Money Money Making

By Mike / On / In Technology

Maybe it’s the winter chill, or the end of the fiscal year, but it seems like I’m being asked this question a lot: “I’m working on a great app, but it’s going to be a while before it ships, and my savings are running perilously low. What should I do?” As opposed to deeper existential questions like whether to trade in startup life for spending weekends with your kids, this one is easy: do contract work.

You will be in good company. Many is the famous artist who has to work outside their preferred medium to make it through tight times. Many is the painter who has to paint houses to buy art supplies. Many is the actor who has to wear a chicken suit between acting gigs. Many is the novelist who has to write books to buy alcohol.

Don’t try to work on your app part time. Finish your contract, then get back to your baby. With careful budgeting and a simplified life, you can work for someone else for a few weeks to enable working for yourself for a few months. Make no mistake: this is about compromise. You’re not necessarily doing something you love. You have to have patience that the time you are buying will make up for it.

Don’t limit yourself to the popular platforms. You probably want to spend all your time on iOS or Android, but so does everyone else, and competition for contracts is as fierce as on any app store. On the other hand, new platforms like Microsoft Windows Phone are wide open. Don’t discount “old” platforms, either. You might find them boring, but the money spends the same.

The perception of BlackBerry in particular is a potential goldmine. Their market share numbers are in decline, but in real numbers they still have 70 million subscribers, with some 36 million users in EMEA. They’re active in some lucrative markets, like government and enterprise, and surprising to me, are seen in some markets (like the Netherlands!) as the young person’s alternative to the stodgy executive’s iPhone.

Their users have money, their bosses have money, and RIM itself still has a little bit of money, which it’s willing to spend on you. Providers of sparkly platforms have little incentive to treat their developers as well as providers of platforms like BlackBerry.

Look at the upcoming BlackBerry DevCon Europe. Yes, it’s not the most beautiful site in the world, but look past that at the actual numbers. Not only is it a cheap conference at €350 (€250 early bird, although that ends tomorrow), but look at the other stuff on that page.

You get free hardware, which might not be too exciting for a hardcore gearhead like yourself, but don’t think of it that way. Think of it this way: if I’m going to a BlackBerry conference it’s because I want to make money making BlackBerry apps. The hardware ensures I can, which looks suspiciously like someone actually stopped to think of my expectations.

I’m impressed that they have tools inline to help potential attendees plan budgets and convince their bosses of the value of their attendance. That really says something about understanding the experience of someone trying to get to this show. I am even more impressed that they offer a €90 guest pass so you can bring a date to the receptions and parties.

This is RIM ahead of the curve. I am convinced that enabling people to bring their partners to tech conferences is key to increasing diversity in our field. It not only reduces the testosterone and nerdiness levels in the atmosphere, it reduces the potential for the kind of sexist misbehavior that marred last year’s conference season.

A good friend of mine once said something like, RIM is in trouble, but RIM is not stupid. When they come to Appsterdam and tell me they’re betting on App Makers, I realize that he’s right.

“Ask and ye shall receive” bonus: RIM is offering Appsterdammers 50% off admission to BlackBerry DevCon Europe with the promo code DSTET0.

Free Money Circuit

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

Appsterdam is the best place in the world to be an App Maker. One of the things that makes that is true is the number of coding contests held here. We’re getting to the point where it’s not such a crazy idea to actually live on the free money circuit, each demo propelling your company toward launch.

Apps for Noord Holland is the latest in a series of government-sponsored hackathons that award cash prizes for apps using open data.

Sanoma App Challenge is an open call for ideas, with an awesome prize for best entry. This year’s contest will involve a hackathon in the Appsterdam tent at Picnic.

Google is hosting a competition for Chrome apps for its Dutch Web Store. The best apps will win free Chromebooks and prominent placement.

Shipping a product takes months, but most contests only require a proof of concept, which takes hours. When you’re trying to get started, or are interested in exploring new ideas, contests are a good way to go.

In addition to cash and prizes, winning contests is a great way to make a name for yourself, and the events around them often bring introductions to connections and opportunities. Sometimes the people you meet even losing a contest are worth more than the prize!

Coding contests are also the perfect opportunity to check out a new platform. What better motivator to learn a new skill than the chance to win something in the process?