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Ask Me Anything Ask Me Anything About App Business (100+ Apps, 10M+ Downloads, 1 Liquidity Event)

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by BrooklynHustle, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. BrooklynHustle
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    BrooklynHustle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Hey Forum,

    Been back on here for a few months now and I've been fairly quiet... listening much more than I talk (aside from fantasy football, haha. Shout out to you guys)

    However, @eliquid's awesome SaaS AMA thread has inspired me to contribute a little more value. I've seen the topic of apps/app business come up a number of times, and that is an area I can speak on a little bit

    Most of you probably do not know that over the past ~5 years I have built over 100 apps across games, entertainment, social networking, transportation, photo/video, and more (via my development teams.. I no longer write code myself), leading to over 12 million downloads & one successful "liquidity event" (netted me several six figures in addition to the money I had been earning in the business). This started as a side hustle (I had a "good, stable 6-figure job"), before it grew into a replacement income, and finally into something much greater. It's changed my life & the process has changed me as a person.

    Not quite FU money just yet, but it's been a fun journey and I am enjoying the process for all its twists and turns.

    I currently operate as a service business, building apps for businesses & entrepreneurs. Essentially, this opportunity recently found me while I was looking for my next great idea. Noticed that every single week people were reaching out with app ideas or help developing apps without my doing anything, so I figured there must be a huge NEED. Only took me a few years to catch on to this... :rofl:

    Have not got around to building a website yet, but it hasn't mattered to this point so I haven't prioritized it (probably a lesson in there...). Since I still need to grow the company to meet the current demand, I'll get to it later. For now SurveyMonkey has proven more than adequate, haha

    I think that covers the essence of my story, but if I've missed something, I will come back and fill it in.

    I've learned more than I would have ever thought about this fast moving industry, which has changed a lot since I started and continues to do so rapidly.

    But more importantly, what would YOU like to know?

    Ask me anything!

    I'll respond as soon as I can with as much detail as I can, though probably not instantaneously

    Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 2.06.51 PM.png
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  2. Readerly
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    Readerly Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Thanks for offering to do this AMA! I too am a developer. I build web apps using Node.js. I've also published a few apps to the Apple App and Google Play Stores, but with nowhere near your successful numbers.

    I'm very curious: what's your process for evaluating whether to build an app? How do generate an idea for an app, then go about validating it.?
     
  3. Bdenner64
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    Bdenner64 Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I'll shoot:

    How do you start driving traffic to your apps and get them people to download?
     
  4. silentownage001
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    How would you go about getting a developer as a partner? I have an app on the market, but need to split equity since I can't sink anymore money into freelancers at this point as I'm trying to gain users and generate revenue.
     
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  5. Seebs10
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    If you were starting over and had little to no coding experience and you wanted to build an app, what approach would you take to find or partner with developers to get at least an mvp built??
     
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  6. BrooklynHustle
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    BrooklynHustle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    My pleasure! Let's get this thing started...

    These days, I would probably call myself an entrepreneur much more than a developer. Though I studied computer science in school and worked as a developer for some time, I have not coded anything in earnest in about 8 years now. Instead I work through several development teams I have built up over the years.

    When it comes to generating & validating an app idea, the first thing I would say is to think of it less in terms of just an app and more in terms of a business. The app is just the delivery mechanism.

    So this means you need to address the area of demand. Who has already demonstrated that they want or NEED what you intend to offer? (that's right... NECST is in play, as always) How can you prove this beyond just your feelings?

    There was a time when you could just publish any old app into the store and hope to generate some profit, but that time is long gone.

    Right now, since many of the apps I build are for other businesses, my decisions are partially driven by others, but thankfully I have the luxury of being able to be selective, so we only work on projects where there is a real business case, so that my team will be able to deliver value well above the price we charge to the customer. Though I have done very well with games in the past, my preference is now for apps that make solid business sense.

