Building the Most Popular COVID-19 Tracking Site @ 16 y/o 🤯

Yup, you guessed it... it's Avi Schiffmann 💥 He's hands down the coolest teenager you'll ever meet + his vision for the future can't help but make you excited.

It’s early January of 2020. Things are still normal, school is going on… and you’ve just heard of the first few cases of something called ncov2019 from your friend in China. You’re trying to find more information about this strange new virus, but you have to hunt through government websites, slow-to-load dashboards, and tons of convoluted information. 😩 Hmm, what if… 🤔

Fast forward to today, and Avi Schiffmann has built the most popular COVID-19 tracking site with over 30 million visitors at its peak. His site was one of the first dashboards for COVID-19 (before it was even referred to as that), providing easy-to-read and straightforward information on the spread of COVID-19 🦠. It’s caught attention by many organizations and influential people, including Dr. Fauci. 👨‍⚕️ He’s spoken with the creator of the World Wide Web. And most recently, he’s been accepted into Harvard (congrats Avi! 🥳) and is dreaming up even bigger and better things.

Alright, you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to hear more. Here’s what you’ll get in today’s newsletter:

  1. 🌐 How Avi built the most popular COVID-19 website (+ how you can build cool projects too)

  2. 🤝 Getting your foot in the door + networking like a pro

  3. 🔮 What the future holds (spoiler alert: includes cybernetics, vertical farming reading/writing to the brain, + more)

👀 A quick announcement

The Δx podcast + newsletter are on Twitter! Check it out here and drop a follow — exciting things to come 😁

Let’s get started :)

🎙 Δx podcast

You can learn anything online.

That was Avi’s 5 word speech when he was recognized as Webby Award’s 2020 Person of the Year (hailed as the "Internet's highest honor") presented by Dr. Fauci, and one that he highlights throughout this week’s podcast. 🎙

Avi talks about his humble start in programming, being completely self-taught from Youtube and learning online, and how he built his way to one of the largest sites for COVID-19 at just 16 years old. 💻 (Check out how this model for learning also led Zach “Young Investor” to make high returns on investment at just 12 years old in the last newsletter 💸).

Despite accomplishing a lot and being recognized by some of the most influential awards in tech, Avi’s super down to earth, funny, and always seeking to improve and look for the next big thing. Tune in to the conversation below ✨ 👇

You can really learn anything online — Avi started off learning about game dev => mobile app => web dev… and created a website that updates faster than most government websites, eventually having over 240 webscrapers gathering the most up-to-date COVID-19 data. 🌎

If you’re interested in learning more about programming and web development, here are some resources to get started: FreeCodeCamp, Codecademy, Videos on Python/Web Development 👆

💎 Δx takeaways

There’s a lot to say here, but one thing I wanted to highlight is how important it is to take action.

It’s more about taking the initiative in the first place, rather than being a genius programmer which I am very far from.

You don’t have to be the smartest person to build something that has the potential to help a lot of people. Sometimes it’s about being the first mover and just taking action. It’s easier said than done, but even doing small things when starting off eventually compound into much bigger things. 📈

Ok, now that you’ve gotten your foot in the door, how do you meet cool people and learn from the best? You guessed it: just reach out.

Avi reached out to the creator of the World Wide Web, and he actually was impressed with Avi’s work and was down to talk!

💭 Some things I’ve learned from reaching out to get guests for this podcast, research opportunities, internships, and more (how to build network/reach out 🌐):

  1. Everyone wants to help — especially if you’re young. ✅

    They’ve been in your shoes before when they were younger, so just express how eager you are to learn and how much you would value their reply/time.

    i.e. I’m Ellen, a 15 year old high school student from California deeply interested in ______ — came across your paper on ____ and would love to learn more as I’m looking to make a difference with _____!

  2. Keep it short/concise. 📝

    If you can cut down fluff, then do so because people are busy, most likely skimming for main points, and won’t bother reading if it’s too long. + they will thank you for it :)

    (bullet points, bold text, etc. are great)

  3. Talk about how you can provide value to them. ⌚

    When I’m reaching out for guests on this podcast, I try to keep in mind what would be most helpful for them. In this case, it would be a chance to share their story to hundreds of listeners and high school students.

    When you’re reaching out, keep in mind what they would want to value their time on and how you can help provide that.

  4. Leverage different platforms.

    Linkedin and Twitter are two platforms great for building network :) (Say hi to me! 🥰)

I’ll be dropping more tips + advice like this on the Δx twitter, so make sure to follow here to keep updated!

Lastly, Avi talks about what he wants to be building in the future and some of the exciting tech that might disrupt our lives in the coming years:

  • Cybernetics: upgrading the human body/brain 🤖

  • Vertical farming: minimizes water, uses much less space… I mean, just look at it 🤩

  • Reading/writing to the brain: what if we can access/read/write the vector space inside our brains? 🧠

I’m more interested in making the Internet than making Internet companies.

📰 Δx change

Now for what’s been going on in the last 2 weeks (biggest breakthroughs + changes):

That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed this and learned something new. Have a great week, and as always, feel free to reach out to me at any time! :)


Ellen X

Thanks for reading!

Thank you for being a part of the community! Hope you enjoyed this newsletter and feel free to hit Reply at any time to let me know your thoughts or share what you’re working on! 🎉