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Anshul Samar seems both wise and innocent at once. At 14, the high school freshman is the CEO of his own company, Alchemist Empire, Inc.
“Entrepreneurship isn’t something you can only do when you’re 30 years old,” he says. “Kids can do this.”
Born and raised in Cupertino, Calif., Samar says that, for kids in Silicon Valley, picking up entrepreneurship is like picking up a sport: “It’s hard to explain, but my school is right next door to Apple’s headquarters. And even as a second grader I remember hearing things like, ‘Oh, the VC didn’t give me money.’”
Samar’s first product, Elementeo, is a card game in which chemical elements, portrayed as fantasy characters, wage an epic war against one another. It’s a mix of Harry Potter, the Mahabharat, and basic chemistry. Element cards like Gold Maharaja, Nitrogen Naga, and Oxygen Life-giver battle to win in chemical warfare. Every card takes on some of its natural chemical attributes. For example, Oxygen can rust neighboring metal cards, and Copper Conductor can shock cards and send them back to the deck.
Samar officially launched the game at the National Association of the Gifted Conference in October 2008 and is now selling the game on Amazon.com. He thought up the game during a hot summer vacation in India after fourth grade. Samar realized that most of his board games didn’t engage adults, and figured it was because they weren’t educational enough.
“I knew then I wanted to do something with chemistry and cards,” he said.
So Samar began designing the game, but really started to work on it when he won a $500 grant in sixth grade from the California Association for the Gifted. The seed funding helped him develop an initial prototype. After that, he took his game to TiECON (The Indus Entrepreneurs Conference) and soon found himself in the media spotlight. Reporters at TiECON were charmed by the fast-talking teenager on a mission. Samar has since been featured in The New York Times, The San Jose Mercury News, India Today and on NPR, Fox, and ABC.
The recognition encouraged him to fully develop the game, and he hired experienced designers to turn his visions into reality. Along the way, Samar has been able to gain the support and advice of prominent Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley like Satish Gupta, Jayaram Bhat, Seshan Rammohan, and Sandeep Giri. He has also gotten the advice of the industry’s top gaming experts, like Peter Adkinson, one of the founders of the popular role-playing card game Magic.
His greatest supporters, though, have been his own family. His father, Vipun Samar, an entrepreneur himself, helped with writing the initial business plan. Mom, Pratibha, helps with sales and retail, and younger sister, Shailee, is working on a version of the game for younger children.
Balancing a business with the rigors of high school hasn’t been easy. Samar has been practicing meditation regularly for two years, which helps him keep life in perspective.
“As a kid you feel like you can conquer the world,” he says. “And if you do mess up, there’s still a skateboard, dinner and basketball.” Spoken like a true child of Silicon Valley.
More information on Anshul Samar and Elementeo is available atwww.elementeo.com. The game is for sale on Amazon.com for $24.95.