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The SANE Manifesto

The brand was simple and focused—our launch strategy sound. Why then, was I suddenly doubting its value?

The Challenge

In 2018, Steffi and I were preparing to launch a new brand we’d designed towards the end of 2017 called SaneAndroid. Over the course of 2016 & 2017 we’d found success pitching our services to companies who had an iOS app but weren’t yet on Android, and our plan was to combine our two existing brands, Gradient and Pembroke, into a single company that focused almost exclusively on that market and that single service. We spoke to our previous customers that fit the new target profile, got good feedback on the initial marketing materials we had put together, and threw a landing page on our new domain, ready to start the year as SaneAndroid.

A few weeks later, in the midst of our end of year review, Kai Davis introduced me to The ONE Thing, a book by Gary Williams, founder of Keller Williams Real Estate. The book promotes doing away with the infamous “To-do List”, and instead constantly searching for and pursuing “the one thing you can do such that by doing it all the other things are made easier or unnecessary.” Expecting nothing more than a productivity-focused business book, I started reading the book between client work and preparing the new brand for launch later that month.

As I made my way through the opening chapters Gary delivered value after value, presented in a clear, matter of fact style, and what started as a casual read became an intensive crash course in motivation and goal setting, filling pages of my little notebook with notes and plans. Each chapter brought more depth to Gary’s system, expanding its reach beyond just the Todo list, filled in with details on it’s practical application.

Midway through the book, Gary challenges the reader to take the ONE thing concept and apply it up and down different time scales, from right this moment, expanding upwards to today, this week, this month… all the way up to your lifetime. He asks you: what is The One Thing you want your life to be about? As you move down the list from your life, to this year, to this moment, are they all in agreement? Is your One Thing right now, supporting your One Thing today, tomorrow, and forever?

This challenge hit hard. I sat at lunch and stared at the pages of plans I’d scribbled in my little notebook over the last few months, all focused on Sane Android’s launch. The plan was perfect: the market was there, we’d found a repeatable outreach strategy, and none of our competitors focused on this specific service. The brand was simple and focused—our launch strategy sound.

Why then, was I suddenly doubting its value?

The Answer

I turned to the next blank page in my notebook, and scribbled:

“I don’t want to be just an Android guy.
I don’t want to offer commodity services.
I don’t want to do what we’re doing just because it works.
I want to do something big.
We have to take risks if we’re going to make something real.”

I stared at the page for a few seconds before flipping back to the beginning of my plans for Sane Android. We’d picked that name because we felt “sanity” was a concept far removed from modern Android development. Our hope was to take the “sane” bits that we’d carved out over the tens of apps we’d worked on and pass them down to our clients. To tame the forest, curve the river. Why couldn’t we do the same with our product experience?

I looked back at the name and scribbled out the second half, replacing it with “Digital”:

SANE Digital.

It was a name I’d played with before as a sort of “parent” brand to use down the road, if SA had been successful. But Gary’s book had challenged me to think about the big picture, and to think about which steps were necessary along the path to it and, more importantly, which were not.

The projects where we had the most success, the ones where both our clients and ourselves were left totally satisfied with the outcome, were those where we’d played a crucial role in the direction and development of the product itself—where we acted not just as another development agency, but as an embedded partner. True consulting and advising.

To date, I’ve worked on over 25 different products launched across various App Stores and the web. I personally designed and developed 10 of them. Some met immediate success, some were met with silence. Many lasted a year or more before fizzling out. Some are still around today. I have personally seen what works and what does not. Hell, I’ve done what works and what doesn’t.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m not some kind of wunderkind. I’m not some sort of design prodigy. Hell, I can barely draw a straight line. If you’re looking for Steve-Jobs-in-a-Box, keep looking: I am not your man. But if what you are looking for is a battle-tested, business-minded, design-oriented product guy, I promise you I won’t let you down.

The layman’s opinion on entrepreneurs is that the successful ones are visionary geniuses. That what separates the billionaires from everyone else is some sort of divine gift of clairvoyance. But if you look at the ten richest men on Earth, you’ll find that five of them have degrees in chemical, civil, or electrical engineering. These aren’t visionaries: they’re masters of systems, people who know how to identify patterns of success and apply them over and over and over again. Hopefully, that’s what Sane is: the application of our successes, over and over and over again, each time with a bit of improvement over the last.

We will never stop trying to get better at this. We will never trade in our experience for rapidly changing trends. We will always advocate first and foremost for your business and for the customers that fuel it. If you want your product to “pop”, to “go viral”, or to become “the next Facebook”, you should find somebody else. If you want it to solve a real problem for your users, and do so in the most intuitive way possible, call me and let’s get started.

Looking forward to the future,

James Knight
Founder and CEO

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