Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Real Story

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I was recently featured on the front page of my local paper. While I’m thrilled to get the recognition, I’m afraid I’m not as happy about how they chose to frame the article.

Nothing in there is factually incorrect, and I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt as to his intent, but certainly I’m finding that people are getting the wrong impression from it. The article makes it sound as if we were on the verge of foreclosure and in debt up to our eyeballs. The real story, as they often are, is considerably more nuanced.

I was a pre-IPO dot-com employee. We had a some very good years and earned enough money to buy a very nice home. Now, I’m not an idiot, I am well aware that stock option income is uncertain, and of course I was not going to rely on it. We budgeted for a 66% reduction in income. Think about the shape you’d be in if 66% of your income disappeared tomorrow; we would have been absolutely fine.

But as the stock market crash progressed, we eventually lost 75% of our income. We were still able to pay the bills, but had little left over for emergencies. Unfortunately, the past two years have been full of emergencies, including my son’s premature birth via emergency C-section, my wife’s emergency appendectomy, and seven or eight trips to the emergency room for various reasons between my two children. One of my wife’s relatives also ran into problems and had no one else to turn to, so she moved in with us for nearly a year and depended on us for care and financial support. It was a lot to deal with all at once.

So it is true that my wife and I were discussing how much longer we could continue to afford our mortgage payments at the rate things were going, and had reached the conclusion that we were going to have to sell our home unless I could manufacture a miracle. I certainly wasn’t excited about selling our house, especially in this market, but we would still have been fine. In this economy, almost everyone is having to tighten their belts, and if the worst that had happened to us was having to sell our luxury home and move into a more modest dwelling, I would have had little reason to complain.

So yes, my family was facing a lot of challenges and we were looking at downgrading our home in order to make ends meet. But people seem to be getting the impression that we were destitute, or in foreclosure, or something along those lines, and that simply is not the case. We were simply making sure that we were living within our means.

Why I’m Leaving Sun

Friday, January 16th, 2009

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.