YouthSpark Star

Felix Guttbier

This 14-Year-Old app developer
shared the stage with Chancellor
Angela Merkel at a tech
conference in Germany.

YouthSpark Stars Kodu Kup's Story

Apps from the Dark Side, by 14-year-old Felix

He has shared the stage with German chancellor Angela Merkel. He’s been recognized by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. He’s been on stage at one of the world’s largest tech conferences. He has made five apps for Windows. But he can’t have his own developer account in the Windows Store. Because he is 14 years old.


In a matter-of-fact tone, Felix Guttbier lays out the plan for his future: “I will study informatics,” says the teen, who lives in Gerichshain near Leipzig, Germany. “If it is a success, I want to work for Microsoft.”

It’s that type of ambition that Microsoft hopes to channel with YouthSpark, an initiative announced last year to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world in three years.

DreamSpark and BizSpark, both Microsoft YouthSpark programs, aim to close the skills gap in Germany. The country faces a scarcity of skilled labor in information technology (IT) fields and support for IT-related entrepreneurship. In 2012, an estimated 38,000 IT jobs in Germany couldn’t be filled, according to Bernhard Rohleder, chair of the Bitkom trade association.


Young developer Felix Guttbier appeared on stage with German chancellor Angela Merkel and Microsoft Germany CEO Dr. Christian P. Illek at CeBIT 2013.

Young developer Felix Guttbier appeared on stage with German chancellor Angela Merkel and Microsoft Germany CEO Dr. Christian P. Illek at CeBIT 2013.

DreamSpark supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching, and research purposes. Felix got a DreamSpark account in 2011, which gave him access to free development software.

Felix credits his father, Henry, for kindling his initial interest in building apps.

The elder Guttbier creates websites with ASP.NET for small companies, nonprofits, and private citizens, his son explained. Felix quickly followed his lead, writing his first website in ASP.NET in 2007 at the age of nine.

He followed that up with his first attempt at building an app for Windows Phone, a finance calculator, but it wasn’t successful, he said.

Because Felix was interested in programming more, his father sought out Microsoft events that the boy could attend. Felix was invited to one day of the Student Technology Conference 2012 in Berlin. A Microsoft employee noticed his interest and invited him back the next day.


Felix Guttbier and his father, Henry Guttbier, visit the Dark Side Bakery in Berlin, where Felix worked on app development.

Felix Guttbier and his father, Henry Guttbier, visit the Dark Side Bakery in Berlin, where Felix worked on app development.

Then he found the Dark Side Bakery in Berlin, a temporary hub for app developers and start-up founders that is funded by Microsoft. The team offered space, support, and networking (and lots of food and drink) for participants to help them develop apps for Windows 8 and further develop their business ideas.

“Felix pressed his dad to take him to Berlin,” said Patric Boscolo, who runs Dark Side Bakery with two colleagues, in collaboration with Stephan Jacquemot, the lead for BizSpark. “For the first time he was in an environment with a lot of geeks. All had the same purpose.”

Boscolo remembers Felix working on the finance calculator app for housing credits, talking about new technologies and what he likes to develop. Felix asked a lot of questions while he was coding. “He learned a lot about coding software, the Windows operating system, and program languages in general,” said Boscolo.

Felix and his dad finished the app during a week stay in Berlin. “They visited us several times in Berlin afterwards,” shared Boscolo. “That’s one hundred miles just to visit!”


Felix Guttbier, front, poses with Dark Side Bakery team members, from left, Tom Wendel, Felix Rieseberg, and Patric Boscolo. The space, funded by Microsoft, is a hub for developers.

Felix Guttbier, front, poses with Dark Side Bakery team members, from left, Tom Wendel, Felix Rieseberg, and Patric Boscolo. The space, funded by Microsoft, is a hub for developers.

When Felix eventually shipped his finance calculator app through the Windows Store (he uses his father’s account since he’s not 18), Microsoft invited him to CeBIT, the world’s largest computer expo, held in Hannover, Germany. That’s where he took the stage in March this year with Chancellor Merkel.

“Meeting her was an honor,” said Felix.

It also gave him the opportunity to meet Ballmer at an event there, and he was thrilled to get his autograph on the app tile of his first app, the finance calculator. GarantieDatenbank was my best app,” boasted Felix. It’s a warranty database to track warranty certificates and photos of equipment or goods purchased. But he said the one with the most downloads is the Passwortgenerator, an app to generate random passwords.

“Felix was quite curious and extremely energetic,” recalled Felix Rieseberg, another member of the Dark Side Bakery team. “It was impressive to see him grasp certain concepts on the spot, while other, seemingly equally difficult things took him more time to understand.” Rieseberg, now a start-up developer evangelist for Microsoft in San Francisco, said Felix still has a lot to learn but he has no doubt that he’ll go far.

“You can really distinguish the good coder from the average by the question she or he asks,” said Rieseberg. “The kind of questions Felix asks are extraordinary.”


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