Ben Pasternak is a Sydney high school dropout whose app wizardry has reportedly made him a millionaire, yet when he travels in the US or needs to sign business deals he still needs the help of a legal adult.
Pasternak, 17, rocketed to tech stardom in 2014 when he created the Impossible Rush game during a school science class. The game would go on to become one of the most downloaded apps in the world. He was just 15 at the time.
Today, he is living an entrepreneurial existence in New York, paying a reported $5000 a month for an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, has a $160 haircut and is the CEO of his own tech company.
Since moving on from Impossible Rush, Pasternak has developed and sent live projects from ‘One’, ‘Flogg’ and now ‘Monkey’. All of his projects have a social media flavour to them, with the intended audience being those like himself – teenagers.
His latest venture ‘Monkey’ is a video-chat app that aims to help teenagers find and develop new friendships in a safe space. A blurb on the app’s website says it has “zero tolerance” for cyberbullying and threats and takes “extraordinary steps” to keep “our community” safe.
When ‘Monkey’ went live earlier this year, it was lapped up by teens and had almost 250 million calls between users as of March 20. It also earned Pasternak a personal email of congratulations from Apple boss Tim Cook.
When asked what he believes has been the key to his success, the former Reddam House student is succinct yet modest.
“Simply by being relentless and persistent,” he told 9Stories.
In reply to questions about what’s it like being thought as “the next Mark Zuckerberg” or the next “great titan of technology”, Pasternak simply doesn’t pay attention to the hype.
“I don’t think about labels, but I am excited to create and build products that will positively improve the lives of people around the world,” he said.
“The way I value success is by the number of people that I positively impact on a daily basis through my work.”
The modest nature of his words appears to be an endearing trait for the teenager. It also means he doesn’t skip over the not-so-smooth sailing moments of his meteoric rise.
“I made a lot of mistakes but I believe all of them happened for a reason and helped me grow as an entrepreneur,” he said.
“I can think of big screw ups but none that I regret.”
While he doesn’t delve into his “big screw ups”, one of them could well have been when he missed out on royalties from the Impossible Rush app by selling it for just $200.
To put this all into perspective, less than a day after Impossible Rush was accepted into the US app store in 2014 it overtook Tinder as the top app.
Impossible Rush is a free download and is based on the concept of connecting a falling coloured ball, or dot, with the colour on a rotatable colour square.
Initially Pasternak had no plans to send the app live as he had been busy focusing on One – an app that combines the social media posts from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
However, after sending the app design to his Chicago-based developer friend Austin Valleskey, who was also 15 at the time, the pair took the finished product to market.
It was only after Pasternak casually mentioned the app to his friend and New York-based social app marketer Carlos Fajardo that it morphed from a high school time-filler to an internationally recognised game. Fajardo ended up paying $200 to buy Impossible Rush.
According to Sensor Tower data, Fajardo had a total of four apps to his name with an estimated worth of more than $250,000 at the time of the deal. Of these apps, Impossible Rush accounted for more than $130,000 of his app worth.
Despite not making a cent from Impossible Rush royalties, these days Pasternak is estimated to be worth upwards of $2 million after his ideas caught the eye of venture capitalists.
So, as a 17-year-old with so much cash to his name, has he splashed out on any big ticket items? Like a fast car? No, not really, he says.
“I have everything that I want in my life from a materialistic perspective. I have a laptop, phone, and wear the same outfit every day,” he said.
“I don’t drive as I haven’t had time to learn, and in NYC it’s kind of pointless. I am excited to “drive” a self-driving car in a few years.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2017
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