Part-Time Alexa Developer Becomes Full-Time Tesla Driver
Software developer Nick Schwab was excited to start playing with building Alexa skills when Amazon opened up the platform to third-party developers. Now, that part-time gig has earned him a Tesla, his own company, and a big future in independent voice skill development.
“I’m a professional web developer and had casually followed the Alexa SDK circa 2015 out of curiosity since Alexa skill development doesn’t require visual design skills,” Schwab told Voicebot in an interview. “When Amazon announced the first generation Echo Dot, I promptly put in my order and began developing my first Alexa skill to retrieve the current daily deal from woot.com and meh.com.”
Even before the Echo Dot arrived, Schwab said he had finished the skill and submitted it for approval. Schwab’s biggest success came in 2016 when he developed his first ambient sleep sound series of skills.
“The ambient sleep sounds series serves over 250,000 users per day on Alexa devices, which creates some fun and unique scaling challenges I’ve never experienced before,” Schwab said. “I use these skills myself on a regular basis and created them to address my own difficulty staying asleep thanks to a noisy neighbor. So, it’s an absolute joy to know that my continued work on them is making a positive impact on people’s lives.”
The vast majority of Schwab’s ambient sounds skill users only access the free service. However, he added in skill purchasing with additional features in 2018 and that has resulted in a new income stream. Developers set their own prices for skills, and Amazon takes a 30 percent cut. While only a small fraction of his users pay for the $0.99 or $1.99 subscription, that’s still thousands of dollars each month.
In addition, Schwab has historically qualified for Alexa developer rewards which are monthly cash payments for the most popular skills that Amazon began as a formal program in 2017. That has enabled Schwab to tap into two revenue streams to support his growing business.
Schwab is hardly alone in making Alexa skills on the side. Amazon has been eager to expand its Alexa developer community, offering incentives and bonuses to companies and individuals who add to the list of Alexa skills. The templates Amazon offers for skill developers and the Alexa Skill Blueprints even make it easy for those without a programming background to push out their own skills. There are hundreds of thousands of developers registered today as Alexa skill developers, and of the more than 90,000 Alexa skills available, there are plenty from part-time developers alongside the professionally developed and supported skills.
As for Schwab, he has assembled his voice skill apps for Amazon and Google into Invoked Apps, and plans to grow the customer base even more.
“I’m always thinking of new skill ideas for Alexa, but my focus for the foreseeable future is to grow my ambient sleep sound series and provide first-class support for the thousands of paying customers who rely on them for a good night’s rest,” Schwab said.