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RWDevCon Inspiration Talk – Teamwork by Ray Wenderlich

Learn how teamwork lets you dream bigger, through the story of an indie iPhone developer who almost missed out on the greatest opportunity of his life.

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At our recent RWDevCon tutorial conference, in addition to hands-on tutorials, we also had a number of “inspiration talks” – non-technical talks with the goal of giving you a new idea, some battle-won advice, and leaving you excited and energized.

We recorded these talks so that you can enjoy them, even if you didn’t get to attend the conference. Here’s our first talk – on Teamwork, by myself – I hope you enjoy!


People who are born before the 1960s or so commonly ask each other, “Where were you when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon?”

However, we, as iPhone developers have a different question. “Where were you when you got your first iPhone?”

I vividly remember when I first got my iPhone and I’m sure all of you do as well. It was a magical experience. Once we realized that we could make apps for this and show them off to our friends and have anyone across the world download it, we were hooked.

A Feeling of Excitement in the Air

For many of us, this was around the year of 2009. At that time, apps look like this:


And code looked like this:


The App Store was only one year old and we were in the middle of the great App Store gold rush. It seemed like everybody had the next great app idea.

Believe it or not, the guy that made this fat app made millions and we all wanted to be just like him.


There was this feeling of excitement in the air that inspired many of us to become full time iOS developers.

One of the first books on iPhone programming, Beginning iPhone Development by Dave Mark and Jeff Lamarche, summed up this feeling of excitement in the air really well. In its preface, it said:

“I haven’t been this excited about a programming platform since the first time I laid eyes on a Mac. The world is just beginning to open up.”

–Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche

Who here remembers that feeling when your first app was accepted on to the App Store? Wasn’t that an incredible feeling of accomplishment?

It was addicting and so we kept making apps. Our iOS community continued to grow, and before long, many of us started to make a full time living as indie iPhone developers making our own apps.

The Indiepocalypse

Fast forward to 2015. There aren’t that many indies left anymore. We call this the indiepocalypse and there’s been a lot of discussion about this from all of us on the iOS community over the last few months.

It all started when Jared Sinclair, a well known indie iPhone developer, released the sales numbers for his most recent app which were well below his expectations.


Soon, others started releasing the sales numbers for their apps and they were equally disappointing. The sense of doom and gloom started coming over the community. We started asking ourselves, “What happened? Where’d all the indies go?”

What happened is as the App Store has matured over the years, developers have started shifting from individuals to teams. By nature, teams can accomplish a lot more than individuals which makes it very hard for an individual to compete.

  • Logically, we know, in order to compete in such a market, we be best served by either joining or making teams of our own.
  • However, emotionally, it’s not that easy, because we have these feelings and fears standing in our way.

Feelings and Fears

First, there’s feelings. As developers, we’re used to working alone and we like it that way. We sometimes think, “I can do it best. I want to do all the work so it’s done right. I want things my way. I want all the credit and I want all the rewards. Mine, mine, mine.” Not very admirable is it, but it’s true. We’ve all felt that way sometimes.

Second, there’s fears. Sometimes, we’re afraid to be a part of a team. We sometimes think, “I’m afraid my teammates won’t work as hard as me. Or I’m afraid my teammates will mess up the vision I have for this project. Or I’m afraid of being a small cog in a grand machine.” I think these feelings and fears, we can’t let them paralyze us, because if we do, we can miss out on a great opportunity.

An Indie Story

Consider for a moment the story of an indie iPhone developer who almost missed out on the greatest opportunity of his entire life.

Typical business plan in 2009.

Typical business plan in 2009.

It all started back in that magical time we were talking about of the 2009. This developer decided to quit his job and become an iPhone developer. He was convinced he had the next great App Store idea and was going to become the next App Store millionaire.

Here’s what the app looked like:


I think I just heard Jony Ive cry. It looked pretty terrible. There wasn’t much to it and sadly it did not earn this developer his million dollars.

