Throughout my life I been blessed to meet a multitude of financially independent early retirees far before I had ever hear of the term F.I.R.E. This is the 4th installment of a series I call F.I.R.E. Stories. The below story is about two brothers and two sisters who are married to each other. I have known them since I was in high school. They have always been like older siblings to me and are two of my biggest role models when it comes to balancing work and placing an emphasis on spending time with your family. They are also responsible for my love of technology and part of the reason I went to work in the tech sector.
When I was in high school, I hung out with an older crowd in their mid to late 20’s on the weekends. , Jeremy, Jason, Tracy and Tiffany were four of those friends. Before I had a license Jeremy and his wife, then girlfriend) Tracy would pick me up to go surf at 4am on Wednesday mornings before school and drop me back by 8am. Besides surfing we would skate, snowboard, golf, paintball, and do pretty much every kick ass activity together. I was like the little brother that got to tag along everywhere. When I first met Jeremy and Tracy, their older siblings Jason and Tiffany were living out of state.
Jeremy and Jason the brothers, had barely graduated high school due to their grades and lack of interest. However, they were both great artists and had become self-taught computer 3D graphic designers. Jason the older brother had gotten a job to work on the original Baldaur’s gate video game out of Texas. Four years later, at the age of 28, he was let go during a company downsizing and returned home to mom and dad’s with his wife, son and new baby on the way. Jeremy the younger brother, at age 26, had never left home and was still living with mom and dad as well.
So both boys were now at home, working side jobs on construction sites for a few dollars here and there, but the majority of the time they spent playing on the computer making 3D characters and videos and posting them to online forums. One day they got an instant message from a 22 year old kid who wanted to hire them to work on his new video game concept.
They thought this was some kind of joke and the kid was pulling their leg, so they didn’t take him seriously and started sending sarcastic replies and telling the kid to leave them alone. A week or two later they received checks in the mail for a few thousand dollars each. It turned out this 22 year old was not full of shit and actually meant what he had said. He had made a couple of adult porn websites in the past couple of years that had generated millions of dollars in profits and he now wanted to move on to the video game industry.
I remember being at the house, seeing the checks and reading through their conversations with this guy. It was so unbelievable. A month later the boys were packing up their stuff and moving to Silicon Valley to work at a new video game start up with six figure salaries. Over the next four years they worked with a programmer and three other graphic designers to create a new ground breaking video game. Over the next 3 years their video game concept and demo reels were the most talked about upcoming game in the video game industry, which combined the first person shooter with the real-time strategy experience. In year three the owner became impatient with the release and the game was sent to market about 2 months too early and had several bugs that had not yet been worked out.
The game hit the shelves of every big box retail store in 2003 and garnered hundreds of thousands of sales over the next six months, but the game was filled with bugs, and required large online updates to fix the problems. This was in the early days of broad band internet and people were not willing to wait hours to download new updates every week. The game flopped and was never heard of again in the media, however I hear that there is still a small cult following who continue to play the online game to this day.
Shortly after the flop, the owner shut down the company and the boys were back to being jobless, now both married to their high school sweethearts who were sisters, and two little ones. The boys had made hundreds of thousands of dollars and had saved a little bit of the money. They moved their families back to mom and dad’s and started working with their old program on a new video game engine all on their own.
A year later they posted a demo video of their video game engine that would render 3D graphics in real time. It was something that had never been done before and in 2005 their video went viral across the video game development world. The started receiving offers to come work for Blizzard, Namco, Bandai, you name it, but they realized that they never wanted to work for someone else ever again. Instead they used their combined savings to open an office and hire employees. They built the team up to about 40 employees and eventually received an offer from one of the largest tech corporations to purchase their company for several million dollars.
The large tech corporation moved their company back up to Silicon Valley gave them their own office building to work on their video game engine, which they had “big plans for” and then one day the large tech corporation decided to shut down their project and fire everyone. They had a good 3 year run before the large tech corporation shut them down and made huge salaries on top of what they sold the company for, so they couldn’t really complain. This time they had many years of Fuck You money saved up and would never have to move back in with mom and dad.
This was around 2010 and the iPhone was now on its 4th generation. They decided to make an iOS video game based on their love for riding motor cycles called Lane Splitter. The game was one where you rode a motorcycle and accelerating speed and dodged traffic by tilting your phone. It became the 2nd most purchased game in the App Store for iPhone and iPad few several months before dropping off, but during that time they made a boat load of money and continue to see a small amount of passive income to this day.
About this time the sisters who were at home raising the kids began to take an interest in investing and day trading. They took a few classes, mostly self-taught themselves and began day trading part of the family savings. Well what do you know but they were good at it and started a good bit of income from day trading.
The boys decided at this point they were done working for a while and wanted to spend more time at home with their wives and kids (3 each). Rather than work they started doing awesome activities as a family like surfing, riding dirt bikes, skating, hiking, triathlon training, etc. The older brother decided he always wanted to live by the beach, so he found the worst house possible in the area he always wanted to live and bought it. He moved the family in to the dilapidated house and over the course of three years he and the family have demolished, expanded and rebuilt the entire house from scratch overlooking the ocean. While the kids are at school he works on the house and on the weekends the kids help build their new home in between surf sessions.
In 2016 the brothers released their second iOS video game Galaxy Groove which they worked on at their own leisure while prioritizing family fulltime. The game is a graphical and musical hit which is very fun to play and quite challenging.