Meet a not-so-average tech entrepreneur, 17-year-old Michael Sayman. He’s been making iPhone apps since he was 13. What started as a hobby that his parents didn’t understand, and most in his school ignored, quickly turned into a full-fledged career. His curiosity has grossed him “more money than I could have ever imagined,” says the Florida teen that’s used his money to provide for his family.
The recession hit the Sayman family hard. Michael’s mother helps make ends meet as a Mary Kay sales rep and a part-time Lyft driver; his dad works nights editing commercials into films for Telemundo, the Spanish-language TV network.
They’ve lived paycheck to paycheck and have often come up short, and it’s been up Michael to help. He has routinely paid the family’s mortgage and car payments, and the private school tuition for him and his sister.
His latest app ‘4Snaps,’ a multi-user photo game, caught the attention of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg —who offered Michael an engineering internship at the social network’s headquarters in California.
Michael has been trying to balance work while keeping his personal projects afloat. 4Snaps saw a $50,000 marketing push that didn’t really payoff. For a few days, the app built at his parents’ kitchen counter was more popular than Netflix, Twitter and Tinder. It has since dropped on the app charts, and the business relationships Michael used to keep it afloat are starting to wane.
He’s spent countless hours helping build a number of Facebook’s mobile offerings, while not-so-secretly hoping his hard work would land him a job with the world’s largest social network.
Growing up in Miami, Michael has escaped the attention of the tech press and most national press–except the Spanish-language media. In Peru, his parents’ country of origin, Michael is a symbol of national pride. His moves make the evening news. Film crews routinely travel to Miami, and now California, to interview him and speculate about his love life and professional ambitions.
And while Michael’s backstory is unique, his success is not.
He’s one of a burgeoning group of teenager tech entrepreneurs, some as young as 13, that are building products the public clamors for. These kids are skipping college and traditional jobs, instead focusing on entrepreneurship and the chance to strike it rich in an industry that didn’t exist eight years ago.