    The big things to think about are:

    • NEED - who is my customer & why? how do I know there is proven demand? You don't want to spend thousands of dollars building something that nobody wants because inspiration hit you in the shower

    • Marketing - how will I get my app in front of my ideal customer once it is developed?
      Publishing to the app store & praying is no longer a viable strategy

    • Monetization - what model will I use to make money? Is this a paid app? subscription? free with ads &/or in app purchases? Payment outside of the app?

    • LTV (long term value) - what will the average value of a customer likely be? Personally, I now prefer a scenario where this will be on the higher side and I don't need to drive a crazy number of downloads to make significant returns, although people are still doing the opposite successfully

    • Competitive analysis - are there similar apps out there? how many? how are they doing? (look at the reviews) Is there room for improvement? what are they missing? what kind of customer are they attracting?

    Attaching a cheatsheet of questions that I use to keep myself on track (produced it for a mentoring program some time ago). I pretty much do this automatically at this point, but every now and then I'll refer back to it to make sure I'm not missing anything. Let me know if this helps.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  7. JamesDB
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    JamesDB Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Nice thread, not having an app background it's an interesting topic.:thumbsup:

    Some questions:
    Could you tell a bit more about how you approach the launch, beta with a MVP or directly with sth. "advanced" due to market research?

    As for the ads, is it still a viable monetization strategy? Heard that the earnings collapsed a bit? Or did it just shifted towards the CTA ads?

    Having built over 100+ apps could you share some of the patterns that you recognized and would you say that the 80/20 applied to your portfolio as well?


    thanks!
     
  8. ApparentHorizon
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    Can you go into how you choose your monetization model a bit?
     
  9. BrooklynHustle
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    BrooklynHustle Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I've partnered with another development shop on a venture before, splitting the revenue 60/40 in my favor (but the percentages are nowhere near as important as the mindset). If I remember correctly they approached me. I had purchased some development from them before and they noticed that I was able to succeed in downloads and monetization in a way most of their customers were not. This made it an easy "sale". They could handle all development and design and I would market the stuff so we would make money. WIN-WIN.

    So I would say to you flip your perspective and and "what is in it for them?"

    If you were in their shoes, what would make this a highly attractive proposition?

    Because any decent developer is constantly approached with offers to partner on "million dollar ideas" or "billion dollar ideas" which "just need a coder", what will make you stand out is demonstrated proof that you have done it before and can do it again or some other kind of edge like killer relationships in an industry, presales, something along those lines...

    The other piece of this is that you need to make contact with developers by putting yourself where they are whether it be online hangouts, such as StackOverflow or message boards for specific technologies, or local area meetup events, etc.

    Let me know if this helps or you need me to expand on anything.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  10. Readerly
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    That's a great mindset shift to suggest: to think of an app not as an app, per se, but as the vehicle for a business. I tend to get hung up on building the thing itself, rather than thinking about how the thing serves a need.

    Actually, that's something I've been pondering a lot lately, this question of NEED. My earlier apps didn't find a very big audience, because, I suspect, even though I designed them to address a need, it wasn't a need for which folks were actively seeking a solution. So I had a double-challenge in my marketing: to first convince prospects that this was a problem that needed to be solved, then that my solution was the best option.

    It makes me think of the Blue Ocean vs. Red Ocean comparison from the book Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The risk with taking a "blue ocean" approach, that is, offering a product or service that stakes out a new market, is this doubled work of first convincing people that they should address the problem, as you've now defined it, then convincing them to buy your solution. At least with the "red ocean" approach, you know that there's already a market with customers actively seeking a solution to a problem they're very aware of.

    What do you think?
     
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  11. BrooklynHustle
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    Definitely think it is easier to focus initially on where there is demonstrated demand. Even if you are doing something slightly different for the customer, at least you know there is a willing customer. Once you have gotten your footing, you can allocate some of your profits to Blue Ocean Moonshots if you please...

    Been meaning to read that book btw. It's sitting on my Kindle, but I've been more into Audiobooks lately
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  12. Ginto
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    My question similar to someone's above.. If you were starting over, where would you start? Would you spend time learning code or networking with developers?
     
