12/12/2018Community

WeGrow Student Impresses Apple CEO Tim Cook

by Lexi Mainland

Outside Apple’s first-ever New York City product launch in October, Kesav Gupta resembled many of the other reporters swirling around the entrance to the Brooklyn Academy of Music—at least on paper.

Kesav, after all, is a hardworking tech reviewer with a popular YouTube channel devoted to all things Apple. The company's conferences are his Super Bowl or Coachella; he can barely break his gaze from the live stream to eat, sleep, and commentate.

But there were a few details that distinguished Kesav at the October event, where new iPads and Macs were introduced. Unlike everyone else, Kesav had no invitation or official press credentials. And, as a 10-year-old playing hooky from fourth grade, Kesav, aka Coding Kid, was the only reporter accompanied by a parent.

Kesav is a student at WeGrow, a school for students ages 3 to 9 founded by Rebekah Neumann, a founding partner and the chief brand officer at WeWork. WeGrow’s mission is to unleash every human’s superpowers, and the school has helped nurture Kesav’s broad range of interests, including music, farming, human anatomy, the New York subway system, and, of course, technology.

WeGrow student Kesav Gupta at schoolKesav Gupta is a student at WeGrow.

“We think it’s important to take every opportunity to say ‘go for it’ when they want to pursue a special experience we can’t provide at school, even if it means missing a day here or there,” says Corey Coleman, one of Kesav’s teachers.

A few weeks earlier Kesav had emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook asking to attend the event. “Dear Mr. Tim,” Kesav wrote, “I have grown up with Apple products all my life.” He recalled how his parents took a photo of him as a newborn next to an iPhone for scale.

When a reply from Apple failed to arrive, Kesav remained determined. His teachers and parents encouraged him to try to gain access. “I wanted it to be a learning experience,” says his father, Raj Gupta. “I didn’t care if we got in.”

Since starting at WeGrow, Kesav’s parents have witnessed their son’s passions blossom. “WeGrow is giving Kesav the encouragement and space to develop a love of tech that goes way beyond simply learning to code,” says Raj.

It was just 39 degrees out, so they shivered at the entrance for nearly an hour as Kesav pointed out consumer-technology reporter Walt Mossberg and a dozen more of his heroes arriving. Joanna Stern, a Wall Street Journal technology reporter, did a double take when he flagged her down for a selfie together as she rushed by outside. “I was late, but I wanted to keep talking to him,” she says. “It may have had something to do with the Alexander Hamilton costume.” (As Kesav explains, when you are getting dressed for a day that might include meeting the CEO of Apple in the morning and a classroom Halloween party in the afternoon, you wear your costume––royal blue velvet colonial frock coat, ruffled white shirt, beige knickers––and your game face. Stern later tweeted about their encounter.)

Finally, 10 minutes before Cook took the stage inside the soaring Howard Gilman Opera House, a flock of Apple coordinators waved Kesav and his father inside, where he watched from the auditorium’s balcony. “My heart was just really beating,” Kesav says.

Kesav also taped a series of product-demonstration videos for his YouTube channel and fearlessly approached Cook, along with his marketing and software chiefs Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue, respectively. Cook got right to the point, recalled a beaming Kesav. “He said I should come to Apple and work for him when I grow up,” he says. “That was the actual best moment of my life.”

Photos by Katelyn Perry