Young App Developers Who Made Millions


Snigdha
By Snigdha | Last Updated on November 17th, 2019 2:13 am | 6-min read
Young App Developers who made millions

An average youth today would spend his early years getting an education and set some “realistic” goals for themselves and be just another competitor in the rat race while hardly making any attempts to do anything differently. But there is a rare breed of youngsters who choose to walk the paths never traversed on and choose to act on their dreams.

Everyone, everywhere today is talking about mobile apps, and everyone who has a smart phone has tens of these on their phones. For everything that we want to do, we need an app today and the things we cannot do on an app, definitely need one!

The young have the advantage of having the freedom to pursue their dreams and a scope to try new things all the time. But how many of them take advantage of it? The world of mobile apps has been fortunate in spotting some of these dreamers turned doers. Here we’re going to talk about the select few, who saw a problem, figured out an opportunity and went ahead and grabbed it – Young app developers who became millionaires.

Brian Wong

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Brian Wong is a Canadian internet entrepreneur. A child prodigy, Wong received his high school diploma at the age of 14, and his bachelor’s degree at the age of 18 from the University of British Columbia. It was while he was still at the university that he launched his first company – FollowFormation. The company was noticed and quoted by Mashable as the easiest way to follow the top Twitterers by their subject matter or topic.

One of his recent ventures – Kiip has made him one of the youngest internet entrepreneurs to raise venture capital.

About Kiip

At the age of 19, inspiration hit Wong on a flight where he realized that quite a few passengers were engaged on their iPads or phones. Most of these people were busy playing games on myriad devices which were infiltrated with ads that took up screen space while adding no real value to the experience. Wong perceives games as the holy grail of achievement and here he was intrigued by the possibility to leverage the key moments of achievement experienced by the gamers like level ups and high scores. He devised a relevant and targeted rewards program that helped the brands reach the customers at the time when they were deeply engaged in the game.

It was in July 2010 that Wong chose to team up with Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi to found Kiip. Today Kiip sends out achievement based rewards like coupons etc. to a total of 100 million customers on a monthly basis. The company has managed to garner more than $32 million of venture capital from companies like Relay Ventures, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, True Ventures, Verizon Ventures, Crosslink Capital, and more. Kiip has expanded to establish their offices in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tokyo, & London.

The list of brand partners for Kip include at least 40 major brands with names of repute like 1-800-Flowers, Amazon.com, American Apparel, Best Buy, Carl’s Jr., Disney, Dr. Pepper, GNC, KY Jelly, Pepsi, Playboy, Popchips, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, Vitamin Water and more. It is estimated that Kiip would have garnered more than $20 million in revenue by the end of the year 2017.

Things You Must Know About Brian Wong

  • Wong, in 2010 became one of the youngest company leaders to receive funding from a venture capital firm.
  • He was a self-made millionaire when he was just shy of 20.
  • He has appeared and spoken at some of the most prestigious conferences including TEDx and SXSW.
  • Wong and his company Kiip has been profiled by some of the most prestigious publications including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Inc. Magazine.
  • He appeared on the cover of the September 2014 issue of Entrepreneur as one of the young millionaires changing the world.
  • He was also named in the Forbes 30 Under 30/Social/Mobile list in 2011.
  • He has authored “The Cheat Code: Going Off Script To Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut Your Way To Success” that is aimed at helping young people just starting their careers and was published in September 2016.

Robert Nay

Born in 1996, Robert Nay was 14, when his friends suggested that he try and make an iPhone App and the idea then took roots. Nay didn’t have any previous experience or knowledge of coding and went to the public library for his research about what he needed to do to build his game. He says “”I came up with the idea for the game by myself, but it was influenced by other games I liked and suggestions from people.”

One month after the idea took root, Nay had managed to read a few books on the subject and produced 4000 individual lines of code and complete his game Bubble Ball. The investment in the app consisted of buying a new Macbook and the proper software licenses which came to a total of $1200 – the money was furnished by his parents.

Bubble Ball

Bubble Ball by Robert Nay is a 72-level physics puzzle game released in December 2010 and was downloaded 2 million times on Apple App Store in its first two weeks. The puzzles on the game range from simple to extremely challenging wherein each level completion provides you with tools to be used in the succeeding level. In 2011, Bubble Ball was chosen as the App of the Week by Ansca Mobile, and still stands at #3 on the “Ansca Mobile’s Hall Of Fame”.

