Michael Sayman is the wunderkid who developed his first top-charting app at 17, got hired by Facebook at 18, headhunted by Google at 21, and who's now venturing into new territory with Roblox at the grand old age of 24. He's the brains behind the uber-successful 4 Snaps, the teenager who helped Facebook reconnect with high schoolers, the boy who bankrolled his family during the Great Recession... in short, he's someone you need to know more about. Find out everything you need to know about Michael Sayman with these ten quick-fire facts.
1. The Great Recession had a major impact on his life
Sayman was born in 1996 to a Bolivian father and Peruvian mother. When Sayman was 13, the Great Recession hit. Both his parents lost their jobs and they were forced to foreclose their house. Driven to desperation, his parents considered moving back to Peru. It was on Sayman's insistence (and his vow to pay for everything going forward) that they stayed in the US. He spent the next few years juggling high school with making money by publishing apps. He's since said there were times during his childhood when he never knew how the family would manage to buy food or pay their bills.
2. He's self-taught
Considering his family's circumstances, Sayman never had the luxury of being able to afford private tuition or extra-curricular activities. But what he did have in spades was the determination to learn. Speaking to Pando, he recalled how he taught himself IOS programming through whatever information he could find online. “It was a horrible process of learning, absolutely the worst,” he explained. “Four years down the road and I still don’t know everything. My school doesn’t offer computer classes so that’s what I had to do."
3. His first major success came with 4 Snaps
At the age of 17, Sayman experienced his first major success when he developed “4 Snaps”, a gaming app that allowed users to pick a word, send a fellow gamer four pictures that illustrated the word, and then challenge them to guess what it was. The app was released on August 8, 2013. By August 2014, “4 Snaps” had been downloaded over a million times. Shortly after, it reached the number one spot on the word games chart.
4. It took a while for his success to sink in
When Sayman released 4 Snaps, he was obviously hoping he had a success on his hands. But it's unlikely he ever envisaged just how big a success it would turn out to be. On day one of its release, it made $40 - almost half the amount he'd borrowed from his mom to get the app up and running. He was thrilled. Day 2 bought in even more - $120. When he cashed in $170 on the third day, he started to realize he was onto something big. But just how big it would eventually become, and how much attention he'd subsequently attract, went way beyond the imagination of a 13-year boy who'd taught himself everything he knew via iOS tutorials.
5. He was mentored by Mark Zuckerberg
Not many 18-year-olds can say they work at one of the biggest companies in the world, but then again, Sayman was never just a normal kid. Fresh from the success of "4 Snaps", Sayman was recruited by Facebook in 2014. For the next three years, he worked alongside Zuckerberg and co to create new products aimed squarely at the market he knew best: teenagers. By providing an insider's knowledge of the teen segment, he helped the network expand its reach in the under-20's market, providing crucial information about the trends of the day and advising the company which products would work, and which definitely wouldn't.
6. He came out in 2018
During an interview with People en Español in 2018, Sayman came out as gay. His decision to open up about his public life came, as he explained, from the desire to "help other Latinos who go through the same situation."
7. He met his first failure with Lifestage
Six years after Sayman achieved his first major success with 4 Snaps, he released Lifestage. By then, Sayman was already working at Facebook. Aimed squarely at the teen market (so much so, in fact, anyone over the age of 22 would be automatically locked out), "Lifestage" was a social app that let high school students see the video profiles of any other students at their own school or those in the near vicinity. It was, according to an interview given by Sayman to Business Insider, designed to "show others who they are and to find out more about the people in their school community as well as meet new people." Noble intentions, maybe, but ones that failed to find their mark. For the first time in his short career, Sayman flopped. "Lifestage" was compared to apps like "Snapchat" and "Yik Yak" and found lacking. Its privacy model also met with derision. Less than 12 months after its launch, Facebook pulled the plug.
8. He doesn't believe in putting anyone else in charge of his success
Sayman might be young, but the one thing he's not is dumb. Speaking to the Insider, he explained that if there's one thing he's learned over the past few years, it's not to depend on other people for success. "The biggest thing I learned over time was to never depend on anybody for my success," he said. "No matter what, no matter how nice somebody is, no matter who they are, whatever the case may be- never to put my success dependent on somebody else's actions."
9. He's been named to Forbes' '30 under 30'
Every year, Forbes draws up a list of the 30 hottest new talents around. No matter what their background, their industry, or their particular talent, everyone who makes the list has two things in common - they're all going to be huge and they're all under 30 years old. In 2019, Sayman made the list for the first time, appearing as one of the 'names to watch' in the Consumer Technology segment.
10. He left Facebook in 2017
After just 3 years at Facebook, Sayman left in 2017 to join Google as a Project Manager for the voice-based service, Assistant. But now, it seems, it's time for another change. After 3 years with the internet giant, Sayman has moved on to pastures new with Roblox, a decision he says has allowed him to "go back to my roots in my love of gaming."
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee