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How I made close to 500k at 15 years old
December 26, 2019

Gaurav Khanna Profile Picture

I wanted to share the story of my first business. It’s largely forgotten and poorly documented because I was only in my early teens. When I was 12, I started learning programming. I had been playing video games for years growing up. Counter Strike and Starcraft were the goto games after school, logging in online and playing with friends was some of the most fun I had growing up. I began getting interested in how games are made, it took sometime to understand that people were making these games I was playing, and largely they were making them with C++, a programming language.

The web and flash were growing in huge popularity at the time and my friend even made some money off of making a flash game which I thought was really cool. I had only recently gotten my first Mac, the black MacBook. Super excited about Mac, Unix and open source in general I ended up spending more time doing web development.

The web in general seemed more exciting but everything changed when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. At $600 it was crazy for a 9th grader to get one but I got it. My family was on T-Mobile at the time so I had to wait until an unlock came out, I bought it, unlocked the phone and started playing with it. It was largely thanks to work by Saurik and the Cydia package manager that the jailbreak community flourished at a time when there was no App Store and web apps in Mobile Safari were extremely limited.

Soon the Cydia Store emerged and people started selling their packages, I tried out many but some were buggy and ad-ridden. Because I relied on my phone heavily I didn’t install too many packages but there was one feature I desperately wanted. At the time the iPhone could not multitask. And when you received an SMS, it would close the app you were in so you could reply. This caused a huge continuity problem and was eventually solved by Apple adding backgrounding/multitasking to iPhones but more on that later.

The 2-3 packages that existed for replying to texts without closing the app you were in were not only largely expensive but also extremely bug ridden, ad-ridden, and didn’t fit the overall theme of the operating system. I set out eventually to see if I could make a rock solid implementation myself that I could use. The requirements seemed quite simple, just reply to a text. But it eventually ended up taking almost 8 months for me to pick up Objective-C++ (a variation of Objective C and C++ that runs the two together), the intricacies of UIKit and the other iPhone frameworks (without documentation), and build the functionality needed.

Eventually I ended up having to rebuild large parts of the entire chatting app to give the requisite functionality. Including my own custom bubbles, laying out texts with variable length, characters, and all of that was custom code that had to be written.

QuickReply for SMS Product Photo

Even then I was hustling, look at the avatar picture, this was my staged product photos. I spent a great deal of time making sure everything worked exactly as Apple's Messages app, I tested extensively any bugs, including many edge cases that people could encounter so everything “just worked.”

I dogfooded the app for quite sometime and eventually cleaned things up and approached the package repository managers about listing my package. I had settled on $2.99, it seemed a fair price for such simple functionality. I probably should’ve charged more but I was happy if anyone would buy this and get value from it.

What came next was really quite awesome. My friends had also jailbroken their iPhones and not only bought it but actually loved it, they also agreed it was the absolute best extension for this feature on the market. When I got my first months sales numbers, I thought it was pretty good, 30k. I was still in 9th grade. I told my parents and they flipped out so I felt pretty satisfied.

I spent more time on the app, adding features and improving support as Apple continued releasing new iPhone OS versions, including iOS3, and 4. But pretty quickly there wasn’t much else to do, the package was working just fine, great in fact and I just collected the income for almost 2 years. Overall I grossed close to 500k in total sales for almost 2 years with close to 20k MRR. It was a great experience from building a product, marketing, and supporting it with over a hundred thousand customers.

Quickreply for SMS Product Listing on the Cydia Store

Podcast Ep5 - Sachin Rekhi, Co-Founder & CEO at Notejoy
December 23, 2019

Notejoy - Collaborative notes for teams

Big thanks to Sachin Rekhi, Co-Founder & CEO at Notejoy for a great discussion. Sachin previously successfully sold his last company to LinkedIn. He started Notejoy afterwards and now has 1000's of paying customers along with over 10,000 users.

We discussed a range of topics including his thoughts on fundraising, bootstrapping, engineering and infrastructure, where Notejoy is headed, and of course design tools.

Have a listen here:

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Podcast Ep4 - Josh Pigford, Founder at Baremetrics
December 13, 2019

Baremetrics Homepage, Grow your startup right.

Humbled to get a chance to speak with Josh Pigford recently, Founder of Baremetrics. Baremetrics is a revenue analytics company started by Josh Pigford founded in 2013, also pioneering the open startup concept. By giving you not just simple revenue analytics but many metrics from a wide variety of other services you probably use, baremetrics is the leader in providing a dashboard for your startup growth.

We discussed some recent trends around openly sharing information in the startup community, recent attempt and decision around selling the company, and what the future looks like. Also some background on Josh's content marketing decisions, past startup attempts and other anecdotes. Huge Thanks!

Have a listen here:

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Podcast Ep3 - Justin Potts, Co-Founder at Avenify
September 12, 2019

Avenify: A better way to borrow for school

Huge thanks to Justin Potts, Co-Founder of Avenify. Avenify is a fintech startup that has created a marketplace for ISA's. They connect investors to students who are looking to fund their tuition and fees through Income Sharing Agreements once they have a job. In some cases that includes boarding and living expenses.