The game has been downloaded over 16 million times since it has been released and the current version is available both on Apple App Store and Google Play Store for free. At one point of time Bubble Ball had managed to displace Angry Birds from its number one spot on the list of free games on the Apple App Store.

In the summers of 2012, a new version was released that had a new feature – Community Levels allowing the players to engage with hundreds of additional levels created by other users. The users can create additional levels through a web interface at the game website and then submit them with the help of a code that is obtained from the game interface. These levels become available to the other users only after being approved by the developers. The game levels are sorted by a number of attributes including difficulty. The easiest of the levels have been solved by more than 60% of the users who have downloaded the app, the hardest levels have only been solved by a mere 10% and the most difficult level has only been solved by 8%.

Things You Must Know About Robert Nay

  • He designed his first game at the age of 14 and Bubble Game, his first game was downloaded 2 million times in only two weeks since the launch.
  • The eighth grader has established his own company Nay Games for mobile games development and based it out of Utah.
  • Nay developed the game with the help of his mother and used a software development kit called Corona from Ansca Mobile.
  • His mother helped him design some of the game levels and submit the application to iTunes

Chad Mureta

A graduate in Business Management from Coastal Carolina University Mureta owned a newspapaer company and worked as a real estate investor and went on to start his own real estate agency in 2006. In 2009 he had a life changing accident where he had to undergo two major operations and then spend 18 months recuperating. A friend casually passed him a newspaper article about “app millionaires” which started a chain of events where Mureta began researching, designing, and outsourcing the development of apps.

Fingerprint Security-Pro his first app mimics fingerprint-scanning technology which became a bestseller in the App Store. Following the success of the first app, Mureta has gone on to create 50 more apps that have been downloaded more than 150 million times globally.

Fingerprint Security-Pro

A traumatic accident with a deer caused Muerta’s car to flip over for four times where his hand was crushed, nearly severed. This left him bedridden in the hospital for more than 18 months after two major surgeries. The total bills at the hospital were more than $100,000 but he was inspired by the article he read about App Millionaires. He used his time in the hospital to research what went into designing and developing an app, and about outsourcing the development.

After he came out of the hospital, Muerta borrowed $1800 from his step father and created his first app – Fingerprint Security-Pro” – an app that mimics fingerprint scanning technology. This app went on to become one of the bestsellers on the App Store and peaked at Number 27 in 2011 and netting more than $500,000 in revenue.

Things You Must Know About Chad Mureta

  • He had to borrow $1800 from his step father to begin working on his app.
  • After his first app “Fingerprint Security-Pro” he went on to develop 50 more apps.
  • His apps have been downloaded for 150 million times globally.
  • In 2012 he wrote a book App Empire: Make Money, Have a Life, and Let Technology Work for You, that provides non-technical guidance to starting a mobile app business.
  • In July 2012, he was featured in 60 Minutes.
  • He was interviewed by Tony Robbins in a special – “How To Create An App Empire”.
  • He still believes in developing an understanding of the marketplace to come up with app ideas and then outsourcing the development of the app.
  • Emoji – an app created by Mureta in two weeks, took only six days to reach #1 on App Store’s productivity category and #12 in the top free overall category while garnering an average of $500 daily.
  • He conducts most of his business from his iPhone, including employee management, monitoring the app stats, and conducting an app market survey.
  • He has used his app business to work less, so that he can use his time in travelling all over the globe, learning salsa, and becoming a certified scuba diver and skydiver.
  • Despite having no previous experience in the app or technology fields, he has founded and served as a CEO of Empire Apps, and cofounded T3 Apps and Best Apps.

Nick D’Aloisio

Born in the year 1995, D’Aloisio is a computer programmer, philosopher, and an internet entrepreneur from London, England. He completed his schooling from King’s College School in Wimbledon with an academic scholarship. He joined University of Oxford as a student having completed his A-Level exams in the summer of 2014.

D’Aloisio created the Trimit application for iOS in March 2011 that utilized an analytical tool that would condense text content into 1000, 500, or 140 character summary text. It was in December 2011 that D’Aloisio after considering the criticism and feedback for Trimit, redesigned the whole app and relaunched it as Summly.

Summly

D’Aloisio created Trimit for iOS in March 2011 and the unique app applied unique analytical tools to condense or summarize text to as few as 1000, 500, or 140 characters. Trimit caught attention of Apple and they featured it as a new and noteworthy app on their App Store right after its launch. The unique app caught the attention of the billionaire Li Ka-Shing who invested $300,000 in Trimit as a venture capital funding. At this juncture, in the month of December 2011 D’Aloisio made use of the valuable feedback and criticism he received for Trimit and re-designed the whole app in its entirety and re-launched it now as Summly.

