“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
I could write a book on this topic, but instead I’m going to keep this digestible.
Back in the day I was writing some posts called “Steal This Idea” and I definitely want to start doing that again. Nothing crazy – just ideas that I have and things I’m doing that I think are cool and can help people out. It doesn’t hurt when they’re super fun too 🙂
Here are the facts:
- I love photo sharing apps. I love content. It seems everyone else loves it too.
- I love to travel. I REALLY love traveling with friends.
- Brands are dying for good content.
- I am in the app business.
My guess is that a lot of you share these same truths to be self evident. You can look at virtually anything you want in life – travel, experience, money, love, whatever, and reverse engineer it the way I’m going to show you right now.
What this post is all about is how I combined my love for apps into a highly viable business solution that saves me thousands of dollars. It’s about integrating my “regular” life with my business in a way that’s fun and pragmatic. I hope it sparks some ideas on how you can do something similar. Making your bucket list the expense report for your taxes – hellzzzz yeah.
Start With The Desire
After my buddies came down to Argentina, we realized that not only was traveling awesome, it was a way to really show people what’s possible in life. We weren’t necessarily doing anything overly spectacular, but the stories we had were pretty great (marathon, spontaneity, and a few that I can’t write on this blog haha). We all wanted to share this stuff with the world, but also didn’t want to do it by blasting Instagram or Facebook. We wanted it to be special.
Over the next few months, this kept coming back – how do we share what we’re doing with the world? More importantly, how do we share this experience with each other? We took tons of pictures that we didn’t necessarily want to share with everyone else, but we wanted to remember them.
We also loved seeing what brands and services like Airbnb, Expedia, and GoPro were doing, the very brands we were using on the trips. We saw these companies trying to curate the exact experiences we were having but not really doing the best job (GoPro crushes it, I guess). The most awesome part about all of this is that we never really talked about making money with it – we just wanted to share this energy. Get the word out. Do something cool. Make a difference in a spiritual way.
We knew we wanted to do something. It’s all we ever talked about. The desire was there.
Put The Experience Into An App
I don’t care what you are passionate about, you can put the best parts of that experience into an app. For me, it’s photos and writing. Over the past five years, I come back from every trip with a bunch of pictures and hundreds of pages of writing. That’s what travel does for me – fuels me with energy that my mind naturally wants to release. I release my energy through writing. High fives as well.
When I’m in a group, I take WAY more photos. I never really do it by myself, but love doing it with other people. I like looking at maps and seeing where I go. I like sharing stuff with people. Whatever, you get the point. What I’m saying is that you need to take the actions that your passion drives you to do and be able to identify them.
What do you do when you’re passionate? What do you use? Maybe it’s using a watch? Weather forecast? Text messaging? Financial stock tickers? Anything. Just look at the pieces individually.
Then put them together in an app.
Let me show you an example.
Using everything I said above, I asked myself “If I could build an app that would allow me to enjoy my travel more, what would it be?” Well, it would probably:
- Take photos (or use photos from my phone)
- Filter them like I do on Instagram or Camera+
- Share the photos on Instagram, save the photos, or share them privately with the people on my trip
- Record where I took those pictures
Honestly, that’s it. Yeah, there might be some apps out there that kind of so all this like Path or whatever, but I didn’t need all that crap. I just wanted a simple app to do these basic tasks.
So I mapped it out.
Pretty simple – Open the app, choose pic, filter, add custom text (just for fun), choose sharing option, geo tag. Then I wrote up a whole spec document for a developer that explains this basic layout. The private network is just going to Dropbox for now, then the “website” is a basic Tumblr page. I’m not trying to win any awards with this app, just prove a concept.
Remember – my goals here are to enhance my passion and to make this a business move. I’m not trying to hit a home run, I’m trying to get on base.
Create a Strategy
It’s one thing to make an app and use it (I will talk about shortly), but honestly that’s not that fun unless the app is awesome…you’ll just end up using the apps that you usually use that are great. What is SUPER fun is coming up with kick ass strategies that this app can help you get excited about the bigger picture, not just the app itself.
In my case, I want to use this whole thing as a business case. I want to come back from a trip and be able to write up a pitch deck to take to someone like Airbnb and show them a model they’ve never seen before – incredible social content, great stories, young people, living life on the edge of their seat, all packaged into a mobile app.
My goal in this is to pitch them on a larger campaign that uses their distribution and production power. Make the app better and get a bigger audience. Fund more awesome adventures. Help Airbnb become a really, really progressive brand in the eyes of the young, tech savy demographic that loves their stuff already.
Effective strategies can be measured by how much value they add to any given piece of the puzzle. With this project, my life gets better because I get to travel a lot and do what I love. Their company gets better because they have passionate people out there making insanely awesome content for them in a way that makes sense which they can turn around and use to strengthen their brand.
