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The dilemma: quit or persevere?

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TimTheCoder

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I have been working on this web app for a few years, that I started as a coursework project when I was in school. It is a quiz app that makes assessment more fun and engaging for students.

After 1 year of working on it full time, I'm now starting to make £1-£2K per month (£500-£1K profit). There are some problems though and I'm starting to wonder how feasible this really is and whether I'm better off doing something else:
  • It is in a high competition industry where the problem is already solved
    • There are several big players, VC funded and offer free versions of their software: Kahoot, Quizizz, Socrative, Gimkit (not VC funded, started by a high school student but I honestly think their product is awesome and better than mine which is why it has grown so much)
    • It is hard to see how I can compete with these
  • The target market is mostly teachers
    • If you want to get a teacher to pay for something, often it is like trying to draw blood from a stone. They mostly look for free tools - which is fair since they don't get paid much. I find it ridiculous that they often need to pay for things out of pocket - the school systems are messed up.
  • Free is the expectation
    • Teachers are always looking for free tools to use and I have made mine paid so it can be sustainable without funding. I had it the standard freemium model for several years which never worked out, but since changing I've made more income (still nothing substantial) but there's always a few get pissed off about having to pay for it and leave.
  • It isn't niche
    • Linked to high competition, my app can be used by all kinds of teachers which is a problem because I know it's better to be a big fish in a small pond if you're a solofounder with no team or funding.

There are good things though:
  • I have done barely any marketing, but still get plenty of users (100-300 signups per day)
  • I'm making some money, so in theory I can make more (but will be a challenge)
  • I have a few loyal users
But honestly looking at the cons list, I would never get into this business if I were starting over. I'm only offering a slightly different way of engaging students, which teachers are always looking for (hence lots of organic traffic). However due to the nature of this industry and the fact that I'm not solving a painful problem I think the chances of this becoming a true fastlane venture are very slim.

You might be wondering why I have been working on it this long if I think this. Well, it's mostly because I have mistakenly followed vanity metrics. I have only looked at things like signup numbers and thought I had something of real potential when I hit 10K users and quit everything to pursue it (LOL).

Now I'm trying to look at things a bit more objectively and examine the probabilities. I am leaning towards doing something else and keeping it alive as a side project, but I think it would be a good idea to get others viewpoints on it.
Thank you for reading!
 

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alexkuzmov

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I have been working on this web app for a few years, that I started as a coursework project when I was in school. It is a quiz app that makes assessment more fun and engaging for students.

After 1 year of working on it full time, I'm now starting to make £1-£2K per month (£500-£1K profit). There are some problems though and I'm starting to wonder how feasible this really is and whether I'm better off doing something else:
  • It is in a high competition industry where the problem is already solved
    • There are several big players, VC funded and offer free versions of their software: Kahoot, Quizizz, Socrative, Gimkit (not VC funded, started by a high school student but I honestly think their product is awesome and better than mine which is why it has grown so much)
    • It is hard to see how I can compete with these
  • The target market is mostly teachers
    • If you want to get a teacher to pay for something, often it is like trying to draw blood from a stone. They mostly look for free tools - which is fair since they don't get paid much. I find it ridiculous that they often need to pay for things out of pocket - the school systems are messed up.
  • Free is the expectation
    • Teachers are always looking for free tools to use and I have made mine paid so it can be sustainable without funding. I had it the standard freemium model for several years which never worked out, but since changing I've made more income (still nothing substantial) but there's always a few get pissed off about having to pay for it and leave.
  • It isn't niche
    • Linked to high competition, my app can be used by all kinds of teachers which is a problem because I know it's better to be a big fish in a small pond if you're a solofounder with no team or funding.

There are good things though:
  • I have done barely any marketing, but still get plenty of users (100-300 signups per day)
  • I'm making some money, so in theory I can make more (but will be a challenge)
  • I have a few loyal users
But honestly looking at the cons list, I would never get into this business if I were starting over. I'm only offering a slightly different way of engaging students, which teachers are always looking for (hence lots of organic traffic). However due to the nature of this industry and the fact that I'm not solving a painful problem I think the chances of this becoming a true fastlane venture are very slim.

You might be wondering why I have been working on it this long if I think this. Well, it's mostly because I have mistakenly followed vanity metrics. I have only looked at things like signup numbers and thought I had something of real potential when I hit 10K users and quit everything to pursue it (LOL).

