At 17, Moscow student Andrey Ternovskiy has the cachet that most startup CEOs chase for decades: mainstream-press coverage. Meetings with Google and Skype. Hundreds of emails from Silicon Valley VC firms. And it's all thanks to a little site called Chatroulette -- created in two days and funded partly by $10,000 from Ternovskiy's parents -- which connects random users via Webcam, and lets them hit "next" to switch partners at will. Since its November 2009 launch, Ternovskiy's platform has inspired a profusion of Internet memes (Catroulette, ChatrouLOLz); been lampooned on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart; and amassed more than 1.5 million users per day, including Ben Folds, who logs on during concerts to improvise songs about his chatting partners.
“I don’t know,” Ternovskiy says of the way he thinks. “I quickly get the scheme of how it should work in my head. I just write out the remaining details, and that’s all the work. It’s probably weird.” -- The New Yorker (5/17/10)