In January 2016 the Cocoanetics blog as well as my iOS development business will exist 7 years. The business entity behind it – Drobnik KG – existed for twice as long. At the end of 2015 there will be several fundamental changes.
I had founded Drobnik KG together with my brother and father as holding company for our real estate. The idea for that I had gotten from Robert Kiyosaki’s books Rich Dad Poor Dad and Cashflow Quadrant. My father was running the business and insured a nice and steady growth.
7 years ago I started with iOS development, soon after the first iOS SDK was released. I published some apps of my own and also started taking on contract work. The basis of my income however was formed by selling closed source components. During this time I grew my revenues in leaps and bounds until at the end they were on par with the real estate income.
Most notably we become iOS development partners of ELO Digital Office in Germany and International Color Services in USA. For both we are to this date acting as the external iOS development department. Two of my colleagues have a full time job from that. I like to be jumping around and tackling new challenges where they might present themselves. On a recent project I took on the tasks related to architecting an API and SDK, senior developer stuff. Having a blast.
The Big Change
By the end of 2015, we had sold all our real estate at a profit. My father/CEO passed his 74th birthday this year and goes into his well-earned retirement. I am stepping up from being a limited partner to being the new CEO and majority stakeholder. For legal reasons – to keep a limited partnership intact – I am keeping my brother with a minority share in the company. As I’ve learned from earlier dealings with Apple, you cannot form a company with yourself.
As of 2016, Drobnik KG will basically be me and the people who work for us. When we formulated the new company contract I decided to have these three focus areas:
- Software Development
- IT Consulting
- Dealing in Hard- and Software
At first I was tempted to drop everything and only do iOS development, but the advice of the notary was to formulate it a bit more broadly. So I picked these three areas which sort of fit together.
Cocoanetics – as the brand name under which everybody knows me – keeps growing in fame and does our notoriety amongst Austrian companies in need of iOS app development. Several times a month we are getting contacted by companies who would like to subcontract me – personally – out to larger clients.
There is a definite increase of such contacts, but the time I have for actual development work shrinking all the time. Which leads me to the conclusion that I could do either of two things: I could sign up for several-month-long contracts and make good money doing all the work myself. Or I could increase our human resources.
For a while I was leaning toward the option that would allow me to lean back and just rake in the cash. But that’s not how I work. I am happiest if I am in the company of smart people whom I can teach the trade, whom I can mentor and who I can care for. I had learned from of Robert Kiyosaki: I want to be a business owner, not merely be self-employed.
Careers at Cocoanetics
The next question I get asked a lot: remote possible? Contracting?
Well… I don’t see that feasible. At contractor – by definition – does not work with the vision I have of having smart people around me. Also some of my clients are local to Austria and require that we sit down with them regularly. Also I don’t see my mentoring skills really working remotely over Skype.
There are people – who I admire greatly – who pulled off the virtual company. But we are virtual already! Both “my guys” are closer to the center of Austria, near Linz, whereas I am working in the capital Vienna. This mostly works because both of them have ownership of the big projects we run for our clients. With one of them I am on a project together at the moment and he’s coming by railway to Vienna about once a week just so that we can synchronize.
So the point is: remote only works if I can have you work on the project by yourself because you have my full confidence that you will make the client happy. But here we have a chicken-and-egg problem: As an experienced developer you probably have the skills, but you would be costing me too much for it to be economically feasible. As an inexperienced developer you need my guidance and help, and for that we need to be seeing each other regularly.
At this point I am willing to start expanding the team, but only by Junior developers. And only by people who are close to Vienna. For the first few month it will have to be a local job and as your skills grow you can be more and more independent. In the long term you might be able to be take on external client projects around central Europa, where you would be on-site for months at a time. Mid term we probably can reduce face time necessary to occasional visits. But short time, we need to work together.
We have a so-called Collective Agreement that governs the salaries for employed developers in Austria. So even as a Junior Developer you would get remunerated quite well. But I can only employ people who are legally able to live and work in the European Union. Or Interns. There the laws are less stringent as far as I know.
Personally, I don’t put much stock in formal IT education. I am looking for bright individual who possess the mental make up necessary to be happy developing software. I am more impressed by good abstract thinking skills, mental flexibility and if you quickly grasp complex and new concepts.
You know how to get in touch, the infos are all there. If you can see yourself living in the world’s second most-beautiful city, Vienna, and love to develop iOS apps, then we should talk.