Thursday, October 06, 2011

He Was Too Young To Die

It was 1967 and I was a five year old boy in a hospital room watching my family break down after hearing the news that my brother was dead. This reality was too hard for me to face at such a young age, so I chose to believe that my brother really wasn't dead. In my favorite cartoon at the time, Racer X was Speed Racer's brother, Rex, who was thought to be dead. I imagined Bobby also was just hidden from me.

By the age of twelve, I finally had a good cry about my loss when it struck me that 19 was too young of an age to die. My big brother had so much more to give and his passing left a huge void in my life. I was inspired to be a better son and try to fill the void for my parents.

In December of 1980, I was stunned by the news that John Lennon had been shot. I wanted to be a rock star, but my weak guitar skills and weaker singing voice forced me to choose a different path. I had just made the decision to go to college after a semester break. Graduating high school, the last thing I wanted was four years of college followed by a boring 9-to-5 job. My heroes were musicians and I wanted to inspire people like they had inspired me. The death of Lennon ripped a huge void in my life. He was who I wanted to be—unconventional, a person who changed the world. He was back in the studio recording music and had so much more to give us. John was too young to die. I was inspired to find a way to change the world in my own way even if it wasn't on a stage.

In March of 1984, my father died. I was 21, newly married, and ready to show my personal hero what I could do when he left me. This void was cavernous. He was 60 years old and too young to die. My dad's scope of influence was much smaller than Lennon's, but to me he was just as inspiring. He challenged me to be smarter, stronger, and to take risks in life. I lived to make him proud of me.

His funeral was followed by a proper Irish wake, which meant dozens of family and friends raising a glass to Fran Hoctor and telling stories of his life—I was too angry to join in much of it. Later that day, I got a call that my Macintosh had arrived and I should come pick it up. It felt wrong to be excited, but I couldn't help it. I had spent the last three months waiting for this and had become fascinated by the story of Steve Jobs and his pirate group at Apple who created this computer.

When Jobs stepped down from his CEO role, I knew he didn't have too much longer to live, but I thought we would get a year or two more from him. When I heard the news of his death yesterday, a new void ripped open for me. Steve had inspired me to create better software, to be a better leader, to inspire a team to create something that could change the world. He made me want to make a positive dent in the universe. And like the others, he had more to give us and was too young to die.

Steve was not a perfect man, but then neither were my other heroes. Inspiration doesn't come from perfection. Instead, it comes from the impact that someone makes in your life. Each of these men that died impacted my life deep enough to change my direction. They all inspired me and for that I owe each of them. My repayment will continue to be how I live my life.

Thanks to my brother and my dad, I have a deep love of family, the understanding that moments spent together are precious, and to not assume I will have time later to apologize. Thanks to John, I have a deep love of music and an understanding of how words and notes can move people to action. Thanks to Steve, I have a software company to run today. I will do what I can to honor his vision and create something great—maybe something that can change the world.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank You Steve!

In the early 80's I learned to write computer software. I really enjoyed writing software. Then in January of 1984, I touched a mouse on a Macintosh and my world changed. I fell in love with the idea of creating amazing software—code that could change the world.

I ordered my Mac 128K as soon as I could qualify for an Apple credit card.

What Steve Jobs has now—and has always had—is the ability to see potential where so many of us cannot. He wasn't afraid to fly in the face of convention and build something that no one asked for. There was no market demand for an appliance computer. The original Mac was as disruptive as the iPad is today, only the scope of technology was much smaller.

I've probably read too much about Steve Jobs and spent too much time thinking about what he did right and wrong—especially in the early days of Apple—but his tenures as CEO of Apple, NeXT and Pixar have forever changed my world. I have learned from his flaws as well as his successes.

Would I have fallen in love with designing software if I spent years writing command line driven apps? What would the graphical revolution have looked if it was built by people who weren't visionaries? How many years later would Apple-driven leaps in technology have taken?

I honestly don't want to know.

Thank you Steve being brave enough to say no to "good enough" and the vision to show us what's possible. Thank you for making computers fun and exciting. Thank you for putting a huge dent in my universe. May you win the battle over your illness and live to see many generations of breath-taking products built on your vision.


A Familiar Place

I have been here before. This place is familiar to me. Here is where the journey becomes steep, rocky and overgrown with vegetation. To my right is a well-worn path leading gently downhill. The smooth and packed soil looks easy on my legs, but I also know the destination. It's a place of sorrow and regret that saps energy from my soul.