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  13. BrooklynHustle
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    If I were starting from scratch, assuming I had decided on the painful problem I wanted to solve for the market, I would first find a quality developer via referral and then raise the necessary funds by preselling my solution. Either that or put together a great story for a crowdfunding campaign (only appropriate in certain cases).

    Another method: I would start with relatively simple concepts in proven, high-demand areas and hire overseas freelance devs from upwork. Because there is a wide disparity of talent/competence on these freelance sites, I would use a series of small, fixed-price projects to determine who I wanted to work with long term. I would continue to bootstrap profits from my app portfolio to fund the building of my MVP.

    One note: I've found that the key to hiring from these sites is persistence. I am not afraid to repost a job over & over & over with tweaked headlines, copy, and/or pricing until I get exactly what I want in terms of a candidate.



    Many people give up too easy or settle on a candidate who is less than ideal. The first method I mentioned (referral) is less legwork & more peace of mind, but also more expensive. It's a matter of preference.
     
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  14. BrooklynHustle
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    I would only start with learning code if I was passionate about learning that skill for it's own sake, otherwise I'd rather hire a great developer so I can leave that aspect to the pros and focus on the marketing & monetization. See my answer above for additional detail.

    NOTE: I studied computer science in college & worked as a software engineer for a few years after. Haven't coded in about 8 years though. I have people on my team who can execute that task much better.


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vhh_GeBPOhs
     
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  15. BrooklynHustle
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    There are a few ways. It really depends...

    First of all, this might seem obvious, but the product has to be something people want to use or there is not really a point of putting the effort in. Even if you get them to the app it will be a waste of money/effort when they close and delete it shortly after

    That said...

    ORGANIC TRAFFIC:
    • App Store Optimization (ASO) used to be my bread & butter for the business I sold. Formerly the #1 method of getting free traffic, but things have changed quite a bit to where it is still improtant to do, but generally not as powerful as it used to be... You are no longer driving apps to the top via ASO alone unless it is a very obscure and underserved niche with high demand relative to the supply (for example, I have a buddy whose Christian & Muslim religious apps are still racking up downloads on ASO alone... I believe)

      upload_2017-12-5_15-29-52.png

    • ASO divides into two distinct segments:
      • Keyword optimization - select keywords based on relevance, level of competition, and finally traffic level and strategically place them into your title, keywords fields, and description (on Android only). Keep experimenting, tracking, and tweaking on a continual basis to get the most bang for your buck

      • Conversion rate optimization - maximize the % of people that land on your app store page that will actually download your page. This means a killer app icon (most important), screenshots (less important but still important), and description copy (least important, but you still want to do your best to maximize results)
    • It's also possible to pick up some organic traffic by translating your app metadata (title, keywords, description) to the native language of any countries where you have significant traction already... If you want to go all out, you can translate screenshots as well

    • https://blog.kissmetrics.com/app-store-optimization/

    PAID TRAFFIC:
    • You need to know your numbers, specifically the LTV of your average customer, or none of this is a possibility... You will burn through cash quickly

    • For a long time I would tell people that paid traffic was not really viable for anyone but the top echelon developers with 7-figure advertising budgets, but thanks to FB that is no longer the case. The ability to target down to very specific interest groups and the ability to form lookalike audiences who strongly resemble your users & purchasers has made this a viable traffic source in some cases. IG ads as well, which makes sense given they are owned by the same company

    • That said, no form of paid traffic will be effective for long if you do not have some level of virality/sharing/word of mouth. Not that it needs to go super viral, but you should not have to pay for every single user or you will have a hard time

    • You can also purchase traffic from other mobile ad networks such as Applovin, Vungle, Admob, etc, but I would not recommend it. Tends to be overpriced and not highly targeted. Best left to the big boys.

