Teenage Dropout Raises Cash, Hardly Sleeps

In many ways, Andrew Hsu is a normal startup entrepreneur.

He works a lot of hours (from 10 a.m. to about 4 a.m. every day, he says) and he’s passionate about his company, Palo Alto-Calif.-based Airy Labs, which is developing social learning games for kids.

Hsu delivered the opening keynote speaker at the Teens in Tech conference, which aims to inspire tech-savvy teens and help them mingle with other young people interested in technology and startups. Others to talk today to an audience of about 200 include Kevin Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite.

Hsu (pictured) is also in the Thiel Fellowship program, a two-year program in which he is receiving $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators.

Someone at this conference called Hsu the youngest Renaissance man he’s ever met. And I can see why. His bio says it all, which you can see here.

I asked the 20-year-old Hsu what advice he had for entrepreneurs of any age.

He says that what he’s learned from pitching VCs is that “investors don’t read business plans. It’s the PowerPoint presentation that matters.”

Apparently, he seems to know what he’s talking about. Earlier this week, Airy Labs announced it raised $1.5 million in seed funding. The round was led by Foundation Capital with participation from Google Ventures, Rick Thompson (co-founder and former chairman of Playdom), and other angel investors and micro-cap venture firms, according to the company. Airy Labs employs 10.

Hsu says he’s the first in Thiel’s so-called “20 Under 20” program, which actually features more than 20 young startup entrepreneurs, to raise an institutional round of funding.

Thiel’s program has garnered some controversy for encouraging teenagers to forgo a college education in favor of launching a startup. I asked Hsu if he wished he stayed at Stanford University, but he said he was ready to quit when the Thiel Fellowship opportunity came about.

“Things are going great,” he says. “I’m working a lot of hours and looking forward to our company’s growth.”

No matter his age, he’s just like every other startup entrepreneur.

Here are some pics I took from the event, which I posted on my Google+ page.