NEW YORK — Taylor Rosenthal is ready for the big leagues. The 14-year-old is exhibiting his startup idea — a vending machine that dispenses first aid products — at TechCrunch Disrupt this week.
The first-time entrepreneur doesn’t sound nervous. He’s actually looking forward to the trip from his hometown of Opelika, Alabama.
Still, it’s a big deal.
“They told me that I was the youngest person to ever get accepted to the event,” said Rosenthal. “It felt awesome.”
Rosenthal’s startup RecMed, which he launched in 2015, has already been generating buzz. He’s raised $100,000 in angel investments and has already rejected a $30 million offer to buy his idea.
RecMed started as an eighth-grade project when Rosenthal was one of 19 students in a Young Entrepreneurs Academy class.
“We had to come up with a business idea,” he said. The straight-A student, who’s a first baseman and pitcher for his high school baseball team, had one immediately.
“Every time I’d travel for a baseball tournament in Alabama, I’d notice that kids would get hurt and parents couldn’t find a band-aid,” he said. “I wanted to solve that.”
His initial thought was to set up a pop-up shop at the tournaments to sell first-aid kits. He tried it and quickly realized it wasn’t the best model.
“We noticed that it would cost too much to pay people minimum wage to sit at tournaments for six hours,” he said. Then the vending machine idea struck.
Rosenthal sketched a design and consulted with his parents, both of whom work in the medical industry.
By December, he had a working prototype and had acquired a patent.
Rosenthal incorporated black, red and white — his high school colors — into his design.
Users pick from two options: prepackaged first-aid kits for dealing with issues like sun burns, cuts, blisters and bee stings (they run from $5.99 to $15.95). You can also buy individual supplies like band-aids, rubber gloves, hydrocortisone wipes and gauze pads, which cost $6 to $20.
Rosenthal hopes to start deploying the machines this fall. He said they make sense at “high-traffic areas for kids” like amusement parks, beaches and stadiums.
He already has an order from Six Flags for 100 machines.
RecMed will make money by selling the machines, which cost $5,500 apiece, and through restocking fees for the supplies. Rosenthal said he’s also open to putting advertising on the machines.
Clarinda Jones was Rosenthal’s teacher in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy class. She’s proud of his entrepreneurial chops.
“It has been amazing watching Taylor grow over the past year into this confident and amazing business man,” she said. “Even with all of his success, he remains humble and ready to help others. He’s just 14. Bill Gates should be worried.”
Kyle Sandler, founder of Round House, a startup incubator in Opelika, agreed.
Rosenthal is the youngest CEO at Round House, where he has an office and access to mentors in exchange for a 20% stake and a $50,000 investment.
“Taylor spends every minute outside of school working on RecMed,” said Sandler. “Last Christmas we had to kick him out on Christmas Eve. It’s how focused he is.”
Rosenthal said he wants to pursue a future in business, and college will help him.
“I’d like to go to Notre Dame because they have a great business school — and I’m a fan of their football,” he said.