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HOT TOPIC How I (didn't) become a millionaire at 19

Scot

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For everyone who are thinking about copying his success -> Its not going to work for you.
Stick with what you are doing and don't dabble. Once you learn the discipline required to try new things then do it.
Its never the idea, its the execution.
100% agree. It's the process. Respect that.
 

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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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For everyone who are thinking about copying his success -> Its not going to work for you.
Stick with what you are doing and don't dabble. Once you learn the discipline required to try new things then do it.
Its never the idea, its the execution.
Yes, execution is everything. You can still succeed with a "bad" idea, even a bad idea can make $50k/month+.
 

ApparentHorizon

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For everyone who are thinking about copying his success -> Its not going to work for you.
Stick with what you are doing and don't dabble. Once you learn the discipline required to try new things then do it.
Its never the idea, its the execution.
Better yet, as it's been said 1000x on this forum, learn from others and figure out a way to apply it to your venture.
 

RHL

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Interesting story. It's curious to me that you found a way to make things work on the "shovel" end; hats off to you for making the desert bloom. There are tons of stories of people making it with their own apps, not a lot of people making it work from this side, or at least, not with the speed you did.

Usually with apps, people have some idea for an app (usually it sucks) and they want you to develop it for free for a 20% stake in the profits or something, or they have a really well defined idea with minimal feature creep, but they come in with budgets galaxies below what you're suggesting, like 10-15K to get it out the door and they keep 100% of the profits. How you got 370K from a group that believed in their project enough to fundraise that amount and wanted enough out of their app that $370K was a competitive price for development, but didn't know enough or care enough or whatever put their own in-house team together, THAT is the real story here.

That absolutely beggars belief. You might have a lot more earning potential as a pitch man than as an app developer.
 
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hayden0001

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I dropped out of high school in December 2014 when I was seventeen, against the decision of everyone around me (parents, friends, relatives). It was my senior year and I had a 4.0 GPA, so as you can imagine everyone thought I was even less bright than had I dropped out in my freshman year.

I had nothing going for me besides two failed businesses and the strongest desire in the world to become a successful entrepreneur.

In the beginning of 2014, at the end of my junior year, I knew that I would have to start applying to colleges soon. There was something in me telling me I shouldn't go down this path and that there was a better way.

I had told myself I wanted to be a dentist, but after asking my dentist what it was like, I realized that he had to start the same way just as any typical business was built, except he went to college for twelve years to do so (and had 300k debt when he got out).

That summer of 2014 I decided to learn as much as I could about business. I looked up all of the "classics" - Think & Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and some more modern books as well. I read TMF in July 2014 right around that time which turned out to be one of my favorites.

I also became addicted to James Altucher's blog and books which also helped me decide I didn't want to go to college.

I took a billion notes from each book and put them on EverNote, it was super boring but I wanted to solidify the knowledge in my mind.

In August of 2014, I started my first business, a flyer distribution business that would subcontract to different flyer distribution companies around the USA so that people could run big marketing flyer campaigns.

I made a video, put it on the landing page, and just started cold calling.

I setup payments through Square, but there was no need to as I never had one sale.

In September 2014 I decided to stop working on it and figure out something else.

By this point, school had started and I was literally just reading in class all day. I was starting to bomb classes (I only had a 4.0 cumulative GPA because I dropped out before the semester ended).

In November, my English teacher came to talk to me after class, and he told me that I was going to fail the class (it literally was the easiest classes I'd ever been in had I tried). I remember that moment very well because I just remember not caring. And I remembered thinking at the time how had it been 2 years ago I would've been crying or something like that. I asked myself, "What happened?"

It made me feel good for some reason. I began to feel a bit more free.

I started an online reputation management business at that time (October/November) which I did the same thing as the flyer business (cold-calling, etc.). I got upset with school because I couldn't cold-call during that time and I felt that it was holding me back from success.

On December 6, 2014, I ended up dropping out. I remember telling each of my teachers that I was dropping out and that I wished them best of luck. A lot of the kids were like WTF and confused. I don't really know what they were thinking, I think some had a feeling I would do well, but I think most just thought I was ready to fail.

My parents were screaming at me and it was really bad. For some reason I wasn't stressed out like usual. I just kept telling myself I would succeed no matter what. I didn't know how, but I said that I would.