After a moment of weakness, my gaze returns forward as I square my shoulders and seek a foothold. The first few steps cause the most strain, but this decision eases the pain and with every step my energy and confidence grows.

I have been here before and understand its temptations. It lies and deceives by offering a "better" choice but, at least this day, I will not fall for its trickery.

I have been here before and will be here again.


Thursday, July 28, 2011


I love the Black Hockey Jesus blog post ‘He’s Not My Character to Write Anymore’ not just because it's a touching tribute to his 13-year old son, but because he writes about the struggle of writing. I have too many posts that rot and die in my MarsEdit Drafts folder because I don't like them enough to publish them or I let writer's block prevent me from spending time on a post until it stops being current. I delay them and they die.

The months of silence on this blog also fills me with guilt. I started Entrepreneurial Seduction to help others build their businesses. I wanted it to be more interactive—more raw. It was supposed to a stream of consciousness, as if someone were reading a diary. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and a harsh self-critic so I hold back my writing looking for the right words or that amazing sentence that everyone will quote. It's a damn shame, too, because so much has happened in the last six months that would benefit fellow entrepreneurs. Delays in writing are a sure sign of rigor mortis settling in.

Typically, the dead zones in this blog align with periods of heavy software development. Let's blame this latest on MoneyWell 2.0, which has been chatted up by me for so long that it was compared to vaporware products TextMate 2 and Duke Nukem Forever. I even allowed the code name MoneyNukem to be bantered about until Duke Nukem Forever actually shipped—and sucked. Then I wanted nothing to do with it.

So what happened to delay MoneyWell 2.0 for so long? To be honest, the 2.0 release shipped two-and-a half years ago—it was just called MoneyWell 1.4 at the time. And then I shipped 3.0 fourteen months later, but called it 1.5. What we are working on now could legitimately be called MoneyWell 4.0. The problem is that I promised too much in 1.0 and felt guilty charging for an update. I delayed incrementing the major version number, which I consider to be a major business mistake.

No matter what we call it, the new version of MoneyWell is late. Why? Because we started it late. The finish wasn't delayed, the start was. Coding on 2.0 didn't begin until October 2010 due to delays caused by our syncing issues and MoneyWell for iPhone, and our current team wasn't coding 100 percent on 2.0 until December. The complete design-development-ship cycle should stay under one year—not too bad for what has amounted to a massive rewrite of my original code. I'm not trying to minimize or excuse the fact that MoneyWell 2.0 has taken too long to deliver. I allowed too many other activities get in the way of building 2.0, which resulted in the release being delayed.

So I need to thank John Gruber and his Daring Fireball post that led me to read the Black Hockey Jesus post, which allowed me to write another blog entry on my own site without a delay. Once MoneyWell 2.0 ships—and it will ship—I'll try to avoid any delays in writing a postmortem blog entry on the project cycle. I think there are lessons to be learned from my mistakes and that is why I started this blog.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making Money Is Not My Focus

I was incredibly inspired by reading Pixar's Brad Bird on Fostering Innovation (tip of the hat to Wil Shipley). There's so much packed into these nine simple rules, but the final one really struck a chord with me: Making Money Can't Be Your Focus.

I truly believe that rule and try to live by it every day. My little software company was created to make a significant difference in people's lives. For the past 30 years, I have made a decent living writing software, but this time around I wanted to make an impact as well. I do get frustrated when sales are low or when we haven't finished the new major release that will bring in higher revenues, but not because I'm dying to buy a yacht and retire: I want, no, I need to fund more cool software development. It's part of my DNA now.

What we create at No Thirst Software should be seen by our customers as amazing software and no matter how good it is today, I don't feel it's anywhere near amazing. There is so much we can do and so much potential to give people tools that can change their financial future that I physically ache for progress some days. This is why I've reinvested so much of our profits to grow this company even though the risk factor is high. I know that by myself I will never get everything accomplished that I have planned.

We have three major software releases scheduled for 2011 and years of ideas beyond those swimming around in my head. The day I start doing this for the money is the day I need to hand the company over to someone who still has passion for the product. Luckily, I can't imagine that day right now.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Mac App Store - Month One

I've waited to blog about the Mac App Store because I didn't want to jump to conclusions based on just a few days of sales. We're now at the end of the first fiscal month for Apple's newest software store and I'm ready to reveal my findings. Let's start with a graph, because everyone likes a good graphic.

