Intel funds Silicon Valley teen’s Braille printer startup

SANTA CLARA — Last December, seventh-grader Shubham Banerjee asked his parents how blind people read.

A Silicon Valley tech professional, dad Neil Banerjee told his son to “Google it.”

So Shubham did, and with a few Internet searches he learned about Braille, the tactile writing system used by the blind, and Braille printers, which, to the 12-year-old’s shock, cost thousands of dollars. One school science fair victory, a few national accolades, $35,000 of his parents’ savings and a visit to the White House later, Shubham today is the founder of Palo Alto startup Braigo Labs, which aims to become the first purveyor of low-cost, compact Braille printers.

And on Tuesday, Intel Capital, the company’s global investment arm, will announce it has invested in the teenager’s company, making Shubham the world’s youngest tech entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding.

“It was curiosity,” explained Shubham, now 13 and an eighth-grader at Champion School in San Jose. “I’m always thinking up something. If you think it can be done, then it can probably be done.”

What started as a home-built Lego Mindstorms project for a science fair has morphed into a family-run startup, with mom Malini Banerjee the president and CEO, and dad Neil Banerjee on the board of directors and also serving as Shubham’s chauffeur and chaperone to news events, interviews and business meetings. The seed funding from Intel will allow the Santa Clara family to hire engineers and product designers, allowing Shubham to return his focus to school and easing the financial burden on the Banerjee family. Neil was contemplating dipping into his 401(k) before Intel made its offer. Intel declined to disclose the amount.

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