Reading this: http://gavinbowman.tumblr.com/post/153913496028/8-years , got me thinking, and it’s been (almost) 8 years since I introduced my first iPhone app too.
That app was Hundred Pushups, that I did in conjunction with the excellent Steve Speirs. I had zero expectations of the app really. I am a bit of a historian of the computer industry, so I did know that there is always a chance to make money at the start of a fledgling industry, but at that time iPhones weren’t even in New Zealand, and they certainly weren’t mainstream in the US/UK yet.
Things started off ok, and built from there. The first few months were growing by 100%+ every week, to the point, halfway through 2009, I quit my day job and committed full time to selling my own apps.
I also partnered with Terry Monro, and we put out the Sleepmaker range of apps. They did ok, although never quite as well as the Hundred Pushup range, which also included 200 Situps and 200 Squats over time.
From 2009 through to about 2011, maybe 2012 things were amazing. We did stupid crazy well from the fitness apps, Sleepmaker has solid sales, I hired a couple of guys and we were also doing a bit of contract work. As I said before, I am a historian of the computer industry, so I knew that at the beginning the field is open, so there is a chance for the cream to reach the top, but over time as more money is made, the larger players come in and saturate things, and push out the indies.
Basically, I gave us five years to make as much as we could, or transition to a service company. I was probably a bit focused on this, in hindsight to push the apps forward, but that’s a topic for another day.
It was a double fronted attack really. One one side you had companies just blatantly ripping off our stuff, and Apple would do very little about that, and on the other side you had the “big players” come in with much, much larger pockets than us. Bringing out apps that were different enough, but basically copying what we did, but as we didn’t have patents or trademarks, there was very little we could do about it.
Well, actually it was tripled front assault, because as the App store became crowded, the race to the bottom began. All our apps were priced at $1.99US, which I thought was a fair price for a fair app, but once the app count got in the 100s of thousands and then into the millions, discoverability became an issue, so apps were put out first at 99c, then free.
That basically killed us. I wasn’t prepared to game the user by offering free, then upselling. I was also wary of free with ads, although we did transition to this with the Sleepmaker apps, and that did ok.
Sales were still fairly solid, but I’d lost confidence and a little interest by that stage, and I was offered a buy out, I took it, in 2013.
The apps are still out there, although I’m not sure if the current caretakers have done much with them. I’m still involved with Sleepmaker, and we still make a little money each month with Admob – we have about 1.3 million impressions each week, but that’s not really enough to make serious money from Admob, so it’s just pocket money at this point. Hey, I’m not complaining, just nothing what it used to be, and I should be grateful for the long tail, as it’s they’re probably doing a lot better than 95% of all other apps out there.
It was a great ride, one I’ll always be happy about, and happy to be involved in. It has left me a little battle scared and pessimistic about the ability for Indies to succeed on the App Store as it currently stands. I really don’t think Apple care at this point. They have a successful platform, by their metrics, why change? Again, that’s another whole post for another day.
I’d like to thank all our customers from the old days, and the people still using Sleepmaker apps. You have no idea how much difference you have made to us and our lifes. I hope we have helped in yours in some small way too.
We’ll continue to put out changes and fixes to Sleepmaker, and I have some ideas I want to try next year. Just for fun. If I had no expectation 8 years ago, I REALLY have no expectation now, but I’m in the lucky position where it doesn’t really matter if the apps fly or fail. It’s become a hobby now, as much as anything.
One last thing, to all the people I’ve met along the way in the last 8 yeasr. Thanks. Thanks for being around. I haven’t met as many in person as I would like, but even on places like twitter, the shared experiences and comradery of fellow Indies has been immensely fulfilling, and I’ve enjoyed seeing others successes too. To the guys that are still fighting the fight, Kia Kaha. Keep trying to find that niche, and even though I’m a bit pessimistic, there is still money to made, and hey, it’s a battle, but trust me. It beats the corporate software world. Hands down 😉