MoneyWell Jan 2011 MAS.png

Above is a chart of unit sales for MoneyWell from, a resource that I highly recommend for tracking your sales. The bar chart shows unit sales and the line charts show ranking. The labels aren't perfect, so I'll explain them. The red line is Top Paid Overall (units), the green line is Top Grossing Overall (profit), the violet and blue lines are Top Paid and Top Grossing in the Finance category, respectively.

For the tl;dr crowd, my overall opinion of the Mac App Store is positive. I think it's already a great resource for increased sales and it will only become better as more Mac users migrate to 10.6.6 and are trained to use it exclusively when OS X Lion ships.


My biggest concern selling my apps on the Mac App Store had to do with cash flow. I recently expanded my development team and we are shoulder deep in MoneyWell 2.0 development, so overhead is up. With a new major release comes a need for newer, prettier pixels, so I've also had to set aside cash to pay a graphic artist. I couldn't afford to have my normal direct sales bank deposits, which occur four times a month, to turn into a 60-day wait for income. I won't receive a dime from Apple on the sales you see in the above chart until the end of February. That's just way too long to go without any revenue when employees and contractors haven't signed up for the same two-month delay.

Besides losing cash flow, I also wanted to be able to compare direct and app store sales. Running both throughout the month of January was very revealing. My direct sales are right on target with my projections for January based on MoneyWell sales in the previous two years. Unit sales from the Apple store are three to four times our direct sales. The two stores seem to be capturing customers independent of each other. Selling my apps through the Mac App Store has almost tripled my overall revenue. I'm not complaining at all.

What's more remarkable is that these sales are all without any significant promotion. I sent one mass mailing to my customer base announcing that we were in the Mac App Store and explained how upgrades and migrations would work, but I did no outside sales promotions. MoneyWell was picked as a Staff Favorite, which lasted for about a week, but the spikes in sales towards the middle and end of the month were strictly from more people finding us in the store.

The biggest boost appears to have come from reviews. MoneyWell received half a dozen 4- and 5-star reviews right before the first spike and doubled those reviews by the second spike. I have not adjusted the price at all; it still sells for $49.99 on and off the Mac App Store. There was a Debt Quencher sale, but that doesn't appear to have a direction relation to the MoneyWell spikes.

Debt Quencher Jan 2011 MAS.png

It's pretty easy to spot when I offered a limited $4.99 sale price of Debt Quencher on the chart above. What's harder to spot is the next transition from $14.99 back to $4.99. The last three bars show the new price point, which will probably become the new retail price. You can see that there is growth, but without a promotion that has a deadline for that discount, there was no spike. Here's a chart showing Debt Quencher profit.

Debt Quencher Profit Jan 2011 MAS.png

I'm currently earning less money selling Debt Quencher at the discounted price but I'm confident that sales will continue to rise at this lower price point. Even with the additional sales from the Mac App Store, this will probably never be a product that will cover the company overhead. Later this year, we plan to give Debt Quencher a revised UI and additional features to see if we can push this lower-priced product higher on the Top Paid chart. The goal is to use this impulse purchase product to lead people to our more profitable MoneyWell software.

Topping the Charts

What's most exciting to me is MoneyWell's rank in the overall top grossing list. We've been staying in the top 40 apps and have hit 20 as our peak. This means we get just a bit more visibility when people are looking around the store—the top 30 or 40 show without even scrolling down the page. I think we have an advantage over apps like games because the Finance category fits all its apps on a single page without needing further breakdown or navigation.

The magic number for visibility on the Top Charts page seems to be twelve, which is the number of apps that show before you have to click See All > and navigate deeper. My guess is that those apps are seeing higher sales by a factor of ten—or the square of that if Pixelmator is representative of the high-end revenue. Let's just say that my goal with our 2.0 release is to break into the dirty dozen.

Going Forward

My strategy is to continue to sell direct as well as on the Mac App Store. I see no reason to give up an extra 25% of my profit just to steer customers to the Apple solution. My direct sales through my FastSpring store are highly automated and don't require my intervention to process them. I can also run promotions and bundles on my site that can't be done through the Mac App Store. If my customers prefer to get their software updates from Apple, I certainly won't discourage them from using the other store.

It's really the best of both worlds: My existing sales are staying at projected levels and Mac App Store sales are even higher with an upward trend. If at some point my direct sales drop to near zero levels because everyone prefers shopping in Apple's house, I'll think about turning off my back end. Until then, I'll offer the same upgrades for my products no matter where my customers shop.