Mateusz Mach is into hip-hop, like a lot of Polish 17-year-olds. “It is something I identify with,” Mach says. But unlike a lot of Polish 17-year-olds, he decided to turn his appreciation into an app business. He wanted to make an app that would allow him to send ironic hand gestures to his friends.
The idea was that he and his friends would know what the signals meant, but anyone else who happened to see the message wouldn’t.
So in May 2015, Mach launched Five, an app that would for Android, iPhone, and Apple Watch that allow users to throw one another custom hand signs, like the kind rappers throw.
Started as a silly way to communicate with friends, Mach was expecting this app to be quick, easy, and above all, fun.
But, it is now finding some real-world use, as deaf users started coming to it, communicating in American Sign Language (ASL) through this app.
“The world’s first messenger for deaf people,” as Mach calls it.
“It’s faster than typing,” Mach says.
It’s a little bit like Yo.
“We are better than Yo,” Mach says. “Definitely better than Yo.”
He started to get messages from people with hearing impairments thanking him for making the app.
And so, seeing opportunity, Mach immediately hit the road, competing in (and winning) local startup competitions and attracting media buzz as a promising young entrepreneur.
Once he had a little bit of buzz, he started hustling for investment cash, which isn’t easy for a CEO when he is still in high school and don’t have a network of contacts.
For now, Mach is juggling the demands of entrepreneurship with a college education. But the young man says that he fully intends to finish out his degree, no matter what precedents were set by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who never graduated college.
“I don’t believe in the college dropout philosophy,” Mach says.