The turning point for me was when I was 15. I was at a friend of a friend’s, and saw a guy inject himself with heroin. I thought – “Is this really where my life is heading?” I had no problem with drinking and smoking pot every now and then, but I knew I didn’t want to go down that road. I wanted to go down a better path.
Through this whole time, my mum was awesome and kept trying to teach me what’s right (even though I didn’t really listen to her) - I can’t believe she didn’t give up on me. When I was 16 I was eventually allowed back at the private school I was kicked out of – I wanted to go back because all my old friends were still there, and I didn’t fit into the second school as well. When they let me back in, I knew that if I started going back to how I was that I’d just be kicked out again. And I knew I didn’t want to end up like that guy injecting heroin.
From there, things started going uphill. I started doing a subject called ‘Software Design and Development’ which I really enjoyed. In my second year (Year 11), I did a major project and developed a website that you could use when you had your ‘L’ and ‘P’ plates, to better capture and calculate all the things you need to do when recording practice drives, like recording the odometer at the start and end of each drive, the weather conditions, the time of day, whether an instructor was with you etc. I spent way more time on it than I needed to as I really enjoyed doing it – and then at the end I thought “it’s built, let’s not waste it”. So I contacted all of the motor authorities across Australia, and spent numerous hours trying to pitch it to them. It didn’t go anywhere, but this was the spark of my entrepreneurial mindset.
In Year 12, one of my friends got an iPhone – they were still really new, and I played a few games on it and thought it was awesome. So – I thought I’d make an app for it. I came up with two app ideas and contacted some app development companies. I thought that given I had the ideas and they had the development know-how we could do it together and profit share. But no one was interested, and instead one of them quoted me $70k to develop one of them. Obviously I didn’t do that!
I went away and came up with 30 or 40 app ideas, and then met with a family friend who had worked in IT for 30 or 40 years, shared my ideas with him and asked him to help. We created our app company together – I was 16 at the time.
I’m now 21, and after a lot of hard work, countless hours and many failures, I’m proud to say we’ve released a number of ‘successful’ apps, with four of them reaching the top 100 in the Australian App Store. We’ve had more than 30,000 people visit our website, and I now make apps for clients rather than making my own.
My story obviously isn’t finished yet, but I think I’m testament to the fact that even the naughty kids (we’re more fun anyway!) at school can become ‘good’ J