But he learned a lot doing it, he had a lot all along the way and he kept making apps. He was on the right place at the right time, so after about a year of doing this, he was lucky enough to be making a full time living as an indie iPhone developer.

About the same time, this developer started a blog, and the blog started to become popular. He realized he needed some help to take this to the next level, but this guy was one of those darned introverts I was telling you about.

What is an introvert to do?

What is an introvert to do?

Every time he would think about getting some help, he would make a million excuses as to why that was a horrible idea.

He would say, “No, I should just do it myself and that way it will be done right. Or, no, I’ll never be able to find anyone to help. Or, no, I can’t afford it.” Or a million other excuses. If this developer had it his way, it would still be that little blog that it was back then.

But luckily, this developer had a wife who is much smarter than he was and one day she sat him down and said:

“Listen, you need to either get some help or you need to shut down this blog.”

–A smart wife

Luckily, this guy was just smart enough to listen to his wife, so he did. He started looking for some people to work with and he found these incredible team and together they were able to take things much further than he ever could have on his own.

More importantly, he stopped thinking of himself as an indie iPhone developer and instead, he started thinking about himself as part of a great team.

Now, I’m sure many of you have guessed that this former indie iPhone developer I’m talking about is me:

App Store Income, 2009.

App Store Income, 2009.

I remember those $6 fondly. I think that was my entire income of 2009!

But that means that the great team I’m talking about is the team. By being a part of this great team, it has changed my life and ways I never would have imagined. I’ve gotten so many more benefits from being a part of this great time than I ever could have gotten as an individual.

Being a Part of a Great Team: 3 Benefits

Today, I like to share with you three of the benefits that you can get by being a part of a great team.

  1. First, when you’re part of a great team, we have this incredible feeling of camaraderie and fun. When we’re part of a great team, we get to hang out with our teammates, talk about geeky stuff, ask questions about bugs we’re working on, even Photoshop each other’s faces on silly pictures.
    The Backstreet Coders!

    The Backstreet Coders!

    It really makes you feel connected, appreciated and part of a tight-knit crew. Recognize any of these guys? They’re here.

  2. Second, just like we have our own personal reputations, teams have reputations too. By being a part of a great team, we can benefit from that reputation. Great teams have reputation for doing something really well whether it’s making great apps, making great open source software, or making great tutorials.

    Great teams hold each other to this high quality standard by giving each other feedback both in terms of what we did well and what we can improve upon in the future. This helps us improve both our personal and our team reputation.

  3. Third, and this one is the most important to me. Teamwork lets you dream bigger. As individuals, we thought in terms of making apps. As a team, we think in terms of making businesses. As individuals, we thought in terms of hosting meetups. As a team, we think in terms of hosting conferences. Teamwork expands the scope of what’s possible. Teamwork lets you dream bigger.

What Does This Mean to You?

What does this mean to all of you right now?

Indie Developers

I know there’s a few of you in this room who are currently indie iPhone developers or independent contractors. By indie, I mean one person, totally on your own. Can I have the indies in the room raise your hand? Okay, fair amount.

First of all, congratulations. It is not easy doing what you’re doing especially in this market and not a lot of people can do what you’re doing, but just because you can be successful all on your own, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best thing for you.

I encourage all the indies out there to at least consider teaming up with somebody else on a future project of yours, somebody who’s just as passionate about what you’re working on. Somebody who brings just as many skills to the table. Who knows what you might be able to accomplish together.

Those who are Happy with their Team

Most of us in this room are already part of a team, but there’s two cases, right? Either we’re happy with our team and we’re getting some of the benefits that we’ve just talked about or we’re not so happy with our team. So let’s talk about both of these cases.

Say you’re happy with your team. I encourage you to just take a moment and appreciate what you have, because I don’t want us to just have being an indie iPhone developer as the only thing we have up here on this pedestal as the one thing that we all look up to and admire and wish we could be and as the one benchmark we have for our success.

