Athgo just finished up its 5th Annual Global Innovation Forum in Washington, D.C., this week, and as the mission of this company is providing tools and opportunities for youth to become entrepreneurs, I figured it appropriate to write about some youth using technology to create start-ups. Specifically these two smartphone app creators: Balbus Speech and Flash Food Recovery. Both of these companies were started by college students (the former in Boston, the latter in Phoenix) to meet the needs of their communities. And they were both younger at the outset than I am now, and I wouldn’t even call myself “old” by any standards (a writer never reveals their age…I think.)

Balbus Speech, Jack McDermott:

Jack used to have to travel 45 minutes by train outside of Boston to visit a speech pathologist for his stuttering, costing his parents hundreds of dollars per session. He saw the need for more affordable and accessible speech therapy, and while he was a sophomore at Tufts in 2011, he designed two speech pathology smartphone apps: Speech 4 Good and Fluently (closed down already.) Selling for $10 and $15 respectively, these apps allow users speech therapy for more cheaply and on the go, and they provide a variety of speech therapy services. Having succeeded in his own area, Jack’s looking at expanding into the broader field of special education. Imagine if there were smartphone apps to help children with special needs.

Flash Food Recovery, Eric Lehnhardt:

Phoenix, AZ, has the 4th highest rate of food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to food resources, meaning that a family lives in hunger or fear of starvation, and essentially doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. Over 16 million children in the US live with food insecurity, but, surprisingly (and devastatingly), approximately 40% of the food in this country goes to waste.

Instead of scaring your children into cleaning their plates for the sake of starving children in Africa (probably the most popular line used to teach us not to waste our food), what if we could give our leftovers to people in our own country who need the food? Shipping a lasagna to another continent doesn’t seem very feasible to me, but focusing on issues at home, however, does.

Fortunately, Eric designed Flash Food Recovery during an applied engineering class at Arizona State University. With this app, people living in food insecurity can receive text alerts when food service venues have useful leftovers.

These young entrepreneurs are from the generation raised in the digital age. We and our peers have social media in our blood and bones, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to us. You don’t have to be a college student, or an engineer, to be innovative. Identify something you want to change, and there will be others who want to help you change it, even if it’s just an app for ordering pizza.

What needs do you see in your communities?