Two years ago, app developer tap tap tap launched Camera+ onto the App Store. For only a buck, users could get way more mileage out of the mobile photography experience, bringing 27 color effects and granular controls to their iPhone cameras. These features have made it one of the most popular camera apps out there. So popular, in fact, that Camera+ rang in its second birthday today with its 8 millionth download, tap tap tap founder John Casasanta said in a blog post.
As part of the celebration, Casasanta reflected on his company’s journey over the past two years. In his post, he reveals that tap tap tap received a handful of acquisition offers from several notable names: “It started with Adobe, then went to Zynga (for The Heist, not really for Camera+), then Google. And most recently, Twitter.”
The startup has also apparently had plenty of interest from VCs and was recently close to the finalizing its first round of financing. However, the team decided against closing the round, Casasanta says, because they “didn’t like the direction the investors were trying to push us in,” and instead chose to remain independent.
In a rallying cry for all those who forgo outside investment, the founder then exposed his middle finger to the world’s venture capitalists, saying, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … f*ck the VCs!”
In a post from 2008, which he links to, Casasanta outlines his quarrels with VCs, saying:
In a nutshell, VCs will give you just enough money to get the ball barely rolling, but then repeatedly force your hand in later funding rounds (if you even make it that far). They’ll have you by the cojones and you’ll have no choice but to give up more and more of what you’ve built through your blood and sweat. And what’s worse, VCs typically bet on a large group of startups with the expectations that one will hit big (the 1 in 10 guideline).
So what about the ones that don’t make it? Well, the founders may very well care about their creations deeply. But the VCs will be quick to amputate and cauterize. They’ll cut their losses in a heartbeat no matter how this would affect the people who’ve poured their souls into their babies. I’ve known many people who’ve been in this predicament over the years and it’s unfortunate to say the least.
He sounds bitter, like someone who’s been scarred by a deal or two with investors turning sour, but his note of encouragement are words for all punk and indie developers to live by — although it’s probably not advisable for all to follow the same path. Clearly, there are more than a few startups that would kill to have been in the same fortunate position, and would have gladly taken the money.
You most likely won’t have a runaway hit like a Koi Pond your first time through. But you’ll gain valuable experience. And you can’t put a price tag on that … Plain and simple: The more you work at it, the more you’ll learn. And the more likely your chances for success down the line. There’s almost nothing better than the freedom of not having to answer to some suits breathing down your neck and assing-up everything you’ve worked so hard for.
The post also shares the news that tap tap tap’s development team has grown to 17, and that the next major release for Camera+ is on the way, code-named “Darkroom,” which includes some “pretty substantial” updates that have apparently been in the works for “a very long time.”
Here’s some more of the founder’s comments on how Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram affected Camera+:
The proposed Facebook acquisition of Instagram fueled a lot of ridiculousness in the industry and the the number of zeroes that’ve come-up in these negotiations has been insane. These offers have been tempting … extremely tempting in some particular cases.
… Will the failure of the Facebook IPO change the climate here going forward? Possibly. But it doesn’t matter… we didn’t build this company with the intention to flip it. We’re in it for the long-haul and we’re committed to building a real business that makes great apps, not on selling-out. We’re doing more than fine on our own and we’ll continue to do do so on our own.