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App Developers, It's Time For a Reality Check 161

Nerval's Lobster writes: "An article in the Harvard Business Review does its best to punch a small hole in the startup-hype balloon. 'Encouraging kids to blow off schoolwork to write apps, or skip college to become entrepreneurs, is like advising them to take their college money and invest it in PowerBall,' Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont professor of management at the Ross School of Business and the editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, wrote in that column. 'A few may win big; many or most will end up living with their moms.' Whether or not the unfortunate developer ends up back in the childhood bedroom, it's true that, with millions of apps available across all mobile platforms, it's increasingly difficult for independent developers to stand out. Compounding the problem, some of the hottest companies out there for developers and programmers don't have nearly enough job openings to absorb the flood of graduates from the world's universities. So what's a developer to do? Continue to plow forward, with adjusted expectations: the prospect of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg is just too tantalizing for many people to pass up, even if the chances of wild success are smaller than anyone rational would like to admit."
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App Developers, It's Time For a Reality Check

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  • Web Bubble 2.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:30PM (#46643413)

    Complete with outrageous billionaire dropout success stories, exploited immigrant workers, extreme gentrification, and a legion of Johnny-Come-Latelies graduating just in time to see the whole thing collapse like a house of cards.

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:37PM (#46643483)

    I thought we needed H1-B's because there weren't enough people to fill all these jobs. What, now suddenly all the jobs are filled?

    With H1Bs.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:44PM (#46643571)
    Or you'll live a miserable life of what if's and what could have beens. Are the odds against immediate success against you? Maybe. Sure. Who gives a fuck.Go for it. Even if you "fail" you'll still learn a bunch of shit and be better for the effort in more ways than you can ever imagine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:45PM (#46643579)

    Yeah, people still want to get paid for programming for others. Until people are willing to work for free, people running these companies will continue complaining about the "shortage".

  • Wait a minute! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:53PM (#46643671)

    Are you telling me that a story in the Harvard Business Journal, published by Harvard College, tells students not to drop out of expensive college courses?


  • Re:Viewpoint (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:59PM (#46643731)

    I wouldn't confuse education with credentials. You're educated, but not credentialed. They're credentialed, but may not be educated. Self education is the best education.

  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @06:21PM (#46643949)

    Graduate first. Then go for your dreams.
    Because if you fail and you have to fall back on normal employment, dropping out has just put you all the way back to the end of the line, behind all the unemployed educated people.

    You can waste a few years after college in dead-end attempts. You can explain that in an interview, it might be a positive (because you're entrepreneurial, and because you've failed and won't be running off again soon).
    But if you didn't graduate, you aren't likely to get the interview in the first place.

  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @06:23PM (#46643963)

    There's a severe shortage of programmers with 25 years experience in Java, gimme more H1B.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @06:37PM (#46644097)

    The article is talking about Independent App developers.

    To make a living in the US and this is living cheap - you need to sell $50,000 per year worth of apps. After SS, taxes, etc ... you'll have a take home pay of about $35,000.

    Now, go up to your favorite app store and see how many apps are selling at those levels - remember per year. So, if an app has been around for a couple of years, it'll need to have sold at least $100,000 worth. That's 100,000 at $0.99.

    And I didn't even mention startup costs: computers, devices, developer fees, etc ....

    tl;dr: the only app developers I know making a living developing apps have a W2 job working for a company that uses their apps as part of their service - examples: NetFlix, Weather Channel, The Economist, Amazon, Napa, etc ....

  • How about? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @06:46PM (#46644161)
    How about graduates switch back to solving problems in science, engineering, health. Stuff that matters. The world needs another Facebook or another "app for that" like it needs a hole in the head.
  • I went for it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:02PM (#46644299)

    And I failed.

    I now have almost $150,000 in debt, ruined credit, and no job prospects. What should I have done different?

    I shouldn't have been so optimistic. A bit of pessimism is good for getting a reality check.

    That's the trouble, we see all these success stories out there in the media and never the failures which then gives us a skewed perception of our chances of succeeding.