Now I'm trying to look at things a bit more objectively and examine the probabilities. I am leaning towards doing something else and keeping it alive as a side project, but I think it would be a good idea to get others viewpoints on it.
Thank you for reading!
Sounds like it would be a good candidate for a side project, yes.

However, a few things to consider:

1. Is there any easy cost effective way to alter or expand the functionality so that you actually solve a more complex problem which will bring higher revenue?
What can you do with the minimum investment of time and resources?

2. Can you outsorce finding paying customers to partners?
Offer a percent of the revenue and just dont bother looking for the teachers yourself.

3. Can you make it more niche, or expand into another niche using the same software?

P.S Also think about reading up on marketing and business optimization.
It might not scale much in your case, but you have a profitable business in your hands.
If nothing else, then you can at least experiement with it, expand your skills in marketing.
 

TimTheCoder

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Thanks for the reply, some good points to think about.

1. Is there any easy cost effective way to alter or expand the functionality so that you actually solve a more complex problem which will bring higher revenue?
What can you do with the minimum investment of time and resources?
I'm still in contact with my physics teacher who I originally made it for and there is a problem he has which he's asked me to incorporate into the app but I haven't yet because it's quite complex technically-wise and would also make the product more complicated, something which I've found to not be a good thing (it's already quite complicated).
I am considering it though, as it is a feature which is not offered by any other platforms as far as I'm aware. Perhaps it would be a good idea to pivot into a formative assessment tool, rather than generic classroom engagement tool and then this feature would make more sense. This would also be niching it down a bit, though not by a lot.

2. Can you outsorce finding paying customers to partners?
Offer a percent of the revenue and just dont bother looking for the teachers yourself.
I don't have any partners at the moment, so this is something I'd have to look for. I don't directly sell to teachers, I just try to make the product good enough and improve the conversion rate from free to paid once their trial is over. Since I get a steady stream of signups anyway, my philosophy has been to focus on making the product experience as good as possible, then that will lead to a higher conversion rate (in theory).

3. Can you make it more niche, or expand into another niche using the same software?
This is something I've thought about a lot. The problem with making it more niche is how I've already got people using it how it is right now and I wouldn't want to alienate half the user base. Normally you would start niche and then expand, but I'm not sure it works the other way around(?)

I will do some reading on marketing and business optimisation, it's definitely something I haven't delved very deeply into. Is there any particular books/resources you would recommend?

Thanks again!
 

lowtek

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I'm of the mindset that if you can make $1,000 a month, you can make $10,000 a month.

Let's look at it objectively. Everything that you described as a problem is a barrier to entry. You're already in the marketplace, so it sounds like you've overcome that barrier. More competition doesn't seem likely, so "all you have to do" is find where the other players are screwing up and capitalize. You must have already started to do this, otherwise you wouldn't have sales and a handful of loyal users. I suspect you're closer to success than you might think (success defined as this being a venture that can pay a full time income).

Here's how I would analyze the question of quitting or moving forward:

How much energy did it take to go from 0 to where you are now?
Do you currently have a validated market problem that you can solve, that you can apply the same amount of energy to, and achieve better results in a comparable time frame?
If you were to instead spend that energy on your current venture, how much further ahead would you be, relative to solving some other validated market need?

I wouldn't consider the following, because they are effectively "sunk costs":

Everything you're going to do is going to be hard.
There will (ideally) always be entrenched players in the market.
There will always be entitled customers.
Customers will always want to pay the least amount possible, relative to the value they're getting.
 

alexkuzmov

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my philosophy has been to focus on making the product experience as good as possible, then that will lead to a higher conversion rate (in theory)
Thats a good approach.
The personal touch can only enhance this.
Its always a battle with time when finding clients, so having someone to partner up with and deligate this work to can only speed things up.
If you are making the product and want the experience to be as good as possible, you cant have much time left over for selling.
And yet sell you must, because without clients, no revenue.

The problem with making it more niche is how I've already got people using it how it is right now and I wouldn't want to alienate half the user base.
Never think of it like this.
If you have a succesful product, then alienating the user base without adding in more clients could destroy the business.
But since you have too few clients and you havent gotten it off the ground, there is nothing really there to destroy.
If you lose 50% of your clients, you lose 250-500 per month.

Is there any particular books/resources you would recommend?
I was very sceptical, but this one turned out to be very informative, good overall: The MasterMind Marketing System

It has alot of repetition in it, could have been shorter, but still, pretty good read/listen.
 

