In a recent life, Steve Parker worked as an insurance claims adjuster in Texas. Then, inspired when Apple began accepting phone apps from independent developers, he bought a few books and taught himself programming. Though supportive, his wife and friends told him probably nothing would come of it. They were wrong.
Now, a few years later, Parker, 31, makes six figures running an app-development company. And his newest creation—Hurricane Tracker, which has already sold more than 150,000 copies—briefly became the second-highest-selling app on the strength of Hurricane Irene’s 100-mph winds. For 48 hours, Parker even outsold Angry Birds, the ne plus ultra of mobile time-wasting.
“I had to tell my 5-year-old, ‘Look, we’re outselling Angry Birds!’ It’s pretty incredible,” says Parker, who has two young sons and another child on the way.
Not that it was easy—programming the app (which is also available on the iPad, but not yet for Android phones) meant spending a lot of time away from his family, and waking up at the crack of dawn to stay up-to-date on a storm three time zones away.
“I was sleeping three or four hours a night,” says Parker. “Eighty percent of the app, it updates itself. But for audio and video content, I’ve got to publish that myself.”
Hurricane Tracker isn’t the only app of its kind, but Parker distinguished himself by recording constant mini-reports and pushing instant updates to customers’ phones. He uses government data, but throws in expertise he says he’s accumulated over the years as a severe-weather junkie. His obsession has had other benefits too—with the income he earned from the app, Parker and his family were finally able to do something they’ve wanted to for a long time: get out of Texas.
“The reason I’m here is because of Apple and the app store,” says the new resident of Issaquah.