Ben Keighran, 25
San Mateo, Calif.
Ben Keighran has been on the fast track since he finished secondary school in Sydney, Australia, when he was 15. After working at a Web startup for a year and a half, he went on to study computer science at an accelerated schedule at the university level in Sydney. While there, Keighran got his hands on a Bluetooth device and programmed a hack for his cell phone that allowed him to use it as a remote control to control his computer's music player. He says his friends wanted him to program their phones, too, but there was no easy way to do it, because there was no universal mobile platform. So he built one ("having cut my teeth early on writing software for mobile") and put it on the Web, asking for feedback and allowing developers to develop widgets for it.
A meeting with Yahoo! (YHOO) executives encouraged him to further develop the platform, which didn't depend on handset maker or mobile carrier relationships. One of the executives urged Keighran to use his new technology to create a consumer business and told him he'd invest. He brought Keighran to Silicon Valley to meet with venture capitalists and check out the scene, and Keighran moved over in December, 2006, landing about $6 million in venture capital.
Today, 17-employee Bluepulse is located in YouTube's old offices, and bills itself as one the most widely used mobile platforms in the world. The free application works on most Internet-enabled phones and Keighran says more than 3 million people have downloaded it so far. While he says he doesn't expect the company to be profitable until 2008, he says the company's strategy is to generate massive inventory (so far users have sent more than 40 million messages) and monetize it with targeted ads.