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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the August 6, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

High School Business To College Prodigy?

Three years ago Michael Simmons, right, was a schoolboy

— he still is. A senior at Hopewell Valley High School in 2000,

the year the Internet soared to the sun, he, along with legions of

other precocious kids, was the proud owner of a Web company. At age

16, with classmate Cal Newport, he had founded the Web design shop

Princeton Internet Solutions, which later changed its name to Princeton

WebSolutions.

The company netted the two young men $40,000 during their senior year

in high school, and they hoped to keep it going after they decamped

for college by hiring a CEO to run the show while they were adjusting

to campus life. The plan didn’t work. The CEO was not all they had

hoped, and, says Simmons in an E-mail communication, "The marketplace

had become saturated with people offering website development. When

the Internet bubble popped, fewer companies wanted web development.

The ones that did wanted to pay less. With Cal and I at different

colleges (Newport is at Dartmouth), we had difficulty communicating.

Also our interests were changing."

No matter, Simmons was hooked by the entrepreneurial life. Intoxicated

with his first taste of life as the founder of a booming business,

he has gone on to preach the gospel of business ownership. He is now

a junior at the New York University Stern School of Business, is organizing

an All-University Conference on Entrepreneurism, and is lobbying NYU

administrators for an entrepreneurship track of study.

Meanwhile, Simmons has just published "The Student

Success Manifesto: How to Create a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Prosperity"

(www.successmanifesto.com). In it, he draws upon his experiences as

an upper middle class student, as a business owner, and as a volunteer

working with poor inner city youth. In his preface, he, like approximately

15 zillion students before him, rails against the strictures of the

classroom. There has to be a better road to success, he says, and

then trots out statistics to prove that a number of people have found

it.

Twenty percent of people who did not graduate from college earn

more than college graduates.

Over 50 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs had C or C-minus averages

in college.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. presidents were in the lower half

club in high school.

Over 50 percent of millionaire entrepreneurs never finished

college.

There is no correlation between high SAT scores, good grades,

and money, says Simmons, quoting Thomas Stanley’s book, "The Millionaire

Mind."

Simmons may well have hit upon the hot topic of the early 21st

century. He writes about the huge cost of paying personal dues, in

the form of loyalty to an employer, at a time when any number of workers

— regardless of the color of their collars — are learning

that bitter lesson via pink slip. He writes about the diminished power

of credentials at a time when patent-holding telecom scientists are

not only out of work, but are despairing of finding another job anytime

soon — perhaps ever.

Simmons suggests that taking calculated risks, working primarily for

passion rather than money, and racking up assets — tangible and

intangible — is far superior to racking up years on the job. For

a guy who was not old enough to enter a casino until this year, he

is suggesting a wager that any number of laid-off wage slaves are

bound to think is a good bet.


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