We talked about the model, progress and their recent funding. I was really excited to speak with him and it was a great chat about such an interesting and innovative company that is mostly bootstrapping with huge success.

Have a listen here:

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Podcast Ep2: Jonathan Siddharth, Co-Founder at Turing
August 30, 2019

Turing: Vetted Engineers

Huge thanks to Jonathan Siddharth for this opportunity. Previously co-founded Rover (acq'd). Now is co-founder of Turing, which he describes as AWS for vetted engineers. They provide you engineers that have gone through rigorous qualification tests from around the world for a fraction of the cost of hiring in Silicon Valley.

Topics include:

  • Remote Work
  • Collaboration Tools
  • Future of hiring in Silicon Valley
  • Distributed Teams

Have a listen here:

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Podcast Ep1: Ali Shah, Founder Tapebook
August 21, 2019

Tapebook: Call Friends. Record Together. Share Freely.

Had a great chat with Ali Shah, Founder of Tapebook. You can learn more about it at It's an app for recording short conversations with friends easily and quickly. I liked the experience, unfortunately each segment was limited to 5 minutes so we recorded several and you'll hear some pauses in between.

Topics include:

  • podcasting
  • remote work
  • startups and marketing
  • editing podcasts with and progress

Please have a listen here:

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New Mac Pro, where are the ARM Macbooks?
June 04, 2019

Apples New Mac Pro

Apple closed out their keynote at WWDC 2019 with a bang this year. A very pricey bang, the new Mac Pro and newly released XDR Display will set you back a whopping $12,000 and that's before the extra 1k on their monitor stand. In Accidental Tech Podcast, Jon Siracusa and Marco Arment had details on pricing for the matte screen, an additional - you guessed it - 1 thousand dollars. All of this pricy hardware is absolutely top of the line. Way beyond a prosumer or even professional developer workflow. It's clearly targeted towards the high end media professional market which will probably be buying these machines in 20–30k configurations like hot cakes.

Opinions seemed varied on the design, personally I think Apple created a beautiful device. It's design is incredibly rugged and industrial but refined. A very different take from the Mac Pro "Trash Can" that was designed to look beautiful on a workstation desktop. The new Mac Pro looks like an absolute monster, and has the insane power to back that up. With a baseline 28 core Intel Xeon processor, up to 1.5TB of RAM and 8 PCI Express slots this machine can go a number of different ways.

The new frame allows for easy removal of the entire case, exposing a 360 degree view of the internals. Additional wheels was a great idea. 3 Interior fans and a blower keep cool air flowing through the entire machine allowing the processor to have up to a 300W Thermal Density Profile. This is one of the highest TDP's out there and what has allowed Apple to get away with 1 powerful processor instead of two smaller cores.

All of this fantastic power is extremely expensive, no doubt each case is CNC machined from a solid block in one of Apple's ever increasing factories full of solely huge amounts of CNC machines. But the design is epic. The modularity and configurability was actually raised a bar by Apple, they didn't meet the industry standards but actually completely set a new bar for what a high end machine should look like inside and out. A truly impressive feat for Apple which it seemed for many years simply abandoned the Pro market focusing on their portables and mobile devices.

As I was watching the keynote's announcement by Craig Federighi that iTunes was being split up some things stood out. For instance, plugging in a device into the new macOS Catalina would do nothing! No alert asking you to sync your device! But if you did want to sync, that functionality was now bolted onto the Finder app. iTunes was finally being rebuilt from the ground up, likely in "Project Catalyst" Apples new framework that allows developers to build apps seamlessly across iOS, tvOS and macOS.

Mac OS X was built on the Foundation of AppKit, a NextStep framework of Steve Jobs previous company acquired by Apple for their next generation object oriented operating system. AppKit served Apple well until the iPhone, and a groundbreaking new framework without any legacy that had accumulated for the past decade called UIKit. UIKit was so easy to use and develop apps with for years Developers had been making clones of UIKit to allow for bringing iPhone apps to the Mac with similar codebases. Apple eventually made this happen because AppKit by this point is completely outdated and much more difficult to use for a variety of reasons than UIKit.

iTunes was for many years the last remaining "legacy" app on Mac, because it had so so many functions, all built on an even more outdated legacy framework Apple deprecated a decade ago called Carbon, it stayed around. Year after year Apple seemed to kick the can of "fixing" iTunes but eventually it made sense the fix was to remove iTunes. And they finally did!

Which brings me to some extremely exciting and interesting conclusions. If Apple is indeed working on ARM MacBooks they would need to get rid of all legacy apps such as iTunes, now they have done that, the other being Finder which was finally rebuilt a few years earlier. Could Apple indeed have macOS running somewhere in Apple Park on an ARM device right now?

