My side project made over 40k $ in its best week and ultimately got sherlocked by Apple.
I’m a 23 year-old self-taught product designer. Just like you, I always walk around thinking about the next big thing. I find so much joy in building things and being responsible for every single bit of a project.
Two years ago I was chatting with Jelle, who was eighteen at the time. We met over Twitter and we were talking about car kits. We wondered why there wasn’t something similar for our Macs. “Wouldn’t it be awesome to make calls on your Mac by connecting your phone over bluetooth?”
Jelle, who knew little about writing code, started reading Apple’s bluetooth APIs. A few days later he sent me the first Dialogue binary. Too bad: it wasn’t working.
Each following week I received a new binary. None of them were working and I started losing faith in the Bluetooth technology we were using. Six months later, after Apple released an OS X update, I received my first handsfree phone call through my Mac. Although it was a rather lousy and ugly app, I remember the excitement I felt as soon as I heard Jelle’s voice sound from my MacBook. It might even been the first time I heard Jelle’s voice.
That night we talked about the roadmap of Dialogue. “What features do we need to launch?” Although Jelle managed to get a first version working, we knew we needed to hire a freelance Mac developer to build the app. I designed the app, built a landingspage and made a quick video. Six months after the first rudimental version we submitted Dialogue to the Mac App Store.
Jelle and I discussed every bit of our launch plan. We discussed timing, pricing, which blogger we should e-mail and how to approach them. The following days till launch I lived in fear. It took us a year to build but what would people think? Would they buy it?
Building side-projects comes with a lot emotions. Anger during a discussion, or sadness when discovering yet another bug. Or that devastating fear when you’re about to launch. We were in contact with one of the biggest Mac blogs. We sent them a beta, but it was an old binary, full of bugs. I thought we were screwed.
We launched a week later. I started tweeting and a few hours later the first blogposts got published. After two or three days we hit #1 top paid Mac app in 24 countries, #3 in the United States and #5 in 68 other countries. We received over 1.000 e-mails in a couple of days. It seemed people liked what we built. I got e-mails from blind people who where pleased with our app. People congratulated me with my fortune and asked me what type of sport car I was going to buy. The project did pretty great but we didn’t become millionaires.
A few months ago, almost one year after release, I was watching WWDC when I saw Apple announcing ‘Continuity’. With Yosemite you can answer phone calls on your Mac, like Dialogue. Even their notification look similar. Apple sherlocked our lucrative side-project. In it’s best week (not even our first week) our app made over 40.000$ but we decided to remove it from sale on the Yosemite release.
My side-projects are getting noticed by potential clients, made me more independent and taught me many different skills. My experiences are such a valuable asset for my clients: I made many mistakes and I’ve encountered all consequences first hand.
Emiel (follow me on Twitter)
By the way: until today I never ever met Jelle face to face.
Don’t forget to press ‘recommend’ and give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Thanks!
Edit: We didn’t remove Dialogue from sale and by the first couple of months we actually noticed an increase in sales after Yosemite’s release.