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Law student pursuing master's in business administration started company at 18

Michael Hacker

Michael Hacker (1L) co-founded RoomBug, a roommate-matching application built on the Facebook platform. He also started his own company at the age of 18. (Photo by Vincent Massaro)

By Jared Misner
Student Writer

Michael Hacker had to cut an interview short.

The Securities and Exchange Commission was calling — about a job.

"He called for an (externship) interview on the spot, and I couldn't really say 'No,'" Hacker said. "I felt really bad."

Such modesty might be expected of an ordinary person with ordinary ambitions, but Hacker (1L) is far from ordinary.

Hacker is one of only a handful of law students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law also pursuing his master's degree in business administration.

But Hacker doesn't stop there. Extraordinary requires much more.

Aside from simultaneously pursuing two professional degrees, Hacker is also a company cofounder and the president of a separate company he started in 2006 when he was 18.

"I like to keep busy. Otherwise, I get bored," he said.

With two companies already under his belt before he hit his mid-20s and two professional degrees on the way in 2013, Hacker says that to be successful, you have to remain modest.

It's a dog-eat-dog world. Markets change. Interests shift. To be successful, you have to remain modest, he said.

Especially when you start your own Internet and technology consulting company, Hacker Computers Corp., at the age of 18.

"It's hard to gain credibility, but it's important to keep working and maintain a professional standard for yourself," Hacker said.

Though he started his own Internet and technology consulting company, Hacker Computers Corp., when he was 18, the reality for this idea came much earlier.

The seed of his idea started much earlier.

"I basically had a computer in front of me since I was 4," Hacker said. "I was always interested in technology, and that's what really got me started."

This interest in technology is what helped bring Hacker's second company to life.

Hacker, along with Alex Edelsburg, Ariel Himmelstern and fellow UF graduate Rob Castellucci, founded RoomBug, a roommate-matching application built on the Facebook platform.

Started in the summer of 2007, Hacker said Castellucci's involvement in off-campus student housing spurred the idea. Hacker's computer prowess helped the idea become reality.

Used by an estimated 20,000 people and 10 schools, including UF, RoomBug connects students in online Facebook communities through their residence halls or off-campus housing. After joining the desired network, users select their desired room cleanliness, noise level and other variables in hopes of finding the perfect roommate.

And that's what RoomBug does, Hacker said. It allows for users to pick a roommate with whom they feel compatible. At least on Facebook.

"Facebook isn't just a cover," Hacker said. "It's a living, breathing example of a person."

RoomBug was named a Facebook Fund finalist in 2009, recognition as one the top 25 applications built on the Facebook platform, and Hacker expects even bigger business booms in 2011. As social media continues to grow in popularity and as the dread of being "thrown into" living with a horror-story-worthy roommate remains, RoomBug seems to be mushrooming into something bigger.

While some are surprised at RoomBug's early success, others point to UF's long history of entrepreneurial success stories as a roadmap for Hacker and other future inventors.

After all, this is the birthplace of Grooveshark and the homeland of Gatorade.

"We've always had phenomenal research coming out of the university," said Jamie Kraft, UF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation executive director.

But even with such incredible research, not every student starts his or her own company at the age of 18.

"There are a lot of students on this campus with their own businesses," Kraft said. "Are they on Michael's level? Maybe not."

And for a student who started working at age 15 in a family printing shop — a student who founded two companies, a student who's set to graduate in two years with two professional degrees – the future looks just as bright.

Hoping to become involved with corporate or business law in the future, Hacker figures his entrepreneurial background will help him along the way.

"Anytime you do anything, it's entrepreneurial," he said. "If you don't create a place for yourself, nothing is going to come for you."