The initial version of Summly was downloaded by 200,000 users, and worked at solving the perceived problems in the manner the articles were presented on smartphones. It was due to the corporate support he received that he garnered US $1.23 million in new venture funding for Summly from renowned celebrities including Yoko Ono, Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry and the Hong Kong business mogul Li Ka-Shing. In 2013, Summly was sold to Yahoo reportedly for a whopping US $30 million.

Yahoo News Digest

In January 2014, D’Aloisio announced his new product Yahoo News Digest which is a direct evolution of Summly, and D’Aloisio is the product manager. Yahoo News Digest offers a crisp summary of the important news of the day in the form of a digest that is dispensed twice in a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. These algorithmically and editorially curated stories are presented to the users in a unique manner where the news articles are summarized into key units – atoms and include maps, stock tickets, infographics, and key quotes. Garnering critical acclaim from reputed sources, the app has also won the 2014 Apple Design Award.

Things You Must Know About Nick D’Aloisio

  • D’Aloisio completed the first round of venture capital funding for Summly from Horizons Ventures.
  • He became and still is the youngest person in the world to raise venture capital.
  • He is on the list of youngest self-made millionaires list.
  • D’Aloisio and Summly have been profiled in reputed publications including ReadWrite, Business Insider, Wired, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and TechCrunch.
  • On television he has appeared many times in various shows on CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC, ITV.
  • He has been written about in the British newspaper – Metro and has even been interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live.
  • He has been interviewed by Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, CNBC Squawk Box, CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, and more.

Awards & Recognition

  • His app Summly received Apple’s Best Apps of 2012 award for “Intuitive Touch”
  • He became WSJ’s Technological Innovator of the Year (2013), appeared in Time Magazine’s list of Most Influencial and was named a Top 1000 Influential Londoner by Evening Standard.
  • He won the Apple Design Award in 2014 for Yahoo News Digest
  • He appeared in the Forbes 30 under 30 list, GQ Magazine’s 100 Most Connected Men of 2014, and Mail On Sunday’s Top 100 things to watch in 2013.
  • He featured in the Sunday Times’ 100 makers of the 21st Century, and was placed at #30 on the 2014 Silicon Valley 100 by Business Insider.
  • He won a Spirit of London Award as Entrepreneur of the Year (December 2012), British Inspiration Award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2013), and was placed 1st in Evening Standard’s Top 25 under25 (2013).
  • D’Aloisio also received a Spear’s Wealth Management for Entrepreneur of the Year (2013) and a Merton Business Award.

Michael Arthur Sayman

Born in 1996, Sayman is a first generation Latin-American who is credited with publishing his first app on the App Store at the age of 13. He came to fame after he designed chart topping apps as a teenager and used the money to help out the family and pay bills during the Great Recession. The biggest breakthrough came for Sayman when his turn-based photo game 4 Snaps acquired a place in the US Apple Store’s top 25! This was when Sayman was still in his first year of high school.

This feat caught the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO at Facebook who then went ahead and hired him as an intern. During his stint with Facebook, Sayman designed Lifestage – a social app with videos at its center that was received warmly by teenagers at the time. A tech millionaire, Sayman is now a respected product manager at Google.

4 Snaps

4 Snaps is a turn-based game that gives the users a choice of words and then lets them take 4 pictures which relate to the word they chose. These pictures are then sent to the opponent who then tries to guess the word by looking at the pictures. The app was launched in August 2013 and within a year it had received more than a million downloads. The game actually peaked at #1 on the word games chart when it had a few million users already.

You can play it with friends, even challenge them on Facebook or look for them with their username or email address. The game is perfect for the gamers who are always on the move as you take turns sending pictures and guessing as per your convenience. There’s the Daily Guess, Image Search, Push Notifications, Parental Controls, Helpers, and some really fun features that make the app quite an interesting one for most people.

Lifestage

At the age of 18, Sayman joined Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg as his mentor. He was the social network giant’s in-house “go-to teen”. In the three years that he stayed with Facebook he had a critical part to play in developing products for the teenage demographic. He was instrumental to the company in understanding how the teenagers used technology and advised them on upcoming experimental products for teens while helping the executives understand the trends in the demographics.

