Some of the Biggest Tech Products Started as Side Projects

June 16, 2016 - 3 minutes read

What do Gmail and Facebook have in common with a Post-It Note?

The fact that they all started as side projects.

More than any other industry, tech has offered developers and designers the chance to rapidly prototype their ideas — however off-the-wall or unrealistic — and bring them to market with minimal investment. iPhone app developers and UX designers at top-tier agencies and companies can realistically bring their app ideas to life in the time most of us spend catching up on TV. We have this culture of innovation and experimentation to thanks for products as diverse as AirBnB and Yahoo.

When you’re working on a side project, you have the time and the choice to invest in learning new things.
— Tobias Van Schneider, Design Lead @ Spotify

In a now-infamous interview, Apple founder Steve Jobs described his formative moment as being the realization that the world was built and manipulated by people who were no better or smarter than he was. That, at it’s core, is what the “side project” movement in the NYC tech scene is all about. Regardless of full-time commitments with tech companies, any New York City iPhone app developer with some know-how and imagination can build a product, however small, to solve their own problems and needs. You don’t have to be a genius. You just need some time and an open mind.

Side projects are good for iPhone app developers on many levels. First, since there’s no expectation of scalability or monetization, they allow the creative process to run free of the company concerns of a corporate product. (While monetization and scale are crucial for startups, concerns about scalability can also shoot projects down before they even get started.)

While few side projects make the transition to full-scale products or full-time careers, every side project offers its creator practice at their craft as well as a chance to market themselves in their particular development discipline. (Just look at the careers of high-ranking designers like Tobias Van Schneider of Spotify for proof of the career-building power of side projects.)

The question for iPhone app developers is: how are you spending your nights and weekends?

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