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Fired TechCrunch teen bounces back to give back

At 18, Daniel Brusilovsky already has three start-up projects under his belt--and a black mark too. But he prefers to measure his success by the impact he is having on young entrepreneurs.

Daniel Brusilovsky moderates the Teens in Tech Conference last week at the Palo Alto Research Center, where teens presented their start-up ideas. Teens in Tech Conference

At age 17, Daniel Brusilovsky had his moment in the media spotlight, but not for reasons to brag about. In February 2010, the then-intern at TechCrunch was fired for allegedly soliciting bribes for a MacBook Air in exchange for start-up coverage.

"Unfortunately, without going into the particulars, I made a mistake and publicly paid the price for it," said Brusilovsky, now 18. "It's something I hope others don't have to go through, but I never lost sight of my vision to help entrepreneurs and specifically teens, and wasn't going to let this get in my way."

The dark clouds appear to have cleared for Brusilovsky, in part because of that focus on helping out other teenage entrepreneurs like himself. His resume already includes launching AUP Media Group at age 14, Teens in Tech Labs at 15, and Case Finder Network at 17.

Having felt like he had no one or nowhere to turn to on his first venture, Brusilovsky said his second venture was all about creating a place for teenagers who dream of starting their own company. In addition to a blog covering young founders--a beat he championed during his stint at TechCrunch--his Teens in Tech Labs company puts on a yearly conference and just this year added a summer incubator program.

The six Teens in Tech Incubator teams last week presented their start-up ideas to an audience of 200 or so parents and teens at the Palo Alto Research Center as part of the Teens in Tech conference, which is now in its third year.

Two projects that stood out were aimed at solving teen-related problems. MySchoolHelp lets kids digitally share their notes from class. Bubbl App lets friends know when you can hang out.

"People were really excited to present their companies to a public audience" and have their ideas validated, Brusilovsky said. "I think for a lot of them, failure isn't necessarily an option, they all want to succeed in what they are working on."

He recalled his own struggles, following the TechCrunch firing, which took place after he had launched Teens in Tech, but forced a brief hiatus. He didn't touch a computer for a month, he said. "I hung out with friends and just did teenager things," he said.

But then Apple's iPad launched, and as he camped out in front a Palo Alto, Calif., Apple store along with mentor Robert Scoble and some 60 others, he had another "aha" moment. How about a directory service to help people find the perfect case for their shiny new devices? That thought led to the creation of Case Finder Network, which was later acquired by design and marketing firm On Top Results.

Now playing: Watch this: Teens inspire other teens at the Teens in Tech conference

Brusilovsky said he's not sure what his next venture will be and tends to live in the moment. "I think as far (out) as a few weeks, but after that, I like to just live life as it comes and not worry too much about what I'll be doing in one to five to ten years."

But he isn't forgetting the past.

"The biggest thing with failure is how you bounce back, and show that you can overcome failure and still do something great," he said. "I don't measure success in money, I measure it how much of an impact I have."

Louis Gray, a Silicon Valley tech blogger and mentor to Brusilovsky, added that "all of us make mistakes as teenagers."

"Daniel specifically has rebounded because he didn't let go of his vision to help teen entrepreneurs, and he has always been a fantastic networker," Gray said, adding that last week's presentation and conference were "redemption over doubters" and show that "even with bumps, you can succeed with a true focus, hard work, and plenty of caffeine."

Correction: This post initially misstated the name of the incubator program. It's called the Teens in Tech Incubator. It was hosted by Teens in Tech partner Appcelerator.

Teens in Tech Conference participants take a break last week from start-up presentations. Alastair Goldfisher