SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Thomas Sohmers speaks about his startup, the chief executive of Rex Computing doesn't sound like a 17-year-old. But he is, and sometimes his age can be a problem.
In 2011 Sohmers wanted to hear a keynote by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at Design West, but show organizers turned him away because he was too young — attendees must be at least 18. This year those same show organizers are inviting him to speak at the event, now called EE Live!
Sohmers will share his views on Silicon Valley startups and more on the EE Live show floor at 1:00 p.m. on April 1 — and that's no April Fool's joke! Show organizers are already trying to figure out how to handle the CEO's visit, given he is still technically underage for the event.
Sohmers's passion for all things tech flowered at 13 when he built a head-mounted display. The project won him an invitation to work at an MIT lab where he met Kurt Keville, a high-performance computing researcher.
The two collaborated on a system built from 48 Texas Instruments Omap chips in an effort to gauge the potential of ARM servers. “The cool thing was we ran it off a solar panel, which got us some media attention,” said Sohmers.
The project also landed Sohmers a Theil Fellowship in April 2013, which included a grant that became the seed money for Rex. Now Sohmers, Keville, and Paul Sebexen — another young entrepreneur — hope to develop by the end of the year a commercial system using 64-bit ARM cores linked to coprocessors including Adapteva's Epiphany IV. The system targets apps such as image processing and machine learning for datacenters run by the likes of Amazon and Google.
“We want to bring down the cost of computing by several orders of magnitude,” Sohmers says. “I'm a huge believer in open-source hardware and software, and we want to encourage people to take a look at [our prototype] and write apps for it.”
So the young CEO is already on the road, getting into industry events wherever he can. He exhibited — and manned his booth — at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose and he will attend an oil and gas industry event in Austin, Texas. Next stop: EE Live!