Silverpine – The First Decade

It was 10 years ago this month that Silverpine was founded. Neither Ryan nor I had a plan when we set out. All we knew was that we wanted to build iOS and Android apps for other companies. We had been creating applications for small form factor devices for a long time, and we knew we could use that to help others — the “app revolution” was underway, and we wanted to be a part of it.

In the early days, we took every project that came our way. It was just Ryan and me, and we needed to find a way to pay the bills. Looking back now, it is clear that we had no idea what we were doing, and we were very fortunate to survive. But in some ways it was easier. When I would explain to people what Silverpine was, I would just say “We build apps for other people.” It really was as simple as that. Me. Ryan. Coding away on projects that we had probably vastly underbid. I honestly have no idea how we made it.

But we did make it! And one of the more important things we did during the early years was to develop a few core principles that run through the company today:

  1. We wanted control over our schedules, and we wanted to have the kind of flexibility that neither of us felt we had in our previous jobs. We both had young children, and it was important for us to be able to be present in their lives. In a practical sense, this meant that we were committed to being a remote-only company from day one. After nearly two years of a global pandemic, most people look at that aspect of our company as a positive benefit (and it is!). But before COVID, when I had conversations with potential clients I could often sense in their replies that they doubted we were a “real” company. I don’t know that we ever lost out on any projects because of this, but I felt that it added a level of suspicion to our conversations. Nonetheless, we held fast to our dedication to remote work.
  2. We wanted to work specifically on mobile technology. We didn’t want to just be developers for hire; we wanted to use our expertise in the projects we worked on. Over the past 10 years we have had many different people approach us about building websites, and we almost always turn them down, particularly if there isn’t a mobile component to it. There are thousands of development shops that do web development, and that’s just not who we are. Ryan and I have been developing software for small form factor devices since the early days of the Palm Pilot. We have a deep understanding of the implications and limitations of designing and developing for mobile devices. Silverpine was and is a mobile-first company.
  3. We didn’t want to grow the company unless we absolutely had to. When I left my previous job, I managed around 200 developers across several different sites, and I hated my life. Some days, I would be on the phone from six in the morning until seven at night. With Silverpine, neither Ryan nor I wanted that type of lifestyle. We knew that one of the primary factors influencing our work/life balance would be the size of the company. We have known many different people and companies in the consulting space that have grown quickly, only to burn out and eventually fold. We wanted to avoid putting on wax wings at all costs. I know that some people equate growth with success, and those people will probably never understand the concept of constraining growth as a tenet, but I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted this choice for a second.

Even with these principles as our foundation, we have grown, and we have changed, significantly. The funny thing about building things with your clients is that if you do great work, you end up repeatedly working with them to the point that things become more like a partnership. And the one thing you absolutely need in a partnership is trust. At about the five year mark, we realized that our business started changing — our clients had developed an immense trust in us. As a result, we started taking on more and more of the breadth of work in our projects, including the strategy, scoping, and the UX/UI work. Without realizing it, we had pivoted to become an agency rather than a “dev shop”.

As we continued to evolve into an agency, we began to help our clients at a much deeper, more meaningful level. While we were still building great apps, we now found ourselves consulting on strategy and designing the user interfaces that we would be building. This is the point where we were able to truly showcase and highlight our understanding of user experiences on small screen devices.

It’s also the point where we had to confront growth at a much more significant scale — instead of just being a company of developers, we now had to become a company of developers, project managers, designers, QA, etc. We had to evolve to be able to take on all phases of a project from conception all the way to production. This forced us to do some difficult soul-searching. At the end of the day, we had no choice but to bring on more people, and I’m incredibly glad that we did! Silverpine now has some of the most wonderful folks that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Across all of our disciplines, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to grow with people that share our company values.

And this brings us to the end of our 10th year — where we find ourselves today: Silverpine is an amazing group of 20+ people working 100% remotely with some amazing clients and partners. We are an agency that is involved in the many different aspects of strategy, design, and development. We are an agency that creates interfaces that make people smile. And ultimately, we are an agency that helps our clients bring value and meaning to their products and brands in ways they never imagined.

I feel incredibly fortunate and privileged to have had the experiences and professional relationships these past 10 years. If you’re reading this and you’ve worked with us or along side us, please know that I am deeply appreciative of the time that we have journeyed and will journey together. For me, it has always been about people and relationships. Without our people, Silverpine would be nothing.

So where are we headed? I truly don’t know! I have some guesses, but I have no idea if they are correct because the one thing I have learned is that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. However, just as we did for the first 10 years, I’m sure that we will continue to change and evolve.

Thank you.