Persistence Pays Off

Jason Motivation

There are two ways to ensure you always get what you want, in business and in life, be strategic on the front-end (via rule of reciprocity, giving people what they want first, etc.) and being extraordinarily persistent on the back-end.

This lesson involves a case study showing the level and depth of persistence that it sometimes will take to succeed as we look at one of the best cases of it in the past several years: Nick D’Aloisio, a 17 year old high school student who sold his mobile app, Summly, to Yahoo for $30 million.

The real story here isn’t Summly, Yahoo, the big payout, or even the Nick’s age… it’s his persistence. He didn’t just write the app and sell it overnight, rather he got frequently rejected, laughed at, and even bullied by some of the biggest names in tech.

But not only did that not stop him, it ultimately led to his success. Look at what Nick did versus what normal people would have done:

  • Nick wrote Summly at 15 and had been actively trying to sell it to anyone he could find for two years before finally doing so. Normal people would have given up.
  • At one point he sent 100+ emails to Gizmodo (a major tech blog) over the course of several days to try and get them to write a review for Summly. Normal people send one.
  • It was later revealed that he sent tons of emails to virtually every major tech blog simultaneously and that all of them were either ignored or rejected. Normal people do not handle rejection well– and give up.
  • While the content of some of these emails may be ethically challenged (making himself seem like a large business, exaggeration, etc.) the key here was that he showed them that he simply would not go away. He forced them to have to do something. Normal people (think they) know when to move on.
  • A large flurry of emails he sent to Gizmodo consisted of him basically begging them to consider it for ‘Best App of the Week’ and became incredibly annoying. Normal people do not like to beg and would be embarrassed by it.
  • Indeed, Gizmodo did have to do something and so they finally agreed to review it– but instead decided to try and embarrass Nick and reviewed it as its “Worst App of the Week.” This is generally a very bad idea as you do not agitate an already out-of-control beast. Even so, normal people would run and hide at this point.
  • Devastated by Gizmodo’s “joke”, Nick sent dozens more frantic emails to them, asking them to remove the post. He begged, cried, screamed, lied, and even threatened– each in its own individual email (Today’s kids don’t understand email– they think in terms of text messages, short bursts, no forethought before sending, and they expect near instantaneous replies.) Normal people would certainly have given up by now, right?
  • The Gizmodo editors, in their arrogant stupidity, thought the entire thing was hilarious and decided to embarrass Nick even more by publicly posting all his personal emails on their website in a post entitled: How I Made a 15 Year Old App Developer Cry. Normal people would not only give up, but find a big rock to hide under, never to be seen again.
  • This led to another barrage of emails, which got posted as well. It seemed as though David (Nick) and Goliath (Gizmodo) were at war. But we already know how that ends, don’t we? Never underestimate small slingshots, even against the biggest of guns. Normal people do not bring slingshots to gun battles.
  • Gizmodo’s post went viral and everyone in tech began to wonder… what is this app anyway? That everyone included venture capitalists and angel investors, and before long Nick found himself an investor, which led to more funding, instant credibility, and ultimately to Yahoo buying the app for $30 million and hiring him.

Meanwhile, normal people remain hidden under the comfort of their rocks.