It was at the age of 19 that he launched Lifestage which was a new standalone social app centered around videos as primary content. The app was designed to cater to the high school students while he was still working at Facebook. The app was focused on the teenage demographic and the fun part was that anyone above 22 was restricted to only their own profile which they could look at, but that’s it! The sign up to Lifestage didn’t need a Facebook account. All the users need to do is sign up, choose their high school and then see the video profiles of people who are in their schools or those who are nearby.

Michael Arthur Sayman

Things you must know about Michael Arthur Sayman

  • He published his first mobile app on the App Store (iOS) when he was 13
  • The motivation behind him getting into app development was to help support his family as his parents had both lost their jobs during the Great Recession
  • He got the idea for his iconic app 4 Snaps from his sister as she was playing a rudimentary version of the game with her friends over the phone
  • He learned to code himself from countless coding guides and tutorials on Google
  • He borrowed the $100 he needed to pay for his registration fee of the iOS app store from his mom
  • He has more than 10 popular apps under his name

Jared Hecht

Born in 1988, Hecht is best known for co-founding the group messaging app, GroupMe with Steve Martocci in 2010. It only took one year and 5 days after the app was live, for Skype Technologies to come knocking on their doors with an offer of $80 million to buy GroupMe. Jared Hecht was only 23 when he became a millionaire developer! Later, after he left Skype, the Skype and GroupMe (by extension) was acquired by Microsoft.

Hecht is an alumnus of Columbia University where he attained his B.A. degree in Political Science. He has in past, before co-founding GroupMe, also been associated with Tumblr where he led business development. Later on, after his success with GroupMe, he went on to co-found Fundera, where he still serves as the CEO.

GroupMe

GroupMe is a mobile group messaging app that was conceived at TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 and in August 2011 it had already reached the milestone of delivering 100 million messages a month. This number then exponentially jumped up to 550 million in June 2012. In 2013, the number of registered users on GroupMe reached an impressive 12 million.

Hecht along with his partner Steve Martocci had managed to raise US $10.6 million in venture capital from Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, and angel investors.

GroupMe can be downloaded as an app or be used as an online service. Users can go and create their account by providing their names, mobile numbers and a password, alternatively they can also login via Facebook or Twitter. Once the sign up is complete, your contacts are all synced with the service and you can start creating groups with maximum size of 500. Some of the features include sharing photos, videos, and location, and creating events and personalized emojis. GroupMe has a web client in addition to separate apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 10. The fun thing is that the users who do not wish to download t app can still receive and send GroupMe messages using SMS. Users can also send private messages but only to those users who are active on the app.

Jared Hecht

Things you must know about Jared Hecht

  • He may be an app millionaire but his background lies in political Science for which he has a degree from Columbia University
  • He has worked at a senior level with Tumblr
  • He went on to co-found Fundera and still holds the position of CEO for that
  • It only took a little more than a year for his first venture GroupMe to be bought by Skype Technologies for $80 million

John Hayward-Mayhew

This 25-year-old entrepreneur, John Hayward-Mayhew is known for his astounding feat of publishing 600 separate apps on the App Store in just four years and earn about a million dollars in doing so. What makes this even more impressive is that he cannot code!

As a wide eyed first timer, Hayward-Mayhew was naïve enough to believe that he would be raking in millions by just building one app. Unfortunately, his first attempt at building an app steeped him deep in debt. This is when he discovered that he could play the App Store ecosystem by taking his own app and re-skinning it to launch multiple apps.

Toochill

With re-skinning as his base business model, Hayward-Mayhew created a one-man gaming empire with Toochill, his development company. Re-skinning essentially involves taking the same basic game and changing only the superficial details to make the game appear different. This way, the game can appeal to multiple audience segments. For example, and endless runner game can easily be converted into a car racing game panning two wildly different audience segments.

John Hayward-Mayhew

Things you must know about John Hayward-Mayhew

  • The first app he built buried him in $15,000 debt
  • He was a basketball recruit for California State University, Northridge
  • He is often referred to as the Roger Corman of the App Store
  • His business model is largely dependent on the ad revenue
  • His entire company Toochill is based on the re-skinning of mobile games
  • He admits that Apple’s discovery system wasn’t that great which is why his business model worked so well

Evan Spiegel

Make way for the billionaire on the list! In 2015, at the age of 25, Spiegel was the youngest billionaire in the world. Co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc., he conceived the idea of Snapchat in 2011 while he was still a student of product design at Stanford University. Initially when he shared his rudimentary idea of ephemeral messaging, his classmates didn’t really believe there was much to it and some of the even ridiculed him and dismissed it as non-viable idea.