At one point my dad told me I was going to fail and that nobody would want to work with me if I dropped out. I told him I would make $25k the next month and that I would prove him wrong.

Back to the second business... Yeah, it never went anywhere either. I almost had a client that was a small hotel chain but the manager quit his job and I lost the connection. I didn't feel like pursuing it and just abruptly stopped.

In mid-December, my barber told me she had an app idea. I knew a few developers and figured I could try to work something out. I gave her the contract, she said she didn't have the funds... two weeks later after I waited for her response.

At the end of December, I went and posted an ad on Craigslist saying I had a team that could build apps. I got a call the next day, I was surprised. He said he wanted to meet, but then cancelled the meeting two days after.

Out of frustration I searched Craigslist for people saying they had app ideas, and within the first 10 days of sending my first message, I had closed my first contract for over $15k. I didn't end up reaching the $25k by January 2015, but it was enough money to prove my dad wrong.

Within the first 3 months I had over $100k of contracts (payments were 50% upfront) (by March 2015).

By the end of last year I had made over $500k and had been part of a lot of successful apps like Premium Wallpapers HD which got over 40m downloads.

I felt that I did well but I wanted to become a millionaire, not a hundred thousandaire.

In January of this year I expanded the company quite a bit. $50k in January, then in February just one contract was $370k, and it was from a group of old people that pooled money together for an app idea they had, the funny thing was that they chose the price, I never gave them a quote... I soon realized that there was no limits with what I wanted to do.

What I learned:

1. There is no secret to success. I've met people that get up at 6am every morning and are super good with their daily schedule and work and make peanuts, then there's people that make $100k/month with an online business and all they do is party and almost never work. The main thing you need to have is the desire to succeed, because then the rest will come naturally.

2. Listen to your gut over anyone else, but know when to quit if the business will fail - You might have an idea that everyone hates but it succeeds. You might have an idea that everyone loves but fails. At the end of the day, only YOU know more than anyone else if it will work or not, listen to the advice of others but take it with a grain of salt. But at the same time, if your instincts tell you to drop what you're doing, then do it and follow. If I kept staying with the online reputation management business I would've just failed for more time even though I "technically" should focus on one thing.

3. MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE - This is HUGE. I've seen really dumb people raise $4M in funding for a startup that was a dumb idea from the start, but because they knew the right people, it didn't matter. SERIOUSLY, I don't say that like "Oh lucky him bla bla", I'm serious, I've met people who really don't have much know-how in business that have made money because of their connections. Now, when you are actually smart AND have the connections, it's a win-win. Just note, connections are key above ANYTHING else.

4. Don't waste time - At the same time remember that most people you meet are not going to help you move forward in business. James Altucher says how most meetings are a waste of time, and this is so true. People will want to meet with you only to "chat" and it isn't going to benefit EITHER OF YOU. So just say no upfront. This was one of the hardest things for me to get used to because I didn't want to be rude. But it's better to say NO.

There's a lot more to this but I'll post more another time.

This is so good buddy i love the story, see i am face the same issue i have launched a wallpaper website fro rooms so keen to make it word. Am i right in saying it keep going your going get set backs but keep pushing and get on with it
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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Interesting story. It's curious to me that you found a way to make things work on the "shovel" end; hats off to you for making the desert bloom. There are tons of stories of people making it with their own apps, not a lot of people making it work from this side, or at least, not with the speed you did.

Usually with apps, people have some idea for an app (usually it sucks) and they want you to develop it for free for a 20% stake in the profits or something, or they have a really well defined idea with minimal feature creep, but they come in with budgets galaxies below what you're suggesting, like 10-15K to get it out the door and they keep 100% of the profits. How you got 370K from a group that believed in their project enough to fundraise that amount and wanted enough out of their app that $370K was a competitive price for development, but didn't know enough or care enough or whatever put their own in-house team together, THAT is the real story here.

That absolutely beggars belief. You might have a lot more earning potential as a pitch man than as an app developer.
1. Yes that mentality of you keeping 20% of profits is a total joke, as most of the people just have an idea and no experience to show that they can be successful, so the developer ends up building the app only to waste his time because the other half doesn't know how to market it.