This could work!
Do The Math
This is one of the best parts and is something I’m only starting to understand. One of the most amazing perks of the app buisness that people do not take advantage of is how it can impact your tax liability each year. I am not an accountant and this is not professional advice, but it’s pretty common knowledge. Business expenses are subtracted from your overall revenue. You pay taxes on the remaining sum (profit). You DO NOT want to be paying taxes on profit for the first few years if you can help it. That just murders your growth rate.
You can’t just spend money on anything and expect the IRS to be cool with it, but you can be smart about spending it on amazing life improvements. This is one of them.
For me, the math was simple:
- Develop app for $1,200 (expense)
- Cost of lodging and airfare (~ $9,000)
- Other random expenses ($1,500)
If I went into this trip as a personal journey to get drunk and go snorkeling, that $10,500 would go in the PERSONAL side of my tax statement. I would pay upwards of 45% ($4,725) to the government next April. Next.
By turning this trip into a business endeavor, I’m able to drop $11,700 off my BUSINESS expenses. That saves me $5,265 in taxes (45%).
So, by making this trip more fun, potentially turning it into a huge deal maker, and having another project to be excited about, I’m going to be enjoy a $9,990 swing in dollars on my profit and loss statement.
Let me say that again – by making this MORE AWESOME I get to make MORE MONEY.
It’s all about running a smarter business and being creative.
You Can Do This Too
This is not something that only I am able to do, it’s available to anyone. Even if apps aren’t your thing, incorporate your business into your lifestyle.
What you SHOULD NOT do is be casual about this like saying “yeah, I’ll meet some developers and I’ll write off a 35 day trip.” Not a good idea. You need to have a paper trail and a real plan that you can prove justified these expenses.
But what I think is the coolest part of this isn’t the money I can save or the epic trip I get to go on, it’s that I get to take pride in my work. When you’re so focused on business, you forget to put your name on things and say “HELL YEAH I MADE THAT.” I think that’s what makes us human in a certain way. As a guy, it is probably the greatest fuel I have to feel like a man.
What I’m saying is that there’s more to life than making cash in the app store and checking your Chartboost account. Actually, there is more to APPS than just money. Maybe I’m a dork, but apps are pretty sweet when you stop and think about it. They’ve changed so much of our lives. It’s easy to get stuck in the systems of building them to produce money and forget how great these things can be.
Models like this give you the ability to do something for yourself. You get to build what YOU really want. It’s hard to describe why it’s so great, but you’ll understand once you do. Building things to make your own life better is how the best products are built. Having that add dollars to your bank account is a huge bonus.
So that’s that. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping in touch and doing my thing during the trip. Tune into my Facebook page and I’ll fire over a link to the website we post pictures to and you can follow the journey. A few highlights I’m really excited about:
- The app is an Enterprise iOS app which means you can only download it if you have the link. It will start on my phone, be shared to my brother and two friends who I’ll be with, then we’ll share it with inspiring people we meet along the way through an email link in the app. We want to see the geo tag cloud spread as we move around the world, touching more and more people with the same message.
- The name of the app is FireApp because of the idea of spreading a message like wildfire and also because you need to be filled with fire to feel life to it’s fullest.
- I’ll be meeting up with Gui and the Revmob guys in Brazil. We’ll post some pictures!
- Itinerary is Seoul -> Hong Kong -> Thailand (Ko Samui, Full Moon Party, Ko Phi Phi, Bangkok) -> Sri Lanka -> Maldives -> Dubai -> Cape Town -> Sao Paolo -> Aruba -> San Francisco
- If you are in any of those areas, send a message to the Bluecloud Facebook page and we’ll try to meet up so I can say hello and also share this app from my phone to yours!
SAY YES TO LIFE!
As a student getting ready to graduate, I was looking for something new and different that I could do to make money. I started looking into traveling, your article was the first thing I read and has been very inspiring and helpful!! I’m interested in following your journey to see what happens! Thanks!!
@Racheal – that’s awesome! I wish you all the best. Stay in touch – I’m going to build a better version of that app this year and start sending out beta versions to testers. You’ll be on the list!
I was just researching on how to go about a travel app idea and i came across this great article. Very well I’m also interested in seeing what happens with the beta version.
Great story! If everyone could make a living just LIVING, travel and photography would dominate the job market. That’s the fantasy world I live in… haha I don’t do either, but am striving for something more. The beauty of this world and the people in it needs to be share and loved.
@Alex – right on! It would be awesome if we all had more of an opportunity to see the world and it’s beauty. It provides such great perspective. Maybe we’ll get you building apps and you can start sending us pictures from your travels 🙂
Thanks for your comment.