Five Wunderkinds Trying to Change the World or Take Over the Planet


By Meredith Schneider

When you reach an age where everyone being drafted into professional sports is younger than you, it is easy to consider yourself an underachiever. When watching news segments about people younger than you who are inventing new products, becoming active CEOs for companies, or basically changing the world, you have two options: You can either wallow in self-pity for an inordinate amount of time, or you can choose to be inspired.

In honor of Trailblazer week, we found five very successful young people who are following their dreams. After we picked our jaws up off the ground, we chose to be motivated by their work. So read on, be encouraged, and maybe you will make our next list of inspirational human beings.

The App-etizer

Nick D’Aloisio speaking with Bobbie Johnson of GigaOm UK at LeWeb London event in 2012. Photo by Official LeWeb Photos.

Nick D’Aloisio is a 17-year-old app designer from the UK via Australia who recently sold his intellectual property to Yahoo! for $25 million. This wasn’t his first rodeo, either. D’Aloisio has been designing apps for the general public since the age of 12 after learning programming at age 11.

The app currently known as Summly was in test stages in March 2011 when it caught the eye of Apple. D’Aloisio received global feedback on the product, called Trimit at the time, and instead of selling it then he used the app to his advantage. At the ripe age of 15, his project received venture funding from celebrities and moguls and was sold to Yahoo! in March of 2013. The updated app, Summly, condenses news articles into summary text presented in an aesthetically pleasing way on smart phones.

Tumbl’n On

David Karp. Photo by Jose Aloly.

David Karp is a 27-year-old internet-savvy web developer who never finished high school and did not attend college. He is also the founder and CEO of Tumblr. He began building blogging platforms during internships and eventually started his own software consulting company. Davidville worked specifically on web design projects for several clients and, during a small gap in projects, he and Marco Arment began working on a microblogging website. Launched in 2007, the site hosts millions of bloggers and acts as thousands of musicians’ personal web pages. It has aided in the launching of music, writing, and cooking careers globally and was also recently acquired by Yahoo! for $1.1 billion.

A Social Affair

Catherine Cook at the 2011 Internet Summit at the Raleigh Convention Center in Virginia. Photo by Thos Ballantyne.

24-year-old Catherine Cook co-founded with her brother David in 2005 with the hopes of allowing young people to connect online. Unlike Facebook, this website was originally designed so that you could search other people in your age range based on factors such as their interests, hobbies, and location. Much like a dating website, this site allows members to share what they want about themselves in a secure environment. According to, its name has changed to and it has become the top teen website in the world, boasting a top 30 website spot.

Genius is as Genius Does

Akrit Jaswal. Image courtesy of flexmedia.

Akrit Jaswal performed surgery for the first time at age 7. He was not officially a doctor and had no credentials, but was already considered a medical genius. It was a successful surgery and he started his medical education at Punjab University at the age of 11. His IQ at age 13 made him the smartest (listed) person in his home country of India. Now 19-years-old, he is not yet a qualified doctor, but hopes to one day cure cancer.

With a Bang!

Cody Wilson in August, 2012. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old Texas native, founded Defense Distributed, a company that has been making headlines across the globe in its short existence. Defense Distributed is a non-profit known for being a digital publisher and 3-D Printing Research and Development firm, which offers universally accessible means of self-defense. Through Defense Distributed, Mr. Wilson developed “The Liberator”, a pistol that you can make yourself with a 3-D printer. In a time when gun control and violence is a prominent topic in the media and public discourse, Wilson was brought into the spotlight with this innovative invention. Impressive as it may be, it does call into question the accessibility of weapons to everyday citizens who may not know the ramifications of guns. Furthermore, printing these guns may violate state laws that require firearms to be registered.

After Indiegogo suspended Defense Distributed’s campaign for funds last summer, fundraising efforts were continued through Bitcoin and Pay Pal. They reached their goal by September 2012, after which live fire testing began in December of 2012, and the blueprints were released on the site for download in May 2013. The working blueprint of the 3-D gun was almost immediately taken off of the website under order of the US government.

WIRED’s Danger Room ranked Wilson among “The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World”. He is currently a second year law student at The University of Texas.

For those of you who are wondering, it’s true. You might not need a college education or even a high school diploma to be the next leader in your field. So don’t get too discouraged by these young great minds, a little bit of dedication and a really big idea can get you pretty far.