Why I’m Leaving Sun

I need to set the record straight on some things. Recently the news has hit the Web that I am quitting my job with Sun Microsystems after the success of iShoot, and I’ve had countless armchair quarterbacks telling me what a stupid decision it is to be leaving my day job. I know I should just ignore it and let them be foolish, but it’s getting a little grating having complete strangers telling me what to do (including calling me a “friggin’ MORON”), so I feel the need to respond:

“This is why you will never be rich.”

Now for the record I’m not rich either, but I certainly wasn’t going to get that way at Sun and at least now I have a chance. Conservatively, iShoot will break $250,000 tomorrow. A quarter of a million dollars in two weeks, on a game that took me six weeks to write in my spare time.

Even if iShoot never makes another penny, that’s enough money to last my family well over a year. Are you saying that if you had a quarter of a million dollars (minus taxes, of course) sitting in the bank… you wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a few months off and striking out on your own to see if you could follow it up with another hit?

I’m sorry, but if you want to be successful in life sometimes you need to take a risk. You’ve got to have balls. And calmly sitting at my day job, doing something I can no longer be excited about, while having neither the time or energy to pursue iPhone development at the level I’d like to, would just be a pathetic cop-out, unfair to both Sun and me.

I’ve had a very successful career. I was a pre-IPO GeoCities employee, spent six years with Yahoo!, and have made a name for myself at Sun. My very first Objective C program became a #1 hit. And while I freely accept that I might never have another hit, I have a tremendous amount of difficulty believing that I can’t make at least what I was making at Sun. iShoot won’t be at the top of the charts for long, but as long as it’s making even 2% of what it’s making now I’m still earning considerably more than my job at Sun pays.

And suppose the worst happens — iShoot drops from over $30,000 a day to $0 tomorrow, and none of my followup apps sell even a single copy. A year goes by without my being able to earn another cent. Well, I’d like to believe that the market for competent iPhone and Java developers isn’t so small that I couldn’t manage to find another job somewhere if that’s what it took to pay the bills.

If the idea of giving up the “security” of working at a company that is cutting 6,000 jobs and faces an uncertain financial future for the “risk” of working at a job where you can live in style on just 2% of your current income sounds overly risky to you… seriously, grow a pair. Nothing is risk-free, and this is far less risky than staying at Sun. (Not that Sun isn’t a great company. I love Sun. But let’s be realistic here.)

Obviously, tremendous thanks to everyone that has bought and (hopefully) enjoyed iShoot and offered me their congratulations. This is just directed at the people calling me an idiot for going into business for myself.

20 Responses to “Why I’m Leaving Sun”

  1. Adam Preble says:

    Congratulations on your success and cheers to you for standing up for your decision. The naysayers just want a reason to feel smarter than you. Good luck with your next project!

  2. Hello Ethan!

    My name is Henry Padilla from Miami, FL. My friends call me Hank. I bought your iPhone application iShoot and I love it. I have some suggestions for future updates but I’ll get to that latter on. I read your Naughty Bits and I tell you! You did the right thing. Don’t listen to those morons and losers they are jealous individuals that wish to have big cojunes to do what you did. Not to mention their wolverine appetite for the money that you so rightfully earned in such a short time.

    I wish you good luck and all the success in the world in your next application and or in all your endeavors.

    Now, I would like to take this opportunity to ask you if you see it possible. iShoot is great and hard to stop playing. These are some suggestions:

    Driving mode separate from the weapons menu. I like the driving acceleration from the game Jelly Car. I don’t know if you can use the same method.

    An option to input, before shooting; how much power to shoot the weapon. Like the up and down shows you how high or low you are shooting? Before you actually shoot.

    Thanks for our time and the opportunity to talk to you,

    Best wishes,


  3. gimmeaminute says:

    I can’t believe you even feel the need to defend this decision. Anyone giving you a hard time is clearly deeply jealous.

    Here’s wishing you every future success, you inspired, if somewhat jammy, bollix.

  4. Hey, Ethan, Many congratulations on the success of iShoot, and many thanks for sharing the various stats on your game! You didn’t have to do that – I’m sure that information will be interesting and useful to lots of developers.

  5. You are genius – accidental or real doesnt matter, man, so don’t listen critics and please spend zero energy on critics. Spend energy on writing new apps for iPhone/iPod touch only. Thank you for doing it!

  6. GW says:

    You are exactly what this country is all about. Go get ‘em bud!! You’re the kinda guy I would want as a partner (or boss).

  7. Payton G. says:

    Ethan…Way to go for stand up to the naysayers.

    You’re doing the right thing by pursuing your dreams. Don’t let those who lack a vision drag you down to their level and make you give up. Stick to your guns and follow your heart.

    I look forward to seeing what you do next and I look forward to buying your game when I get an iPhone.

  8. Noel says:

    Well said – good luck to you.

  9. Walt says:

    Good for you man. I think it’s crazy that anybody is calling you a moron ESPECIALLY considering the success you’ve had. I love the game, btw. Got hooked on the free and then bought the full.

    I’ve just subscribed to this blog, but for people who don’t use RSS, you should consider starting a mailing list for people who want to be notified when you release future apps.

  10. Titus Blair says:

    iPhone dev is loads of fun man, you are def. on the right track! Good decision to pursue something that is at the very beginning of being great and something you can enjoy and set your own hours. I have enjoyed iShoot and look forward to what else you will do. Let me know if you need help :)

  11. Steve Simpkin says:

    Well now that you have explained it like that, never mind what I was going to call you.

  12. rj says:

    Ethan…awesome post! I kind of think it was unnecessary though because what you are doing makes so much sense…the real morons are the ones who couldn’t understand your decision for becoming an entrepreneur (which is actually something that is commendable! ;)

  13. Tom says:

    Hey, I am glad you are quitting your day job. I did that about 3 years ago and now I make over 1 million a year. Not so bad for a guy who dropped out of college. It was just pretty boring. Anyhow, is there an ishoot for the mac laptop? I have it on my iphone and the kids, all 5 of them, and I sit around playing it on the little iphone screen. If you have a version for the laptop, please let me know.

    Thanks, and good luck.


  14. Scott Daniel says:

    I think it’s funny as hell that someone would call one of the smartest people that I know a ‘Moron’. Give ‘em hell, Ethan. Jeff and I are rooting for you (and always have).



  15. Dude, I think you would be a “friggin’ MORON” not to do it! You are reasoning exactly right. You are going to have more time for your family, for your work, and for what you decide is important. Notice I said “your” not what “the bosses” decide for you. Sure there may be rough times, but you will also have more time to study, plan, and stay ahead of those curves

    I applaud you and your initiative and wish you all the best! Way to go!

  16. [...] job at Sun. Apparently some people gave him a hard time over it, and he felt the need to respond: Why I’m Leaving Sun. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would question his decision even before reading the post :), [...]

  17. Mo says:

    After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I’ve found that the brightest, most financially and mentally stable people are the ones that run their own businesses either full-time or in addition to their regular jobs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you’re making the right decision. I know, I used to work with rocket scientists. They have their own issues.

    Just bought the game. Good luck, and good health.

  18. Jeremy says:

    No one who dreamed up the Shiva Bomb should be working a 9-5 anyways. I worry what might happen if you became disgruntled at said job and decided to actually make it — and use it. Congrats!

  19. [...]  iShoot Lite – This is the top favorite app and still most downloaded. If you don’t know, its developer Ethan Nicolas left his full time job at Sun Microsystem to work for its paid app.For those of you who think that creating iPhone app is not cool just check this. [...]

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