You know all those brilliant startup ideas you have, that you just don’t have time to execute? Now there is a way to turn those ideas into reality.
Assembly is a new company creating a lot of buzz amongst the startup community right now, for its unique approach to app development.
“We spent a lot of time building a developer community and realized everyone was interested in working on side projects,” said cofounder Matthew Deiters in an interview with VentureBeat. “Developers and designers work nights and weekends doing side stuff on their own, and we thought there should be a platform where they can do that side work together.”
Deiters is also a cofounder of Coderwall, an online developer community that participated in Y Combinator’s Winter 2012 class. He said Coderwall is still growing, but it is on “auto-pilot.” After spending so much time immersed in the developer community, the cofounders saw an opportunity to channel the collaboration, drive, and creativity they saw in a more constructive way.
Anyone can submit an app idea on Assembly and the community expresses support for the ideas they want to see built. Once a month, the app with the most votes gets chosen to go into production, using crowd funded money from its backers.
An Assembly team, along with interested developers and designers from the community and anyone else who wants to contribute, collectively begin building the product.
Every contribution you make is voted on by other contributors, and awards you a stake in the app’s future proceeds. At the end of each month, any money the app makes is distributed amongst the contributors. Assembly takes care of things like financing, accounting, and legal.
“The distractions of running a day to day business are just that, distractions,” Deiters said. “We are trying to eliminate that. How much work you contribute determines how much a stake you get in the future of the product. Someone like Josh Elman may have a great idea, but can’t be active in development. It’s great for people who are too busy or bored with their day job, want to learn something new, or earn passive income.”
Influential Silicon alley figures, like Elman who is a well-known partner at Greylock, Garry Tan, Robert Scoble, and Justin Kan have all submitted ideas. The first idea to be “green lighted” was submitted by Kevin Hale, the cofounder of Wufoo and a partner at Y Combinator.
Hale’s idea Support Foo is performance incentivized support software. Instead of charging per seat, it charges by volume of support which makes it cheaper for early stage startups. 116 people joined the Support Foo team.
Other ideas include Elman’s “FaceTime call with a handyman” app Housecall, a simple bill splitting app, and a cookbook for Google Glass.
I asked Deiters if he thought this could create a “too many cooks in the kitchen scenario,” where without leadership nothing gets accomplished and progress is delayed by too much discussion. He said that every project will have a core team, who ultimately provides the vision and direction, albeit guided by the input from the community, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
“It would be absurd if a band came together to create a new album, but had to create a record label just to distribute it,” Deiters said. “This approach lets developers and designers who just want to create a great product focus on what they do best. We hope marketing and sales people join to.
Deiters told me about the “1-9-90” rule, where 1 percent of the Internet population are super active participants, 90% are passive, and 9% are semi-active. He said Assembly is uniquely targeting that nine percent.
“Ultimately a structural change is happening in the labor market and the way people think about work is changing,” he said. “People with software skills are really in demand and they want more freedom in how they work, where they work, and when they work. They want more value for what they create, and are open to different types of income. Their work isn’t just about their day jobs.”
In addition to the open source movement, the rise of crowdfunding and accelerator programs have perpetuated a strong culture of community surrounding app development and startup building.
Furthermore the success of Quirky, which uses crowdsources to bring consumer products to market, bodes well for Assembly, which basically applies the same approach to software.
Deiters said the Assembly team doesn’t really know where this will go, it is a novel idea and they expect to learn a lot. Right now they plan to green light one product a month, but ultimately hope to increase the pace, and keep all the products under the Assembly umbrella.
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