More Teenage Brilliance: Two Different Startups

I don’t know about you, but my teenage years were spent trying to navigate the high school experience and figuring out my place in the world, so it’s particularly impressive to see young people starting their own businesses on top of everything else. I previously spoke with Brendan Cox, a young serial entrepreneur, about his experiences starting businesses as a teen, and I recently had the chance to talk with another young founder, Aaron Golbin, about his early path to business and his unique and inspiring projects. 

Mary Juetten: What’s the name of your company and where are you based?

Aaron Golbin: I’m based in New York and currently run two companies.

I’m the CEO and founder at DebateIsland.com, a leading online debating platform globally which is utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the online debating experience and is transforming how debate clubs operate with its unique “Online Debate Club” educational solution. 

I’m also the CEO and founder at LostCry, a website where anyone can share their ancestor’s stories of hardship (Holocaust, Genocide, Wars, Immigration, etc.) and learn about the hardships of others’ ancestors. 

Juetten: When did you start?

Golbin: My entrepreneurial journey began when I founded Kings Corporation at the age of eight (3rd grade), in 2012. Kings Corporation was a small company that provided indoor and outdoor activities for kids during lunchtime. There were about twenty volunteers and fifty students who used the services within my elementary school. This venture not only sparked my love for entrepreneurship and business but also taught me a lot about business operations. 

To start the company, I sourced materials like games and equipment for the activities, reserved space, recruited volunteers, oversaw operations, and marketed the business to students. I also established roles (CEO, head of customer service, etc.) and departments (Customer Service, Business, Security) to increase the organization and efficiency within Kings Corporation. My friends and family were very impressed with my early entrepreneurial start (Juetten – as I am also!)

I’ve always had an interest in technology, so in fifth grade, I began taking online programming classes, which led to my passion for coding. In 2016, at age twelve, I founded DebateIsland.com, now a leading online debate platform globally which is utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the online debating experience and is streamlining the way debate clubs compete and communicate through its unique “Online Debate Club” educational solution. 

Less than one year after establishing DebateIsland, I founded BestDealWins, an online platform that uses gamification to make saving money a more game-like experience. Recently, I decided to shut down BestDealWins to focus more on my other ventures. Then, in September of 2017, my great-grandmother, Tsilya Gershman Zaslavsky, a Holocaust survivor, told me about the hardships she endured during the Holocaust. In addition, she provided me with her diary entries, where she wrote about her Holocaust experience. 

Shortly after, I decided to create LostCry, a website where anyone can share their ancestor’s stories of hardship (Holocaust, Genocide, Wars, Immigration, etc.) and learn about the experiences of hardship of others’ ancestors. In 2019, a lengthy essay I wrote about my great grandmother’s Holocaust experience, “The Story of My Grandmother,” was featured in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

In late 2019, I joined iDEA, an organization that served the mission to instill the entrepreneurship mindset in youth and underprivileged areas through education as a Board Member and Director of organizational strategy and operations. 

Juetten: What problem are you solving?

Golbin: Prior to DebateIsland.com, there was no casual online debating platform that not only enables users to debate anonymously online, but actually helps improve the debating skills of users. Debating is a necessary skill to have, and most people likely debate about something, small or large, at least once a day. Essentially, DebateIsland aims to provide a high-quality online debate experience for anyone, whether they’re a competitive debater or enjoy debating casually with their family and friends, while helping them improve their debating skills.

DebateIsland’s Debra A.I. is transforming the way people debate online by analyzing numerous aspects of users’ debate arguments, predicting the winner/s of online debates, creating user analytics, displaying user skill levels, and calculating arguments’ and users’ most likely political affiliation and supported presidential candidate/s. DebateIsland‘s “Online Debate Club” product is a fully online solution that enables debate clubs to compete in online tournaments, gain an online presence, and establish an online private community where members can debate using 5 different debating formats (Casual, “Persuade Me,” Formalish, Traditional Formal, and Lincoln-Douglas debating), learn through online lectures and Debra AI’s feedback on members’ arguments, communicate by posting in discussions, and collaborate.

LostCry.com’s mission is to create an online experience where users can honor their ancestors’ stories by sharing their experiences of hardship and bravery, enable anyone to learn and interact with stories of hardship of other’s ancestors, and advocate awareness about horrible autocracies such as the Holocaust.

Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?

Golbin: At DebateIsland, our customers are basically anyone who likes to debate, with any skill level.

Juetten: How did past projects and/or experience help with this new project?

Golbin:  All of the companies that I run and am involved in teach me a lot of things related to marketing, development, operations, and strategy.

Juetten: Who is on your team?

Golbin: Currently, I run DebateIsland.com and LostCry.com by myself, but I have incredible mentors that give me excellent advice which helps me operate my companies better and better.

Juetten: Did you raise money?

Golbin: Although I was approached by an investor for DebateIsland, I decided to not accept the investment offered, so none of the companies I run have any venture capital investments.

Juetten: How do you measure success?

Golbin: I measure the success of my companies by four indicators; social impact, customer satisfaction, the size of the companies’ user bases, and the companies’ position in their industries.

Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders?

Golbin: Even if a company has an incredible product, nobody will find out about it without marketing. Therefore, don’t over-focus on one part of a business, especially development; instead, make sure to focus on all the parts of a business, including development, marketing, branding, finance, and operations.

Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?

Golbin: Currently, DebateIsland is the 3rd largest online debate platform in the world, and is growing rapidly. My long-term vision for DebateIsland is to propel the company to be the largest online debate platform and to help people improve their debating skills, while boosting civil debate worldwide, through the development of DebateIsland’s Debra Artificial Intelligence.

In addition, For LostCry, I plan to continue to help raise awareness of the Holocaust and other terrible events throughout history by enabling anyone to easily share their ancestors’ stories of hardship during these events online.

Best of luck to Aaron – very impressive work and he is just getting started. #onwards.

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