00:00:21 ◼ ► What's different now, how we need to change the way we do things as a result of that, and maybe how we can look towards the future, what's likely to happen in the future. What do you think?
00:01:27 ◼ ► That's true, their sports team is the 49ers, and it's all very relevant. But it's even there, like Apple embraced it, that this whole big thing was part of the marketing of trying to get people onto the platform and developing for it.
00:01:51 ◼ ► And in many ways that was true, they weren't lying about that I don't think, but it's weird now because they've launched three App Stores subsequently, or I guess four if you can count the Mac App Store.
00:02:05 ◼ ► But for the purposes of this discussion, they've launched three that are relevant to iOS, where they launched the TVOS App Store, they launched the Watch App Store, and they launched the iMessage App Store.
00:02:18 ◼ ► And I can't think of the only example out of any of those that I can think of where someone had this big public, like, the store you see in Wired or you see on The Verge or somewhere where it's like, "Developer makes $200,000 in two weeks with five minutes worth of work" kind of stories.
00:02:35 ◼ ► And other than the app Phonies, which was an iMessage app that lets you trick your friends into thinking that they'd said things they didn't, which eventually got pulled from the App Store, which did reasonably well.
00:03:13 ◼ ► Maybe that'll change over time, but when Apple was announcing all this stuff this past summer and then launching it in the fall, you know, whenever Apple launches something new, some kind of new ability for an app or a new type of App Store or a whole new device that will have an App Store,
00:04:16 ◼ ► And the TV, I think, we can look at the TV and we can say pretty similarly, you know, the Apple TV, we all thought when it launched, you know, now that we can make apps for the TV easily for the first time,
00:04:46 ◼ ► And it's unfortunate that what succeeds on the Apple TV is basically stuff that makes sense would succeed on Apple TV, which is like video apps for different providers and occasionally a game,
00:04:58 ◼ ► but even then the gaming market for it I think has largely not materialized, and we can talk about why, but it doesn't really matter. The facts are basically the Apple TV app market is really not a place where indies have much action to be had.
00:05:13 ◼ ► And most people with Apple TVs are not really browsing the App Store regularly and finding new stuff and downloading it and paying for it and everything else. That's not really happening.
00:05:29 ◼ ► When the App Stores were launching back in 2008 and then later when the iPad launched in 2010, when that was really beginning, when things were really hot back then, this whole market was like totally untapped.
00:05:54 ◼ ► And it was easier back then to succeed because there was less there, there was less history there, and people were actually really excited to get these new kinds of devices and then browse around and throw money around and see what can they now do they couldn't do before.
00:06:11 ◼ ► Or what can this new device that they just got for the first time do. And then what we've seen since then basically is that every additional platform or store or capability that has launched since then and that has provided us opportunities that didn't exist before since then,
00:06:28 ◼ ► every one of those is seemingly smaller than the last one or has less potential for indies than the last one. And it's not because Apple is some corporate sellout or anything, it's not that at all.
00:06:41 ◼ ► It's that just the nature of these stores and devices and abilities, like the low hanging fruit was picked long ago and now we're going into these more and more specialized areas, more and more specialized markets and adding these kind of like niche abilities and niche demands to the various product lines and to the various app stores and SDKs.
00:07:01 ◼ ► So I think this was inevitable, I think this kind of cooling down of the gold rush, I think this happens to most gold rushes, that's usually why they're called a gold rush and not like a gold forever age of stability.
00:07:15 ◼ ► No, when things cool down and the markets mature, this just happens. So I think this was largely inevitable. I think there's not a lot Apple could do to really change it and instead it's our job as the developers, as people trying to make a business in this ecosystem,
00:07:36 ◼ ► it's our job not to just yell at Apple to change things that they can't really change, but instead to adapt what we do to basically be more compatible with this new market and to be more likely to succeed.
00:12:39 ◼ ► But I imagine it's got to be really crazy if you were a developer who had sort of staffed up as a result and had a big team and had kind of been assuming that those salad days were going to continue forever.
00:13:10 ◼ ► It's flexible to your system's needs and supports most programming languages. So whether you're using Java, Ruby, or Python, you'll always have a range of server-side and client-side SDKs available.
