Meet the teenage high school dropout running his own tech company

Eighteen - it's the year you can vote, drink in a bar and for Ross Leitch, it's the year he hired his first employee.

Ross is the owner and operator of Metamorphic Solutions - a software development startup based in Wellington.

He's 18, well spoken and ambitious - qualities that have helped him to thrive in the tech world.

His 12 years of experience don't hurt either. Ross started coding at seven, with his oldest brother.

"We were trying to make a runescape clone at the time, because that was a big fad."

From then on, he was hooked.

"That first feeling of, 'I've just written text and now whoever runs it is going to get the exact same execution', it just became really pleasing."

At 12, he created an app for his local cinema. By 15, he was developing scheduling and resource management applications for his father's company.  

That same year, he decided to leave school and set himself up as Metamorphic Solutions, working in the Auckland tech sector.

This experience was deeply disconcerting for Ross. He was on more money than he knew what to do with and, for the first time, he encountered someone who had a problem with his age.

"I find ageism and imposter syndrome in tech really disgusting. I think if anyone can do the job, then they should be allowed to and everyone should be treated with the same amount of compassion when it comes to ideation."

After a few days soul-searching, Ross decided to move to Wellington, establishing himself in an office on the top floor of an inner city building on Cuba Street. He hasn't looked back.

"I've finally found a place where I get to make my own decisions. I get to decide when I get up in the morning, when I come into work, when I leave, There's a lot of responsibilities that go with it, but there is also a lot of freedom."

The office is part tech-startup, part 18-year-old's bedroom.

Film posters adorn the walls. A bass guitar sits next to an amplifier, and a corner of the space has been furnished with couches, a beer fridge, and a coffee table.

It's the setting for the podcast they are developing.

Ross believes it's important for his staff to be comfortable when they're working, be that designing, developing or podcasting.

"It's a lot more natural way to be in an office than for it to be all white and cubicles. I just hate the idea of being put in the same place every day and not having the freedom to just go sit somewhere else, just because you want to."

Right now, he has a staff of six - three developers, three designers.

Some of Ross' employees at Metamorphic's Wellington office
Some of Ross' employees at Metamorphic's Wellington office Photo credit: Newshub

All are part-time, working up to 20 hours a week, many around university.

Jack Upton is one of the designers - he appreciates the input he has with Metamorphic.

With Ross, he is a big cog in a small machine, as opposed to most entry-level jobs at larger tech firms.

"Here anything I do is directly affecting the company. If I design something, it's directly going to be used pretty much immediately.

"I get to make an actual impact on the company, which is lots of fun."

Although Ross's situation is unusual, it's definitely not unheard of.

A quick Google search for teenage entrepreneurs pulls up results from all over the world and stories even more extraordinary.

Australian Ben Pasternak developed his first app at 14, while bored in science class.

That game - Impossible Rush - went on to peak at number 16 on the US app store (IOS) and has been downloaded millions of times.

He's since released several apps - a follow-up to Impossible Rush (Impossible Dial), a social network for selling called Flogg, and his newest venture - a video chat app called Monkey.

Ben is one of a new class of young tech entrepreneurs, cashing in on skills cultivated from a young age over the internet - a class that Ross thinks is only set to grow.

"There are more and more people like me coming about. Even just this year, I've heard of a lot more 15- and 16-year-olds starting things.

"I think it's a trend for the entire generation - we're getting a lot younger and a lot more mature a lot younger."