Community | What’s Poppin supports young entrepreneurs in pursuing their dreams

By Suzanne Loo
2 min read
Five speakers from the teenage founder forum. Top row from left: John Yang, Nicholas Penaloza, Stella Chen; bottom row: Qinyi Ma and Brandon Zhang (Image credit: What’s Poppin)

On September 6, 2019, we witnessed the first Teen Founder Forum organized by What’s Poppin organization. Supported by WeWork Labs and TechNode, this forum featured four teenage founders presenting their startups and ideas to five prominent industry experts and an audience of 60 people at WeWork, Hunan Lu in Shanghai. All four teen founders later had a one-on-one fireside chat with their designated mentors on stage and the outcome of the discussion was inspiring and meaningful to both the founders and the audience.

About What’s Poppin

The idea of What’s Poppin came at the time when the founder of What’s Poppin organization, Nicholas Penaloza, who is a high school senior at Shanghai American School, saw how uninformed teenagers were about current events, namely the long-standing Israel-Palestine conflict at a debate competition in 2018. This inspired him to create What’s Poppin, a bilingual curated news service for teens (WeChat Official Account) aiming to solve the dangerously uninformed state of teenagers today. Being an entrepreneur himself, who founded CAPISCE (China Air Pollution In Standard Cigarette Equivalents) to inspire more action to reduce air pollution and promote environmental sustainability, he was passionate to encourage other teenagers to pursue their dreams. As such, he created What’s Poppin Teen Founder Forum in the hope to empower other teenage entrepreneurs by giving them a platform to access resources such as mentors, media, and allies.

About the teenage founders

The four other teenage founders who presented that night were Anzhi Weng (Shanghai High School International Division) who created a sex-ed Steam game called Self-Reliance to tackle taboo sex-ed topics in China; Qinyi Ma (Shanghai American School) who founded Unsung Shanghai to preserve Old Shanghai culture through stories of elderly citizens in Long-tang alleyway communities (弄堂); Brandon Zhang (SAS) who co-founded an app called Bartr that makes travel stress free; and Stella Chen (YK Pao) who founded Ashy Zone that aims to raise awareness for teenage depression through fashion shows.

All of these young founders have one thing in common – a passion to make a change for the betterment of society. It is heart-warming and inspiring to learn that our young entrepreneurs are striving for a positive change through technology and community and they are committed to making their ideas and dreams into reality. Through the What’s Poppin Teen Founder Forum, these teenage founders got to connect with experienced mentors in their relevant fields.

Miranda Tan, the founder of Robin8, gives advice to the co-founders of Ashy Zone, Stella Chen and John Yang, during the mentor-founder fireside chat. (Image credit: TechNode)

About the mentors

Mentors who were present to provide invaluable advice and support to the future generation of entrepreneurs were – Shaun Rein, the founder of China Market Research Group and a best-selling author; Siddhi Lizcano, the interaction design creative director at DesignWork; Miranda Tan, the founder of Robin8; Jessie Chen, the founder of KidSpeak; and Dr. Gang Lu, the founder and CEO of TechNode.

“Nowadays, the average age of entrepreneurs in China is 30. Entrepreneurship is becoming more and more appealing to the younger generation as it is perceived as an exciting career path as compared to a desk job. As an entrepreneur myself, I am delighted to be able to support budding teenage entrepreneurs with a mission to provide for humanity. They might not be successful for the first time, but with perseverance and determination, I’m sure, and I hope that these young entrepreneurs of today will go far.” said Dr. Gang Lu, founder, and CEO of TechNode.