Category Archives: Business

Struggling with Sales (May 2018)

I’m getting a lot of acquisitions since I changed Safe Vision app to freemium model:

(Acquisition means that a parent installed the app and signed up for an account.)

However as many people warned me, I’m struggling with converting users from free to paid. Here are recent sales figures:

As you can see I’m getting about 3-4 sales per week.

I added free 7-day trial of the premium subscription in version 24. I can see from analytics that people are starting trial but don’t rush to purchase 1-year premium ($23.49) after it expires:

Number of people that started premium trial, day by day.

I have two options now: either go back to the paid model with free trial or figure out a way to motivate people to buy. One idea is to add daily time limit. It could work like this:

Jimmy is 6 years old. His mother Ann installs Safe Vision on his Amazon Fire tablet. Jimmy watches videos for an hour. After 1 hour he sees Time’s Up screen:

Jimmy asks his mother to let him watch more videos. Ann switches to the parent mode and opens Daily Time Limit screen:

Changing time limit to more than 1 hour requires premium subscription. Ann decides that 1 hour per day is enough.

Few weeks pass. Jimmy is watching videos for 1 hour every day. One day Ann needs time to cook dinner. She needs to keep Jimmy busy. She decided that the app works for her and her son and subscribes for 1 year. Then she changes daily time limit to 2 hours.

Results of Freemium Experiment

I changed the Safe Vision app to be free in the end of March. After speaking to an expert on Clarity.fm I decided to let people to watch videos in pre-approved channels for free. If the parent wants to add a channel for their child that requires premium subscription of $23.49 per year.

Results so far have been quite dramatic:

  • Acquisition – a parent installed the app and signed up for an account.
  • Activation – child watched at least 10 videos on the same or the next day after parent installed the app.
  • Retention – child watched at least 5 videos 2 or 3 days after parent installed the app.

Immediately the number of people that install the app and register for an account (acquisitions) jumped up.

What about the sales?

The week starting March 19 had a record number of sales: 13. After that sales dropped to about 4 per week.

I’m a bit at loss why did this happen. One clue is that 5 out of those 13 parents that paid on that week signed up before March 15. Also I tried to let parents to unlock one channel for free but then I reverted that change.

I noticed that many parents would install the app, search for some channel, try to unlock it and hit the Paywall screen. On that screen the app asked them to purchase premium subscription in order to unlock the channel. A lot of parents would not continue using the app and move on after that.

Cut-down version of Safe Vision app for iOS

I have created a cut-down version of Safe Vision app for iOS. This version has these limitations:

  • It works on iPhone only, not on iPad.
  • Parents are unable to sign up for a new account from the app. They can sign up from website or Android app only.
  • Parents are unable to purchase app subscription.

Basically it has parental controls only:

It is mostly useless but the good news is Apple has accepted it to its App Store! Here is the link: Safe Vision app on the App Store.

My plan is to gradually bring back missing features until I have fully functioning app available for iPhone and iPad. Also, Apple allows selling app subscription using their in-app purchase mechanism only. No PayPal, no credit card – they want their 30% cut of the profit!

I keep improving the app itself. I made the Home screen to look better on tablets:

Previously it was one-column list with a lot of wasted screen space.

Pricing Change

I changed the app price from $1.99 one-time purchase to $15 per year subscription. I just couldn’t see how to make it work with such a low price and me working on the app on the side. The app is free to install now with 7-day free trial.

I’m happy to report that 13 people purchased the app since September 12, 2017! On average I get 3 sales per week.

What’s interesting is all purchases are from Kindle Fire tablet owners so I’m going to concentrate on this market segment from now on.

Here are my key metrics from past few weeks:

Acquisition – number of people that installed the app on a give week.
Activation – watched at least 10 videos on the same or the next day when installed the app.
Retention – watched at least 5 videos day after installed or the next day.

As you can see the number of acquisitions is trending down. I’m going to work on bringing them back to previous level bu my main challenge is getting feedback on the app. My goal is talk to them on Skype or phone, based on advice from Dan Martell. I tried sending emails to parents that installed the app but got almost no replies.

