Seth Priebatsch is not old enough to drink alcohol, but if he could, he'd probably be sipping champagne. In less than a year, the 18-year old student has turned a high school homework assignment into a full-fledged, incorporated company that recently signed a small deal with Google. Now, the underage entrepreneur is using his talents to promote Hillel and Jewish Life on his campus.
Today, you'll only find him on Facebook but it's just a matter of time before Seth Priebatsch lands a coveted spot on the Fortune 500.
Right now, the Princeton University freshman is studying under the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE), part of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Priebatsch chuckles as he explains the acronyms that make up his longwinded major.
"It's a program for entrepreneurs," he offers in summary.
Freshman entrepreneur Seth Priebatsch.
Priebatsch is too humble to say so, but he may not need a Princeton education to realize his potential as a successful businessman. At 18 years old, he has already banked thousands of dollars off a high school class project and the profits continue to roll in.
Last year, Priebatsch was a senior at Noble and Greenough High School in Dedham, Massachusetts (described in its brochure as a "rigorous academic community"). The private school, which also boards some students, offers twelfth graders the option of swapping a course for a senior project. Priebatsch quickly dropped French and got to work creating virtual postcards for a hypothetical client.
Priebatsch's vision was to create a promotional piece that was also interactive. In other words, marketing material that was not just visually stimulating, but also engaging. The result was a mini-CD, enclosed in a postcard, designed to attract visitors to the city of Boston. Priebatsch created the entire project from scratch, teaching himself software design and spending several weeks shooting video and snapping photos of his hometown. Slowly, he created a "virtual visit" of the city complete with a one minute introduction video.
The next challenge was to develop the mini-CD postcard into multiple languages and then get it mass produced and packaged. Priebatsch managed all of it in time to present his senior project at the end of the school year. In fact, a week before the project was due, he had 1,000 copies of his product on hand. He sold them to a Boston gift shop for $2 a piece.
Priebatsch could have ended his business venture at graduation, but the project only fueled his entreprenurial ambition and a year later, he is the the founder and CEO of PostcardTech, LLC, which has more than a dozen clients and employs a production team located half-way around the world. While most of his peers are asleep in their dorms, Priebatsch is awake at 5 a.m., on the phone with Hong Kong.
His chief executive role is just one of many. Priebatsch also sits on the executive relations board of Business Today, founded by Princeton alumnus Steve Forbes. With a circulation of 300,000, Business Today is the largest student-run magazine in the country. The publication is helping Priebatsch develop his networking and fundraising skills, essential for any successful entrepreneur.
"At one event, I was sitting with the CEO of Southwest Airlines on my right and the adviser to the chairman of American Airlines on my left," Priebatsch says excitedly. "That's an amazing opportunity."
For fun, Priebatsch is preparing to bike a half ironman triathlon in May. And of course, he's keeping up with his classes. Priebatsch has nothing but praise for Princeton. It's the only school to which he applied. And the young entrepreneur is not only committed to a Princeton education, he wants to finance it himself. Despite the fact that his parents are willing and able to pay the pricey tuition, Priebatsch's goal is to pay them back with the money he makes from PostcardTech.
Seth Priebatsch presents original project.
It's not a far-fetched idea. Priebatsch's talents have already been scouted by financial firms like Boston-based Covington Associates, which paid Priebatsch $5,000 for his work developing a promotional postcard. And recently, Priebatsch acquired Google, which has a large office in Massachusetts, as a client. The search engine company plans to use his original postcards to orient new employees to the area.
Amidst all this work and excitement, Priebatsch has not forgotten his Jewish roots. His latest project is a virtual postcard for Princeton Hillel's Center for Jewish Life (CJL). The Jewish student organization plans to use the virtual postcards as a recruitment tool which also promotes Hillel's mission, to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.
"The postcards have been a wonderful marketing tool for our Hillel," says Keren Leiby, director of new initiatives and strategic communications at Princeton Hillel's CJL. "We send them to Jewish high schools, prospective freshmen, and donors, as well as hand them out on campus to students. Everyone who’s seen our CD postcard loves the 'virtual tour' of the CJL."
To purchase a copy or learn more about PostcardTech, contact Seth Priebatsch.
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