Category Archives: Business

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.

My First Customer Interview

I did my first customer interview recently. I met a professional photographer and talked to him for an hour!

First, this is how I arranged this meeting. I tried to call kindergarten photographers before with disastrous results. People were convinced that I was an telemarketer from India trying to sell them something.

So I changed the tactics. I asked one of my friends if she had her children photographed in kindergarten. As it turns out yes, a photographer came to day care and took photos of her son. Even better she agreed to help me to get an appointment with that photographer. Together we devised a plan.

My friend knew the head of day care centre so she called her and asked about photographer. The manager told her the photographer’s name and also gave his number. She told my friend to mention her name when talking with R. Armed with that my friend called R. and explained that we have an online service for photographers and that we need his help. And R. graciously agreed to meet me for a coffee.

R. explained to me that he mainly does preschool and kindergarten jobs. He also does lots of dance studios. He plans to expand to primary schools. He has his own printing lab. He has 5 photographers working for him.

R. has high turnover. In the last two months he processed 35,000 photos.

R. was using SmugMug but now he is transitioning to a custom WordPress website that was developed for him. SmugMug was good but didn’t let R. to sell photos and print them at his lab. It allows using their lab only. So he was using SmugMug to let people view photos. For ordering, he asked parents to write down photo numbers and send to him by email which was cumbersome.

When selling photos to parents hard copy is important. R. creates proof sheets and gives them to parents. It serves as a reminder (parents put it on the fridge). Web gallery is just an additional component. R. said that one day all sales will be digital in Australia but not now.

One year R. tried to sell photos using web gallery only. It was a disaster – only 30% percent of parents ended up buying photos. Next year he changed back to hard copy with much better results.

R. used to sell photos by printing 5×7 album and giving it parents. It worked well and most parents would buy the album to keep it. Recently though people started scanning photos and returning them back without buying.

For bank deposits it is important to reconcile payments because there are so many of them. Parents should put order number as the reference.

It would be great if each child would get an unique password but it is hard to categorise photos. R. has a custom desktop application that helps him to categorise by dragging photos from the list to children faces on the right.

R. knows a software developer that helps him. He works on facial recognition. It would help greatly for ballet photos where each child stands still facing camera and is properly lit.

R. has an idea of storing photos in the cloud. This would serve as a backup storage.

This was great, I’m going to try to get more customer interviews next.

Links

My Current Struggle with Fotrel

I started Fotrel back in 2008. Fotrel is a web gallery with shopping cart for wedding photographers.

The idea is that a photographer makes photos available for viewing on the web after the wedding. Guests view photos. Some of them buy prints. The photographer makes money by keeping margin.

Results so far: I have 30 clients. Fotrel brings about $400 per month. Not bad but not great either.

What I find is that wedding photographers are not really excited about the whole idea. I have no proof, this is just my gut feeling.

Also, 10 of my clients didn’t upload anything in the last 3 months. So they pay for my system but don’t use it. 20 of my clients didn’t get any sales in the last 3 months.

It looks like Fotrel doesn’t solve the real pain for photographers. I’m yet to find this pain point.

What to do?

I have an idea: change Fotrel to make it useful for kids photographers. I had a couple of clients who took pictures of kids at kindergartens. And they were getting a lot of orders.

Also, few kids photographers looked at Fotrel but didn’t start using it because it didn’t have features that they wanted.

One piece of advice I got is to speak to 50 kids photographers before adding those missing features.

The next question is how to reach kids photographers? I tried cold calling – that didn’t work because people were convinced I was trying to sell them something because of my accent. Now I’m thinking of other ways to reach kids photographers.

Progress so far

I have started working on my own business in December 2008. Here’s the progress so far.

Idea

Idea is very simple:  web gallery with shopping cart for wedding photographers. For more details see my older post.

Pricing

Fotrel is a web application. My clients use it as a service. The whole software-as-a-service model has a great appeal to me. I can make money while I sleep. There is no pain of acquiring new clients.

I’ve set the price to $95 per month right from the beginning. I didn’t want my product to look cheap. On the other hand it is flat price. I don’t like the idea of charging commission for this kind of service. For some reason it feels like putting my hands in client’s pocket. After all, my expenses are exactly the same regardless of how many orders my client gets.

Then, after reading Jay Abraham’s book I got an idea: charge $95 per month only if photographer has sales in that month. This creates a safety net for my clients: if my product doesn’t bring profit to them at least they are not losing money on it. This should be especially appealing to small (one-person) studios. Also, when you have sales paying $95 feels like giving away part of the profit, not parting with your own money. So far people like this idea. It certainly makes it easier to say yes rather than no.

Clients

Not everyone pays me each month because of the pricing structure. So it is somewhat hard to tell if someone is my customer. A photographer could sign up for my service just to try it out and then never come back. I define my client as someone who has uploaded at least one wedding or portrait gallery in past 3 months.

At the moment I have 15 clients.

Profits

Profits chart

On average, I get $300 per month.

Expenses

You might be wondering why I have those red months with negative profit.

  • I hired web designer twice.
  • I sponsored few AIPP mentoring sessions.

Hosting is the biggest part of my expenses at the moment – about $150 per month. I’m using Amazon EC2 and Softsys Hosting.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m happy with my progress. For now, my focus is on preventing those red bars from appearing again.

P.S. You can take a look at my product here: Fotrel.