Worry Not, Indie Dev, There is a Path

On the heels of indie dev community’s collective hand-wringing over the commoditization of iOS app development (well-summarized in Marco Arment’s App Rot post), I thought I’d strike a different tone.

This is a good thing.

Understanding why requires a bit of background: in 2003 I started Mesa Dynamics, and began to release shareware for the Mac. My titles were varied, but I had the good fortune of finding niches that allowed me to earn a respectable income. Not that I could really live off my sales— I had to supplement my earnings with consulting work—but in the 10 year lifespan of the business I probably sold about $250K worth of licenses.

The best part of being an indie dev though, was the independence. Working by myself on my own ideas was amazingly liberating. I could spend hours tweaking a few pixels. Or days implementing a feature that nobody had asked for.

In hindsight it was a lonely affair, but I could do anything I wanted. I could be productive. Or not. I could reply to a customer. Or not. I could spend a whole day designing logos. Or not.

And as long as customers paid their shareware fees I could excuse my tangential lapses of focus on “running a business.”

But I wasn’t running a business.

I was being self-indulgent.

And what turned me around, what brought my salvation—which I admit only happened because of my foray into indie development—was to join a startup: a small company purchased one of my titles and I came aboard as CTO.

Only in working with others, where my responsibility was not just to revel in my own whims, but to execute on a roadmap alongside my teammates; only in raising money from investors, where my responsibility was not just to sell some licenses to buy a new development machine, but to build a viable business; only in these things could I prove to myself that I could imagine, build and put product in the hands of millions of users.

Now maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe you are a most disciplined and most efficiently productive indie dev.

But even so, let’s face it, the only thing that has changed recently is that iOS development is no longer a viable option for a lifestyle business.

Your talent, your creativity, your passion for building great software has enormous value.

And that’s why this is a good thing.

This is a huge opportunity for you. An opportunity to meet people, to find a partner, to build a team, to pitch your ideas, to look for funding.

You have a chance to show the world you can start a real business.

Trust me. There are thousands upon thousands of startups that don’t have your skills. And you have a finely honed edge.

Use it.