The Long Play

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

There’s a common misconception that, since Appsterdam is the world capital of App Makers, the Appsterdam foundation makes apps. We don’t. As a meta-organization, we don’t produce apps ourselves; we represent the interests of people who do. The inevitable next question is, “then how do you make money?”

It’s like the Egg Board or the Cheese Council. The individual for-profit producers pitch in a bit of money to support a non-profit organization that promotes the product, advises the government, and guides the industry. Their goal in doing so is not to make money themselves, but to increase the overall economy for the sake of their constituents.

We come up with solutions to problems our industry has. We have meetings with 40-60% female attendance. We teach people how to give better conference presentations. We’re building a better valley in the heart of Europe. We’re providing a destination for the world’s smartest people.

Individuals and organizations who appreciate what we do can support our work by donating money, time, and facilities to the foundation. We’ve been operating for the past year on almost zero budget. Imagine what we could do with money.

That inevitably leads to the question that must cut to the quick of every person who’s ever founded a non-profit: “How do you make money?” The logic goes something like, if you’re not paying yourself a huge salary, then you must be doing it for love, and nobody works for love, so you must be a fraud.

That kind of logic is not just insulting, it’s simplistic. The Appsterdam foundation does not have commercial goals. Personally, I do this for religious reasons, but if you are unable to see a world where people do things for reasons other than money, you will just have to look harder. The opportunity is not in the Appsterdam foundation itself, but in the ecosystem that the foundation is building.

This brings us to the parable of Steve Jobs. As CEO of Apple, he only paid himself a dollar a year. You can argue about whether he did it for love, but you can’t argue that he didn’t become a very, very rich man.

In lieu of salary, Steve took stock. Then he led the organization into a period of growth that saw it eventually become the world’s most valuable company. Not only can you make a lot more money with stock than a typical CEO salary, you pay a lower tax rate, and don’t look like you’re fleecing investors, since they’re getting rich, too.

We are App Makers. By contributing to the tech communities where we live, we can all benefit. As Appsterdam lives up to its potential, it will continue to attract top talent, investors, and opportunities, not just for the people of Appsterdam, but for everyone.

There are plenty of people around here content with a couple hundred thousand Euro from the government, but that’s chump change compared to the kind of money you can make in the long play.

I want to make the world’s best educational games, right here in Amsterdam, and I plan to make money by doing so. A lot of money. But to steal one from Carl Sagan, if you want to build apps, first you have to build Appsterdam.