Indie iPhone developer splits, shops around Where To application
Tap Tap Tap, the developer of the iPhone program Where To, is shopping around its top-selling application, hoping to tap its early success for a hefty payoff. The software, which allows you to easily pinpoint nearby restaurants and attractions, has already grossed about $200,000 in revenue through Apple's App Store since it first went on sale three months ago. Customers have bought more than 70,000 units at $2.99 a pop (though some went for a dollar during a couple of short promotions).
Tap Tap Tap developers John Casasanta and Sophia Teutschler aren't abandoning ship for a lack of faith in its future. Due to conflicting business decisions, the two are going their separate ways and decided to split up company assets.
Teutschler gets two finished apps: a tip calculator and a program that lets you mark your GPS location on a map to share with friends, plus a nearly finished program for managing grocery lists. The German software engineer will release them under her own Mac development company, Sophiestication Software. Casasanta gets the company name, two of its hired developers and three programs still in development.
But their big hit, Where To, was one asset whose ownership they couldn't agree on. So, they decided to put up a blog post asking for offers. They'll split the sale price. "We both were too attached to the application," Teutschler said in an e-mail.
Casasanta, who handles the majority of the business and marketing for Tap Tap Tap, says he has a baseline price in mind for Where To, but he refused to disclose it. Because the software has already proved to be so successful, Casasanta said the buyer was "going to have to be a company that has some money behind it."
Software development for the iPhone is serious business. In just three months, we've heard a number of success stories from independent developers, such as the Trism game netting $250,000 in profit in a couple months or rock band Nine Inch Nails striking up a licensing deal with the Tap Tap Revenge game developer, Tapulous.
Perhaps Teutschler wasn't ready for the high-stakes nature of the iPhone platform. She and Casasanta would often disagree on how much of their time and budget should go toward advertising on websites and magazines, pushing Casasanta to invest at times in ads out of his own pocket without reimbursement, he said.
"She's never really experienced the whole side of things, dealing with tens of thousands of dollars per month in advertising costs, and it was really making her freak out," Casasanta said. "Even though we were making money, it was just the cost and fear that the bottom could fall out from under us because there's a lot of competition in the App Store."
For most small iPhone developers, the concept of advertising doesn't go beyond crossing their fingers and hoping Apple picks their software to feature on the front of its App Store -- an honor Tap Tap Tap never received. When they cut the advertising budget for Where To, it "floated down the top 100 chart" on the App Store, said Casasanta, who has experience with big marketing projects as the co-founder of MacHeist, a website that periodically sells grab-bags of Mac software. "I tend to like doing things on a pretty large scale, so I was going for, you know, the big bang with this. So we were doing some pretty heavy advertising."
But as Teutschler had to become more involved with the business side, she found herself signing off on deals just to end arguments with her cohort, and then eventually refusing to approve any ads whatsoever, she said. The disagreements became too much for either side to handle. "I remember a conversation when he described, with a lot of passion, how he would love to strangle me sometimes," she said in an e-mail. "I in turn had quite often the desire to quit a conversation with a kick in a certain male's body part."
Teutschler says she will spend a smaller portion of her budget on advertising Sophiestication software. "I still kinda feel that a great app sells well by its own," she wrote. "That's quite naive admittedly, but it's also the way I feel comfortable."
-- Mark Milian
Photo: Where To application for the iPhone. Credit: Tap Tap Tap