Here’s the link to the app, if you’re curious: Safe Vision: filter YouTube for kids

Tracking Key Metrics

I made 22 sales total of Safe Vision app on Amazon App Store between July 12 and September 12, 2017. After that I changed the app to require paid subscription of $15 per year with free 7 day trial. I also offer free 1-year subscription if parent helps the project with classifying videos: safe.vision/free

So far nobody purchased the subscription and one person received free 1-year subscription (someone from Poland).

I decided to start tracking key metrics for my business: acquisition, activation and retention. I’m going to track them based on weekly age cohort (click for bigger image):

The chart shows that for example in the week starting September 18:

  • 90 people installed the app (acquisitions)
  • out of those people 23 watched at least 10 videos on the same day or the next day (activations)
  • 11 people watched at least 5 videos a day after installing the app (retention)

My plan moving forward is to start inbound marketing by making guest blog posts. Please let me know if you have ideas on topics that would be interesting for parents of kids 5-7 years old.

Also I’m going to ask parents that installed the app recently to give me feedback on why they decided not to use it.

Onward!

First sale!

I’ve made the first sale of the Safe Vision app! I’ve changed the price of the app on Amazon App store from free to $1.69 on July 12 and someone from Russia purchased the app! I increase the price to $1.99 after that.

So it looks like I was right about Kindle Fire users being underserved: many people there are looking for YouTube Kids app there but it’s not available. I’ve sold 14 copies total so far.

My strategy moving forward is to increase the number of sales on Amazon App store. I ran advertising campaign there but the results were disappointing: the ads were displayed 158,323 times (impressions) and only 2 people installed the app (2 conversions). As it turns out, one of those installation was by child done without parent permission.

I think my best be is to get my app to rank high when people search for ‘YouTube kids’ on Amazon App store somehow. I learned that Amazon ranks apps based on number of recent sales so this presents chicken and egg problem: in order to rank high I need a large number of sales and in order to get sales I need the app to rank high. Please let me know if you have any ideas.

I noticed that children stop using my app after some time. Out of 3 children that signed up on the week starting July 17 nobody opened the app last week. So my retention rate is poor. I’m going to improve it by making the app more engaging. I realized that children actually don’t know what they want to watch so the app should offer a large variety of videos.

My Experience with the Founder Institute

I enrolled in Founder Institute in September 2016. Founder Institute is incubator/accelerator with chapters in many cities.

At that time I had an idea for a parental control app for YouTube. I had few pre-orders – 12 people paid me money upfront for free lifetime access to the service once I build it.

Founder Institute course is a 3-month program. It is very intensive. It includes program sessions every week where local entrepreneurs teach us various aspects of company building but the bulk of the learning is done through doing homework assignments. Each week we were getting about 10 assignments.

I learned a lot about company building. The main benefit for me was learning how to clearly articulate my idea by pitching it to potential investors, customers and hires.

Also I met a lot of local entrepreneurs and worked together with fellow founders in a small group.

Overall I think Founder Institute is great. It pushed me outside my comfort zone many times. I significantly upgraded my vision for my company as result of going through the program. Founder Institute helped me to move forward quickly with my idea.

Thank you Adeo Ressi for creating The Founder Institute and thank you Ian Hopkinson and James Kyd for leading Melbourne Chapter in 2016!

My Fiasco with Creating Software that Saves Electricity

In September 2014 I decided to stop active development of Fotrel and create a new product instead. This time I wanted to build software in environmental area. I envisioned software that would help to make the Earth cleaner somehow.

I was inspired by Peachjar company. They built a software solution that helps environment by reducing amount of paper flyers that kids bring from school.

Some ideas that I have considered:

  • Software for marine biologists
  • Software that helps solar panel installers
  • Planning software for garden designers

I decided to build software that would help people to save electricity. Most of electricity is produced by coal power plants that pollute air and increase global warming.

