He's founded four online start-ups, sold three and helped create 15 jobs in the United States with an average salary of $79,000.
Not a bad resume for somebody who hasn’t had their 18th birthday.
Lachy Groom, 17, has always had an inkling for business and entrepreneurship.
Businessman from the beginning
Groom was the kid who opened a lemonade stand, started a dog-walking business and by the age of 11 was working with HTML and CSS coding.
“My granddad actually taught me HTML, from there I learnt CSS and discovered these two languages were in high demand,” says Groom.
It wasn’t long before Groom, who is mostly self-taught, began building websites and in 2008, at the age of 13, he founded his first start-up, PSDtoWP.
Working for mostly US and European-based clients, Groom turned PhotoShop documents into web-friendly WordPress pages.
Nine months into the project a larger consulting firm bought the company.
Always on the hunt for the next great idea
It wasn’t long until the Perth native set out on his next project. While on a holiday to Bali in 2011, Groom was reading the New York Times bestseller The 4-hour body. The book outlines a set of supplements dubbed PAGG (Policosanol, alpha-lipoic acid, green-eat extract and garlic) and set off a spark in Groom’s mind.
“I got in touch with a manufacturer, set this site up within hours of reading the book,” he says. Within a month PAGGStack.com was produced and selling supplements to customers across the world.
When the site was sold five months later in May, it was earning thousands of dollars in revenue every month.
The serial entrepreneur’s next venture was so simple, Groom found its success amusing.
“I’m a huge Apple fan, everything tech I own is Apple. I had a US friend ship in the latest iPad, took it to school, and pretty quickly a friend dropped it on concrete. Screen cracked. iPad destroyed,” says Groom. “I didn't have any projects on the go at this point in time, and my dad told me to set up a site to get some passive income going. So I did!”
Groom quickly set up iPadCaseFinder.com in May 2010.
It’s as simple as it sounds. With the aid of a filtering plug-in users are able to search through an array of iPad cases from different sellers and are then directed where to buy them.
“All the outgoing links were affiliate links. Amazon pays generously. Within the first few weeks of launch we had 400,000 unique hits,” says Groom.
Within a few months the business was yet again picked up and bought.
This allowed Groom move onto his next project, which he still owns, Cardnap.
Created in April 2011, Cardnap allows users to search for discounted gift cards as well as re-selling their own. The site is currently only available to the US.
“I saw an opportunity to become a market place [for gift cards]. It did very well opening week. I still own this site, but may be looking to sell it soon so I can concentrate on getting to the US.”
Aside from obvious technology purchases, Groom’s success has allowed him to indulge in trips to places such as London and San Francisco, where he is currently staying on a tourist visa, invest in shares, attend conferences and dine in some of the best restaurants San Francisco has to offer.
Managing school and business
One of Groom’s biggest fans is his former headmaster at Wesley College in Perth, David Gee.
“I think he’s a great example of someone who has followed his passion, hasn’t let age be a barrier and hasn’t said ‘well I can’t do this because I’m 17’,” said Gee.
Groom looks back fondly on his time at Wesley College but Gee admits it took a bit of negotiating to get him to complete Year 12.
“Right from the beginning of Year 11 he had some clear pictures that school was something he had to do,” says Gee. “His parents obviously wanted him to focus on Year 11 and 12 and Lachy wanted to focus a bit more on the business side and I managed to mediate a common ground.”
While Groom was no average student and was devoting a lot of his time to his businesses, Gee says once he made his decision to stay he embraced and engaged in the school’s community, becoming heavily involved in activities like the student council.
“I’ve been a head for nine years and he’s one of those young men who will sit in my mind with a sense of admiration for the way that he did manage to do something that wasn’t the norm and wasn’t held back by others,’’ says Gee.
“I’m pretty certain one day he’ll be teaching me how I can use technology to be more efficient.”
The next step
Groom hopes to take his talents to the home of technology start-ups – Silicon Valley.
Unfortunately he faces an uphill battle to obtain a visa to work in the United States because of his age and lack of traditional qualifications.
Groom completed high school in December last year and despite having obvious talent in the field of technology, he does not qualify for the primary visa used by specialty field immigrants in the US because he does not have a degree.
A number of big companies have expressed an interest in Groom. He has been interviewed by big firms including Twitter and Zynga, as well as a number of other San Francisco start-ups.
While he continues to garner a lot of interest Groom says the interview process falters because he does not have a work visa.
“Various companies have said they'd love to have me - once I have legal work authorisation,” he says.
Groom’s best chance of obtaining a working visa will be one based on extraordinary ability in his field. To this end he requires national or international acclaim, usually gained through awards and prizes, which he has neither entered nor won.
Despite these challenges Groom remains optimistic about his cause and hopes to move permanently to the land of opportunity.
“Australia has nothing like San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. The tech culture there is insane. The demand for skilled workers is incredible. The creativity and innovation is incredible. It's infectious,” he says.
Lachy Groom's business tips
Anticipatory vs. reactionary
- Start a business in reaction to a trend and you'll ride the tail end of the wave. Anticipate the wave and you'll ride it to the end.
- A start-up must find ways to get the most out of minimal capital.
Lachy runs his ventures by this advice;
"'Lean' is the most capital-efficient way to run a business. Lean is the never-ending process of eliminating waste: finding every activity that does not create value for the customer and eliminating it. The two greatest wastes are overproduction (making things the customer doesn’t want) and inventory (making things that aren’t used immediately)." - VentureHacks
- Don't start developing your product before you show it to customers. In the tech and start-up industry we have a term "Minimum Viable Prototype". Develop the bare minimum to get your product in front of your users, and then iterate around their feedback. This will allow you to validate or invalidate your customer hypotheses in the shortest period of time.
Sell an emotional experience, not a product
- People buy an iPad for the experience that Apple sells them. The revolutionary display, the memory capturing camera. They don't sell you on the specifications. Sell your customers an experience, not a product, not a feature. Tell them a story.
Lachy's favourite quote:
"Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t." - Unknown