TimTheCoder

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I'm of the mindset that if you can make $1,000 a month, you can make $10,000 a month.

Let's look at it objectively. Everything that you described as a problem is a barrier to entry. You're already in the marketplace, so it sounds like you've overcome that barrier. More competition doesn't seem likely, so "all you have to do" is find where the other players are screwing up and capitalize. You must have already started to do this, otherwise you wouldn't have sales and a handful of loyal users. I suspect you're closer to success than you might think (success defined as this being a venture that can pay a full time income).

Here's how I would analyze the question of quitting or moving forward:

How much energy did it take to go from 0 to where you are now?
Do you currently have a validated market problem that you can solve, that you can apply the same amount of energy to, and achieve better results in a comparable time frame?
If you were to instead spend that energy on your current venture, how much further ahead would you be, relative to solving some other validated market need?

I wouldn't consider the following, because they are effectively "sunk costs":

Everything you're going to do is going to be hard.
There will (ideally) always be entrenched players in the market.
There will always be entitled customers.
Customers will always want to pay the least amount possible, relative to the value they're getting.
Interesting, thank you for the reply. I guess the idea that if you can make $1, you can make $100 and if you can make $100 you can make $1000 and so on has been what kept me going for so long. But recently I have been a bit demoralised and I've read about ideas like "If you can't be #1 or #2 in a marketplace, then you shouldn't pursue it" which is what throws me off, I keep thinking I should be more niche but I don't know how that would work.

Good questions. I must admit that I haven't been working full pedal to the metal, especially recently where I've basically done next to nothing, but still making money which is nice. I have been working on this since 2017 when I first launched it as a coursework project, I worked on it on the side for 3 years and in late 2019 I started working on it full time up until now (but even then, there have been more days than I'd like to admit where I have slacked off).

So I guess if I were to work harder then I should be able to make it more successful. But part of the problem is I don't know what to work on. I don't really have any direction and am a bit lost what I should be working on, which is probably why I have been plagued with procrastination and laziness.

I also don't have another business idea that I could immediately jump into which is an issue. I'd probably have to get a job to start building some capital and look for ideas.

Here are some videos which I've been pondering on:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySQFbVr1whg

At the beginning he says how if you can't be #1 or #2 then you shouldn't do it. Unless I find a way to niche down what I already have, then I don't believe I can be in the top against the big competitors which are doing great and have teams of people.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBlJVazr4A0

This one is interesting because it's like I'm in the middle. It's not dead silence but it's also not an explosive hit. He says if it's anything less don't pursue it, so that kind of makes me think I shouldn't. Or maybe I should just keep improving it, without abandoning it until I do get a huge response..?
 

Bekit

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Just a few thoughts on a few of your "cons" ...

The target market is mostly teachers
  • If you want to get a teacher to pay for something, often it is like trying to draw blood from a stone. They mostly look for free tools - which is fair since they don't get paid much. I find it ridiculous that they often need to pay for things out of pocket - the school systems are messed up.
Have you considered expanding your target market to online marketers and online course creators?

Quizzes are a really effective lead magnet and email list building tool.

I'm in a few facebook groups for online course creators, and I see posts like this one ALL. THE. TIME.

1614961712033.png


Free is the expectation
  • Teachers are always looking for free tools to use and I have made mine paid so it can be sustainable without funding. I had it the standard freemium model for several years which never worked out, but since changing I've made more income (still nothing substantial) but there's always a few get pissed off about having to pay for it and leave.
Teachers, sure.

But for online course creators... Within this market, people DO expect to pay for a solution. And they have the money to do it because they know they're investing in a tool that allows them to build their email list, which is an asset to their business. You can calculate the average dollar value of every new subscriber that you bring in to your list. And lately, quizzes are WAY more effective than other lead magnets (e.g. PDFs or ebooks or whitepapers). So it's often worth paying a small monthly fee for a good quiz software, because sometimes it can pay for itself after it brings in only 1-2 subscribers. Obviously this depends on the effectiveness of the person's funnel, the average order value, and a lot of other variables. But the online courses market is often selling their stuff in the $997 - $2997 range. So a monthly quiz subscription is peanuts if it actually works to bring in good leads.
 