I also want us to put being a part of a great team right up there with them, because it’s just as challenging. It’s just as important, and you get just as many benefits, if not more so.

2 Pillars for Success

2 Pillars for Success

Take a moment and appreciate the great things you’re able to accomplish with a group of people working together toward a common goal. Also think to yourself how can you take that great team and make it even greater.

Those Who Are Not Happy with their Team

What about those of you who weren’t so happy with your team? For those of you, I encourage you to think how can you make your team into what it can be and what it should be. How can you build that sense of belongingness. How can you improve your team’s reputation. How can you begin to dream bigger.

Now, I know what some of you were thinking. You’re thinking, “Ray, you just don’t understand, okay? My boss is an idiot. My clients are clueless. The guy next to me all he knows is Fortran.” I know that some teams are going to be more challenging than others, but I would argue they’re still a lot you can do.

Let me share with you a few ideas just off the top of my head.

Do something silly!

Do something silly!

  • You could try to convince your team to code according to a common style guide.
  • You can start code reviews on your team if you’re not doing that already.
  • You could do something silly like Nerf gun wars or singing a silly iPhone Christmas song or anything to build that sense of camaraderie across your team.
  • You could start some periodic tech talks with your team to share some knowledge, maybe at lunch time.
  • You could start a team chat room so you can, hang out, ask questions and have fun.
  • You can start a board game group at lunch time.
  • You could appreciate your team when they do something well.
  • You can listen to your team. They often have the very best ideas.

These are just the few of the ideas I have. I’m sure you could come up with much better ones. You’re also going to get a lot more ideas from the inspiration talks at this conference.

The important thing isn’t necessarily what idea you choose, is that you try to do something. You see how it goes, you use that feedback to rinse and repeat. That is the power of iteration.

As you do this, this is going to become contagious. Your teammates will see you doing this and they’re going to start using the power of iteration too. Before long, you will go from an okay team to a great team. I truly believe no matter what our situation, we have the power to transform our teams into something incredible. Let’s make the most of it.

One More Team

Aside from our day jobs, there’s one more team that all of us here are a part of today; the iOS community. As iOS developers, we are extremely lucky because we are a part of the best community of developers that has ever existed. Before I go any further, could I just get a round of applause for the iOS community? That’s all of you guys.

We are a part of a great team and as a great team, we have a great reputation that we all benefit from of being incredibly open, supportive of each other, sharing of our hard one knowledge. We all contribute to this community in different ways.

Different Ways to Contribute

Different Ways to Contribute

Some of us write open source code. Some of us go to local meetups. Some of us answer questions on Stack Overflow. Some of us go to podcasts and some of us write blog posts.

Some of us are beginners and we’re not doing this yet, but that’s okay, because we will. As we improve our knowledge and skills, we will naturally find ourselves contributing back later. That is what the iOS community is all about and that is why I feel so lucky to be a part of this community.

Don’t Miss it All

Back in 2009 when I was an indie iPhone developer, I never would have imagined that I’d be here with the iOS community, with all of you making this conference happen today.

If I continued walking on that road that I was walking alone, I would have missed it all. Don’t fall into the same trap I almost did of being left alone on a side of the road with your feelings and your fears.

Instead, I encourage you to consider. What are the teams you could join or the teams you could make? What are the great things you could create together and how could you change your life and the lives of others?

As you begin to do this and you begin to make your wildest dreams become a reality just like in the preface of Dave and Jeff’s programming book, you’ll feel the world begin to open up.

It’s 2015 and to me, there’s still this feeling of excitement in the air more so than ever, because I truly believe with a spirit of friendship and cooperation, we can do anything.

Note from Ray: Did you enjoy this inspiration talk? If so, sign up to our RWDevCon newsletter to be notified when RWDevCon 2016 tickets go on sale!




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