How an Apple scholarship helped this 16-year old launch his own app



Aakash Thumaty

Aakash Thumaty with Apple CEO Tim Cook

Aakash Thumaty is no ordinary 16-year old.


This rising senior at Saratoga High School near San Jose is a self-taught developer who has coding skills that - he claims - rival most college engineering majors.

"With the skills I've been able to develop on my own, I've got paid internships, beating out other college kids, because they don't usually have the same skill-sets I do when it comes to iOS app development," Thumaty told Business Insider.

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If that sounds like an overstatement, Thumaty has the track record to back it up. After teaching himself how to code on the free online learning site, edX, Thumaty went on to build a number of different iOS apps, including a new location recommendation app called Timely that he launched on Thursday.

He's also the cofounder of HS Hacks, one of the largest hackathons in the country. Some of the companies he worked for include the YC-backed MakeSchool and a photo app called Everalbum.


In fact, even Apple was so impressed by Thumaty that it ended up accepting him as one of the 350 scholarship winners at this year's World Wide Developer Conference. Scholarship winners get to attend the WWDC for free, and participate in a variety of sessions that includes a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

"I think Apple is doing something pretty great with these student scholarships. It motivates students to continue developing for Apple products by giving them first hand looks at all the new technology," Thumaty said. "One thing that I heard directed to the group of scholarship winners a lot was 'You guys are the next generation of Apple.'"

For Thumaty, it was one of the design workshops he attended at WWDC that made him a loyal iOS developer. There are a number of different workshops open to all attendees during WWDC, but the design workshop is by far the most coveted one "because Apple is one of the biggest tech companies that puts a huge emphasis on design," Thumaty said.

One-on-one session

He had to wait from 6AM to sign up for a slot in the 30-minute workshop that only allows 8 people in at a time. The workshop is offered throughout the day, but he was only able to get in for the one at 3PM.

"I got a one-on-one session with an Apple senior designer named Laurie Vertelney. She said I could ask anything, so I showed her my idea and basic layout for my app…not only did she recommend a completely new layout, but she also recommended significant improvements to things I hadn't really thought of," Thumaty said.


Although Thumaty loves spending time building apps, he will soon have to apply for college - one of various options he is currently considering. He's also keen on the possibility of becoming a disciple of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, whose Fellow program requires that aspiring young entrepreneurs forego a college education to focus on building a business.

"I want to be the next Thiel Fellow," Thumaty said. "I wouldn't say I'm dead-set on it, but I think what he's doing is really great for a niche of young visionaries and entrepreneurs who prefer working and learning on their own over going to college."