In all of his 19 years, Tywan Wade never learned to listen to the word “no.”
Which is why, as a college freshman, he built his own iPhone app despite having no background in computer science.
Wade’s perseverance paid off in the form of Shortly, a simple weather app for iPhone that uses an algorithm to answer yes or no questions like, “Can I wear shorts today?”
“It had more to do with defiance than confidence,” said Wade. “I realized no one’s going to help me except myself, so unless I get the confidence to move forward with my own project, it’s not happening.”
A business and economics major at George Washington University, Wade originally got the idea for a weather app after making conversation with his roommate. He’d never created an app before, so he decided to ask the most esteemed computer science professors he could find for advice.
“I emailed more than 100 professors from top universities for help,” he said. “They either didn’t have the time to help, or just thought it was too ambitious.”
When asked why he thinks so many teachers were unwilling to help, Wade said he thinks “they felt like I was trying to take shortcuts in life. Several suggested I major in computer programming instead of just starting an app right away.”
Eventually, Wade stumbled on Coding Together, a Stanford computer science course offered through the Apple Store. The course had enough material for one semester—Wade blitzed through it in a day. Three days later, he had enough of an understanding of how to code in C++ to begin working on his app.
But his difficulties weren’t finished yet. The Apple Store rejected Shortly three separate times, saying that Wade’s original design was “not aesthetically great.” But Wade refused to give up, even making a phone call to an Apple Store representative in order to ensure he was doing everything he needed in order to get his app accepted.
Today, Shortly has been downloaded more than 3,000 times in 40 different countries and 1,000 cities. It’s not without its glitches, and reviewers’ main concerns are that it needs more functionality. I downloaded the app myself, and think it’s a bright, colorful first attempt at app development, but not quite ready for prime time.
Wade is aware of these issues, and is currently working on Shortly 2.0 while on spring break from college. In true business major form, he plans to use the money he earns from the .99 cent app to invest back into developing the app.
“[Shortly] is definitely growing with me,” he said. “I created it when I was 18, but now that I’m older I want it to be aimed more at college students.”
After an invitation from Arianna Huffington, Wade now blogs at the Huffington Post about his “underdog past” and the ongoing development of Shortly.
Wade is part of a nascent generation of entrepreneurs who have realized that learning to code is non-negotiable. He hopes his story inspires others to discover their own “super powers” amid a sea of “no’s.”
“I think this story means something to me because it represents my wildest dreams and every kid wants to see that come true for themselves,” Wade said.