So Long, Old Friend
It’s been just over two years since my last app, Spend Stack, was acquired. For those of you who knew me when I was working on it, or stumbled upon me thereafter - you probably are aware that it was a special little app to me. A lot of sentimental value is tied up in those bits for the Morgan family.
For reference, here is a picture my oldest son during the launch of the first version of Spend Stack…
…and this is what he looks like today (plus two more kids!):
Today, though, Spend Stack seems to have reached end of life. It appears it is no longer available on the App Store. Oddly enough, even though I haven’t owned it for some time, I feel kinda…sad? The end of a personal era, I suppose? So it is, what follows is something of a eulogy, if you’ll bear with me.
So, here are a few of my favorite memories of good ol’ Spend Stack. The nifty, pretty little budgeting/running list/sometime grocery list/tax calculator app that never could quite find out what it wanted to be.
Because oh, the memories! Spend Stack will always have a nice little nook in my memory bank. It was the first app I launched, and it really sucked. Then, after several years later - it was pretty good and didn’t suck.
It was the app I first shared with the industry and community at large, and it introduced me to a whole new world, insofar as it led to me connecting with several other great indie developers who I now count among good, quality friends. Before I released it, I was someone who simply blogged about Apple APIs a lot (coincidentally enough, that’s back where I find myself today), but shipping it changed that.
Spend Stack allowed me to wear the badge of “indie developer” with as much pride and zest as one could muster.
I still remember the very first time I got CloudKit sync working, it felt (and still feels) like absolute magic seeing data shoot back and forth between devices. I was sitting at the counter of my old house and got it working on two iPads after a lot of research and dub dub session views. Being the heart-on-your-sleeve person that I am, I of course had to snap a picture to remember it:
Years before that, while awaiting the birth of my aforementioned first child, I was pacing back and forth at the hospital waiting for hours for the little guy to make his grand entrance. My wife, sensing my nerves slowly dwindling into a puddle of anxiety, suggested I work on Spend Stack to pass the time and relax. So, that’s what I did, sitting right next to her:
Of course, nothing beats the memories of waking up and seeing your app featured, or shooting up the charts. Like many of you reading, from those years - my camera roll is chock full of screenshots of my app:
Still today, one of my favorite professional memories is waking up and seeing it in stores, which I wrote about here:
Or hey! How about when Hair Force One replied to one of my emails about it, that was cool!
That was fun to read, but nothing beats a “you got this!” card from your wife when you launch an app:
Towards the end, there were the nerves shooting through my body the day I announced it was switching hands. I still remember it being an easy decision, at the time, as I was in the middle of building a new home and had been working on it for years at that point. Life is ironic, though, as it was featured as app of the day on the day it officially changed owners 🤷🏻♂️😆:
But, softening the blow was the fact that I also remember a mountain of effort it had in front of it to really unlock its potential. It had a lot of work to do, which caught up to me. In the end, I guess it caught up to the new owners too.
To close out, here’s what I learned looking back:
- I’ll only make an app using subs now. Spend Stack might still be around if it had started this way. Paid up front wasn’t working for me, and it was the main reason I sold it - a subscription required new features, messaging and a lot of time.
- Think of your app as a business. If I had done this, like I said above, it could’ve gone much further. It’s a shame, because people who used the app really enjoyed it - it’s like they could see it was onto to something just over the horizon. I treated it as a pet project, which is fine if you want to do that, but what happens when it grows and people start using it?
- Consider who you sell to. I sold Spend Stack to the party of which I emotionally connected to the most. It was not the company which had offered the most money for it. They were newer to iOS and seemed eager to take on Spend Stack’s challenges. Honestly, next time, I will think on decisions like this for a longer period of time.
- You learn as you go. I feel like I have 10,000 times the amount of knowledge of how all of this works now. But, you don’t get there by being on the sidelines. You have to ship and make mistakes to get there.
- You can do it again. It feels absolutely bonkers that I did any of this. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve work shopped and finished about five or six apps 50%-80% of the way. Shipping things is very hard, even when all of the tools are there to do it. You almost start to feel like it was the old you who could make cool things and ship them, but you still can. It just takes a new mindset, since I want to apply all I’ve learned to the next one while also making sure it ships at all!
- I will be forward thinking for my next apps. I will absolutely return to making apps. As many of you know, as Spend Stack sold, I embarked on a bucket list item to write a book series, which I’m still in the middle of. But, I’m also working on several apps ideas, and these are not apps - I am thinking of them as business propositions. I hope to bring the love and care of indie life to a sustaintable business model, which many in the community are successfully doing.
And finally, my sincerest gratitude to all of you who bought or used Spend Stack. I wish it had ended differently, of course, but I hope it gave you some joy for a little while.
Until next time ✌️