2. When I first read the email about the confirmation of the $370k I was in Barcelona at a Mobile World Congress event and I remember running around the room (it was a huge area) in excitement. Thankfully it was night time and people were drinking so they probably just thought I was another drunk guy. I then went up to my two friends and told them and they were acting excited but then I realized they thought I was joking, so then I showed them the email and we all flipped out together. Also in terms of having an in-house team, I thought a lot of people would want that but it's a lot easier for them to just pay a single amount, rather than vetting developers and paying salaries which can be way riskier a) the developers could suck and waste literally years instead of 4 months b) each month extra for salary is another month spending 10's of thousands of dollars, the $370k was flat and it couldn't go over which made it safer for them, so if things went out of scope we would've not had a fun time.
 

Hac

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thanks for the motivation and inspiration. question: did you have/need capital to start appsitude?
 

Twopro

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How did you find these clients willing to pay so much? When ever someone tries pitching me an idea they want it done for free + split profits or pay extremely low and of course I reject the offers

Also for the old people that paid 370k, how is their app doing and how big of a project was it?
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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How did you find these clients willing to pay so much? When ever someone tries pitching me an idea they want it done for free + split profits or pay extremely low and of course I reject the offers

Also for the old people that paid 370k, how is their app doing and how big of a project was it?
It was a random college student that referred them to us. I've dealt with the same thing, you have to deal with people that have more money. Their app is in a private Beta. I definitely wouldn't consider it successful, but I don't think that they really care about it being successful. I told them beforehand that the idea wasn't likely to do well and gave some ideas on what they could do instead but they persisted, I have a feeling they just wanted to have an app as a status symbol for themselves.
 

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Angelic

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Great post, shows the true persistence needed to become successful. Do you have any recommendations on how one would network with high quality web developers?
 

FastLaner96

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@Chris Kelsey I just have a few questions.

When did you realize that you needed to hire project managers and how did you deal with them considering that they most likely had more experience than you and are older than you?

Do you take in international clients? and lastly

How do you go about getting a top level manager for your company for another country?

Amazing story btw! I'm a WWDC scholar and was thinking of starting an app firm here where I live. I was thinking that I could leverage the scholarship for more credibility when launching.
 

Fran_Montoya

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The trick is to start as soon as possible. A survey by Charles Schwab found that 24% of teens believe that since they are young, saving money isn’t important. Looks like we just blew that theory out of the water! That same survey also discovered that only 22% of teens say they know how to invest money to make it grow. Why not change that stat and learn how to become a smart investor with your money? Talk to your parents or teachers about how to open up a long-term investment account so you can become a millionaire, too. And remember, waiting just means you make less money in the end. So get moving!
 

rogen

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Insane, awesome job m8

also, how you convinced your first client that he should pay you and that you could do this?

You had your own website portfolio that impressed him or you just showed him your dev's past work?
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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@Chris Kelsey I just have a few questions.

When did you realize that you needed to hire project managers and how did you deal with them considering that they most likely had more experience than you and are older than you?

Do you take in international clients? and lastly

How do you go about getting a top level manager for your company for another country?

Amazing story btw! I'm a WWDC scholar and was thinking of starting an app firm here where I live. I was thinking that I could leverage the scholarship for more credibility when launching.
I hired them once I could trust someone enough to talk to clients for me and do it properly. The youngest person in my company was 25 besides me for the longest time, right now it's 21 out of over 50 people, it's the same as dealing with anyone. I haven't had many issues with them being older, but I have dealt with people trying to try and lead me down the wrong path because they were "older and more experienced." I also had someone that was very against doing what I said a lot of the time and I felt that it had to do with my age, he was in his 40s (but this only happened once).

We work with people across the world, Australia, UK, Mexico, China, all over.

And nice man, best of luck with it!
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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Insane, awesome job m8

also, how you convinced your first client that he should pay you and that you could do this?

You had your own website portfolio that impressed him or you just showed him your dev's past work?
I just told him I have a team of developers that can do it and gave him some ideas on how to make the app better. My second contract which was for $85k+ I did not even show an app but the UI of the first project which hadn't even started being coded yet. I think that because I was so open about it they really respected it, I also think that because I was so young, they wanted to give me a shot to bring me up.
 

