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February 1, 2000
Making his first million at 15
Shanthi Shankarkumar in Chicago
Chicago programmer Rishi Bhat, 15, has teamed up again with Vancouver-based Rocca Resources Ltd in what promises to be an exciting long-term association.
On Friday, the Canadian firm announced that it had bought yet another software, MYeDESK, that Bhat and his Los Angeles-based friend Chaitanya Mehra developed.
"We're happy to deal with Rocca Resources again. They did a very good job with SeigeSoft and I'm confident they will do well with MYeDESK too," Bhat said.
Last September, Rocca had bought SeigeSoft, a company Bhat and his friend Antonio Guillen, 16, started. SeigeSoft is a privacy service that lets Internet users visit web sites without leaving identifying characteristics.
Eighty per cent of web sites have the ability to elicit e-mail address, phone numbers and other statistics without permission. Rocca Resources sells the service for US $ 50 a year and gives users a separate password to use when on a computer other than their own.
Bhat is said to have got about $ 775,000 and 1.5 million shares (valued at $ 1.60 a share). He used part of the money to buy a top-of-the-line Pentium III 600 MHz computer and to work on other projects.
In January, a Vancouver-based investment bank raised $ 3 million as venture capital for Rocca resources. Once a junior mining player, the firm is now an Internet player whose chief asset is the Internet privacy software Bhat developed.
For MYeDESK, Bhat and his friend split the 200,000 shares they received as payment. MYeDESK is a web-based service, which allows a small company or individual users, to use the Internet as its primary corporate network, as well as offering the private individual a fast dependable way to access his or her desk top from any Internet-connected computer.
"You can do almost the same thing you do from your normal Windows desktop -- the idea is you can do it anywhere from the Web," Bhat said.
MYeDESK users can now rely on an array of services, from e-mail, one-step document publishing and posting and online directory assistance, to virtual meetings and electronic forums. As other needs are identified, the Rocca in-house technical team will add more features with the assistance of Rishi Bhat.
MYeDESK.com is similar to a web-based desktop portal called Mydesktop.com created by a Canadian firm. But Bhat claims they got the idea for the desktop portal before the Canadians and had developed and come out with it before mydesktop.com.
"The main difference is that ours is made to run realistically on the average person's connection so it takes very little time to load, whereas theirs takes five minutes to load," Bhat said. "That is pretty much the main difference. Other than that, it is designed in petty much the same fashion. We are in the middle of releasing a second version of MYeDESK, which will be even faster and nicer to operate."
Now that his second software is in the market, Bhat is all ready to start work on yet another project. Mehra and he are planning to write web-based lecturing software for universities.
"It will be an easy way for universities to broadcast lectures," he said.
"It will have to be different from existing software in that the lecturer need not be at the computer where the software is functioning. It can also be used for business training sessions. Right now," he admits, "it is just an idea."
How does this brilliant, unassuming 10th grader find the time to write software, act as a consultant to Rocca, give top priority to his rigorous academics, and also partake in a whole range of extracurricular activities like playing tennis, the piano and the clarinet?
"I basically do my programming when I have the time," he said. "There is no real time commitment from me.
"When I turn 16, I would like to buy a car. But I don't know how amenable my parents will be. They want me to wait till I am 18," said Bhat, sounding like a typical teenager.
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