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My first brush with fame happened as I was sitting at a gate in Salt Lake City. I had just driven in when I read that Seth Godin mentioned on his blog the app that I had published. It was October 19, 2010. About four months earlier, I took his open call to have a non-linear presentation app for the new iPad that had come out in April of that year.

I ended up hiring app developers out of Pakistan on Elance to create the first few versions. I had no clue what I was doing and it showed on the early versions of the software. The app would crash and exit, or hang, or things would render incorrectly, or there were weird artifacts on the screen, or some shading on a graphic. I could tell the developers what to build but it would required much more work to make sure that it worked more than once.

What I learned is that good software is a grind. You get something that kind of works and then you grind on it, testing it, over and over. Then you release it and you realize how little your testing covered in use cases. Oh, and then there are feature requests. Then there are new OS updates to support.

I just wanted to make something cool but questions that I didn’t ask myself were:

  • How long was I going to support the software?
  • What was my rule for whether a feature made sense?
  • What issues was I willing to fix?
  • How much was I willing to spend on fixes and over what period?

From subsequent releases of software, I found that the initial development costs tended to be only half of the “lifetime” cost of supporting that software, especially if it touched consumer users. If it was a revenue source, the number was going to be much higher.

After about two iOS versions, I got off the iPad app treadmill. The iPad dev scene wasn’t mature, talent was limited, and ever second version of iOS required a complete rewrite of the code.

The reward to being early to the game is fame. The consolation for doing something slowly on a mature platform… boring profitability.

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