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Monday, May 21, 2007

13-year-old CEO

The big technology conference in Santa Clara, Calif., kicked off yesterday.

The buzz on the expo floor was about Silicon Valley gaming startup Elementeo and its precocious 13-year old founder and chief executive, Anshul Samar. “We inject fun into education,” the fast talking entrepreneur confidently proclaimed, touting his new fantasy role playing board game which he believes will change the way kids learn chemistry.

The conference featured keynote presentations from the likes of Marc Benioff (, Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures) and Tim O’Reilly (Web 2.0 thinker), but the young Samar better represented the theme of this year’s conference: “The New Face of Entrepreneurship.”

VentureBeat interviewed the diminutive executive at Elementeo’s TiECON booth. Like other charismatic Silicon Valley CEOs – think Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison or Marc Benioff – Mr. Samar exudes confidence, vision and a passion to change the world. He’s more articulate than many CEOs four times his age.

Samar argues that textbooks are boring and kids would rather spend their time battling enemies, blowing things up with bombs, and yes, even giving their opponents lead poisoning. So he created a fantasy role playing game that combines the rapturous teenage joys of competition and carnage with the exciting properties of the periodic table of chemical elements.

Here’s how the game works: You command an army of chemical elements, compounds and catalysts — represented within a 66-card deck (the fire and brimstone card at left is for “Sulfur,” for example). Your opponent has his own deck with the same number of cards. Your goal is to battle your competitor and reduce his IQ down to zero. Pit your oxygen card against your opponent’s iron card, for example, and you learn that you create rust. Score one for oxygen. Kind of like rock-paper-scissors, but with chemicals, dice and 66 impressively illustrated cards featuring monster-themed caricatures of chemicals.
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