How a novice dev reached #2 in the App Store with a great instructor’s help

Photo credit: Matt McDonald/Equal Motion

Photo credit: Matt McDonald/Equal Motion

Nick Di Vona of University Place, outside Tacoma,WA, has two primary passions: longboarding and app development. After spending much of his

younger years doing the former, he’s ready to embrace success doing the latter, thanks to a great idea, lots of dedication and perseverance—and the global phenomenon that is Pokémon Go.

Nick has collaborated with and competed on behalf of his sponsor DB Longboards since he was 18 and attending community college. He loves the adrenaline rush he gets from longboarding and, while it hasn’t earned him any money, he’s been able to travel to events with good friends and see beautiful places. He even served as their social media manager for a spell.

Once he earned his business degree, Nick wasn’t sure what to do next but got into app development because one of his best friends, Braydon Batungbacal, did nothing but code while they were growing up. Braydon was ahead of the curve with iPhone programming and made a lot of money, which piqued Nick’s interest. He also liked the idea of working independently, whenever and wherever he chose, and making things people wanted. Braydon turned Nick on to Udemy, where he found instructor Mark Price’s course “iOS 9 and Swift 2: From Beginner to Paid Professional.”

“It wasn’t just a few hours of content; it was a day of content plus resources,” Nick explains, pointing to the chat rooms Mark has set up for his students and real sense of community Mark facilitates. What really won Nick over was Mark’s teaching style, which incorporates “a little bit of comedy, so it’s entertaining but got the points across.” This was a welcome change of pace after Nick struggled in the past through extremely boring online courses that made it hard to focus and absorb the material.


Instructor Mark Price

Having the right instructor makes all the difference
Mark goes above and beyond to support his students and make learning fun and engaging. After years as a working programmer and bootcamp instructor, he’s been teaching on Udemy since September 2015 and has helped tens of thousands of students. “When I created my first Udemy course, I knew I wanted this to be my future,” Mark says. Fans and followers around the world have spread the word about how much they love his on-screen personality and the community he’s cultivated for them. Mark draws from his off-line teaching experience to deliver courses that are “funny and interactive and make people feel comfortable.” He talks as if his students are right there in the room with him and isn’t afraid to go off-script. Where other coding courses show only perfect, polished code, Mark doesn’t edit out his mistakes and, in fact, believes they’re valuable teaching tools. Today he runs his own company, Devslopes, as a one-stop shop for people who want to learn to code and employs a team of assistants to help manage his online community of more than 15,000 active users.

Meanwhile, Nick’s now 23 and “still broke” from paying for school, but his learning and app-building really caught fire when Mark launched a Kickstarter campaign that promised donors free, lifetime access to all of Mark’s current and future courses for a single pledge of $120. That’s a significant amount for Nick’s budget, but he viewed it as a sound investment because he likes Mark and wants to help him continue making new courses so others can “get my same great experience.” Nick’s pledge also entered him in a drawing to win a Macbook Air.

Riding the coattails of a gaming phenomenon
While on a road trip, Nick pulled into a rest stop to look at a map and check his email when he got a message from Mark: he’d won the Macbook Air! Now he was even more motivated to keep pushing himself to learn and develop his skill set as an app developer. Additional inspiration came when Pokémon Go launched and gave Nick and partner Braydon a great idea for a map-based assistant app that would help players find critters to capture.

The goal was to get Poke Radar in Apple’s App Store as soon as possible to capitalize on the game’s popularity, but the review process was lengthy and Nick feared similar apps would beat theirs to market. After four excruciating days, the app was approved, reached #2 in the store internationally, and got a ton of awesome media coverage. Not bad for a self-described “novice developer without a lot of experience” but plenty of passion and drive. For the app’s user interface, in particular, Nick gives full credit to the principles he learned from Mark Price on Udemy, saying, “I wouldn’t have known how to do any of that without taking the course.”Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.32.47 AM

Mark was thrilled by Nick’s success too, which shows that “you don’t have to be a NASA engineer to do something good and meaningful in the world of tech.” He commends Nick for being someone who “took advantage of an opportunity and went with it.”

With a hit app already in his portfolio, Nick is now looking forward to getting better at building apps and moving into other types of digital content. “You input code and something creative is there, where before there was nothing.” It might not be longboarding, but it’s still an adrenaline rush.

Photo credit: DB Longboards

Photo credit: Matt McDonald/Equal Motion