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How a 22-year-old college kid makes $10K a month finessing Amazon Alexa

Your average college student is in debt as soon as they step foot on campus.

Most struggle through rigorous coursework, temptation, and a lack of budget to truly flourish. David Markey, a 22-year-old senior studying applied mathematics, and economics at Brown, fortunately, is not your average student.

Markey has found a way to finesse Amazon’s Alexa product to his advantage while also helping advance it technologically as well. Acquiring an Amazon Echo during the e-commerce’s Prime Day sale in 2016, he hit the ground running. Using his computer savvy knowledge, he now earns $10,000 a month coding “skills” for Alexa.

Alexa skills, which run on everything from Echos to other Alexa-enabled devices, allow users to interact with compatible hardware, apps, and games through voice commands. Marveling at the vast amount of tasks Alexa could just be the start for Markey.

In an interview with CNBC he said,

“I set up my apartment with smart lights and I used the Echo for setting timers for cooking, and I really enjoyed it. I found that to be a really good way to get the news while I was having my morning coffee.”

Computer coding since his sophomore year of high school, which has now become a personal hobby of his, Markey delved into creating a skill that was unavailable: “Word of the Day.”

David Markey

Amazon launched his first free skill in February 2017, something he devised by himself on his own time, and shortly thereafter its popularity soared. Metrics were unavailable to developers to amply test how their skill was performing so Mackey broke the wheel again and did it his way. He said,

“I had jerry-rigged a system for getting the metrics out of it, and there were all sorts of weird things. It was disproportionately popular in South Korea, which was interesting.”

Markey learned his skills were performing exceptionally well, acquiring a fan base that looked for his updates constantly. The problem was he wasn’t earning money from it yet.

He reached out to Jeff Bezos, yes, the world’s richest man, who forwarded Markey’s inquiry to an executive in charge of developers for Echo.

Shortly thereafter his persistence and dedication paid off. Amazon launched its Alexa Developer Rewards program, which pays developers who create top performing skills within specific categories.

Unfortunately, his “Words of the Day” skill didn’t qualify for the initiative, so he finessed a new skill that would. Markey would then drop an interactive game based on his first skill. Funneling his already built user base toward the second skill, “Word of the Day Quiz,” the interactive game was born.

The checks started rolling in after that, with gaming company Volley agreeing to buy his Alexa skills while allowing him to retain a portion of the Developer Rewards income.

Since then Markey has comfortable collected close to $10K each month.

Grind, grit, and determination were key to his ample opportunity and Markey made it happen. Shoutout to the young Brown student making it work.