When Mohammad Adib was 12 years old, he found a 3,000-piece Lego set in the trash outside of his apartment after coming back home from playing cricket with his dad. The Lego set was completely unopened and in perfect condition. Coincidentally, Adib loved building cars out of Legos so he took it home with him.
Using the black and yellow pieces that came with the Lego set, Adib built his dream car: a Lamborghini Gallardo.
Seven years later, that Lamborghini has just been delivered to Adib’s house — except now it’s the real thing bought by Adib with his hard-earned cash.
Adib, now 19 tells us his entrepreneurial journey began when he was given a TI-84 calculator back in the 8th grade. He taught himself how to code TI-84 apps by simply Googling and watching YouTube videos.
Five months later, Adib was able to use what he learned to create his first successful game, a “Doodle Jump” clone that made him a few thousand dollars in a few months. This gave him the confidence to continue learning and to develop new apps.
D the summer after 9th grade, Adib got his first Android phone, which changed his life. He quickly went on YouTube and searched ‘How to make an Android app’ and made his first app shortly after.
My first app was this scrambled Rubik’s cube. It was 3D live wallpaper; it was a 3D scrambling Rubik’s cube. It would scramble itself randomly and then solve itself again.”
By the time he had graduated high school, he had created 10 apps in total, with six of them becoming hits. His first successful app was Sidebar, released during his junior year in high school, which allowed Android users to easily toggle through apps on their phone.
“It got 100,000 downloads in two weeks. Before that, I was used to only up to 10,000 downloads. I kept pushing updates, even when I was in class I was like, ‘Nope, not listening in class — I’m working on my app and fixing bugs.
“The best one, Switchr, when that came out it took four to five days to get to 100,000 downloads. I remember checking the play store ranking that day — Switchr was number two and right below it was ‘Call of Duty.’”
By 16, Adib was financially independent from his parents. Apart from the money he made with his apps during high school, Adib also made money through consulting. One of his bigger gigs was with Amazon, where he helped with the Fire Phone.
‘I had to sign an NDA and they told me it was the Fire phone. I was like, ‘Are you serious? You’re going to trust me, a 17-year-old?!’ In my mind I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ That was a defining moment in my career.”
Adib was so talented that Amazon wanted him full-time on their team. However, they strongly suggested him to wait until after college first. He decided to take their advice.
Shortly after, Adib was recruited by social networking giant Facebook.
“They had this lead of Android at the time, and he apparently saw something on the web and hit me up, tried to recruit me, then offered me a job. This was right as I was entering college.”
Unfortunately, they found a loophole because some lawyer somewhere was probably freaking out. They were like, ‘If you’re currently enrolled in a college you can only be hired through university recruiting. You can’t be hired through our normal process.’ So I ended up having to interview through university hiring. For some reason, university hiring is filled with a bunch of people who don’t think dropped out is a good option. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll give you an internship and then we can probably turn that into a full-time offer.’
‘No, no thanks. I don’t want to waste my time with an internship.’ So I kept looking and had a few offers from similar companies.”
Around that same time during his senior year in 2014, Adib had started going to hackathons – programming competitions where contestants have 24 hours to complete a project – with friends he had met with similar interests.
“Both my friend and I used to attend CodeDays – I would attend the ones up in Seattle and he would attend the ones in SF. We both would end up placing at 3rd, 2nd, or 1st each time and we soon got to know each other on Facebook due to this similarity and sharing of passions. We ended up becoming good friends and working on apps together at different hackathons all over the country.”
Most of the apps that Adib created were the result of a 24 or 36 hour hackathon. According to him, learning best happens in environments where one’s creativity can be fostered and that’s where ideas for his apps come to fruition.
After 16, I’ve never had to worry about paying for anything at all. My parents were not rich, but we weren’t poor either so we lived in an apartment for seven years because we were saving up for a house. I used some of the app income to put a down payment for the current house we have up in Seattle.
“Right before turning 18, most of my money came from consultancy work, and then during 18 and 19 it was mostly working for other companies and my own ventures. I’m always on the lookout for cutting edge technology and unopened doors to get my feet into.”
While his parents used to push him to do well in school and get a college degree, their beliefs quickly changed when Adib showed them how much money he was making.
We were at this event where the speaker was talking about how important going to college is — and my dad looked back at him and he started laughing really hard. It was a cool moment, the fact that he’s laughing about school and the whole point of us moving to America was school.”
Today, Adib is an engineer working in research and development at Tinder. A recruiter for the company had discovered his work online, cold called him and then gave him a job offer two weeks after their interview. Adib immediately dropped out of college and accepted the position.
With all of his accolades and financial success, some have questioned Adib on why he chose to work at Tinder.
“A lot of people work here at Tinder even though they have an amazing financial situation. They don’t even come here for the paycheck. We have people at Tinder who have multiple exits.
Tinder is like a family of engineers. You’re creating features that millions of people will be using in the next six weeks. The thrill of that and the fact that everyone supports each other, joke around — we literally have the chillest environment.
“I could just go on a yacht and live the life if I wanted to, but that would be boring compared to what we do at Tinder. It gives us a sense of purpose as engineers, to show up to work and work on things that have such a big impact with so many other cool people.”
When asked what kind of advice he’d give to anyone looking for the next big idea, he said:
“I never am on the hunt for an idea. Ideas come to me in the shower, when I’m lying down or in a dream. Sometimes what will happen is there’s a problem that I experience that I can solve with an app or some sort of invention and I solve it for myself. Then I think this could be solved for other people too and maybe other people want this.
The key is when you see a problem that you face that almost every other person faces. It can’t be 2 percent of the population because then you’re alienating yourself. It has to be 80 to 90 percent of the population, 75 percent minimum, that this problem applies to. I read this somewhere that you won’t come up with a good idea if you’re always itching to come up with one.”