Here’s an idea — I could take my newly minted Silicon Valley Veteran badge and appeal to investors who are personal heroes, like Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, Paul Graham, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Alison Jolly, Richard Dawkins, and Wil Shipley.
Or, if I may offer a friendly counterpoint—how about trying something actually revolutionary: eschewing the trappings of the modern Silicon Valley model and doing it punk rock-style. Funding has its place, but, realistically, how many application ideas that could actually be implemented with the iPhone SDK require the level of up-front investment that would make the tradeoffs of venture funding and the overhead of a large organization necessary? Not many people, in my estimation, are building anything for the iPhone that requires significant research and development, infrastructure, or engineering resources beyond a few capable coders with a good work ethic. By taking money from other people and assembling a whole team you always run the risk of compromising your vision, which, after all, is what working for yourself is all about.
When I left Apple to “do my own thing,” I did so with some very definite ideas about keeping things small. My plan was (and still is) to work on a number of different projects, each of a scope that is reasonable for me and one or two collaborators to complete. With PodWorks as a base, my hope is that at least one or two other things I build will catch on to the point that I’ll be able to keep on playing what my friend and collaborator Andrew Wooster, borrowing a term from Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine,” calls “pinball.” That is, I’ll get to move on to the next project and keep on being the master of my own destiny.
In many ways this is the harder, riskier path (I’d be lying if I said there aren’t days when I worry about money, and there are definitely times when I wish I had a few more engineers or an in-house designer to help me out), but ultimately, I think, the more rewarding one. I don’t have to answer to or share the rewards of my work with anyone except people I respect and have chosen to collaborate with.
We’re living in the “anyone can play guitar” era of software entrepreneurship. Because of the confluence of increasingly accessible developer tools and the Internet, it’s now reasonable to think that one or two talented people, with little to no investment, can make anything from a good living to a fortune by bringing their idea to life. What kills me about the outmoded Silicon Valley gold rush mentality that I feel has entered the Mac developer community for the first time because of the iPhone is how much it fundamentally ignores the significance of Apple’s App Store as a field leveler. In many ways I think it’s the most advanced expression of this new era of software entrepreneurship yet. Come on, people: let’s not sell ourselves short on this opportunity for a bit of Palo Alto office space.