Sanil Chawala,19 founder and executive director of Hack+

When Sanil Chawla was a sophomore in high school, he wanted to launch a web development startup as a way to fabricate his hobby. “But there’s just so much red tape for young founders,” he says. “I was under 18, so I couldn’t file legal paperwork or get a bank account on my own.” 

He started researching ways to lower the barrier to entrepreneurship, and zeroed in on fiscal sponsorship, a common practice in which nonprofits extend their legal status and back-end support to small projects with a similar mission. 

“I developed software to automate all the paperwork and basically made a really scalable version of fiscal sponsorship,” says Chawla, now 19 and a sophomore at the University of Southern California. In 2017, Hack+ was born as a nonprofit that provides free fiscal sponsorship to student-founded charitable organizations. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have provided support and B2B resources. 

Chawla and his team of 12 have helped 926 students launch their organizations, raising more than $1 million in support. This fall, in partnership with Stripe Atlas, Hack+ will launch a version of the platform focused on supporting for-profit startups. 

“If we can manage all the legal and financial stuff for these young founders, they can focus on their mission, their goals,” he says. “It will open the door to so much impact.” 

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