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Teen CEO launches storage startup; catches Facebook's eye

Evtron's Andrew Mayhall mulls Facebook buyout offer, but leans toward taking the entrepreneurial route

By , Network World
November 06, 2012 07:09 AM ET
Mayhall and O'Brien

Network World - Just a few years ago, Andrew Mayhall had to decide whether to continue his unique education or drop out of school to start his own server company. Now, he's mulling another major decision - whether to continue discussions about potentially selling that company and working for Facebook, or to follow the entrepreneurial path Facebook's founder laid out when he was around Mayhall's age.

Mayhall, the 19-year-old founder and CEO of data storage provider Evtron, has spent more than half of his young life steeped in technology. Armed with his first computer and a library card, an 8-year-old Mayhall quickly taught himself how to program in several languages. In seventh grade he began taking computer programming and engineering courses at Lewis and Clark Community College in eastern Illinois. From there, he began scheduling tours of local data centers, asking questions out of a general interest in how everything worked. Shortly thereafter, he began toying with server hardware himself.

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By the time his peers were juniors in high school, Mayhall had amassed enough credit for an associate's degree at Lewis and Clark. So, naturally, he left school altogether and started up his own company with Brady O'Brien, his co-founder and fellow 19-year-old. Though Mayhall says O'Brien likes to describe the decision as a "leave of absence" from school, Mayhall has no qualms about saying he dropped out.

"I really have no intentions of going back and continuing my educational path," he says.

The decision is understandable. Mayhall's work has already attracted attention from Facebook, a company familiar with the potential of a young CEO. Evtron's first storage platform, the Evtron Cell, is what caught the social networking giant's attention. Mayhall says that the Cell's capacity for 4.6 petabytes per server rack, which also reduces overall space required in a typical data center by 66%, broke the world record for data density. More practically, Mayhall says the Evtron Cell uses a lot of the same components that Facebook uses for its current storage infrastructure, but, because of "a little design change," the Cell is four times as dense.

The potential benefits are no doubt attractive to a social networking site that now boasts more than 1 billion active users and, following a rough IPO, has to appease public demand for profits. Mayhall says the talks with Facebook are still ongoing, and that the potential of a company acquisition coupled with a job for Mayhall has been discussed.

Mayhall, however, seems more interested in a licensing agreement than anything else. However exciting a buyout may be - Mayhall contends that a discussion with Facebook is an opportunity he couldn't pass up - the young CEO remains an idealist and a believer in the company that he formed as an adolescent. He frequently talks about building Evtron into a major corporation, and aspires to do so through the efforts of his team alone.

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