I have been obsessed with inventing my entire life. I tinkered endlessly as a child, jotted down ideas in my notebook, and later saw those ideas turn into real products brought to life by someone else! While frustrating, it served as validation and gave me a ton of confidence.
As a teenager, like all other teenagers, I was broke. I was always playing a sport, so having a job would have been tough to pull off. I decided to start a blog when I was 15. Ironically, I created a website teaching teens how to make money 😅
It was called TeenCashFlow, and I learned wordpress, SEO, and more through youtube, google, etc. I wrote articles about odd jobs, how to market your own lawn care business, extra ways to make money like shoveling snow out of driveways, copywriting, transcribing, and more. I built up a nice audience of 5,000+ monthly readers within 9 months. I was able to sell this website for a 5-figure amount that seemed GIANT to me at just 16 years old.
I learned so much online by self-teaching, that I wanted there to be a website to easily connect with people who claimed to be very knowledgable in that field. I thought, "How cool would it be if everyone had a profile listing 3-5 things they're good at? Then we can find each other and pick each others' brains based off of our curiosities"
Yeah, because the experts want to be bothered by some asshole on the internet, right?
Anyway, I paid a cheap, overseas web development firm to create this website for me, and I had no idea what I was doing. As for the quality of the website, let’s just say that I think my excitement overshadowed some major, obvious flaws. Nonetheless, I dove in head first, attended pitch events, cold-emailed hundreds of people, and somehow got into an entrepreneurship accelerator / bootcamp program with this ”company.” I excitedly told my college that I won't be attending because I thought I would be the latest college dropout turned millionaire and moved to Silicon Valley for the program. Ha…
Spoiler alert: It failed. The reason? I couldn't code and I couldn't recruit any developers because my website was ugly, didn’t work, and had no users on it. Man…two sided marketplace business model? Never again! (trust me, keep reading) I also had no money and no college degree. Okay, back to school…
At the accelerator, I met some programmers and I was fascinated by them. I saw how people looked up to them. I saw this awkward but undeniable confidence. I was 20 years old, and I thought, "If I learn how to do this, there will be no excuse for failure. And how cool would it be to just have an idea and build it!?" So, I began teaching myself how to code through online resources while attending school full-time.
I kept seeing people talk about how important it was to make tutorials your own. They said if you want to learn the fastest, build your own projects. Do tutorials then break some things. Fix them. Change the components. So, I did exactly that. I took a game that was simple to create, programmed some subtle but psychological features that I enjoyed in the games I played, and I built a fun little game called The Perfect 10. Then, it absolutely took off after being featured on the App Store under a "hot and new" sort of section.
The thing is, I didn't want to be known as the "game guy" so I set out to create what I thought would be a really cool consumer app on my campus at Ohio University in Athens, OH. You see, I consider myself a confident guy. But building a two-sided marketplace consumer app that needs a critical mass in every location with no money and no team and after failing at an easier version of this before? That's insanity.
I'll chalk up Skyway as my biggest learning experience. I built a very complex app from scratch, tore it all down, then did it again with version 2.0. User profiles, full backend database, location based messaging, chat, animations, the whole deal. Was my code fully optimized? Let’s not talk about that.
It got some initial traction, but there were some fundamental flaws that I could not overcome at the time. I like to think that someday I'll come back to some form of this idea because I do think it would be cool to have…
Maybe if Riley's friends would have used it then...
My classmates were stoked that they used this picture 😄