Freshman makes Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

Sanil Chawla, a freshman in the Iovine and Young Academy, created a nonprofit to help young entrepreneurs find funding. (Sinead Chang | Daily Trojan)

After creating a nonprofit organization that helps students form their own start-up funded by companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook, freshman Sanil Chawla became the youngest person to be featured in the education category of this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

“I always looked at the 30 Under 30 list and a lot of the people on the list have been inspirations for me,” the Iovine and Young Academy student said.

Chawla created Hack+ to remove legal and financial barriers in creating companies for those under the age of 18.

During his sophomore year of high school, Chawla attempted to start a company that designed websites. He soon realized he needed a guardian’s signature in all paperwork involved, as well as being unable to create a separate bank account as a minor.

To initiate a start-up in California, creators must dish out at least $1,000 in legal fees, according to Chawla. The high cost of incorporation results from required fees and industry-specific licenses, including naming, filing, handling and business licenses.

“There were so many issues that I began thinking about whether there’s a possibility to create a better way for all of this to happen for minors,” Chawla said.

Hack+ now works with more than 600 students who run over 50 organizations or events, according to Chawla. The company allows student-run nonprofit organizations to be created under Hack+  and the service acts as an umbrella nonprofit that is responsible for paperwork and startup fees minors cannot complete independently. Hack+ also provides students assistance, such as accounting, cloud storage and budgeting.

Chawla was inspired to create Hack+ by his father Vipin Chawla, a start-up investor.

While in elementary school, Sanil imitated his father’s work by creating unofficial startups with his friends, including one that made individualized greeting cards.

During these early years, Vipin Chawla said his son demonstrated “entrepreneurial tendencies.”

“It might look like a smooth journey to an outsider that someone so young as him achieved Forbes 30 Under 30, but he’s faced his fair share of setback,” said Carolyn Ge, Chawla’s close friend and a freshman at Harvard University.

Chawla said he emphasized his role as a student when persuading sponsors to understand the purpose of Hack+.

“Saying I’m also a student who’s running this, they know that I know exactly what a student is going through and I have that level of relatability,” Chawla said. “You can turn your age into a powerful thing.”

Despite his youth, Chawla said he was not afraid of engaging with larger corporations to gain sponsorships for Hack+.

“It’s a huge step to get them to take you seriously when you’re young,” Chawla said. “Knowing everything about what you’re doing, every number, literally every little detail is really important because it shows you know what you’re doing.”