November 13, 2019

First beta is finally out for public release!

Jonathan Gerbaud @JonathanGerbaud

After 6 months of work, I’ve finally hit the "make public" button.

What started as a proof of concept back in May has now become a suite of 6 tools, with 18 more planned.

Since I haven’t written the previous milestone, I’m just going to make a big one and tell the whole story.

I’ve been an Android developer since 2011. Back then, coding an app was easy because smartphones were a new thing and there weren’t as many features or hardware as today.

So since 2011, the Android ecosystem has become more and more complex. But tools didn’t keep up with the ever-growing complexity.

As a matter of fact, I almost give up Android development twice in the last couple of years because I felt so frustrated not being able to do simple things quickly anymore.

By that, I mean more often than not, for some features I had to code and that I considered to be simple enough that it should take me an hour or so to make, I ended up losing my mind after two or three days of work because it was unnecessarily complex.

So one day, after struggling for two hours on something that should have taken me 30 seconds, I had an idea.

The issue was about designing the interface. Of course, we have software that allows us to "preview" the rendering of our code, but it doesn’t work when things are starting to get a little dynamic.

So I said to myself "why not create a tool to live-edit my UI right from the app?". It would so great and save me so much time every day!

And so here I am spending a week on this idea. And it worked like a charm as a proof of concept. After three weeks, I started to get something rock solid.

At that point, I thought to myself "How is it possible that Google didn’t think about this simple enough solution during all these years!?". As of today, I still don’t have the answer.

Once I realized I could actually build a real tool out this and make developers pay for it, I started modifying my code architecture so that it would fit every developer's needs.

At this point, it was clear that I was going to launch this tool in no more than a month later.

Unfortunately, some would say, I got another tool idea shortly after. I should mention at this point that I have a past, and this past is one of an entrepreneur always jumping on his new idea and giving up on whatever other projects he was working on until now. That’s maybe why I failed so many times as an entrepreneur in the past.

Anyway, after a week or so, my other, new, tool proof of concept is also working.

After that, not a day pass without getting new ideas about new tools or features.

By the end of July, I have 3 working tools and 21 others to make. At this point, I was planning to start by releasing 3 tools to the public.

Then, since it’s never enough, I decided to go for 5 (because, you know, it should take me "only" a week more), then finally for 6.

In August, I resolved myself that 6 tools were well enough and that it had to come out somehow. And so, I aimed for a first public release in early September.

That’s when things became to go sideways. First, making one tool is not the same as making a suite of tools. Since I wanted to make my product so good that any developers could also build their own using my product (and a lot of other technical constraints I won’t talk about), I severely underestimated the required workload to get a stable version.

Then came September. Probably the worst month of the adventure so far. I needed a licensing system for my product. Since it has precise needs, I couldn’t find any adequate Paas or SaaS, so I resolved to just make it myself. How could this be, huh?

As usual, I wanted to make things top-notch, designing a really complex solution to make sure no one (well, almost no one) could hack my product.

After two weeks, I had a working solution. But I constantly find new bugs, I wasn’t coding in my language of predilection so that made things really hard for me. After a month, I  just gave up.

I was hitting wall after wall, and in the end, it was working on a phone and crashing on another. Plus, my solution wasn’t really simple for the user.

So I said "f*** it! Let’s make something simpler". And so I did. In a week, I had a less-secured solution, but so much easier for me to make and maintain, and most importantly, way easier for the user.

Let’s get back a little, to the end of August. A former client of mine calls me and asks if I could work for them. At this moment, money is running low on my bank account and sure enough, working two days per week seems like a good solution.

So I agree to work for them for a month, two days per week. After all, my product is coming out soon, right?

Well, I still work for them today, and probably until the end of December.

Back to our story. Early October, I "only" have to make the remaining stuff that is not the core of the product. It should be quick and easy right?

Turns out, no. I had to:
- Make a website
- Design a logo
- Find an available domain name
- Create legal stuff (privacy policy, EULA, ...)
- Find a payment platform
- Create the server part of the licensing system
- Find a server hosting solution
- Write the documentation
- Find a service to distribute my tools
- Produce demo and presentation videos
- Find a mailing-list service
- Create a Slack channel
- Figure out the pricing
- And all the other little things

Fast forward November 12th, after working yet another weekend, everything is live and running. Finally.

What was, at first, one tool, became a full suite of tools.
What could have taken two months took six months in the end.

Now comes the marketing phase, along with continuous updates.

  1. 1

    developers tools are very very challenging market to dive into
    what made you to choose this nich?

    1. 1

      Well, as mentioned in the post, I’m myself an Android developer. And in fact, after 8 years working on Android development, we have little to tools except for a (used to be bad) IDE and a (used to be slow) emulator.

      That’s why I got so frustrated in the first place. The right tools could save us weeks every year, and those tools are not so hard to build. That’s also why I build my SDK as a plugin system, so that any android developer can build his own plugin or extension on top of my framework.

      There are a few free tools here and there but there isn’t any swiss knife like solution to make our life easier and simpler.

      I don’t know if it’s really challenging to dive into a market where there’s everything to build. Plus, I know many developers in other areas that are also building tools or that are needing tools, so I wouldn’t say that developers tools are a very challenging market to dive into.

      1. 1

        Well im sure your tool is good .
        i was wandering about the market resource you did before developing and selling
        beside you coming across those problems or your Teammates.
        this was my next question .
        as developers we use to develop our own tools .
        this is a problem

        1. 1

          Oh yeah, I wanted to write about it but I reached the character count limit. I didn’t make a market research. I know I should have and honestly, it just started as a proof of concept for myself and then I got so many ideas (of new tools) and months passed and voilà...

          I don’t know on which technologies you’re working on but building tools on Android is kind of hard, because you have to handle backward compatibility, you have to get the same "support" dependencies versions, etc...

          I addressed all these issues so that developers could easily build their own tools with my product. And it could also serve as some sort of centralized marketplace for android developer tools, even though "marketplace" is probably not the right term

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