Coding Your Own Future: William LeGate at TEDxTeen 2014 (Transcript)

Hey, at this moment, somewhere in the world, a teenager’s firing up their laptop creating something that’s never been tried before. They have big dreams and big hopes. They know the success of their product is not determined by their age or gender but by the size of their vision, the scope of their imagination, and the power of their ideas. They’re an app developer, and they’re part of an ever-growing group of people who’ve realized that in this industry the only barrier to success, the only ticket entry is the size of your work ethic, the size of your dream, and the size of your vision.

My name is William LeGate, and I make apps because seeing an idea grow from a mere thought to a sketch, to a product? It’s insane. And then, after all that hard work, you know it’s become a part, in some small way, of peoples’ lives.

First hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people using something I dreamed up. Millions of people using an app I created. Think about that. When else in history could a teenager, a kid, someone with no programming experience whatsoever, create something with little to no start-up cost, and instantly distribute to people around the world at no cost to him or her? When else in history could our ideas reach so many people, so quickly, and impact them in so many profound ways? With the exception of being a celebrity, could you really impact the seemingly unlimited number of people, as a team, just a decade ago? The answer is probably not. But you can now.

Let me tell you my story: just five years ago, like many of you, I had no idea, I mean, no clue, zero, how to code or even the slightest understanding of how apps worked. But for some reason, being my weird self, I decided I want to make one for my phone. Three days! I was convinced it would take me three days to have an app up and running. I figured I’d give myself three weeks until I was a millionaire. Well, those three days turned into three months.

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I wanted to give in, give up, try something else, something easier. I wanted to throw in the towel, but I just kept at it: one more hour, one more day, one more week. It wasn’t easy, and honestly, it wasn’t always fun, but after a while, slowly, I got the hang of it. Then one day, months after I began, it was finally done. That feeling, the knowledge that my app, the product of all this hard work, was suddenly available to millions upon millions of people was just insane.

That first app, which I named “Now News,” changed my life, and in some small way, changed the world. People from half way around the globe, people who I’ll never meet in my life were now suddenly able to use an app that I created just because I was bored. But I’ll be honest. No one confused “Now News” with the Steve Jobs’ s creation. It wasn’t anything revolutionary.

You can see on the screen there: It was basically just a web browser that aggregated different news sites together. And honestly, looking back on it, it looked horrible. But creating something revolutionary wasn’t really the point. It was an app, one I created myself from scratch. And that’s all I really cared about in the first place.

I wanted to make something new, something different, something I could be proud of, and I did. But listen to this. Just a year before I created “Now News,” before the App stores we know that existed, only the big guys, the huge companies could afford to develop and distribute apps on phones. The barriers to entry were huge. But now, suddenly, seemingly overnight, things changed.

Now anyone with an idea, even a kid like me with no programming experience, could turn that idea into an app that practically anybody could use. So, I made “Fake-A-Text.” And I took it on the big guys. I kept on beating them at their own game again, and again, and again. Some of you guys may have heard of this app. It’s been downloaded about four million times. Thank you. Yeah, it’s crazy. Just a lot of weird things people use it for. Then one in 12 teens now use my apps.

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So, all you really need to do is get rid of your fear of this screen right here. I know it looks crazy, and like very, very scary at first. You have all these code files on the left, code on the right which probably is totally foreign to you. It looks scary to a lot of people, and honestly, a lot of people are not going past the first step in app development. It almost scared me away.

Don’t let it scare you. Because it sounds crazy, but apps actually changed my life. They gave me purpose. They gave me direction. They taught me more about discipline than any lecture from my parents, more about the power of ideas than any Philosophy professor ever could, more about work ethic, responsibility, and independence than any part-time job.

There’s never been a more powerful platform for teenagers; people like us, to share our ideas, and make a real difference in real ways. So, you might be saying, “William, this sounds great. I have an idea, I have a dream, I have a vision. But I don’t have the skills, or the experience, the know-how to turn that dream into reality.” Let my story and the stories of so many other countless young developers serve as an inspiration to you.

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