I love hearing these stories. Thanks for sharing yours!
I can definitely chime in and say you're on to something with this notion of combining two skills only you can pull off.
I spent my 20s more or less being a snowboarding bum. I lived in various ski resort towns working odd jobs, really just trying to work as little as possible so I could spend the afternoons getting really good at hitting snowboard jumps.
It took about five years of consistent practice to get to a level where I was regularly hitting the biggest jumps in the terrain park. At the peak of my abilities, I was doing double backflips, 720s, gnarly stuff like that.
I spent summers in New Zealand because I was that crazy and that addicted. I think there was a year or two where I didn't experience summer at all because I would just fly to wherever it's winter.
Obviously, unless you're like a mega pro who was born with a snowboard strapped to your feet, there's not any money in snowboarding. And even at that level, there's always someone better, someone younger, someone who came up through the right channels.
I was pretty happy with what I had accomplished, but I knew I needed to move past the snowboard bum phase of my life.
And one day, I saw these kids playing with these plastic dice on the gondola. They had tricks on them. So you would roll a trick and try it, challenge your friends, that kind of thing.
This was right around the time smartphones were becoming mainstream, so it occurred to me that you could put this on phones as an app.
Long story short, that's how I launched my first product, Snow Dice
. My team then took the idea and expanded it to skateboarding and skiing. It is the result of doing exactly as you say, combining two skills only you can pull off.
Nobody I knew in the snowboarding world had the same knowledge of the sport plus ability to ship software. And there were plenty of people who could ship apps, but none of them were in the sport or could understand it as well as we did.
The idea was always for the product to be more than just a software version of the dice. You can use it to learn what the tricks are. It has difficulty settings, so you can try things near your ability level. There's even an advanced feature that puts tricks together in a line, something nobody was doing at the time.
Anyway, this was some time ago, but the crazy thing is the product still makes consistent revenue. The idea is kind of timeless. I've been collecting that dividend for almost ten years now. It hasn't really grown much, but it doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
People say there's no money to be made in mobile, and that's half true. If you aren't drilled down and focused on a specific kind of customer, you'll be competing with everyone.
For me and my team, it worked because we were the customer. We knew exactly what our friends would want in that product, and we built it for them.
I'll have to chew on what you've said though. Over the years, my interests have kind of changed, but I've also wondered about some new ways to use software to train people up in the sport I love.
For anyone reading this, the coolest thing about doing any of this isn't the little bit of money you get every month. Oddly enough, my apps have somehow gotten onto over 100,000 smartphones, and it's not too uncommon to run into my customers on the chairlift.
Small things add up over time.