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Academy News

Forbes 30 Under 30: Sanil Chawla

Academy Freshman, Sanil Chawla, is recognized as one of the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Education Under 30 category for his nonprofit Hack+. At 18, he is the youngest in this category and has made a significant impact through Hack+ by providing legal and financial infrastructure and helping launch 50 student organizations in just a year. Here, Sanil talks about his work, inspirations, and dreams for the future…

What is Hack+?

Hack+ is a nonprofit that helps students launch their own startups, nonprofits, and events. We provide legal and financial infrastructure to help students turn their ideas into successful ventures. We’ve now been in operation for just over a year, and have helped over 600 students launch over 50 organizations that have impacted over 50,000 students across the world. Hack+ has also gained support from organizations like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

What inspired you to create it?

I was inspired to launch Hack+ after trying to start my own startup in sophomore year. Looking into the legal processes and expensive fees, I wondered why it was so difficult to launch an organization. Being under 18, I couldn’t even sign the paperwork to open a bank account. At the same time, I was running several hackathons and realized that most of these high school events lacked any kind of legal/financial infrastructure. I then decided to shift focus and create a way to launch a platform that would allow any student to start a venture, and ended up disrupting existing legal processes like fiscal sponsorship to make it possible for students to launch ventures as minors.

Describe some of the student organizations you helped launch. Which are the most memorable?

A few of my favorite organizations so far include LingHacks, a student-run nonprofit that combines math and computer science with linguistics to enable the creation of more humanistic computer program interfaces. Another favorite organization is Project: Website , a nonprofit that connects software developers with other nonprofit organizations to build websites and apps at no cost.

What were some of the biggest lessons learned while launching Hack+?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through Hack+ has been to never underestimate anyone. The young students we work with (sometimes as young as middle school level) never fail to surprise me with incredibly innovative projects that generate powerful impacts on the communities they target. With the right toolbox by their side, people can do unimaginably amazing things — that’s why Hack+ aims to provide that toolbox for our members. Another significant challenge with Hack+ has been the time commitment required to keep it growing at its current rate. The organization scaled way faster than anyone anticipated, and in order to keep up with academics and my other extracurricular commitments alongside Hack+, I had to learn serious time management techniques to keep the workload manageable.

How did you get nominated to Forbes 30 Under 30?

I actually don’t know how I was nominated! The rest of the process took off last month, when I got an email saying I had been selected as a top 60 finalist for the list. I was asked to fill out a long questionnaire and provide additional information, after which I didn’t hear anything until the list was ultimately published on Tuesday morning.

What was your reaction (and your family’s) when you found out you received the recognition?

Upon finding out that I made the list, the first thing I did was call my parents to let them know. They were extremely excited! I was personally surprised to make it on the list, as the honorees usually tend to be far closer to the age of 30. Beyond the surprise, though, I was very honored and humbled to be on the list, as it’s been a dream of mine for a long time. Seeing my name on the list also felt like a validation of the work I’ve been doing with Hack+, and energized me to continue taking Hack+ further.

What is your hope for Hack+ moving forward?

Hack+ is just getting started. We’re poised to grow far larger and create an even more significant impact. I hope to continue helping students launch organizations — so far, we’ve focused largely on student-run nonprofits and events, but we are soon announcing new partnerships with large Silicon Valley companies to launch a program for student-run for-profit startups. Our goal is to impact 1 million students by 2020, and we’re well on our way! :)