Power plant in Belchatow

Following Lean Startup methodology I conducted a lot of client interviews. People were generally interested in saving electricity. The problem was that I wanted to create a software solution, without any hardware component.

Finally I settled on software that would monitor electricity usage by integrating with smart meters.

Also I decided to build my audience first. I have created a registration page. On that page I offered “5 Easy Tips to Save Electricity” report. People would have to enter their email address to receive it by email. This is how I would build my subscriber list of people interested in saving electricity.

I got few subscribers that way but not many. That page didn’t rank high in Google search and I couldn’t get others to share the link to my page with their list.

In April 2015 I have read an influential book “The 7 Day Startup” by Dan Norris. The main idea of the book is to launch new product or service very quickly to learn if it’s something that people would buy.

One idea from the book struck me: if you are building your first product it’s going to be very hard to create something unique and visionary. You can’t afford to be Steve Jobs, not yet. You have to wait until you launch one or two successful products.

As the first product idea it’s much better to stick to something that people already pay money for. That’s when I realized that people don’t spend money on saving electricity. So it’s going to be tough for me as a single developer to build something revolutionary in that area, something that would change people’s habit.

In the end I decided to give up on my idea. Surprisingly I experienced enormous sense of relief. I felt much better after making that decision.

Lesson learnt: make the cycle to test my ideas much shorter by launching new products very quickly. I highly recommend reading The 7 Day Startup book – it’s very short but powerful.

How I Did Not Make Thousands of Dollars by Creating Google Chrome Extension

Not long ago a friend of mine approached me with this idea: build a software that would export LinkedIn search results to Excel. Apparently many recruiters and sales people are using LinkedIn for prospecting – finding potential buyers and candidates. They can search but there is no easy way to export results to CRM that they are using.

At first I was hesitant. I thought that this software would essentially fill a hole in LinkedIn. At any point of time, I thought, LinkedIn would implement this missing piece of functionality and we will be out of business.

However, as it turns out LinkedIn has no intention to add exporting functionality because they have products that fill this need: LinkedIn Recruiter and Sales Navigator. They are very expensive, by the way.

Also, there is a company that has exactly this and they are doing good. My friend talked to some recruiters and all of them told him that they use that product to export search result to Excel.

At about same time I’ve read ‘7 Day Startup’ book by Dan Norris. It’s a fantastic book, short and inspiring. The main idea is to create a product or service very quickly and launch it to see if people would buy it. So I got very excited about this. Competitor product was quite expensive – about $20 per month. I thought I could whip up a solution very quickly and charge less. If people start buying it we could decide how to ramp it up.

My idea was to create a Google Chrome extension that would scrape search results from LinkedIn website. Users would perform search as usual on LinkedIn, then click a small button in toolbar and get results in a text box. Then they would copy and paste results to Excel and from there they’d be able to do whatever they want with them.

export

What’s great is that Google has a special store for Chrome extensions. They even take care of charging money. People can buy an extension using Google Wallet.

Google also makes it easy to offer a trial experience. My idea was to let people to export just 20 results and then ask them to buy the full version if they want all results.

So feeling enthusiastic about this thing I have created my first extension in just one week. I published it on the Google Chrome Store and set the price to $19. The next step was to drive some traffic to the listing page.

I decided to make a YouTube video with the title “How to export LinkedIn search results to Excel”. People that search for that phrase would watch the video, find my extension and give it a try.

And then I remembered that I wanted to check LinkedIn user agreement to see if I can get away with scraping their website. The agreement couldn’t be more clear:

8.2. Don’ts. You agree that you will not:

Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work);

Wow! I realized that by publishing this video I would essentially teach people how to do something that breaks LinkedIn user agreement. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Also, even though I wouldn’t violate the agreement myself (I just provide a tool) people would violate it by using my tool.

So I decided to back out of this project. It just didn’t feel right to me. I’m glad I didn’t spend long time working on it. Also, at least now I know how to create Google Chrome extensions.

Lesson learned: check website’s user agreement before creating a tool that scrapes it.