Portland developer builds app business

| Print |  Email
Articles - March 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Follow-up: August 2009 feature, "Kickin' apps"

OBMRavenZachary-115
Raven Zachary, founder of Small Society, which develops applications for the iPhone.
PHOTO BY ANTHONY PIDGEON

Remember reading about the casual coder who wrote an app for the iPhone in his spare time and ended up making a killing? Well, the early days of the App Store gold rush are over, according to Raven Zachary, founder of Portland-based iPhone development shop Small Society. “The idealism of quitting your day job and making a million dollars, that was not grounded in reality,” he says.

Except that’s basically what happened to him. Out of love for the iPhone, Zachary quit his job as a tech analyst to consult on app development. But after collaborating on the highly visible Obama campaign app, he found himself with more work than he could handle. He realized that the money was not in writing your own killer app and reaping profits from the App Store, but in building apps for other people who want to get in on the action.

So far Small Society, born just over one year ago, has built apps for Starbucks, Zipcar, Whole Foods Market and other big- name companies. Small Society has had two apps featured on stage at official Apple events and three apps featured in Apple commercials. Zachary says Small Society was the first iPhone development company in Oregon to hit a million dollars in revenue. All Zachary’s clients approach him first; Small Society gets enough referrals that they have to turn many down.

Zachary attributes Small Society’s success to its early advantage and commitment to quality work. But now the “absurdly hot iPhone dev shop,” as it was dubbed by the leading tech blog ReadWriteWeb, is faced with the challenge of controlling its own growth. The dangers of being absurdly hot are one, you could cool down; and two, you could explode. Small Society has done neither, opting for “slow growth” — which in the rapidly moving mobile industry means it has doubled its size in a year to eight employees and is hiring for two more positions.

“There are two long-term models. Stay small, be high-profile with a waiting list, take clients at the rate we want to take things, and be the masters of balancing our work and our personal lives. That’s the Portland model of doing things,” Zachary says. “Or, you sprint like mad and build an empire.”

Small Society seems on track to stay small, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sprinting like mad. With the unveiling of Apple’s new tablet computer, the iPad, Small Society’s momentum seems unlikely to slow. The iPad opens up the opportunity to tweak iPhone apps for past clients for the new device, as well as develop for new clients who have iPad-specific ideas. “We’re a little bit hitched to Apple’s innovation wagon, which is a beautifully fun place to be,” says James Keller, one of Small Society’s founding members.

This is an office of Mac and iPhone geeks, which means there are no plans to start developing for non-Apple mobile devices. Once the iPad clamor dies down, the next wave of demand will come from companies that want to redesign apps they did cheaply and quickly when iPhone apps first got trendy, just as website redesigns were popular in the ’90s. Zachary hopes to continue working with clients to update their apps as Apple comes out with new upgrades, such as the new iPhone that’s coming this summer.

But eventually, the Small Society crew hopes to start building their own ideas for killer apps.

ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

Comments   

 
Bryce
0 #1 Nice ArticleBryce 2010-03-12 12:59:58
Its really exciting to see Small Society and the other Portland app companies here. Look forward to seeing them grow...
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
C. Laylow
0 #2 say what?C. Laylow 2010-03-12 14:10:35
USD#1 mil?

Should be more for ten people...
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Adrianne Jeffries
0 #3 @C. LaylowAdrianne Jeffries 2010-03-15 09:28:31
"Zachary says Small Society was the first iPhone development company in Oregon to hit a million dollars in revenue." They were the first to make $1 million, not that they've only made $1 million. It's more now, but they wouldn't disclose their revenues. Make sense?
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...

Corner Office: Marv LaPorte

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.


Read more...

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Kill the Meeting

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.


Read more...

The short list: 4 companies engaged in a battle of the paddles

The Latest
Thursday, December 04, 2014
pingpongthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Nothing says startup culture like a ping pong table in the office, lounge or lobby.


Read more...

Reimagining education to solve Oregon's student debt and underemployment problems

News
Thursday, November 13, 2014
carsonstudentdept-thumbBY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.


Read more...

Corner Office: Steve Tatone

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits about the president and CEO of AKT Group.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS