Diane Keng '14—a veteran entrepreneur at 19
|Photo by Charles Barry.|
She likes to pair bananas with hot Cheetos, spent 70 straight hours on Quibids.com to get an iPad for $120 last summer, and she believes she can figure out anything she doesn't know by inputting the correct combination of keywords in her Google search bar.
A regular teenager, you say? Far from.
Meet Diane Keng '14, all of 19 years and already an established serial entrepreneur.
Her first startup was a T-shirt screen-printing company in Cupertino's Monte Vista High School. "I saw that all the clubs and organizations on campus needed to purchase T-shirts, which they could order online," Keng says. "But they did not have a face to connect with." She helped design and manufacture T-shirts, made a couple thousand dollars, and thought for a while that she might retire.
But the entrepreneurship bug had bitten hard.
"In a startup world, it's all about perseverance. You talk to investors and get rejected 50 times before one person decides to fund it."
Next up was a teen marketing research firm, which was a great idea but didn't go anywhere because of real-world demands like studying for finals, SAT and ACT, and extracurriculars.
"I was not the 4.0 student, but I always put education first," says Keng, who received a robust National Science Foundation STEM scholarship to attend SCU. "Santa Clara has a great computer engineering program. The location is amazing. And at the time I was working on MyWeboo, so I understood how important it was to keep the team together."
That team would include brother and fellow Bronco Steven Keng '06. They launched MyWeboo—Keng's third venture—in March 2010. It's a meta-creation: a website that aggregates and updates social media and Web content from more than 20 sites.
Keng credits her parents for always being supportive. She also credits her father, a venture capitalist, for being "brutally honest" about what he thought of an idea. He liked what he saw with MyWeboo, though, and got the startup running with $100,000 of seed money.
Silvia Figueira, a professor of computer engineering at Santa Clara, has taught Keng in two classes. "Diane is very motivated," she says in grand understatement—noting that MyWeboo was launched while Keng maintained a full load of engineering classes.
"In a startup world, it's all about perseverance," Keng enthuses. "You talk to investors and get rejected 50 times before one person decides to fund it. But entrepreneurship is a natural high."
It also doesn't hurt when The Wall Street Journal and ABC7, among other media outlets, sit up and take notice of what you're doing.
So what's next? Her most recent venture, a whimsical social-networking site called GoFaceless.com, launched the first week of April at Santa Clara and Stanford.
With one year of college still in front of her, Keng has her sights set on making the cover of Inc. magazine. That, and buying an Audi R8.
"But not before I'm 25," she says, "'cause then my insurance rate won't be as high." Mansi Bhatia and Deborah Lohse
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