What I've learned from making my first product

What I've learned from making my first product

So this year, I've made my first ever app that people actually used which was ReplyMore. It's a chrome extension that allows twitter users to track how much they're replying daily, and filter the posts for popular posts to reply on.

I'm really proud of this. As not only people used the app, they actually paid for it. I was able to make 4 sales from it, making around 80$ in revenue. This might seem small but it's huge for me. I never thought that you could make money from app building in your first try :)

This experience changed my view on product making and Start-ups in general. I know a lot of you guys are interested in building their own apps, so I thought I would share what I've I learned from making ReplyMore.

Launch fast

While making the app, I think I've done somethings right and others wrong. This was definitely a right thing to do. I've made ReplyMore in around 18 days. That's from Idea to Launch. It might seem crazy but it's not. I was just lazer focused on building.

Launching fast allows you to get a clear vision for the app, the market, you customers, and where can you go next. Before launching, you can't really know wether your app will be a hit or not. You might except it to be the next facebook, and it turns out to be another forgettable side project. Or you might think that no one will seriously use the app, and it turns out to be the next unicorn. This is the truth that a lot of start-up founders agree on.

Because of launching pretty fast, I was able to quickly make the decision on what to do next. I concluded that the app is pretty good, but the market is too narrow and distribution is kinda hard. I also didn't have the best founder-product fit, as I wanted to focus on other apps instead. So I decided to stop working on it and hop on the next product.

If I didn't launch it so fast, I would have no idea how the market will perceive the app. I might have had too low of expectations and procrastinated on it while I could have made serious money with it. Or I could have gained over-confidence on it, wasting too much time building it while it would turn out to be a bust.

Add only the minimum functionalities

This point goes hand in hand with the previous point. To be able to launch fast, you can't add in a lot of functionalities.

Wether your app is successful or not is determined by a lot of factors. The number of functionalities it has is just not one of them. Most apps are made to solve a certain particular problem for a certain type of users. Factors like the problem's importance, the potential user population and how much these users are willing to spend on the app are way more important than the number of functionalities an app has.

Making an MVP with the bare minimum of functionalities will allow you to ship fast, this will help you find out the value of these important factors. Then you can decide wether to add more functionalities or not.

Build products that you need

I know that a lot of people struggle with finding ideas of products to build. Some have too many ideas and can't decide on what to focus on, and some just can't generate any ideas. Both situations are bad.

I was able to solve this by following a strategy that Dan Koe mentioned, it is to build products that solve your own problems. By making the assumptions that you probably aren't the only one that had a problem, and that you feel that it's a pain that's worth solving. Then probably other people feel that way too. And if you make an app that you feel solves that particular problem, then probably people will feel the same too.

Following this strategy helped me gain 100+ downloads, 24k views of the app's demo on twitter, and top 5 on Product Hunt. I got a lot of feedback saying : "it's exactly what I needed". Because the app is what I exactly needed before making it.

Don't pay wall the entire app

The points I talked about before are what I did right while building my first app. Now let's talk about what I did wrong.

I think that the first mistake I made was pay walling the entire app. I made it pay only with a 3 day free trial. I think that this strategy doesn't work for small indiehackers and let me explain why.

The pay only strategy was popularized by famous indiehackers that have a lot of following like Marc Lou. While I really like Marc, I don't think this is the best thing for people starting out, especially in B2C apps.

Here is basically why you shouldn't do it. Before launching ReplyMore it was on a free beta. Even though I didn't have a lot of following, but a lot of my twitter followers were using it, giving me feedback that I could iterate on, and spreading the word out. But once I've made it payed only, only a portion of these beta users continued to use the app.

So I ended up with only 4 users that actively used my app. But what's really better, few users that pay for the app or a bunch of users that use the app for free ?

To answer this we need to discuss something called Product-led-growth. This is by far proven to be the number one way that all successful startups won. It's basically the following: when a people use an app, and that app is good enough, users of the app will promote the app to other people, to their friends, co-workers..etc.

If we assume that 10% of users promote your app each month. Then if you have 1000 users, then in 2 years you'll reach around 10k users. So 9000 new users. But if you had 4 users to start with, with the same app, in 2 years you'll only have 40 users. Only 36 users added.

So early users are a priority, and as a product maker you should make it as easy for them to use the app. Until the exponential growth kicks in then you can try to milk the app for money.

It might be different for expensive B2B products where a few sales can make a big difference and where there is no chance you'll get to 10k users. But for B2C apps that have the potential to scale, I think this is the best strategy. I'll use it on my next app (intentional) and see if it works out.

Start pricing small

This point is related to the last one, as we want to prioritize early users, we don't want to have them not use our app because of the price. Our goal early on should be to have as much people that want to use the app to actually use it. But we want to be profitable so we have to put a price on it. I think the best thing to do in this case is to make the app free at first, until you start getting some traction. Then add in the lowest price possible, and continue to increase the price as demand increase.

Distribution is king

An app is as good as much as people use it. I think that while building ReplyMore, I nailed the product part. Most people that used the app liked it and wanted to continue using it. The thing that needs more focus is distribution aka getting more users. This is often the hardest part about start-ups.

While stuff like making an app free or reducing the pricing can help retain a bigger percentage of people that hear of the app. I need to focus a lot on getting as much people to hear about it as possible. So the thing I'll try to do in my next products is to get as many eyes on my product as possible. I think the best way to do this is by using influencer marketing. That's trying to collaborate with influencers with followers that are your app's potential clients, and negotiating a deal where the influencer get's a good percentage of the revenue. This is on my to-do list for intentional too.

Conclusion

So yeah, this is what I've learned from making my first app. It was a good experience. I think that the most important thing I gained from it was to realize what is possible and what can be done. It was overall a very enjoyable experience, and that's why I'm doing it again with intentional. Thanks for reading !

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