The Gossiper

Tech: 17 year old builds one of the most popular coronavirus tracking website. He explains why he turned down an $8 Million offer.

Avi Schiffmann has been adjourning on his school work, but he has a good excuse. The 17-year-old high student is the creator of one of the most visited coronavirus websites in the world, which now takes up “100%” of his free time he stated. 

Schiffmann has strategies on keeping the website very active until the pandemic is over. He stated “as long as the site is up, I will keep working on it and adding new features”. As soon as the pandemic is over, Schiffmann is going to take the servers down and probably make a page that compares the novel COVID-19 to SARS or the Spanish Flu. He ponders this might be a historical piece for people to reflect on when it comes to corona virus.

Avi Schiffmann’s coronavirus tracker is the best sites for all information on COVID-19.  Its statistics is regularly updated for all the affected countries around the globe. The sites indicate infected persons, deaths, recovered and rates of change data from the WHO, CDC, and the other government websites. The site often shows new features like, the survival rate calculator. It gives a step by step infections on a map and tips for personal hygiene. It also shows the list of coronavirus symptoms.

Schiffmann is so proud of himself and what he has been able to put up, he also does want to make a name out of the pandemic. “the responsibility shouldn’t be on some random kid, but its obvious people want to know the statistics” he said.

“It has taken over my life” he said. He gives an estimate that he put few hundreds of hours into the site building and recalls staying up for 50 hours straight once. This is quite a responsibility.

The website gets visitors all over the world this is because the tracker covers the entire world. He wakes up to serval messages if something goes wrong with the site. This is something he take into consideration. — “I was a terrible high school student when this became really popular, I skipped two weeks of schools” to focus on the site and make it work”.

The website has about 30 million visitors in a day and 700 million so far. This has brought a lot of offers to Schiffmann, companies would want to advertise on his page. There’s one contract which Schiffmann turned down, which was an $8 million contract offer. He said he could have made about $30 million if he posts his own ads but the isn’t the purpose of the site.

“I’m only 17, I don’t need $8 million…I don’t want to be a profiteer,” he said. At first, he was almost reluctant to talk about ads, which he says everyone asks about. Then, he explained his reasoning. Schiffmann said that he didn’t want popups ruining the UI, which would be something out of his control if he sold the site. He doesn’t want to be contractually obligated to keep up the site, or to make changes that he doesn’t agree with. Specifically, he knows many of his visitors from around the world don’t have very fast internet connections, so adding on ads and trackers would slow the site down and maybe even make it unusable for them. He did set up a donation button on the website, though it of course doesn’t amount to nearly $8 million.

“I don’t want it to leave a stain on things in the future…people think I’ll regret that decision, but I plan to do many things in the future.” Schiffmann has big plans for his future. He’s already gotten job offers, including one from Microsoft, but he isn’t interested in accepting one of those jobs now, plus he wants to keep pursuing his own projects and “the last thing you want to do is code more” after a day at work coding. Instead, he cares more about the connections he’s made from the project. “Now I know a ton of VCs and investors…if I started a company tomorrow, they’d at least read my business plan.”

Avi Schiffmann.

One of his most exciting connections so far was from security company Cloudflare, which Schiffmann uses to protect the site against DDOS attacks. CEO Matthew Prince tweeted at him, and the company sent some Cloudflare shirts. For his dream connection, Schiffmann says that he’d like to talk to Bill Gates, and he’s especially interested in the intersection of technology and public health.

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