Photo: Shl via Twitter
Sahil Lavingia is 19 years old. He was one of Pinterest’s first employees and now he has his own startup backed by $1.1 million in venture funding, Gumroad.Lavingia has been making money by creating things for a long time.
By age 15 he was financially independent — he had more than $100,000 in his savings account. It was all self-made; it didn’t come from his parents.
Lavingia tells us how he did it.
Business Insider: What’s your story? Why aren’t you in school right now?
Sahil Lavingia: I started as a designer when my middle school gave all of the students a Photoshop licence for free. I started messing around with it because I realised I had access to thousands of dollars of software and I might as well give it a shot.
I googled Photoshop tutorials and made really weird things for fun and kind of got hooked. I started designing websites because that’s where the money was.
When I was 14 and I was like, “I’m tired of this, I want to build my own products.”
I had all these random ideas for little things I wanted to build so I would design them every weekend. I would get home from school on Friday, pick one of my gazillion ideas to design and contract out all of the back-end work. I’d launch the app by emailing every tech blog I knew. Inevitably one of the five would write about it and then I would sell it on some marketplace.
What ideas did you create and sell?
I built a to-do list app. I built this thing that let you create Facebook walls but for Twitter before Twitter had any kind of conversation aspect. I built this tool that let users send automatic, customised direct messages on Twitter.
How many apps did you build and sell?
I built about 20. I think I sold all of them.
Whom did you sell them to and for how much?
There was this marketplace — it’s called Flippa now. I couldn’t sell them for much — maybe $1,000+.
How much did you pay to contract them out? Because you were just the idea guy, you didn’t code them yourself.
Yah that was frustrating because I do not like paying people money. You know, maybe that’s why my investors like me. But I probably payed $50 per app.
People would make an app for $50? Where did you find them?
Yeah, I mean for two hours of work for a guy who is also in high school but lives somewhere else in the world. I found them by Googling developer forums. I never went to an e-Lance or anything like that. I just went to forums and tried to get someone reputable to them. I built relationships and would go to the same people every time.
I was also frustrated that I was paying people to build what I couldn’t. So I started learning HTML, CSS, PHP, then the iPhone came out and I learned iOS development. One of the iPhone apps I made was on the home page of Apple.
It’s not easy to learn to code. How did you teach yourself?
PHP was a failure. It took me two months of trying to build my own little app and I just hated it. I gave up and figured back-end development was not for me.
But then the iPhone came out and I learned that stuff really fast. I learned iPhone development in 2 weeks. I downloaded Stanford videos and those became my whole life. So I learned iOS development when I was 16.
I was financially independent when I was 15. I never really tell anyone that because it doesn’t feel relevant, but looking back I think, Oh, starting a company might have actually made sense. I have been doing OK for a while. My bank account when I was 15 or 16 was over $100,000.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.