While most 16-year-olds are reading “The Great Gatsby” and studying for the SATs, Ben Pasternak has more adult concerns, like remembering to pay the rent.
“There’s so much stuff I’ve got to take care of, like dishes and washing clothes,” says the teenage tech entrepreneur, who lives on his own in a studio apartment in a new doorman building in Hell’s Kitchen. “I always fall behind on my bills — [bill collectors] call me on the phone and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to pay this,’ but I keep forgetting. When I lived with my parents, I took so much stuff for granted.”
Six months ago, Pasternak was living in Sydney, Australia, with his parents, Anna and Mark, and younger siblings, Jake, 13, and Maya, 6. Now he’s a high-school dropout navigating a foreign city on his own, and he’s launching his own company, a social media marketplace for teens called Flogg, worldwide on Thursday.
“It’s really crazy,” says the teen CEO, who spends 14 to 16 hours a day overseeing a staff of seven part-time computer geeks in their late teens and early 20s — as well as a “really old” COO who is 30.
He can’t cook — he subsists mainly on Vezzo thin-crust pizza — and often forgets to eat. He has no idea what he would do if he ever had to go to the emergency room. (His p.r. rep interjects to clarify that Pasternak does have a health-care proxy here in the US.) And though he’s a millionaire — at least on paper — Pasternak is still a minor, so he needs his parents to co-sign everything from his apartment lease to his bank account.
“I left my debit card in a cab the other day, and Chase won’t give me another one without my parents’ approval,” he says the day before his company’s launch. “So as of right now I have access to $0.”
Before becoming a tech tycoon, Pasternak was a bored kid building apps during school. He created his first one, Impossible Rush, when he was 15; the free smartphone game has been downloaded more than a million times.
The tech world took notice, and soon Pasternak was meeting with companies like Google and Facebook, as well as venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He decided to drop out in the middle of the 10th grade in 2015 to work on a new venture.
“[My parents] weren’t convinced about me leaving school at first,” he says of his real-estate dad and stay-at-home mom. “But after venture capitalists got interested and said they’d put down money, I was like, ‘I won’t get this opportunity again!’”
Pasternak raised under “$2 million” in initial funding for the eBay-meets-Instagram app Flogg. (Basically, a teen vendor will post a picture of an item he or she wants to sell, and members of the vendor’s extended social networks can place bids.) But getting the money was the easy part. Living on his own has been a lot harder.
“I am slowly dying,” Pasternak half-jokes. “When we were first setting up [the company], there was a lot of working with lawyers; it was pretty boring. It’s kinda like doing homework.”
Pasternak and his mom checked out five apartments before settling on his current abode, which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows as well as a washer and dryer in the unit. (Similar rentals in the same building start at $4,030 a month.) His mom bought him a couch and a TV, but he sleeps on a mattress on the floor of the studio’s alcove.
“We didn’t even know if it was legal for a 16-year-old to live on his own,” admits the kid. “When I first got here I was 15, which was illegal. But I turned 16 a few weeks later, and then my mom left me.”
‘We didn’t even know if it was legal for a 16-year-old to live on his own.’
– Ben Pasternak
He spends many of his days alone, working from home and calling his parents “every 20 minutes,” he says. “Sometimes I put the TV or music on, but it’s not the same as people talking.”
And while he doesn’t miss school, he does get nostalgic hearing about the escapades of his former classmates, with whom he FaceTimes every few days. “My friends [in Australia] just went on school camp, and I missed that,” says Pasternak, who rides a hoverboard and sports Yeezy sneakers.
But it’s not all work and no play: Thanks to family friends in Tenafly, NJ, who have a 16- and a 13-year-old, Pasternak hangs out with kids his age nearly every weekend. The family even introduced him to his girlfriend, Gaia, and they’ve been together for three months. “We go to the cinema, the mall, hang out at other people’s houses,” Pasternak says with a shrug.
“I’m just like any other teenager,” he adds. “I like all the same stuff.”
This article originally appeared on the NY Post and was written by Raquel Laneri via http://nypost.com/2016/04/14/this-16-year-old-millionaire-is-living-your-dream-life/