MoDE-D: Mobile Developer-Entrepreneur Depression

For the last couple of years I’ve been deeply involved with Windows Phone developer community and with other mobile developer communities from time to time. Due to the nature of what I do for the past year I’m especially interested in how these developers are doing on the business side.

The one recurring thread with most first time mobile entrepreneurs coming from the development (or design) background is what I call Mobile Developer-Entrepreneur Depression or MoDE-D. What I mean by that is that quite a lot of developers get really depressed when the product of their hard work for the last N months doesn’t get any traction in the marketplace and they have no idea what to do next.

That was the main reason why I launched AdDuplex, but it (AdDuplex) is not the subject of this post. Over the year I’ve been giving a talk on Windows Phone app marketing and monetization for developers. So I was thinking a lot about this subject. And after some time I came to a conclusion that the root cause of this depression is our (developer/designer) mentality.

Employee/freelancer business cycle

Most of us come from employee or freelancer (or both) background. If we look at the way our business cycle worked in these roles, on a very high level it could be visualized as something like this:


We get a task, we deliver what’s required by the task and we get paid (provided we did it well and our employer is not a crook).

Entrepreneur developer business cycle

Now if we look at the entrepreneur developer’s business cycle from the same high abstraction level it could look pretty similar


Our idea is our task. Our app is what we deliver to the app store and we get the money from the store. If you don’t think about it on a deeper level there’s not much of a difference. Our mentality doesn’t switch automatically when we come from the employee world to entrepreneur world. We don’t even think about ourselves as entrepreneurs. Usually it’s just a side-project that we approach without any switching of mentality.

The core difference

So what’s the difference? The one high level element missing from these diagrams is the point where we do the “selling”. As employees or freelancers we do the selling before we get the task.


We come to a job interview or a meeting with potential customer and we try to sell our skills and abilities. At this stage we haven’t invested anything in the project and we are pretty used to things not working out. Didn’t get a job offer or a contract? Not a big deal. We move on to the next opportunity.

Now when we are [mobile] entrepreneurs the “job interview” happens only after we’ve invested some months of hard work. Our mind is used to the above flow and when we start working on the app it sort of assumes that we’ve already got the job and the only thing left is delivering a quality product and we get the money. Right? Obviously wrong.

As entrepreneurs we only start selling after we have invested some serious amount of our time and, unlike in the “job interview” case, not getting traction with the result of our labor is a big deal. But deep inside our mind knows that shipping a product is the last step before getting the money. So it throws an exception and we get into MoDE-D.

The antidepressants

So what should we do? Obviously we need to switch our mentality. We need to understand that in this case the scheme looks like this


The “selling” phase comes after we have a product and not only it’s more important than the same stage in the employee scenario, it is also more time consuming and never-ending. You should expect to spend at least as much time on promoting your app as you spend on development and do it over and over again.

Once your project timeline doesn’t’ end with “ship to app store” your mind won’t expect any miracles to happen after your press “submit” and you’ll be able to put in marketing time to make your app a true success without getting depressed.

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