00:14:22 ◼ ► Because you try lots of things. And I think this is a key survival skill in this market. In a tough market where there's lots of competition and lots of changes and it's generally kind of cooling.
00:14:36 ◼ ► This to me is the key. Is basically to try a lot of different things. And also critically I think the way you do things is you tend to try things without putting a massive amount of budget and time into it before you know whether it will succeed.
00:14:55 ◼ ► You know, I don't know if you subscribe to the minimal viable product thing or not but I think what you do is close to that in the sense that not that you put out crap because you don't but that you put out 1.0's that you didn't spend three years making.
00:15:19 ◼ ► And by doing it that way you're able to launch a whole bunch of different stuff. You know, over a few years you launch tons of apps and then you can see what succeeds and then build on that.
00:15:30 ◼ ► Yeah, because I think the thing that's probably best to point out too is the reason I take the approach I take is because of what my goals are. And for years now, like when I got into this business, you know, I used to be a consultant and like there's lots of problems with consulting work.
00:15:53 ◼ ► But in general, like the nice thing about consulting is it's very straightforward. You do a certain amount of hours of work, you get a certain amount of money for that work and the uncertainty comes in can you have an ex-client.
00:16:13 ◼ ► And that for me didn't appeal to me about that is that I felt like I still always was sort of, I never felt secure in where I was because if I didn't find an ex-client, suddenly my income drops to zero.
00:16:29 ◼ ► And so for me, when I got into products, my goal was always like, can I take the approach of being self-employed, which is in both cases was what I was going to do because it fits better for my mindset to be self-employed.
00:16:54 ◼ ► And so I got into products in the hopes of creating the mythical passive income thing where you make something and then it creates income into the future rather than doing work in the present that creates money in the present.
00:17:08 ◼ ► And because that became my goal, I didn't go set out with the goal of striking it rich in a way that you kind of, I get the impression this is a lot of what a lot of game development or things or movies are another example of an industry where this is kind of the expectation or venture capital even.
00:17:27 ◼ ► Where it's your goal is to have this massive runaway success and that's what you're gearing and aiming everything towards. It's sort of like more like you're going for the lottery approach.
00:17:39 ◼ ► Whereas with me and with the way I've structured my business and why I've done so many apps over the years and why I keep doing this over and over again, like I'm working on another app, I'll be putting out hopefully by the end of the year.
00:17:50 ◼ ► And it's because the reality of having lots and lots of things is that you end up with tremendous diversity that both you create opportunity for any of the various products to do well, which is the simple version of that.
00:18:05 ◼ ► And then also, just in aggregate, five kind of not so great results from a revenue or business perspective add up to maybe one good result. And if one goes up and another goes down, you end up in the same place.
00:18:21 ◼ ► And that in a weird way is kind of boring. I want my business to be as boring as possible. In some ways I love when I look at my revenue graphs and they're just completely flat. That's not what classic business wants you to do.
00:18:36 ◼ ► I want to say, "Oh, it should be like, what is it, up into the side. I want a hockey stick. I want all these things." It's like, "No, no, no, I want flat. I want boring. I want an approach that doesn't really grow over time." I mean, growth is great, but I'll take flat over up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down.
00:19:50 ◼ ► And that's especially important, and it leads into a larger theme for me, which is even in the good times, even back with Instapaper, especially when the iPad launched, that was a great time for me.
00:20:11 ◼ ► All of Overcast, the whole time, everything after that, like Instapaper during the first couple years of the iPad was really probably the peak of my app sales career that I will probably ever see.
00:20:23 ◼ ► And even then, I knew, in the back of my head the whole time, this will not last. Everything goes up and down in the tech business, in most businesses, but the tech business seems to just happen faster.
00:20:48 ◼ ► And plan for that. That's just an expected part of your process then. So that way when it does start to decline, or take a sharp drop off, then you can be sad about that, you can try to reverse that, but at least you know, you shouldn't be surprised that it happened at all.
00:21:06 ◼ ► You should know everything goes up and down. And so what that means is, when you're in the up periods, plan for the down periods. So that goes through very basic things. First of all, obviously, save money.
