, high school students, think you can’t start a business, heck you probably have an idea and maybe even a team, but how do you put it all together into a successful high school startup?

Well look no further, here are the 5 tried and true steps to getting your startup off the ground, as told by real high school entrepreneurs who all have their own startups.


The best entrepreneurs see problems and solve them. Mukund Venkatakrishnan from the 2015 Philadelphia cohort is a great example.

Mukund built a low-cost device that tests a person’s hearing with a series of beeps, and also programs itself to become a hearing aid customized for that person. It eliminates the need for an expensive doctor and can be used with even the cheapest set of headphones.

Mukund didn’t invent this device out of the blue, he set out to fix a real problem.

Advice for building a startup while in high school - this program changed my life

Mukund is 16 years old and is changing the world with his low cost hearing device

“A few years ago, I visited my grandfather in India, while there, I realized he had hearing loss. The process of getting him tested and fitted for a hearing aid was pretty terrible, it cost over $1500. The average yearly income in India is only $600, so that’s a problem. I began researching the problem of hearing loss, it affects a lot of people and most can do nothing about it, that’s where I came up with my idea.”

One of the biggest challenges young entrepreneurs face is falling in love with a certain solution or invention they’ve created. And when their solution doesn’t work as expected, instead of rethinking, they often stay with their initial solution and are blind to the evidence in front of them.

Entrepreneurs who are dead set on solving a problem don’t care about which solution they ultimately go with, and are open to experimenting and really building a solution that works for the end customer.

2. Build a Real Thing

To make your idea real, you have to build something. Joyce Hsieh didn’t sit around planning to launch a million dollar business, she started by building a single cellphone case. Here’s what Joyce had to say about Building a Real Thing:

“I started Wild Daisy when I was 13 in the summer of 2012. I was totally not about the idea of looking for a ‘real’ first job. Instead, I decided to be-dazzle and glue metal studs onto phone cases with clear nail polish. I was obsessed and made tons of cases for myself, I changed my phone case everyday to match my outfit. Eventually my friends started asking if they could buy some for themselves. I became an undercover bedazzled phone case dealer in my middle school.

How to start a Business in high school

Joyce’s Instagram feed, notice the 875 likes.

Soon I created a small Etsy shop to sell online and not just locally, then moved to my own custom website months later. Several years of bootstrapping and a long week of in-school-suspension later, I came up with the idea of a clothing line. I moved to sunny San Diego the summer before my freshman year and immediately got my own office and warehouse to serve as home for my brand new clothing line, along with shoes, swim, jewelry, and of course, phone cases. I wasn’t thinking about a career or college or anything, that summer changed my life because I found something I loved doing. It was meant to be more than just a side hobby, I wanted Wild Daisy to be big!”

Old school business was about writing out a +50 page business plan. But startups have debunked that theory, it’s faster to just go out, with a single product and see if it works. We promise that it won’t be wildly successfu in the beginning, but the feedback you get, helps you build the next version of your product or service. At the Catapult Incubator, we send you out into the city on your first weekend to talk to real customers and show them your prototype.

3. Get One Real Customer

There is a famous saying by Peter Thiel, a well known entrepreneur and venture capitalist, “zero to one”, which is in reference to when you startup goes from having zero customers, to getting its first customer. Because once you find one customer, you are onto something.

Consider the story of HS Mxers, a company that puts on extravagant dance parties for high schoolers:

How to find a team for your startup idea

HS Mixers Co-Founders Raags and Ishan

“Long before we had figured out all the details, we got a few ‘ambassadors’ students at local high schools, and asked them to pre-sell tickets to our first event. Within a few weeks, the ambassadors came back to us and they were all asking for more tickets, because they had sold out. We sold 400 tickets in like 2 weeks without doing much, we knew we were on to something, even before we knew what something really was.”

You don’t have to make it perfect on your first try. Often times your early customers will tell you what other features or services they would like to have, and they can help you shape your products into something even better.

HS Mxers has expanded up the west coast and is even throwing an events in NYC with the help of other entrepreneurs from the Catapult Network.

4. Create a Real Crowdfunding campaign

Young entrepreneurs come to catapult and think they need funding in the millions of dollars. You actually need less to get started, way less. In fact most of our teams launch with less than $5,000 in seed funding. Take Drones 4 Humanity a team from our Spring 2016 cohort

Founder Mohammed built a heavy lifting drone that could deliver more than 100 lbs of supplies to people immediately after a natural disaster. One of Mohammed’s teammates, was able to introduce the team to the Disaster Response Authority in Indonesia who was so interested in the drones that they invited the team down to Indonesia for a demonstration of the technology.

