This article originally appeared here in the Saratoga Falcon on February 6, 2020,written by Preston Fu and Christine Zhang
Senior Brian Zhu closed his laptop after hours of work alongside his three group mates at the University of Michigan LaunchX program last summer. Exhausted, Zhu slumped onto his bed and fell asleep, knowing that he had another long night of work ahead.
After the group’s director told them that their first business idea was too generic, the four worked tirelessly for the next week to come up with another idea and catch up.
Zhu’s group eventually decided to create a business named Kub LLC to help parents. After a bit of research, his group found out that parents often struggle with limiting their young children’s screen time and finding the right balance for them.
Kub LLC provides a system that incentivizes children to reduce their screen time. It works with local companies such as ice cream shops or museums, which advertise coupons on Kub LLC’s website.
“We give the companies’ coupons to parents if their child stays under a certain time limit on their screens,” Zhu said. “The coupons incentivize the child to work on actively reducing their screen time so that they get ice cream or a trip to the zoo at the end of the week.”
After his participation in LaunchX, Zhu took another dive into entrepreneurship at the Leadership in the Business World (LBW) program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia from July 7 to Aug. 2. He said that LBW provided more of a general business overview in contrast to LaunchX’s sharp focus on startups.
At the end of the program, Zhu had to pitch a fictional business plan. This time, his idea was an app that helped connect senior citizens to other seniors based on similar interests. His plan included partnering with retirement homes and activity centers to provide elderly with materials for the activities they enjoyed.
While he was at LBW, Zhu established contact with a leader for the Head of Group Sales of The Franklin Institute, a science museum in the area. Zhu still works with The Franklin Institute to provide coupons for Kub LLC, the company he started at LaunchX.
However, Zhu’s business experience hasn’t been entirely smooth. He said that it has sometimes been difficult to get adults to trust him as someone who would work hard and follow through.
“When I was trying to find partnerships, a lot of companies would just overlook me because they thought I was too young,” Zhu said.
Zhu also said that it was hard for him to keep working without seeing any immediate progress, but he soon realized that he had to “do the grunt work before getting to the rewards.”
Zhu said he discovered his love of business through an entrepreneurship class he took in seventh grade.
“The class itself was centered around the idea of starting your own company and testing through prototypes,” Zhu said. “The ability for myself as a seventh grader to create something to solve a problem really stood out to me.”
Since then, he founded the Startup Club on campus and has also attended various summer programs in business to further develop his passion for the subject. Zhu also successfully petitioned for the revival of the Introduction to Business class, which is being taught at the school for the first time in 12 years by physics teacher Kirk Davis.
Last year, Zhu worked with seniors Alex Wang, George Bian and Raj Janardhan to create an app called Elbowroom to increase students’ productivity. The app scheduled tasks for users to finish by a certain time, thus helping students to plan out their work.
Bian and Zhu presented the business plan at LaunchX’s Regional Demo Day in San Francisco last March. Although the plan did not make it very far, Bian said he would be willing to work with Zhu again.
“He was very cooperative and fun to work with,” Bian said. “One time we worked at his house and he got me cut fruits.”
This year, Zhu is still involved with the field of business at school through the Introduction to Business class and various clubs. He is also still actively working with Kub LLC.
Zhu said that he has higher aspirations for what he is learning and doing.
“Business is all about what you can do and what impact you can make,” Zhu said. “If there’s a problem that you can make an impact on, then I think you should try to do something about it.”