    • For any paid traffic, it's going to work best if you have a high LTV app to give you some room to play with

      upload_2017-12-5_15-24-45.png
    INFLUENCER MARKETING:
    • Influencer marketing describes when a business partners with or pays someone with access to a large, hungry audience to promote their product or service.... in this case an app. This approach has generated a number of app success stories from the Kardashians, to Stephen Curry, to Ellen, to the Rock.
      upload_2017-12-5_15-29-17.png

    • I’ve even participated in a number of deals myself, and while there is tremendous upside, the deals can often take much longer and become more complicated with layers of approval due to the involvement of an outside party. In several cases, I’ve had deals fail to go to market due to complications after months of work or deals where the influencer promotion was lackluster when the product finally did go live. While I don’t consider these issues deal breakers, they certainly provide food for thought.

    • I know the guy's behind the 200M DL smash hit game "Color Switch"

      View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMoDdDg7yBY


      They have brokered relationships with a huge number of influencers (both A-list celebrity level as well as "social media celebrity" level... both work) and influencer marketing is one of their core promo strategies to this day. They get some of the most popular influencers to post their humor videos like the one below on FB/IG/Youtube/you name it to the tune of millions & millions of views. This can be done in many different niches with some creativity, hustle, and in some cases maybe a bit of budget (depending on what the value exchange looks like)

      Color Switch Video shared by Jerry Purpdrank
    • By the way, this is not a strategy that is only used by games (only mentioning that since I used a game example above). IE: Promoting your beauty app via 11 of the top 20 makeup influencers

    • You can also partner with an influencer or influencers to give them some skin in the game and more incentive to blow it up. In some cases their brand can be part of the product, or not

    PUBLISHING:
    • Publishing (mainly occurring in the gaming world), describes when an established company makes a deal to use its unfair advantage to help a less established shop market their game more effectively than they could on their own. For example, France based Ketchapp frequently signs agreements to market games made by other developers to their existing install base of hundreds of millions of users in exchange for a share of the revenue. While this can be a very attractive proposition leading to outsized results, the sheer number of app producers competing for the attention of relatively few dominant publishers greatly diminishes the chances of landing one of these coveted spots.

    YOUR OWN ASSETS:
    • Grow an email list/social media following and promote your relevant app to them. Back to basics

    That's all I've got for now... Will come back and edit in case I've missed something major.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
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  16. BrooklynHustle
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    Market research is essential, or you will likely fail by making something noone wants

    However I still try to launch with as MVP a version as possible in most cases, and then iterate as I get feedback
     
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  17. BrooklynHustle
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    Ads are still viable for certain kinds of apps, but in general you are going to need a higher volume of users in order to monetize at a meaningful level than something like a subscription app

    Mobile ads company AppLovin has recently been valued over $1.4B... it's not because they are not making any money. As one of the first publishers to use their platform, I saw them go from 0 to where they are now. They are not the only mobile ad network thriving.

    upload_2017-12-7_18-35-57.png

    As the market grows each year, there continue to be advertising opportunities, even if some of the players & formats may change (for example banner ads, video ads, and in some instances, rewarded video ads now seem to perform better, whereas static interstitials were the big moneymaker just a few years ago)

    One big change in monetization is that subscription apps are now quite dominant among the top grossing apps, where they barely existed a few years ago.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  18. BrooklynHustle
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    After seeing so many apps succeed & fail, the biggest 80/20 differentiator (not surprisingly) has to be demand. When you are building something people want/NEED it is so much easier to achieve success even if it is far from perfect initially than when you come up with an "innovative idea" that you have to shove down people's throats through aggressive marketing.

    Most people prefer to go for the "never before been seen" app idea or on the opposite end of the spectrum, the lazy ripoff of something popular. Rather if you can start playing in an area where there is already strong demonstrated demand and then build a true quality product through iteration, based on market needs, your chance of hitting it out the park are far, far greater. In that way, it draws from the same business principles in @MJ DeMarco's books.

    upload_2017-12-8_14-56-23.png upload_2017-12-8_14-56-53.png
     
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