A Founder speaking with Advisors

Mohammed speaking with Advisors

The team needed $15,000 to build 2 drones and fly the team to Indonesia for the test. We suggested they turn to crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a way to market your startup and gather early seed funding from the community. You make a profile of your venture with basic information, a video, and other relevant details, and then friends and family can support your cause as well as other people online who find about what you are doing.

They launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo while they simultaneously presented their venture at different events to really get the media buzzing. In the end they were able to fund the trip to Indonesia and are in talks with companies about ordering an initial set of drones.

As a young entrepreneur, crowdfunding can be really successful because the community wants to support You and your idea.

5. Tell a Real Story

If you’ve done the last 4 steps, this part takes care of itself. Teams always ask us for advice on pitching, and we say, tell your story. It’s compelling that a young entrepreneur is launching a business when many adults are humbled by that experience. Pitching and storytelling isn’t about gimmicks. It’s about telling what really happened, the ups and downs, and showing how through it all, you persevered, and are here, pitching your startup.

That couldn’t have been more true with Katie, the founder of Kidstales. Here’s the story she tells:

“When I was little she was an excellent figure skater, but after an accident left me unable to skate I grew depressed. Until one day, my mom signed me up for a creative writing class. I found an opportunity to share all my feelings and thoughts. What if more people could have this chance to share through creative writing? So I created Kidstales, a weeklong program to teach young people to write creatively and at the end of the week, we put their stories on Amazon so they become published authors.”

Katie is the founder of a high school startup

Katie talking with investors at Demo Day

Kids tales is now in 9 cities around the US and 3 countries thanks to Katie’s ability to tell a real story about the beginning and continued success of Kidstales.

There you have it, the 5 steps to getting your startup off the ground. Even though you may be in high school, like all the people highlighted above, you have a clear set of steps you can take to success.

If you are interested in getting professional support from experts in this area, consider applying to Catapult Ideas high school incubator as a founder, if you have an idea, or as a free agent if you want to learn about startups by joining a founder’s team.

How to get into Catapult’s high school startup incubator

“How do I get into Catapult’s high school startup incubator?”

As a high school startup incubator, we do things a little differently. We don’t use the same old boring metrics for a “good application” (*cough* transcript & laundry-list of extracurriculars*cough*). Instead, we look for applicants who have the potential to become incredible entrepreneurs and problem solvers. We look for individuals who want to immerse themselves in an entrepreneurial experience to develop the tools and mindset to solve big problems now and in the future. We look for people we want to develop and invest in to be the future game-changers, changemakers, and business disruptors.

Today we’re pulling back the veil on what it takes to get into Catapult’s startup incubators. We’re passing along our advice so you can submit a knock-out application.

Catapult young entrepreneurs example venture team

The ‘Let’s Talk College’ Team at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Summer 2016


After a long day of reviewing applications, we’re often begging for some form of entertainment! Captivating us with your application will be a welcome gift, but most importantly, be you! Don’t try to be someone you are not, and take the time to think about “why” you really want to experience Catapult (friendly advice – it should not just be to look good on your college application).

Share your curiosity and passion

The best part of entrepreneurship is that you can apply it across all fields – that means everything from robotics to ballet dancing to reducing food waste. You don’t need to have an extensive background in business to want to join or launch a startup! What we want is for that curiosity & passion to come through in an authentic way.

Flex your creativity with your short story

Your short story can literally be about anything, so don’t limit yourself. Write something that would interest any audience, show a different side of you, or keep us on the edge of our seat.

Avoid these video mistakes at all costs

  • Repeat the exact same information from your Short Essay questions
  • Read a script off of the computer (guaranteed way to kill your enthusiasm)
  • Submitting a sideways or upside down video
  • Reusing a video from another event or application – we can tell!
  • Show us you have what it takes to make it in the real-world

    Treat your Skype interview as an opportunity to pitch yourself. First impressions are formed quickly. This means being on time, working out your technical difficulties in advance, and looking presentable all go a long way.


    Successful venture applications typically display well-thought out answers to the following:

  • Clearly identifies the problem that the venture idea is solving
  • Provides an example of a developed or active prototype (needs to be more than an idea)
  • Displays efforts made to gain traction
  • Coherently explains how the Venture Idea is differentiated from competitors
  • And again, don’t have the Venture Video just repeat the same information in the written Venture Information section! We want to know more.


    Show us you are a good team player:

  • Let your application illustrate important characteristics like flexibility, hard work, and good communication
  • Help us understand what you want for the future – how do you want to use this Catapult experience?

    Let your personality come through!

    We don’t want a cohort full of robots. We want unique individuals with unique passions who want to solve unique problems.

    Ready to join our high school incubator?

    Apply To Catapult