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High School Dropout Hits It Big on the Internet

  • Tala Hadavi

In 1931, famed author James Truslow Adams popularized the term "American Dream". He said "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." Although the actual definition of the term is unclear to this day, one young man's life seems to exemplify it.

Mazyar Kazerooni started his first Internet company while he was still in high school. Once the money started to pour in, he convinced his parents he should drop out and give his internet business a real chance.

"I made this website when I was 15," said Kazerooni. "When I'm going through high school and I'm seeing that I'm bringing in more money than any of my teachers possibly could, it kind of messes with your head."

Two years later, after moving on from his first venture, Kazerooni and his good friend Matt Schlicht, also a high school dropout, went to work for the live video start-up "Ustream." Live video was something new at the time, and Kazerooni's job was to convince rap performers that it was the next big thing. He was good at it and the rappers' praises were proof. He was so good, that rapper Li'l Wayne asked Kazerooni to become his personal digital strategist.

"We helped him reclaim his Facebook page," noted Kazerooni. "He had a million fans, and nobody... they didn't have access to it and they weren't posting anything to these million fans they had out there. It's gone from one million to 31 million fans now. We got 'em a Guinness world record for the most-liked status update on Facebook. All those guys are like family to us now. Young Money, Li'l Wayne, Little Twist - all these guys - they're like family to us now. We have worked with them for years."

A few months ago, Kazerooni and Schlicht left Ustream to start their own company, "Tracks.By," which allows artists to showcase their music, videos and tour dates on Facebook. Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar thought their idea was so good that he invested $500,000.

"We are trying to turn all our knowledge that we have gotten from running Li'l Wayne digital, Little Twist digital into products and features that every artist can take advantage of," added Kazerooni.

Tracks.By has already grown to the point that the pair has hired several computer and social-media-savvy friends. But they are keeping it simple for now; they operate the business out of their home.

"If you really think about it, it's not that big of a risk, especially if you're young. It's so easy to jump into this and try because the worst thing that's going to happen is that you go broke and you go and try to get another job. I think it's completely worth it, because if you can make it happen, it's going to be so much more rewarding than any other job," Kazerooni said.

Some 50 artists with a combined total of 150 million fans have already signed up. Kazerooni may just be living that American Dream that James Truslow Adams or Tracks.By artist Drake is talking about.