Fortunately, two of his classmates, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown believed in the idea and were interested in bringing the idea to reality. The three of them came together to launch “Picaboo” which was the first prototype of Spiegel’s concept. Later, when they realized the kind of potential their app had, they went ahead and gave it a much trendier name Snapchat. Within the first 18 months Snapchat reached 1 million active users and this is what prompted Spiegel to quit Stanford to concentrate on the business affairs of the app.

Snapchat

A multimedia messaging app, Snapchat is a global product that is popular because ff its unique ephemerality it offers. The pictures of videos shared on the platform are only available for a very short time, before becoming inaccessible to the recipients. Initially the app was focused on person-to-person photo sharing but now has evolved to feature the app users’ stories for a period of 24 hours of chronological content. The ‘Discover’ feature lets the brands show ad-supported short-form content.

The core functionality of the app entails creating multimedia messages which are termed as ‘Snaps’. These Snaps can include a photo or a short video which can include various filters, text captions, or even drawings. These Snaps can then either be sent privately to chosen recipients, published as a semi public ‘Story’ or a public story which is called ‘Our Story’.

Apart from photos and videos sharing, the functionality for video chat and direct messaging was added later. The app allows the users to replay one Snap per day for free. Through in-app purchase, users can buy additional replays. The Snapcash feature in the app, which was added in 2014, lets users send and receive money through private messaging.

However, Snapchat gained iconic status due to the various forms of visual effects and stickers that can be added to the photos. The ‘Lens’ feature can be used to add real time effects into the photos using face detection.

Evan Spiegel

Things you must know about Evan Spiegel

  • In 2015, he was named the youngest billionaire in the world
  • He came up with the idea of the ephemeral messaging app in 2011 while he was still a student at Stanford
  • His idea about Snapchat was met with ridicule by his classmates
  • He quit Stanford shortly before completing his degree and only went back to complete it after the birth of his son in 2018.

Ethan Duggan

He was only 11 when he debuted on the list of talented developers. This is the age when he had already developed an app that he named Lazy Husband. The inspiration for the app hit him when he had to witness an in-house fashion show by his mother who had just come back from a shopping spree. As she kept coming out of her room wearing a new dress, after a few tries Duggan had no clue how best to compliment her.

This is when he recorded a bunch of compliments on his smartphones and would just play one of them for her when his mother asked his opinion about one of her dresses. This eventually led him to decide that there should be an app for this. His parents extended complete support to him in developing his app, Lazy Husband.

Lazy Husband

The app Lazy Husband sells for 99 cents and has the ability to record 7 different phrases that you can play back at will. The fun thing is that the app users can easily customize the recorded phrases, change them and re-record them. As the app is super easy to use and pretty simple in its basics, the app gained massive popularity all over the world bringing him millions of dollars.

The app was later followed by matching apps like Lazy Kid and Lazy Wife. While Lazy Wife can play out recordings including ‘Yes Dear’, ‘You can go out with friends’, and ‘It’s a great idea if you barbecue’ and more, the Lazy Kid app plays out recordings like ‘I Love You’, ‘Yes, I’ve done my homework’, and ‘I’ll do it later’.

Ethan Duggan

Things you must know about Ethan Duggan

  • He spent more than 3 months learning to code on Codecademy and W3schools.com
  • After Lazy Husband, he also created matching apps like Lazy Wife and Lazy Kid
  • His fourth app Bargument helps users win argument with a genuine looking but forged proof in favor of your argument
  • The idea for his app came at a time when he ran out of compliments he could give his mother on her in-house fashion show she put up to show her new clothes

Conclusion

There is something to be learnt from each of these app developers, but the most important thing I observed here was that it didn’t matter whether these people had any technical skills. The one thing common between them all is that each one of them had strong ideas and the creativity to bring them alive.

Are you all geared to become the next app millionaire? If you have an app idea that you believe in, all you need to do is come to Appy Pie and start building your app! No coding, no programming, and no holes in your pocket.

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Snigdha
About The Author
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The Content Head at Appy Pie, Snigdha has had a passion for writing since she can remember and feels lucky for making it her career. With a total experience of 11 years, she has dedicated the last 6 years to hard-core content writing and management. She actively writes about all things related to Social Media & more. In her spare time, she would either love to read curled up on the couch or take a bag of necessities (including a good book) and drive off into the sunset.

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