TimTheCoder

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Thats a good approach.
The personal touch can only enhance this.
Its always a battle with time when finding clients, so having someone to partner up with and deligate this work to can only speed things up.
If you are making the product and want the experience to be as good as possible, you cant have much time left over for selling.
And yet sell you must, because without clients, no revenue.
Well, because the product is relatively inexpensive my business model depends on thousands of paying users rather than a few big "clients" (so I think "customer" is a better word). And to non-organically reach these numbers would require advertising. The problem is this is not something you buy straight away, there is a free period and then if you like it you might upgrade. Plus the LTV is low, so these factors make it difficult to do this if you're not an expert in ads.

I could sell to schools, but from talking to teachers it seems like most teachers pay out of pocket and it is notoriously difficult to sell an app like this directly to a school.
Never think of it like this.
If you have a succesful product, then alienating the user base without adding in more clients could destroy the business.
But since you have too few clients and you havent gotten it off the ground, there is nothing really there to destroy.
If you lose 50% of your clients, you lose 250-500 per month.
Hmm I'm not sure, I have over 10K users which are mostly teachers across all kinds of subjects. I think niching would mean making it for a specific subject like physics teachers for example. Then you could be #1 or #2 in the marketplace. But that would out of the 10K users, now only maybe about 100 of them are the target audience..
I guess it depends how far you niche down, but ideally you want to niche enough so that you can be best in the world (right?)

I was very sceptical, but this one turned out to be very informative, good overall: The MasterMind Marketing System

It has alot of repetition in it, could have been shorter, but still, pretty good read/listen.
Thanks, will check it out!
 

TimTheCoder

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Just a few thoughts on a few of your "cons" ...


Have you considered expanding your target market to online marketers and online course creators?

Quizzes are a really effective lead magnet and email list building tool.

I'm in a few facebook groups for online course creators, and I see posts like this one ALL. THE. TIME.

View attachment 37053



Teachers, sure.

But for online course creators... Within this market, people DO expect to pay for a solution. And they have the money to do it because they know they're investing in a tool that allows them to build their email list, which is an asset to their business. You can calculate the average dollar value of every new subscriber that you bring in to your list. And lately, quizzes are WAY more effective than other lead magnets (e.g. PDFs or ebooks or whitepapers). So it's often worth paying a small monthly fee for a good quiz software, because sometimes it can pay for itself after it brings in only 1-2 subscribers. Obviously this depends on the effectiveness of the person's funnel, the average order value, and a lot of other variables. But the online courses market is often selling their stuff in the $997 - $2997 range. So a monthly quiz subscription is peanuts if it actually works to bring in good leads.

Man, I would love to do this. I have actually talked to someone who signed up to my app looking for this use case but ultimately it ended up not being effective. There are a few problems why it currently won't work for this market:

1. It is designed for a classroom environment where people are playing at the same time. This is a gamified quiz app where players can interact with each other while they complete the questions, so the entire thing just doesn't work as well when players are joining at different times.

2. There is a limit of 50 players. Due to the nature of the app when it goes over 50 it gets laggy because the browser has to render so many objects. I may be able to get around this by using a more appropriate technology, but it still works best with small groups.

So if I were to do this it would probably mean a completely different product really. Kind of sucks because this is a great idea!
 

lowtek

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So Seth Godin says if you can't be #1 or #2 then you should quit. IMO, he's nowhere near #1 or #2 in the business guru space, so why is he still going? Seems like some kind of paradox to me.

Spend less time listening to egg heads that don't practice what they preach, and more time listening to the market.

You're making money. Go out and make more of it. It's very simple. It's certainly not easy, but it is simple.

While you're at it, check out indi hackers. It's an online community of software entrepreneurs, of all scales. You can find some like minds there and people who can give you perspective. This is a great forum for general entrepreneurship, but when it comes to software specific businesses, IH has a lot to offer.
 

TimTheCoder

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So Seth Godin says if you can't be #1 or #2 then you should quit. IMO, he's nowhere near #1 or #2 in the business guru space, so why is he still going? Seems like some kind of paradox to me.

Spend less time listening to egg heads that don't practice what they preach, and more time listening to the market.

You're making money. Go out and make more of it. It's very simple. It's certainly not easy, but it is simple.

While you're at it, check out indi hackers. It's an online community of software entrepreneurs, of all scales. You can find some like minds there and people who can give you perspective. This is a great forum for general entrepreneurship, but when it comes to software specific businesses, IH has a lot to offer.

Thanks I guess listening to the market rather than the generic business advice is a sound approach.

Yes Indie Hackers is great, I have been lurking in that community for a while now. It doesn't tend to have as much active discussions though, I think I've gotten more value from this forum.
 

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