Teenager. Entrepreneur. Programmer. Lakeside School.
String ’em together, and you might think of Bill Gates, a Lakeside grad and former budding young tech businessman himself.
But while he isn’t using a Teletype Model 33 and might not become one of the world’s wealthiest people, Nikhil Khanna is another Lakeside teen-techie showing initiative well beyond his years.
Khanna, a junior at Seattle’s prestigious Lakeside, spent last summer building an iPhone game from the ground up in just two months and with only $600. His story exemplifies how easy it is for young entrepreneurs to build apps and compete with big name companies.
Khanna’s creation, Bounding Blob, is an addictive Super Mario-esque game that allows users to collect stars on various courses and set high scores. The game goes for 99 cents and Khanna said he’s had 300-to-400 downloads without any advertising work.
And game development is not all he’s doing. The 16-year-old set up his own game company called TangledFire to help market and promote Bounding Blob.
So how did he do it in just two months?
“Basically, the internet was just an awesome source,” he said. “That’s how I learned to program. The resources out there make it very easy for a teenager to just go out there using forums and resources to figure out how to program.”
Khanna took free online programming courses via MIT and used community forums to learn how to program for a mobile device. His parents are former Microsoft employees and helped connect Khanna to local techies for advice.
“The culture here got me interested in programming in the first place,” he said.
As the process moved along this past summer and Khanna got more and more invovled with the project, he began thinking about turning a hobby into something he could profit on.
“I started to realize I could compete with the big guys,” Khanna said.
And so started TangledFire. It was difficult and at times frustrating to manage the entire game project, from the programming to the art to the sound. So Khanna went to the Internet for help, using resources like Elance to hire an Australian designer for the game’s artwork.
After two months, he submitted Bounding Blob to the App Store and the game was ready for download. All the reviews have been positive thus far and Khanna plans doing more advertising to boost sales numbers.
“I really enjoyed working on the product,” he said. “I wanted to see what happened to it when it came out of the gates. At a certain point, the product itself was motivating me, not a particular thing about the program.”
He plans on working on a new game soon and pursuing computer science in college. After that? Well, more of this.
“That would be nice to do this all day,” he said of Tangled Fire. “It’d be nice to do this for a full-time job.”