Scot

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Every time you post a dollar amount of what they paid for development I cringe haha. Because if this deal I have with my friend falls through there's no way I'll find a quality developer at a price I can afford.
 

Andy Black

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When I did a stint as an IT instructor in a college I remember patrolling the open learning centre helping mature students stuck on their assignments.

One week we had a young lad join us on his school work experience programme. He was 15, but looked even younger.

Because he looked so young, the mature students would call him over to help them with the computer - because they automatically assumed that he'd know how to do it because he was young.

In many industries, looking/being young can be an advantage.


Nice thread @Chris Kelsey, especially the links to your write ups that help us take what you say at face value. Thank you.
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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When I did a stint as an IT instructor in a college I remember patrolling the open learning centre helping mature students stuck on their assignments.

One week we had a young lad join us on his school work experience programme. He was 15, but looked even younger.

Because he looked so young, the mature students would call him over to help them with the computer - because they automatically assumed that he'd know how to do it because he was young.

In many industries, looking/being young can be an advantage.


Nice thread @Chris Kelsey, especially the links to your write ups that help us take what you say at face value. Thank you.
Yes, this is very true. A lot of people think it's a disadvantage when really it's one of the biggest advantages ever because people assume that you are a whiz kid. I'm definitely smart, but I don't consider myself a genius.
 

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Kevin90

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Great story. Excellent job. Thanks for sharing!

I have two questions:

1. You mentioned you knew you wanted to succeed...was your desire to succeed rooted in monetary gain or was it rooted in helping people?

2. With factors like your parents, teachers, friends saying you shouldn't do certain things...how did you overcome that?
 
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Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey

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Great story. Excellent job. Thanks for sharing!

I have two questions:

1. You mentioned you knew you wanted to succeed...was your desire to succeed rooted in monetary gain or was it rooted in helping people?

2. With factors like your parents, teachers, friends saying you shouldn't do certain things...how did you overcome that?
1. A mix of both, I definitely wanted to not have to worry about money but I wanted to help people as well.

2. I just ignored them literally. And that was because I wouldn't let any doubts come to my mind, and if they did, I kicked them out quickly.
 
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Twopro

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I was looking through craigslist to see if anyone posted they needed an app done for them, but didn't find anything.

Did you create the post saying you had a team and then wait for messages?
Do you think living in San Francisco helped with getting customers willing to pay well? I know you are doing it global now, but I mean at the beginning
 

Goldman snacks

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1. A mix of both, I definitely wanted to not have to worry about money but I wanted to help people as well.

2. I just ignored them literally. And that was because I wouldn't let any doubts come to my mind, and if they did, I kicked them out quickly.
HUGE INSPIRATION /10

What did you have In place before you contacted the first deal, can we have a bit more info please :
Did you have a website, brand, any made up testimonials?
How do you prospect if you have no credibility?
How did you manage a team of app developers, decide who should do what, and how much to pay them,

Keep kicking a$$
 

Dougema

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@Chris Kelsey, making use of some of @Goldman snacks questions how did you sell your first client? For example, you said you get 50% upfront. Was it like that for the first one? Did you have a contract in which you had a deadline? Or a number of revisions if the client didn't like the first ones?

Congratulations nonetheless and I wish you and your company the very best
 

AsDeOros

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Amazing and very motivating story! It seems like you were very adult at that age. I remember that as I was 17-18 years old I never thought about the possibility of studying or not, I was only worried about getting high marks in the high school to entry in college and going out with friends. I think that you chose the right path: instead of wasting lot of years at the university learning no practical things and sometimes failing hard tests, you learnt on your own useful things and plenty of them by experiences (the best way).

Good luck with future plans!
 

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For everyone who are thinking about copying his success -> Its not going to work for you.
Stick with what you are doing and don't dabble. Once you learn the discipline required to try new things then do it.
Its never the idea, its the execution.

so you are saying : bad idea + good execution = success

i'd like to read MJ Demarco's opinion on that.

i thought reality was : right idea + right execution = success
 

GMSI7D

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I'm definitely smart, but I don't consider myself a genius.

don't be too modest. users here think you are a genius for doing things at 19

in business, what matters is people's perception of you and what you sell, not your self image.

if people consider you are genius, you 'd better agree with them

because ultimately, they vote with their money

and people don't want to buy from morons but from geniuses .
 

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