It's possible they may never go this direction, the iPadOS designation Apple has given clearly indicates they are looking to seriously increase the capabilities of the iPad as a desktop class device in the coming years. They've added desktop browsing, and more power user features such as connecting USB devices this year with iPadOS 13.

Why do we even want an ARM MacBook. Well for starters we could afford it, compared to this beautiful Mac Pro most of us will not get in our lifetimes. But the benefits for most users would be: battery life, battery life, battery life! By dropping intel power hungry processors and using extremely power efficient ARM processors MacBooks could have significantly more battery life. I would estimate a full day's battery life is possible. But also speed. Because ARM can have many more cores, and uses a RISC instruction set that lowers the amount of time spent waiting on the CPU. Which can drastically increase the speed of apps execution.

Imagine if you will a much faster, lighter, longer battery life MacBook. Who doesn't want that. That got me the most excited because I think Apple recognizes an iPad will never replace a desktop OS or laptop. The iPad Power User category is a small fraction of iPad users, and so Macs are here to stay. So where are the ARM MacBooks, my guess is at least 1 year if not 2. We certainly won't hear about them for a long time from now unfortunately. That could seriously impact Apple's relationship with Intel which is already rocky to say the least.

ARM chipsets are gaining usage in the server market every year but still represent a tiny fraction of the server market even though companies have seen the power savings would drastically cut their power bills which at their scale is a huge saving. But the speed isn't there yet. It will be at least 1–2 years before we see ARM chipsets compete with Intel and maybe 1–2 years after that they surpass Intel speeds. It's a long road ahead but the pieces are clearly falling into place and that got me the most excited this WWDC.

Finding success in starting up
January 14, 2019

Laptop and Coffee on desk

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about a growing trend of founders not taking VC capital. This is obviously pretty scary to VC investors, their lifeblood being in ROI and carry. In talking to many friends it’s dawning on me why and it makes sense.

Although many VC investors can help the company, they also can bring a lot of baggage founders are not looking for early. This might even be the beginning of the resurgence of garage startups. Guys coding in living rooms. Bootstrapping and being scrappy.

For the past many years the industry became awash with cash, companies that raised showed such success and grew so fast it became a vicious cycle that huge capital is needed to start up anything. I think innovative people are bucking the trend to control their destiny and once again harken back to the days of starting small and building things that matter.

Early, if you can get sales and can pay your rent, you might have everything you need to grow fast. Early sales can be a big indicator of need.

But also the scenes characterized in the show Silicon Valley remind me of the thrill that comes from hacking away in a small apartment on a product that you believe in. It’s what many of the greatest founders did for a long time. The show SV typically mocks and parodies this, but it could be having a resurgence. The romanticizing of VC and huge capital has also left many companies completely blindsided by massive problems in their models and their companies simply shuttered.

Huge layoffs, and huge upsets by VCs invested in the 6 and even 7 figure marks. Many times capital can push companies way past their market size would even allow, and the market will always dictate the outcome in the end.

If founders are saying no to investment capital early, it could be a very good indicator of good innovation to come. That people are working on things for the pure joy of building, as it once was a long time ago in the Valley. It could also strengthen their company to be more cost conscious, so when more capital comes it isn’t spent in a massive drain.

Why Apple is betting on AR and not VR
September 17, 2018


The speculation around Apple's VR headset for the iPhone has been circling for some time now. We may even get it not too long from now to compete the Google Daydream. But Apple has it's eye's set on AR, and it's clear. Partly because you don't need a headset, and the technology to perform good quality AR with your phone is here and mature.

The introduction of the dual camera lens on the iPhone X added depth mapping which allows the phone to more accurately place things on a surface in the field of view. Even portrait mode is similar to an AR type of interaction. But AR is nothing new, here's an example you probably didn't realize but has been around for quite some time.

Some examples

Your car's backup camera may have an AR view of the direction your car will move. This has quickly become a standard feature for most cars and is a form of AR.

Car backup camera with guidelines

Image Credit: Lexus of South Atlanta

Another example in cars making it's way slowly into the market is the HUD. A useful feature for drivers to see their dashboard without looking away from the road.

BMW Heads Up Display in newer models

Image Credit: Autoblog

Other examples include snapchat filters which took off a few years ago and Apple is following up in iOS 12 with Animoji in facetime. Which should be a fun addition to video chatting with friends and family.

Apples Animoji in Facetime

Image Credit: iOS Gadget Hacks

Additional thoughts

  1. We have seen little from Google in AR but they were behind Niantic and Pokemon Go
  2. Apple might introduce a VR headset as an additional accessory but requiring a headset for an experience is what they want to avoid since carrying that around is gimmicky
  3. The ruler app they preinstall on the phone is a benchmark for them to get accuracy of translating the real world depth into a 3d map using just two cameras. Quite amazing technology

I think we'll see a lot more exciting developments in the AR space over the next few years. The technology to get VR experiences with high fidelity is at least a few years away. Including pixel densities, small FOV lenses, and other kinds of equipment like omni-directional treadmills to enable full immersion.