00:21:19 ◼ ► All the money that you get during the up periods, bank as much of that as you can. And that will help you tremendously down the road when you're in a down period and you might need something to clear the gap or whatever.
00:22:02 ◼ ► Build new audiences, build new places, build new products, start looking into new things. And then when the thing that boosted you up in the first place starts going down, you have this other network of other places or products or apps or audiences that can help you into the next thing.
00:22:50 ◼ ► Besides all that, best thing I can say is assume every good thing will end and while it is good, hoard as much, save as much as you possibly can and then spread your wings into new things then.
00:23:03 ◼ ► So that as those things are building, they're building with your success and then when the success in that first thing starts to dwindle, you have something else to fall back on or to build up.
00:24:13 ◼ ► But training I think is a reasonable thing. Or finding ways to take small successes and sort of turning them into other embroidery things is a great way in an environment where you're not going to necessarily be able to just have a runaway hit in the app store itself.
00:25:01 ◼ ► There's no guarantee. It doesn't make the thing an automatic success. But it gives you into the door in a way that it wouldn't otherwise if you just threw things out over the wall into the app store and then walked away.
00:25:17 ◼ ► Now it's a lot easier for me to start a new podcast now than it was four years ago. Because I've done a lot of podcasts since then. I know how to do it now. I know what works and what doesn't to some degree. And so if I launch a new podcast now, it's way less risky than it used to be. Just because I've done it a lot.
00:25:33 ◼ ► If you launch a new app today, you can be pretty sure roughly what it will take to get it done, roughly what it will take to get it in the store, and an approximate estimate of how much you think it might make in the first X months or whatever if things go well.
00:25:47 ◼ ► You've launched so many apps that now you've just gotten good at launching apps. So any skills you can build along the way in that kind of way, it helps to just build up your confidence over time.
00:26:00 ◼ ► Again, the more you try, the more you put out there, the better it will be. And then as things kind of take seed or whatever, I don't know anything about growing things, but as the plants that you plant take root, some of them will.
00:26:15 ◼ ► And then you're just building up this career over time, this slow growth, trying a whole bunch of stuff, and eventually some of it will work. And then as that works, you keep building. You keep spreading out even further. You build up what you have as much as you can. You save when the times are good. This is how you survive in this climate.
00:26:38 ◼ ► And I think it's also probably a good place to point out that more likely than not, you want to have a strategy that is going to work for your career in the long term. It's like taking the approach of, "Okay, what I want to do is I want to start off by winning the lottery, and then I'm going to live on my lottery winnings for the rest of my life."
00:27:02 ◼ ► If that was your approach to life, it's interesting, but what does that look like five years into that plan? Even if your plan worked, even if somehow your plan magically worked, five years in, you have this pile of money that you're gradually chipping away at.
00:27:19 ◼ ► That, A, doesn't sound healthy from a mental health perspective of what you're doing. People like to have a sense of purpose and direction in their day, and that you're accomplishing things. But it's also just not a good approach to take.
00:27:37 ◼ ► The goal is to have something that is going to work years down the road. There are certainly things that I wish I had done eight years ago compared to now, but I think increasingly, and maybe this is a wisdom as you get older kind of perspective, but increasingly I look at these things and it's like, "What am I going to be doing in five years?"
00:27:55 ◼ ► And while I don't know the specifics, I don't know what that's going to be, what platforms I'm going to be on, if I'm going to be still developing, if I'm going to be still an Apple developer, who knows? That kind of thing is unknowable. But I look at what I'm doing now and I'm saying, "Am I doing things that are going to give me options in the future, that are going to open doors and give me skills and abilities that are going to be worth valuable in general, not valuable in specific?"
00:28:20 ◼ ► Because technology is going to change, platforms are going to change, economics are going to change. Everything is always going to be changing, but I'll be the same here as I will be in the future.
00:28:32 ◼ ► And so am I doing things for myself now that are going to benefit? Future me is going to be thankful that I was making these choices now, rather than just going crazy like, "Hey, if you hit it big in the App Store, awesome, good for you."