I like to try new things just to see how they’ll turn out.
Often times the drive comes from curiosity and experience software craftsmanship beyond the reach of my day job. I do hands-on work with new tech of my choice, make good friends online or drag my inner circle into the floating ideas so that we can execute them together. In some cases even generate a passive income - the one that makes you earn ＄＄＄ while sleeping.
Some of my notable side hustles that passed the critical threshold - hobby projects that made it to public with relative success (then ended-up in graveyard) in no particular order..
Phone Guitar Tab - Mobile Companion App for Musicians
Right, the branding doesn’t sound like the best one out there. But this was an app that reached ~500k downloads worldwide on, ahem ‘Windows App Store’. Generating ~600 USD/mo through ad-revenue and ‘pro’ version sales. Indeed, it wasn’t enough to sustain my life without a full-time job, but back in the day it helped me upgrade my 🎸 guitar gear.
The story of it becoming a somewhat commercial success is an interesting one, given people hardly made a single buck on the Windows Phone. It started as an open-source initiative in the first place. The dopamine hit I got from reading positive app reviews came to and end when Microsoft decided to kill it’s mobile endeavor. Naturally, this app went to the museum of my side-projects. Now it’s a nostalgia.
It allowed me to experience few things which I wish every software developer can experience one day;
- First open-source contribution
- First hobby project that I made passive income
- Commercializing an open-source project
- Direct engagement with like-minded end-users, transforming their feedback into meaningful features
- Designing scalable software architecture, writing documentation for potential contributors, community management
- UX design, rapid MVP prototyping
- Gaining valuable friendships online and building something that matters
HipVisit - Collaborative Calendar for Teams
“Aren’t there already tons of productivity apps doing appointment scheduling and calendars?" - Everyone
Around 2015, there weren’t that many. The ones out there weren’t that intuitive and had a steep learning curve for an average service worker.
One evening I sketched the above. Next day after work, with my side-project buddy Bartosz we met at a bar to discuss about the MVP. We thought about the brand, cloud architecture, a RESTful API, the DB Schema etc. and picked-up a Front-End JS Framework (only viable option was AngularJS that time). Things that would allow us to quickly build an MVP and validate the idea. Since Microsoft accepted this project to it’s special program for startups, settling the tech stack was easy. 4 months in and we had the first MVP which we could soft-launch with our first non-paying customer.
We got great feedback after the private-launch. That first non-paying customer used the product for quite some time. But we never actually fully launched it because of the reasons I explained here. Overall it was a joyful ride and I experienced all these things;
- First SaaS entrepreneurship built collaboratively with potential customers
- Cloud native project experience on Azure right before enterprise cloud transformation had started
- Experiencing Single Page Apps when most web apps were server-side generated with Rails, PHP, ASP.NET MVC..
- All the necessary bits required to run a SaaS business apart from the software itself, such as branding, marketing, networking