A year and a half ago I started thinking about a product I wanted to build. I am a big fan of Heroku and I felt something missing from their eco-system was an App Store. Similar to the WordPress Theme Store. This Heroku App Store would allow developers to create fully realized applications and sell them to non developers. The person on the purchasing side wouldn't even need to know about Heroku. We built this product over the past year, got the "thumbs up" from Heroku, finally got bored with the idea of launching it, and are now open sourcing it for all to see. I will go into the challenges we faced as a consulting firm building a product and why we decided to give this away rather than "go for it".
Concept to reality
The concept was simple: App Store for Heroku. I built the original app code in May of 2012. I would say about 50% of the app was completed in a week. However, what I quickly learned is that balancing consulting a product development is not easy. Quickly development on Igata turned into a see-saw. A day of work here and there in between contracts. It became very difficult to stay focused and keep interested in the project. But I believed it was one that could do well if positioned properly. The idea of proving an additional revenue stream to Heroku also felt like a good challenge.
I let the app sit for a few months while we were working on a very large contract over the summer. Then the Rails Rumble came and I was a judge, I saw an app called Deploy Button and I freaked out. This was essentially what we had already built but without the purchasing aspect. I emailed my team and told them we weren't taking any more contracts until we finished Igata. This proved to not work very well in reality. As a Rails consultancy we are not cheap but you don't realize just how expensive you are until there is no money coming in. So we went back on contract and shelved Igata, again. I kept coming back to it every so often. Finally I decided to open source it.
It wasn't until I made the decision to open source Igata that I started to get some validation of the concept. I was very secretive about the app as I figured if Heroku found out about it, and liked the idea, they would just toss a few devs at it for a week or two and come out with an "official" app store. But now that I was going to OSS is fuck it, I'll tell everybody! I told a few friends that work at Heroku and in the end it was foolish of me to worry about that sort of thing. Several people encouraged me not to open source and just finish and release. So I went to Waza (Heroku's Conference) and met with a few people from Heroku's Partner program, once I showed them the app they loved it.
I came home a few weeks ago, pumped to finish the app.
Back to Open Sourcing
I wouldn't say doubt began to creep back in, just more that I really didn't like the idea of what would come of Heroku if it it was a success. Maintaining an app store and building it out really doesn't interest me at all. I had a choice: shit or get off the pot. I've now decided to get off the pot.
I'm happy to go into more details on what our business model would have been in another post if people are interested. The app itself is about 95% complete. There were some changes to the payment system we would make. But overall I'm happy with what we built considering the very disrupted development schedule on it. I hope this app can serve someone well.