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Year in Review 2010

It’s still the first half of January, so I’m in the grace period for a “Year in Review” post.

2010 was one heck of a slingshot year for me and Corporation Unknown. I started the year unemployed and thin on contract work, and finished it with Corporation Unknown’s highest revenue in its 3-year history and a job offer I can’t refuse.


After starting out looking promising, 2009 was rough. The latter half was my first try at full-time independent contracting. I spent time working on project proposals where the client apparently went with someone willing to work for $25/hour; I did work on a decent project (iPhone client for the web site they were developing) that then went “on hold” once the company I was subcontracting for realized that their client was behind on payments to the tune of six digits. (They paid me in full, I don’t know if they ever got the same.)

At the beginning of 2010, my wife and I filed for personal bankruptcy. This isn’t something I’m proud of, but I refuse to hide it as a personal shame. I debated even mentioning this here, except for two points I hope might be able to help others approaching a similar situation:

  1. Start looking into bankruptcy before dipping into retirement savings. Most likely, those funds are protected from the proceedings and you won’t have to start over.

  2. The idea of paying a lawyer $3k to file for bankruptcy seems wrong, doesn’t it? It was completely worth it. Under our attorney’s advice, we knew exactly what to expect with no surprises. Sometimes when trying to restart parts of your life, it’s refreshing to just chuck it all and walk away, consequences be damned—this is not one of those times.


Independent contracting in 2010 was hot and cold. More accurately, cold then hot, and feast or famine. I’d go without prospects for a while, then have a few come all at once that I actually had to choose from. Managing a client pipeline is not easy as a solo contractor.

In the spring, I had the opportunity to work with local friends Black Pixel on a small part of a fairly large project for iPad—before its release. It’s hard to believe the iPad hasn’t been out a full year yet; recalling having to code for iPad without a test device feels like reminiscing about the punchcard days.

I had a good time working on that project, even though it was all too brief. The team was wonderful, and even though it feels unfair, I have to single out the experience of working with Chris Clark. It was the first time I’d had the opportunity to work on an iOS project with a dedicated designer—one who listens, takes feedback, and respectfully tells you you’re either wrong, or he just prefers his design anyway—and I loved that.

At that time, I was also working on a project with a existing client. They had an iPhone app that I had cleaned up somewhat, and the announcement of iPad seemed an ideal fit for their product. Unfortunately, in the early days of the iPad, I still needed a lot of experimenting to get a feel for what “worked” and what didn’t. In their desire to get in to the field as quick as possible, they felt that the project was taking too long and ended up opting out of the contract.

Then in May, I had the opportunity to do some subcontracting work for fellow locals RogueSheep. The project was for a component of an iPad app that, once I got past the “why would you want to do that?” aspect, provided some interesting challenges in designing custom controls and animations, and I loved that.

RogueSheep is another great team, and another great designer in Brad Ellis (even if he has since moved on to Square). Brad has the same positive qualities as Chris, with the addition of slightly crazier ideas that push you to create something you wouldn’t have imagined on your own.

Thankfully, the Sheep have continued to have a project pipeline for me to work on: I wrote another bit of code that I’m not even sure has made it onto the store yet for the same client; I wrote some UI code for RogueSheep’s own TouchUp for iPad application as they were readying it for release, and I’m in the process of finishing off another pretty major iPhone project for another of their clients. They even let me touch their Apple Design Award.

Thanks in large part to RogueSheep, in its first full year of full-time effort, Corporation Unknown has recorded its highest annual revenue:

CU Revenue.png


This year already has some promising challenges ahead:

  1. Beginning in March, I will be teaching “Developing with the iPhone SDK,” the middle course of the iPhone and Cocoa Development certification from the University of Washington’s Professional and Continuing Education.

  2. I have accepted an offer to return to Black Pixel full-time beginning in February. It’s been tough feeling like I’m choosing between two great companies and teams, but I am really excited to be rejoining Black Pixel’s now-expanded team and continuing to kick some iOS butt.

  3. On top of all that, our second child is due at the end of July.

2011 is going to be a busy year!