Startup Nation, Jr.: This 14-year-old Israeli Has Already Started Two Businesses

'Sure, clients are surprised,' says Itay Pincas, who skipped school to network at Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 forum this week. But he says his work speaks for itself.

Itay Pincas.
Judy Maltz

Even at an event that celebrates young entrepreneurs and game-changers, Itay Pincas stands out as unusually tender-aged. 

At 14, and with two startups already under his belt, Pincas is the youngest participant at the annual Forbes Under 30 Summit now taking place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 

“Sure, clients are always surprised when they see me for the first time,” says the precocious teenager, whose mother, Michal, tagged along to keep an eye on him. “But once they take a look at my work, they understand that age is meaningless.”

A year-and-a-half ago, when he was barely 13, Pincas founded Joy2day, a company that develops mobile applications. After recruiting two older friends (one 16 and the other 18) as partners in the venture, he assumed the position of CEO. (One of its applications, known as “Sumzapp,” provides friends dining out with an easy way to calculate their relative share in a joint restaurant bill.)

Just two weeks ago, Pincas and two other 18-year-old friends launched Teencrew, a marketing consultancy that targets businesses and advertisers that sell products to teenagers. His position in the new company is chief technology officer.

Itay with his mother Michal.
Judy Maltz

This is the first time the Forbes annual event has been held outside the United States. The 600 participants from around the world were selected from various “30 Under 30” regional lists that the international business magazine publishes. Pincas’ name was among those that appeared on the first Forbes Israel “30 Under 30” list, published in February.

Despite his various entrepreneurial pursuits, Pincas attends middle school full time in his hometown of Hod Hasharon. Only after he comes from school, he reports, does his business day begin. “It usually involves Skype conference calls from home, but once a week, my partners and I get together in Tel Aviv,” he says.

Trying to juggle it all can often be challenging, he acknowledges. “You can ask my teacher, and she’ll tell you that I sometimes forget to do my homework,” he says. “As for my grades, they’re not bad, but they tend to suffer when I get overly involved in work.”

Does mom get angry? “No, not really,” says his mother, “because I think the important thing is that Itay loves what he’s doing and he’s happy. To me, that’s more important than school.”

Although her tech-savvy son has never been tested, Michal does not attribute his achievements to any special intellectual giftedness. Nor does he. “Far from it,” says Pincas, grinning through his mouthful of braces. “It’s the same as kids my age who are good at soccer because they’ve been training from a very young age. I discovered what I liked doing at a very young age, and I’ve been working at it ever since, so I’m good at it.”

Without disclosing specific figures, the young business executive confirms that his tech ventures are quite lucrative. “It’s pretty cool because I can buy almost everything I want without bothering my parents,” he boasts.

The oldest of three children, Pincas is the only member of his family, according to his mother, to show a predilection for high-tech. “I’m a gym teacher, and my husband’s a civil servant, so I wouldn’t say that it’s in our DNA,” she observes.

His interest in developing digital applications began at age 10, when he took a special after-school course in computers. Then, with the help of the Internet, he taught himself various computer programs. “I was always passionate about technology,” he says, “but it got even stronger when I started to understand how everything works behind the scenes.” 

As for the future, he already has it carefully mapped out. “First I want to serve in 8200,” he says, referring to the elite IDF military intelligence unit known as a breeding ground for many Israeli high-tech startups. “Then I want to live for a short period in Silicon Valley. After that I want to work in a few companies to gain experience so that I can start my own company or work for one of the huge high-tech companies like Apple, Google or Facebook.”

Asked if he sees himself living in Israel for the rest of his life, he says: “That’s not something I think about. I still have time to decide.”

With his mother’s blessings, Pincas took off from school the entire week so that he could attend the conference, where his goal, he says, was “to meet people and make new contacts.” His efforts appeared to be paying off because barely midway through the five-day event, he had run out of all his business cards.