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Michael Royzen
Michael Royzen, 16, creator of the iOS app Ryde. (Courtesy of Michael Royzen)

Michael Royzen got a jump on learning to write code when he was young. Since he’s only 16 years old right now, we’re talking really young.

When he was 8 years old, Royzen created a simple website in Microsoft FrontPage. He dabbled in HTML, Python and Scratch for a few years, and when he was 10 he got an iPod Touch and knew then that he wanted to make make apps for iOS. By the time he was 12, he knew how, when he got serious and learned Objective-C, the official language for coding iOS apps.

The Seattle teen is now a junior at The Bush School and he’s a full-fledged software developer and entrepreneur who founded and serves as CEO of his own company, Mlab Technologies, Inc., which designs, develops and markets consumer software for Apple platforms.

Royzen is also GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.

Royzen’s first app was ASpirit4Mars, a platform-based shooting game that got several thousand downloads with very little marketing. He created several more games, but at 15 his focus shifted to making apps to make everyday tasks easier for consumers.

He released RecipeReadr, an app that reads recipes aloud to users as they cook, and it was featured in Yahoo Tech! and AppAdvice among others. But more importantly, Royzen was invited to WWDC, the annual Apple developers conference, after the company saw his work. It was there that he met Apple executives, including Tim Cook and Craig Federighi.

“Their dedication to building high-quality products as well as their humility was very inspiring,” Royzen said. “Tim Cook signed my iPhone; his signature is a daily reminder for me to push myself harder both as an entrepreneur and as a person.”

Royzen said he spends the vast majority of his free time developing or thinking about potential apps, which amounts to about three hours a day when he has school and longer on the weekends.

“It doesn’t feel like work to me — I absolutely love what I do,” he told GeekWire.

Royzen’s most recent release is Ryde, an app that alerts users what time they need to leave one location to get to another at a preset time. The app supports driving, mass transit, bicycling and walking, and Royzen said it’s the only app that notifies users when they need to leave for recurring trips, such as a commute to work.

“This is crucial, since the time at which a user needs to leave is subject to fluctuation due to traffic patterns and weather,” Royzen said, adding that the idea for the app came to him after he got his driver’s license last spring and started driving himself to school — “although driving in Seattle is basically just sitting in traffic.”

To get a better sense of how much Royzen seemingly has everything figured out at such a young age, we asked where he could see himself in five or 10 years.

“In five years, I see myself graduating from college with a degree in computer science and getting a job at one of the big tech companies (Apple, Google, or Facebook) to gain experience,” Royzen said. “In 10 years, I see myself having left my 9-to-5 job to found a tech startup. While this is the general direction I’m aiming for, I will launch a startup sooner if a good opportunity to do so arises.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Michael Royzen:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I am a software developer and entrepreneur. I love my job because of the creative challenge, but most of all because I get to improve people’s lives.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Mobile apps have the power to do great social change. Since they are distributed though an app store that ships with billions of devices, a single app can improve lives all around the world.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “I find inspiration from both my own experiences as well as those of the people around me. Solving issues brought up in those experiences though software is one of the things I enjoy most.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “It’s hard for me to pick just one! While my computer is the device that makes the creation of my work possible, my iPhone and iPad are also crucial because they are the platforms I develop for.”

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “My workspace consists of a desk with a computer, an external monitor, and an iPhone/iPad. It works well for me because there are few distractions, something that is crucial when I am trying to write a complicated algorithm or fix a stubborn bug. My desk is also electronically height-adjustable, something that I find helpful for improving posture and reducing back pain.”

Michael Royzen
(Courtesy of Michael Royzen)

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Whenever there is something I need to get done, I just sit down and do it. Excuses and procrastination only add unnecessary stress. The right amount of stress, however, can be very helpful for productivity in my experience.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac all the way! Its integration with my other Apple products enables convenience features that other PCs don’t offer. Also, a Mac is required to develop for Apple platforms. Linux, however, is by far the best for training artificial neural networks.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Picard. I have always respected how rational he is.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine, and not just because it’s a Mac app! Time is one of our greatest gifts — getting some of it back would be truly life-changing.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Hire some designers, coders, and PR folks to take my current startup to the next level.”

I once waited in line for … “An Apple keynote. I woke up at 4:30 that morning so I could get a good seat and it was totally worth it.”

Your role models: “I think that Elon Musk is an incredible person — he creates cool, useful stuff for the sake of creating cool, useful stuff. That is something I think we need more of in our society.”

Greatest game in history: “Tetris.”

Best gadget ever: “The smartphone.”

First computer: “Dell Inspiron.”

Current phone: “iPhone 6.”

Favorite app: “Besides my own app, Ryde, which gets me to school on time, I love Prisma.”

Favorite cause: “Helping those in need.”

Most important technology of 2016: “Convolutional neural networks and TensorFlow.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Wearables. I believe that wearable technology will be crucial enough for people to not want to be without it.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “You are the artisan of your destiny. Work hard, but stay sane!”

Website: Mlab Technologies

Twitter: @MichaelRoyzen

LinkedIn: Michael Royzen

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