Lots to be jealous of. Ahem, inspired by. Cabel counts the 13 people — including new hires Neven Mrgan and Ned Holbrook — who make up the ranks of their development, design, and support staff. Everybody I’ve met from Panic has been a genuinely kind person whose desire to build great things is evident. Now they’re all doing that from an incredible new office in their home town of Portland, OR. Cabel seizes on the good news that, with a growing staff, they’re able to tackle projects more concurrently, and to be more responsive to their customer base.
Red Sweater is one of those “one-or-two person companies” that Cabel shows no yearning nostalgia for having once been. There are certainly advantages to going it alone. I call all the shots. No meetings. 100% profit sharing. Vacation days on a whim and without concern for obligations to coworkers. Never a petty squabble or philosophical disagreement.
But never an agreement, either. I don’t want to be alone forever. I imagine Red Sweater evolving into something resembling a Panic, Rogue Amoeba, Bare Bones, or Omni Group. The advantages of scale and camaraderie that come with modest growth seem to outrank the limited, mainly ego-protecting advantages of solitude.
As I look forward to growth, I take inspiration from these great models. A long-term, sustainable Mac software business doesn’t have to be built from behind a faceless corporate wall. Each of these examples started as a small group of people with their minds set on delivering a great application. Then they did it, and eventually they profited. That’s a starting line most of us can relate to, and endeavor to imitate.
But other operational priorities are harder to agree on. When you start to look at the ways in which these companies and others like them grow, you discover that every one of them has vastly different priorities about what part of the company to invest in and when.
It struck me while reading Cabel’s post, for instance, that Panic apparently has no marketing staff. And yet they’re one of the best known brands in indie Mac software. Paradox? Is there something about Panic’s product and staff that does its own marketing? Or would they be an even bigger success had they hired a marketing person from the start? Smile On My Mac, by contrast, consists of just three people, one of whom is completely dedicated to marketing. Is this a waste of revenue or a brilliant component of their plan for world text expansion domination?
Office space is another area of dramatic diversity. Panic and Omni each embrace the value of a centralized, beautiful office space where their employees can work and play, side by side. At the absolute other end of the spectrum, Rogue Amoeba enjoys the benefits of a virtual, internet-based office. In particular, no office rent, and they can hire people from anywhere in the world without relocation concerns.
While the choices a growing business faces are numerous, I feel lucky to have so many stellar examples to compare and contrast. And while I may hesitate at choosing which direction to turn when I come to a fork in the road, I’ll take some comfort in knowing that many of those forks each lead to an equally exciting outcome.