Monday, July 14, 2014

Jefferson Prince, 17, tech expert and CEO, who has plans to change the gaming industry

Jefferson Prince's iCazual Entertainment is developing its First Person Shooter game project for all major platforms such as Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4 and PCs 

In June last year, when his classmates in London were counting the days to the  prom, Jefferson Prince was worried about the hashtag #onlyjefferson used for taking potshots at him on Twitter. Prince called himself a CEO and most of his classmates thought of it as a self-allotted designation to a one-man team and started harassing him. One of them publically threatened to bully him if he came to the prom. Prince ended up not going. 

What his critics did not realise was that Prince was a busy man as months after the prom, in December 2013, he moved his company — which started in a small room in 2012 — to a four-storey building in Kodambakkam in the city. 

And now, Prince is the picture of professionalism. There stands a customised door that has ‘Jefferson Prince CEO’ imprinted on it. I catch up with this lean-framed gaming expert, sitting in his cabin clad in a suit. The room, which he calls his den, is lit with natural light and he says he likes it that way. The space has four large computer screens, and a wall-mounted TV. The Macbook Pro and other gadgets are systematically placed. “I like my workstation and I spend a lot of time here, more than at home,” says the 17-year-old. 

His company, iCazual Entertainment is developing its First Person Shooter game project for all major platforms such as Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4 and PCs. They also operate in the visual effects field to generate income until the game project is complete. 

While many made fun of him initially, he says, he always believed that he was meant to do something special. In fact he is glad that he did not go to the prom. “I had always liked computers. Even as a kid I liked to stay indoors and discover new opportunities in the virtual world,” says Prince. 

Even some of his teachers ridiculed him for his social awkwardness. “Though most of them spoke high of me, there was this teacher who announced in front of the class that I’d be a failure in life.” People like Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs have inspired him. They dared to think differently and took risks at a very young age. 

Prince was born in Tirunelveli and moved to London when he was three years old, where his father, Prince Jayachandran, worked with computers. “Computers were my toys as a child. When I was five, I could assemble them.” By six, he was a master at games like Prince of Persia and Age of Empires. At 15, he competed with 100 students at Warwick University to develop eStudent, an application to help parents keep track of their child’s performance at school. “I learned basic coding when I was hardly six. I even created my own social medium and called it ‘Crowned Prince’. This was exclusively to interact with my mother. I’d sit in my room playing games and shoot out messages to my mother on her laptop, I did this when I was 12. At 13, I created my slave — a representative of my virtual self. It was an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) through which I connected with my friends and managed my IRC-bots.”

By the time he was in his teens, he did odd jobs to earn money. One summer when Prince and his friend were playing a video game, he realised that a lot could be done with it. “I thought why not make a game for myself that met all my expectations. I wanted to create a trailer first. We successfully completed the trailer but it was not up to my standards so we scrapped it. This happened in early 2012 when I met the core team of this company,” he says. By now he knew what he wanted to do. He started a company, with the help of his father in the U.K. and later moved to Chennai to set up the main division. “I wasn’t sure if India was the right place but it was my dad who suggested that I tap the market here. A chunk of VFX work for international movies is done here. He was right. I am lucky to be working with some of the best professionals,” he says. Some of his employees have been associated with him from the beginning. 

Everybody in his team is older and has years of experience. Is it difficult being a boss? “I found it difficult initially but now I have found my way. I have to be firm and confident about my vision.”

After finishing school, he took a break but still managed to study his course material. “My aim is to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and fund my own education. Also I want to figure out a way to manage the business when I’m in college. But before that, I have promised myself a Lamborghini Aventador by 2015. I’m waiting to turn 18,” says Prince, who swears that he will not have a girlfriend as he dreads dealing with break-ups. “It’s scary and a waste of time at my age,” he says. 

Prince knows that he is missing out on a lot of things that boys his age do but he says he is happy to make the sacrifices. He plans to open a foundation in the future to help the disadvantaged.

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