Can’t place the exact date, but I’ll never forget the feeling… Driving down Washington Blvd in my Mazda, tears welling up in my eyes.
I generally never cry, but this time the tears were ready. I couldn’t understand how I had worked so hard just to become a failure yet again.
Had recently learned at work that of our cohort of 8 MBA graduates, 2 would be getting promoted, while 6 of us would be taking a lesser title. Something about cost issues, blah blah blah…
My pay was not being decreased, but I have to tell you it stung… and that I felt disrespected, and not for the first time.
Several times before that I found myself wondering why I needed an MBA to make 100 photocopies, or why I was being instructed to get up from the meeting table so that someone my age and rank could take my seat, or why I was being yelled at over the phone on Saturday night because someone’s revenue numbers were not as he wished they were… No, that was not the first time, but it was the final straw… and I have to thank God for that moment & that feeling because it fueled my fire.
Once I got past the sadness and into the anger, I found myself flung into action, doing unreasonable things like deciding to attend a networking conference in Indiana the night before it happened (and spending ~$2K for the weekend) in hopes of getting any other job.
Unreasonable things like spending $10K and $2K respectively on 2 different courses on developing mobile apps and games through outsourcing (thank God for my signing bonus).
Unreasonable things like affirming to myself “I am an app millionaire” over and over at high volumes in my car and spending every waking moment that I had free working on or at least thinking about my business.
Sometimes unreasonable things are precisely what it takes.
I spent about 6 months getting my first game developed, working through setbacks such as a talented artist who could not really speak English (turns out communication is important) and a talented developer who was in the middle of school exams in addition to my own inexperience, which led me to focus my attention on the wrong areas which did not provide leverage.
Still at the end of 6 months, I was very proud to have an app on the App Store… and boy did I learn a lot. The learning I was doing every day just to keep up made me feel alive in a way that the Excels & Powerpoints of my day job could never match. I was hooked.
My first month on the store I achieved 936 downloads and made $81.78, divided into $38.72 in advertising revenue from Chartboost (a mobile ads network) and $43.06 in paid app/in app purchase revenue from Apple.
The next month we got 2762 downloads for $132.38 and I kept working. Realized I needed to get more downloads so read everything I could find about app marketing and sought out some of the more successful members of the group for mentorship, forming relationships by offering them the best information that I could manage to find and generally trying to be helpful.
The next month I made $1196.68, on 22651 downloads… which was actually enough to cover my rent plus a little. We were getting somewhere now. Stayed in the $1000-$2000 range for the following 3 months and continued to spend A LOT of time researching the market and learning about marketing techniques/search optimization. Early that December I published 3 games, 2 of which immediately took off, largely due to my research. I would go on to earn significantly more from the business that month than I did from the job I had come to hate. I would not leave the job for another 4 months, but it was clear life would never be “normal” again.
There have been many crazy stories since then (and I will elaborate someday), such as:
- Receiving an offer on the company that December, just six months after going live (such a shock that it caused me to call out sick for 2 days)
- Turning that offer down (nothing like betting on yourself)
- Hitting top 10 on the Apple charts for 80,000 downloads in one day by gaming the search algorithm (and creating a fun game, I suppose)
- Eventually selling my largest portfolio in 2015
- Shifting to a partnerships model & working with major influencers
- Speaking at an Entrepreneurs Conference in Hawaii
- Working with a billionaire to help African entrepreneurs
- Launching a virtual mentoring program to help 1000 aspiring appreneurs succeed
It’s been a wild ride, but much more than the money, my favorite part has been earning the freedom to control my time, be my authentic self, go for greatness, and help a lot of people.
Beyond any individual & monetary success, my goals are to impact a lot of people and create tremendous value. With respect to that, I am just getting started.
As for the App Game, things have changed drastically as more and more apps have filled up the App Stores, increasing competition and leading many independent developers to throw in the towel in frustration. The tactics that made me successful in 2013 are not necessarily the keys to success today.
However even in this more competitive marketplace, a number of independent app developers continue not only to survive, but to thrive because they have identified winning, repeatable business models and executed against those models consistently and violently.
We can all win together.
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