150k Downloads — The High School Project That Blew Up

I wanted to take a moment to share a story about an app that I made in High School. When I was 17 I published an Android app to the Play store — within 3 years it grew to 150,000 downloads and counting. Now that I am 20 years old I reflect on what made the app so popular, and why to this day it is being viewed by thousands of people and downloaded by hundreds a day. To paint a vivid picture let me piece together the past and start the story from day one.

I wrote my first line of code when I was 13. From a very young age I have always been a technical person, intrigued by the inner workings of all technology. I began with learning the ins and outs of a computers by taking apart old desktops around my house. When I was 13 I begged my Mom countless times for a computer, to convince her I insisted she put my PSP and all my games on Ebay so that I could buy the parts to build my own. Shortly after; all my games sold and I was able to buy the parts and built my first computer. In hindsight, I realize that this was only the beginning to an even bigger story.

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.
-Anthony J. D’Angelo

Curiosity in computers inevitably lead me to seek to understand how people created programs and how they worked. Too many days to count I would come home after school researching software. After hours of researching; Google lead me to Java, which would later be my first programming language that I taught myself. I went through countless YouTube videos and articles to learn how to make simple programs. In case you’re wondering the famous “Hello World” println was my first program, and embarrassingly one of the most exciting things I did in 2009. However I credit the majority of my knowledge to Teach yourself java in 21 days because it laid a solid foundation in my mind about the fundamentals of Java.

Surprisingly, being self-taught in Java paid off — a few months before I turned 15 I landed a contract-gig. I made nearly $200k between June 2009 and October 2011. A few days before I turned 17I received my largest and last check for $16k. The abrupt ending of the gig forced me to use Java as a springboard into mobile development with Android. For those who are wondering… the story behind that will come soon.

Learning Android was not a challenge because of years of experience in Java. I used my HTC Evo for testing small apps that I made in my spare time, Follow was the first app I published to the store. It is a very simple concept, it tracks who’s unfollowed you, who you don’t follow, and who’s followed you. That was in February 2012, between then and graduation it ballooned to 20k downloads… but here’s the catch… I didn’t know.

Good things tend to happen when you least expect it.

I started at Wayne State University right after graduating from Harrison High School, I was so focused on school that I never checked on Follow. I went through Summer, Fall, and Winter semesters of college completely unaware of the insane growth that was occurring. So what happened next?

Well, before finding out; a high school friend of mine and I were talking about starting a business. Say hello to DAndre Ealy. We brought so many ideas to the table and ended up starting our own unique version of a startup incubator. We called it Puricode, and shortly after we brought in another high school friend of mine Jordan Coin Jackson along with a mutual friend, Noah, the most talented software developer we know.

Starting Puricode ultimately turned on the light bulb in my head that led me to check my Google developer account. Amazed was an understatement to what I felt when I saw the amount of traction and I immediately told DAndre Ealy. At the time, Follow had 70k downloads and close to 20k active users.

We learned one very valuable lesson from Follow, and it led to success in other small projects that we have done under Puricode.

In order to get mass adoption of any product or service you have to solve a problem. Once you solve a problem that others have failed to resolve you put yourself in a position to gain immediate traction. To this day Follow has significant attention because of the problem it solves for Twitter users. The simplicity of it has made it popular amongst an over-crowded app market.

Currently standing at around 150k downloads, 1,300+ reviews, 5k visits/week. Follow has been the most successful and rewarding high school project I ever made.

There are updates and many more to projects to come.

Tweet me @_rg2 and let me know what you think. Recommend if you liked this. Comment to share your thoughts.