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17-Year-Old Halfcode Founder Richard Black Is Developing A.I. To Make A Difference

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17-Year-Old Halfcode Founder Richard Black Is Developing A.I. To Make A Difference

Q: Richard, can you tell us more about Halfcode? Why is it important?

A: Halfcode is an artificial intelligence company that I founded in 2017. Our motto is A.I. For Good. What that means is, we use A.I. and wearable smart technology to try to solve real world problems that affect those who are most in need. That’s what motivates us to roll out of bed each morning is knowing that we’re trying to make a meaningful and lasting impact in people’s lives. One of our latest product launches is focused on smart glasses for the visually and hearing disabled. We’re working on some really exciting A.I. technology. For example, right now we’re developing smart captions to help people with disabling hearing loss use our glasses to go to the theater or have a conversation in a group of people and allow them to see what they can’t hear. Our business model is driven by social entrepreneurship and a belief that we can build a company while also trying to do good. And for me, that’s my passion. With so many social causes in the world today, we’re focused on identifying a problem, creating a solution and bringing our idea to market. So you’ll be seeing a lot of exciting new developments from Halfcode in the near future. Stay tuned.

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Q: What factors have influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur?

A: The first is certainly my parents. They’ve always loved and supported me for who I am. I also consider myself to be a social entrepreneur and I think that’s come from various personal experiences. I’ve been touched by issues like gun violence and discrimination. I’m passionate about so many social issues, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to balance that in business. A fellow entrepreneur once told me, “You can’t save every cat stuck up in a tree.” Well, that may be true, but I feel like I have a personal responsibility as an entrepreneur and as a global citizen, to make a positive impact in the world. If you care about an issue, don’t just talk about it. Do something about it. That’s what drives me.

Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

A: Persistence, persistence, persistence. Someone once told me, you can have a C+ idea. But if you have A+ persistence, you’re probably still going to be successful. An entrepreneur and success are separated by a metaphorical brick wall. You chip away at it, you chip away at it and in the beginning nothing happens. Then, on the thousandth time you chip at it, a single brick falls away. And then, almost all at once, the brick wall suddenly collapses. Business is a lot like that. As an entrepreneur, if you don’t have persistence to get through that brick wall, you won’t succeed.

Taking risks. Risk is where the rewards are. If people just stopped to think about some of the best things that have happened to them in life, they would realize that many of them involved some kind of risk. Not just in business. Despite that, most people are taught to fear risk from an early age. My parents have always told me to never take risks when it comes to my health. But they’ve always encouraged me to take lots of measured risks in life.

Look at failure as an invaluable opportunity to learn. Whatever the failure. Whatever the cost. Think of it like tuition at the school of hard knocks. It can be painful in the moment. But embrace the lessons you learn and grow from them and get smarter. Never be afraid to fail. Life is too short for that. It reminds me of a quote from Bill Gates: “Success is a lousy teacher…”

Q: What is your vision for Halfcode in the next 5 to 10 years?

A: Wow – 10 years, or even 5 years in technology might as well be like comparing dog years. So it’s hard to say really. At Halfcode, we have a small, but growing team, and it’s relatively easy at this stage to manage everybody one-on-one and still maintain our vision. But I also know that change is just around the corner. Right now, we’re in talks with investors to raise capital, so the challenge will soon come when we start growing faster. We have to keep our focus on trying to create a positive impact in the world in everything we do, while balancing the interests of our investors. We’ll continue to build exciting products and become a disruptive player in the field of artificial intelligence. Realistically, it would be disingenuous for me to sit here and not say that there’s the possibility the company is acquired at some stage and I could be doing something entirely new the next time we talk. But I know that I’m a serial entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur. Those things will never change.

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Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A: My entire day is consumed between school and running a start-up. Running a company definitely isn’t confined to your normal work day. That usually means lots of nights, weekends or the occasional 90 hour work week. I meet entrepreneurs that often talk about the struggle to find a work-life balance. For me, it’s a work-school balance. Fortunately, I enjoy the hustle and bustle of a fast paced start-up environment. As for school, I’ve got a curious mind and my brain is wired for subjects like math and science. So I’ve always found a lot of school comes pretty naturally. At the end of the day, I’m passionate about what I do, so I’m motivated to make it work.

Q: If you had one piece of advice to a young entrepreneur just starting out, what would it be?

A: Be passionate about what you do. Not every day is going to be rainbows and butterflies. There’s going to be days that feel like a grind. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll find the will to keep going, no matter the circumstances. Ask yourself, what do you love doing so much, that if you had to do it for free, you would still do it anyway. Then, you know you’ve found your passion.

Q: What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

A: Right now, I’m the CEO at a really exciting start-up and doing what I love most, building a company. But I’m also a senior in high school, so naturally I’ve started thinking a lot about college. It’s been difficult, because I have this passion and need to change the world, while at the same time, getting an education is really important to me. Ideally, I’d like to attend a college that has a focus on business and also encourages young people to make a difference in the world. A place where I can learn and grow both as a person and as an entrepreneur.

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