This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of 425 Business.
Eastlake High senior Anthony Humay launched his online company when he was 13, and it’s still going strong.
One of the benefits of living in the information age is that we can get the answer to almost any question with a quick Internet search. Anthony Humay is an example of how such accessibility can easily turn into a business opportunity. Humay started a company when he was 13 years old after experimenting with creating games and apps.
Now a 17-year-old senior at Eastlake High School, Humay quickly learned the difference between loving to play games and making them well, so he focused on one concept — a trivia game — and expanded it to create a website. With his dad’s “Why not you?” mantra humming in his head, Humay pitched his business idea to his parents.
“I just thought, well, I can make my own website, I might as well take that to a more formal level of filing a business license, and I had a great mentor in my dad helping with that,” Humay said. “It sounds really big, but it’s pretty manageable.”
Humay’s parents, James Hu and Katja May, were supportive of their son getting a business license and officially launching Midzy, a social-polling platform. Hu officially is a co-owner of the business until Humay turns 18 in February.
Midzy’s users visit the site to create and answer poll questions. Topics run the gamut from soccer to politics to climate change. One can use the site anonymously or create a free profile by connecting a Facebook or Twitter account.
Since launching his business in 2011, Humay has entered Midzy in two Teen CEO competitions and won $2,300 total. The prize money enabled him to hire back-end developers through Elance to build up the site’s framework and database. That has helped Humay transition into being more involved with user experience and front-end design.
Midzy recently launched a mobile site and an iOS app, and now Humay’s ready to grow his user base and build partnerships with companies looking for an interactive polling platform. Humay said other polling platforms aren’t as social or fun to use as Midzy, which has a community of people who visit the site specifically to create and answer polls. If companies made polls more social, then they might get more response and interaction, Humay said.
Part of what makes Midzy valuable is the ability to capture psychographics, which is the compilation of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. This comes through in questions such as “Would you cheat on a test?” or “Should sex work be decriminalized?” These types of value-based answers give advertisers a more rounded and nuanced look at a demographic or community of people.
“It’s deeper insight into the person, and then we combine it with demographics. We want to build personality and customer profiles of each of the users and use that to create a powerful, targeted advertising system,” Humay said.
Humay may be running a business out of his bedroom, but the teen is not all work and no play. Instead, he finds one to two hours each weekday to work on Midzy between his studies (he’s a 4.0 student) and playing on the school’s varsity soccer team. Humay is a busy student and entrepreneur, but it’s all fun to him.
“I think a lot of it is just organizing your day and planning ahead. If there’s a big soccer game, I have to do more Midzy one day, or if there’s a test coming up, I have to make sure I’m giving enough time to study. It’s been tough to juggle, but I guess I’ve enjoyed the challenge. I feel like it’s better than having nothing to do,” Humay said.
Humay has learned a lot since he started Midzy. First, he learned that building a website and maintaining the business was a lot more work than he thought it would be.
“My vision has probably become more realistic, and I learned I need to take smaller steps and be more result-oriented day by day in making good progress,” he said. “I think my long-term mission is still there to grow into a larger tech company and be involved in big data and data analytics.”
The second big lesson for Humay was learning how accessible information was.
“I didn’t think people would be so responsive when I asked for help, like reaching out to my mentor (Passport Unlimited CEO Roger Blier). I didn’t think he’d be so helpful and willing to guide me,” Humay said. “I think most kids don’t know that (this is) not something that’s out of their range. Kids that are interested in doing something like this would find it doable.”
Humay isn’t thinking small with Midzy. He’s been out to “change the Internet,” as he wrote on his website, since he was 13, and he’ll pursue a future in computer science after high school. The University of California, Berkeley (where his parents attended school), Stanford, and the University of Washington top his list of potential colleges.
Humay’s leaning toward Silicon Valley for school, in part because of the concentration of consumer Internet companies down there, “but UW also has a great computer science program and we have Microsoft here. I would definitely be OK with utilizing what we have here,” Humay said.