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Going Indie

On October 13, 2013 a plan was hatched. It wasn’t a diabolical House of Cards political gambit or even anything more concrete than a rough outline. No, on the seven hour drive back from Çingleton in Montreal, we planned to take our small, part-time app development company, Lickability, full time in 2015. And today, right on schedule, I am starting as the first full-time member of Lickability.

In the summer of 2009, right around high school graduation, my friend Matt Bischoff called me up one night with their idea for this new thing called an “app.” Armed with nothing but an idea and an abundance of teenage hubris, we built our first iOS app Broadway for theater showtimes, and a partnership was born. We officially created Lickability that year on our laptops at a local Panera, and two new apps and countless hours later, we’re making that company dreamed up by two kids six years ago into a small, world-class software studio.

With a full-time engineer, we will be giving some much-needed love to our existing apps Velocity and Quotebook this year, adding a few nifty iOS 8 features and overdue bug fixes. Additionally, while Lickability has done some selective consulting in the past, we’ll now be taking on more client work, and we’re excited to help others build lickable apps. We’ve got a team of three talented people who have worked for The New York Times and Tumblr and collectively have over 15 years of experience building iOS apps. If you or anyone you know would like to discuss working on an app, feel free to say hello — we love talking to people about their ideas.

One thing that we’ve always done at Lickability is take our time and do things the “right way.” We take our time to ship releases because we want them to be up to our standards and make sure that they’ve got the features and polish that they deserve. We’re taking the same approach with our company. For the past two years we’ve worked on app releases and client projects that have allowed us to save enough money to pay me full time for more than half a year. Without taking any external investment, we’re funding this experiment entirely from the proceeds generated so far by Lickability. While the initial outside funding approach has worked for many, we’re proud to be responsible to no one but ourselves for our future.

Six months. That’s how long we’ve given ourselves to make this work. Like with any business, it’s important to determine how to become profitable over a period of time. So, paying me a full-time salary, we’re going to be profitable in six months or I’m going to start looking for a new gig. As much as we’re idealists who would love to toil away on perfecting products, we understand the realities of starting a small business in a volatile industry. I’m confident that we’re going to meet and exceed our goal, but it’s necessary to have a realistic and well-defined metric for success, and profitability within six months is ours.

Everyone I’ve talked to about this plan has a laundry list of questions: Are you taking funding? Will you have an office? Who’s going full time next? What does success look like? Who’s this phantom third member of Lickability? We’ve made some incredible friends who have successfully started their own businesses — Marco Arment, Allen Pike, Myke Hurley, Matt Alexander, Mark Kawano, to name a few — who we have relied on for advice and answers to those same questions. But not everyone has that same luxury, so I’ll be writing about what it’s like to build an app development company on the Lickability blog whenever possible. Hopefully I can provide a peek behind the curtain and insight into some of the fears, challenges, and triumphs of growing our company.

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”  –  Steve Jobs

When I announced that I was leaving The New York Times a little over a week ago, the outpouring of support before I had even mentioned what was next was beyond imagination. We would not be here without that same support from all of the amazing people who have helped us over the years, and for that we are sincerely grateful. I’m excited for the next chapter, and I know that we will make Lickability into something great. But for now, it’s time for me to get back to work.