He’s yet to make his first million; in fact he’s yet to graduate from high school, but when it comes to taking a diligent, thoughtful and upbeat approach to entrepreneurship, the business world could learn a lot from Aaron Golbin.
The 15-year-old New Yorker is the creator of a number of online ventures, including DebateIsland.com, a debate platform that uses AI to revolutionize the online debate experience. He’s also founded LostCry.com, a website where users can share their ancestors’ stories of hardship, for example, during wars, and even the Holocaust, and BestDealWins.com, an online platform that uses gamification to turn the quest to save money online into a game-like experience.
“As far as I can remember, I’ve always been greatly fascinated with emerging technologies, new innovations, startups and websites,” says Golbin.
In 2014, whilst in fifth grade, he began taking online programming classes, which sparked his early passion for coding. From there he took more programming classes in a diverse range of languages which broadened his knowledge of coding. As a seventh grader Golbin decided to start an online debate platform, an idea borne out of his personal enjoyment of classroom debates.
“With DebateIsland.com my aim is to make online debating mainstream,” he says. “There are four debating formats, entitled ‘Casual’, ‘Persuade Me’, ‘Formalish’, and ‘Formal’, which means that the platform will appeal to all types of debaters.”
DebateIsland currently has over 8,000 users and 2,000 debates.
The following year, 2017, saw Golbin set up his second business, BestDealWins.com. He says: “I saw how much people enjoyed saving money and came up with an idea that would turn their money saving efforts into a challenge and gives them an experience that is similar to a game.”
Later that year, his 92-year-old great grandmother, Tsilya Zaslavsky, a Holocaust survivor, shared her experiences of life during that terrible era in history, much of it in written form through her diaries. It prompted Golbin to create his third online platform, LostCry.com .
He says: “It’s a place where others can share their family stories of hardship, whether the result of war, immigration, civil rights or, like my great grandmother, surviving the Holocaust.”
However it is DebateIsland.com that is currently attracting a lot of interest, due to its use of AI. The teenage tech whizz kid makes light of how easily he appears to have grasped the new technology.
He explains: “Debra AI is a major component of DebateIsland.com and is a mix of APIs and proprietary code that analyzes arguments and can predict the winner or winners of debates with high accuracy based on an extensive amount of data and different factors.”
Nevertheless, in building and running his platforms Golbin has encountered some challenges, not least the marketing of his online creations.
“Any new business or startup is going to struggle to succeed unless it has a very good marketing strategy,” he says. “Your platform might have an outstanding product or solution, but nobody would know about it. To overcome this particular challenge I approached a lot of different people for advice and used it to devise a marketing strategy for DebateIsland.com that would work.”
In terms of funding, Golbin has kept his expenses and running costs to a minimum, and therefore required very little cash to get his platforms up and running. The biggest expense has been his time, which begs the question, how does a 15-year-old entrepreneur balance his programming, planning, online user management, and marketing duties with schoolwork and the rest of his life? Quite simply, he has mastered the art of time management.
“Being efficient with your time and managing your time effectively is a key component of being an entrepreneur,” he says.
Golbin is fortunate in having a supportive family, and parents who he says have played a key role in inspiring him to pursue his passions and develop his startups.
One of the most impressive things about his approach to business is his self-discipline and determination; he isn’t a millionaire, but he has all the components needed to achieve financial success. Looking ahead, he says his options to monetize the platforms include advertisements, sponsored content, donations, and premium membership, but he’s in no hurry. His main focus is making sure they are the best they can be.
For now, the teenager who spends his spare time reading and watching the news on politics, stocks, economics, and technology plans to continue to develop his businesses and eventually hopes to become a mentor to other young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business.
His achievements are a testimony to his determination and his vision, which are quite extraordinary for someone of his age. He also has a deep social conscience – one of his main goals is to share his great grandmother’s story of hardship with a much wider audience. Entrepreneurs of all ages can learn a lot from this youngster’s take on building and running a business.