  • Re:I went for it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:32PM (#46644509)

    I now have almost $150,000 in debt, ruined credit, and no job prospects. What should I have done different?

    I went for it.

    I failed.

    I have no debt other than the mortgage I started with, excellent credit, and a good job. What did I do differently?

    I gave up when the money ran out and went back to work for The Man, rather than throw good money after bad. Trying to launch a startup is a gamble and should be treated precisely the same way. Only use money you can afford to lose and do not spend one thin dime of money you don't have trying to "win it all back" if you hit bottom. Quit and go home.

    Too late for you, but for other people thinking about it, this can't be repeated enough.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:36PM (#46644547)
    their moms/dads are rich. They can blow off school and go back whenever you feel like it. If you look at just about every successfully "Entrepreneur" they come from upper (way upper) middle class to very rich.

    We here in America like to pretend we've got a lot of upward mobility that isn't really there. So when somebody starts making millions we pretend they pulled themselves up by bootstraps. Heck, Bill Gates started out with nothing except a 1 million dollar trust fund, his father's years of experience as a business lawyer and his mother's seat on IBM. If he can make it anyone can.
  • by LF11 ( 18760 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @09:59PM (#46645661) Homepage
    Programming is one of the few industries with a reasonable unemployment rate composed largely of people who are voluntarily between jobs. In my opinion (having gone into a programming career straight out of high school, then going to college at 26) skipping the fucking bullshit in higher ed and going straight for programming is a perfectly valid and appropriate course of action.

    Skip the debt. Skip the "social justice" BS while money slips away from you like diarrhea. Skip the booze and marijuana and dead-end "self-discovery." Go straight to where it counts, and build a life in a field where lives and careers are still being built.

    My company just upgraded their dev position hiring rec to always-on. We now are hiring (competent) devs any time we find them, regardless of whether we have a place for them at that moment.
  • Re:Viewpoint (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:13AM (#46647117)

    Personally, I don't give a shit how my team dresses (well, as long as they DO dress...). But then again, I only have to manage less than a dozen people.

    I honestly have to wonder why I should care how they dress. What I care about is their work.

  • Great Advice! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msmonroe ( 2511262 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:41AM (#46647193)
    From my observation of the start-up community it seems obvious that 99% of the engineering students should continue to pursue their degrees and work on their dreams of becoming billionaires on the weekend or in their spare time. I am speaking in generalities and could be full of crap! Your mileage will vary!

    Most entrepreneurs would not use the product they are working on daily; I know their are exceptions, thanks!

    Most of the ideas that people come up with fit into 4 basic categories.
    1. The idea is actually a feature that could be implemented in an existing piece of software but it is not worth becoming an actual stand alone business and would probably not bring in any paying business.
    2. The idea is actually a really horrible idea and they are either too delusional or have been lied to about how bad it is and they just don't know.
    3. The idea can make money; but it's actually an idea that is a business niche and could generate some income but it is not a huge business!
    4. The idea is a copycat; unlikely to make money, why go with a copycat when you can go with the original product. Brand inertia is difficult to overcome.

    Being part of a start-up is also pretty crappy, Hollywood makes it out to be this big glamorous adventure; The expectation is that you'll spend all your time and excess money into the start-up; it's like being divorced with 3 kids and your ex-wife is a gold digger and drags you back to court every chance she gets to get more money out of you.

    Even if you get funded the Angel/VC , seems like the terms are almost interchangeable nowadays, they will want you to still work for free; yeah work for free! I know there's a lot of talk about how much compensation do you take out once your funded but the truth is that it is almost always doesn't happen.

    If your lucky enough to make it all the way to the end and sell out to larger business or go public your compensation at the end is usually comparable to those that worked professionally during that same period of time or less.

    Even with all that though it still depends on what your long term goals; if you want to get experience in building a business and leveraging finance then it could end up being worth it. If your expectation is a really painful get rich quick scheme I'd advise staying away.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead