by Jaime Enriquez:
I started this startup around 17 years ago.
It was 2007, and I was hungry for growth. I was working at a famous French development powerhouse, Ubisoft, in their mobile division in Mexicali, Baja California.
I had been working there for a few months, but having been an entrepreneur and a developer since age 10, and into game development since age 14, I had in mind to start my own thing.
I started working alone, filled with both uncertainty and excitement. I coded what became the foundation I would later use for my games.
I built my main tool, Krystal Symmetry. It was a Java-based GUI sprite design application, pretty solid for the time. It was like Adobe Flash for mobile. You could export for J2ME, Brew, and iPhone OS. The iphone SDK for the iPhone had come out, so I played a bit with it and made a module for it to export both for J2ME, Brew (Qualcomm), and iPhone OS (the name at the time).
Basically, when handling an animation, you can do it in two ways:
- The dumb and painful way: Programmatically create the animation, Managing each frame by code.
- Design it with a UI, easily design the animation, export it, and use it in the module. This option takes more time initially since you have to code both the designer (Desktop) and the reader (Mobile). I chose this way.
To my surprise, the plugin I used quickly gained traction, and a prominent online magazine (owned by Sun Microsystems, later bought by Oracle) conducted an interview about me and the tool.
Having released several titles, I tried to sell them for placement. I knocked on several doors, but only a couple opened: Televisa, Mexico’s biggest TV Network (EsMas Móvil), Nokia, and Samsung. I will talk about Nokia.
I started creating content for the Nokia Store (Nokia OVI was the name at the time). Immediately, I saw the benefit of it. You could agnostically create for several devices. By that time, both the iPhone SDK and the Android SDK had been released. But I saw a niche and stuck with Nokia.
I was glad I found a niche that not too many people were looking at, as everyone was focused on publishing to the App Store or the Android Store.
So, the Nokia OVI marketplace was unattended, which is why I developed my strategy there. My logic was that since no one was looking at Nokia more, I could easily compete. I have to mention I had 0% funding. All VC funds were going to iOS and Android.
We developed several titles and quickly gained traction. I still remember we were the first company in Latin America to reach 1 million downloads, so I as pretty happy.
It was a dark time for the startup; the first iteration (team) failed, mainly because I was young and naive, and all the money we had come up with was gone. So, I felt like a failure for several months.
Saw a turnaround as I restarted the business and regained traction.
In 2011, I was notified by my Nokia representative that I had achieved 13 million downloads, and if my memory serves me right, I was the 20th or 30th developer in their store. I was never content with being second or third, much less 20th, so I set my mind to developing a plan to become number 1.
During this time, my Nokia representative was moved to another team, and the new guy was not as supportive as my previous one. I remember having about 15 million downloads at the time, and during a meeting, I told him that in a couple of years, I would have 200 or 300 million downloads and become number one. He looked at me with surprise and said, “Estás loco, cabrón,” which translates to “You are crazy, MoFo.” I looked at him and told him, “Yes, and that’s why I will achieve it.”
By late 2011, we reached 43 million downloads, and I was invited by Stephen Elop himself (Nokia’s CEO at the time) to have breakfast with him at a top Mexico City restaurant. I was not the only developer, but among the most important ones. I vividly remember what he said, “Good morning, thanks for being here. Who here comes from Inode?” I immediately raised my hand, and he replied something like, “Congratulations, they tell me you have 40+ million downloads.” I humbly corrected him and said, “Yes, sir, but that was two days ago; right now, we have 43 million downloads.” I could immediately see he was interested.
The conversation mainly there was to lay out his strategy about Windows Phone, I personally thought he could divide his risk going 50% Android and 50% Windows Phone but he was so sure of what he was saying that I did not care to correct him. (I should have)
I could not imagine the CEO of Apple or the CEO of Google inviting me for breakfast. So, that day, I made two decisions:
- Stick to Nokia.
- Support them on their platform.
Nokia CEO at the time tweet
By that time, I was fully bootstrapped and able to live comfortably with the revenue generated by Nokia. Not all apps were paid downloads; most were free. I decided to sacrifice 10 or 20k Euro to quickly become the number one, even if they were all free.
One of the 3
We became the number 3 company to reach 100 million downloads.
The first one was India Games (an Indian startup later bought by Disney), the second one was Pico Brother (a company from Finland), and the third one was Inode, this little startup with no funding but with a big heart.
They developed two videos for this.
Video produced by a formal Nokia production team, sent by the CEO himself to my hometown. Another topic for a post, you can see the hangar of the state of Chihuahua there. They actually let us use their helicopter, the one that the governor uses, for us to film. According to their protocols, the Nokia team could not get in, but I managed to let my team take a flight around the city.
As you can imagine, I was pretty happy.
So, at that time, we became their 3rd biggest developer, but as you can imagine, I was not fully happy until I reached number 1.
Having reached 200 million downloads after India Games, I was invited to Barcelona by Stephen Elop and Marco Argenti (Head of Developer Relations). In front of a crowd of close to 3000 people, Argenti congratulated both IndiaGames and Inode. As you can imagine, I was several levels happier.
We crossed 300 million downloads to become their number one developer.
We struggled financially. Having stuck with Nokia provided us with some great opportunities, but we missed the wave with iOS and Android. We had developed apps, but mostly for clients, and we were late to engage in a mass adoption strategy as we did with Nokia.
We reached 500 million downloads in the Opera Store (the transitioned Nokia Ovi Store) and through alternate channels such as Televisa, India Games (now a client), Hungama (India), and more. We also ventured into e-commerce.
2016 to present
Company it is still operational. We do work on client projects but now we choose only projects that have the possibility to make impact / improve the world,, municipality, state, country, region.
You can always start working on your dreams. For me, it involved a lot of uncertainty and developing without a feedback loop (a way to see that what I was building would get somewhere), so it required a lot of faith in myself, God, and destiny. It was not uncommon for me to code all night, wake up, and keep going, spending several months doing that. But it was worth it at the time.
That is my story from 17 years ago. Hope you liked the article. Now we have ventured into Blockchain Business, Nearshoring and a couple of more branches.
I will leave you with one of my favorite videos. I am probably responsible for over 10,000 views of it. It has served me as inspiration and of guidance. Hint: You can only connect the dots looking back and Stay Hungry Stay Foolish