January was a busy month. Not because I had to go to work any more, my Software Architect/Senior Consultant job was outsourced to India last December. I am taking a sabbatical and working on some of the projects that I have been putting off for so long.
Don’t get me wrong, much of the delay on my side projects were due to the health issue of my mom. My parents used to live in Edmonton, Alberta. Since my dad passed away a couple of years ago, my mom traveled between Vancouver and Edmonton a couple of times a year. Last year, I finally convinced her to stay with me with Vancouver. She had been complaining about running out of breath in the middle of the day, so I got her an electronic blood pressure monitor. After tracking her blood pressure for a week, I realized that she was having hypertensive crisis with blood pressure staying around the dangerous 180 to 200 zone. I spent an ungodly amount of time studying the issue and look for a physician that would carefully look into her case. Let me tell you, good physician is hard to find, especially the one who is willing to take a complex case like my mom. After months of looking, 4 different physicians and a trip to the ER, we finally settled for a new family doctor. Then I spend most of my time driving my mom to and from various doctor’s appointments.
Despite all that, I managed to spend a family vacation in Las Vegas back in the end of Nov last year. When I returned, I was lucky enough to be in the first batch of the Vancouver Center laid off. Due to a massive cost cutting plan, the high cost center in Vancouver was scheduled to be closed down in 2016. I was lucky to be in the early round and got a decent severance package. That’s what allowed me to take a sabbatical and write this blog.
In Jan, there was a total of 1,220 app download with $2580 revenue resulting in $1,760 net income. Here are some of the highlights:
|App Name||Downloads changes|
|Baseball Pitch Speed Radar Gun||+92%|
|Wallet+ Pro||New release|
These apps all have rather interesting background origin stories.
This app originally started out as a spin of using the camera base I wrote years ago using Objective C + GLSL shader. The original name of the app was Haunted Vision. It was a total flop until I did what Steve Job said. He mentioned connecting the dot in the commencement speech he gave in Standard. I went back to memory lane and searched for what I felt fascinating when I was young. Then it just came to me that black light was something that has always been very intriguing but yet out of reach. So, I named the name “Black Light Vision” and found an intriguing photo from google search. I contacted the artist of the photo and obtained the permission to use it in the app. That’s how Blacklight Vision was born, it has made me over $50,000 in sales over the years.
I spent about 30 days elapse time from idea, design and implementation, to testing and release. It’s one of the first apps to use storyboard as UI. Requirement wise, I used a competitor app as a base and pulled in some feature enhancements from various other apps. The app icon and screenshots were done by a top-notch graphic designer. I even wrote and submitted a press release to promote it. I think I have also tried Facebook ads. The result? It’s one of the worst performing apps of my portfolios. I think it has something to do with the targeted audiences. They are plain and simple – Cheap! I tried free version with ads, free version to paid version with one tap data transfer etc. No dice. The client base are horrible, they are cheap, dumb and angry. Guess that’s what I got myself into dealing with the basket of penny-pinching bunch. The lesson learn time and time again is to serve successful businesses and customers only. The cure to get rid of cheap customers is raising price. I changed the price from $1.99 to $29.99 and never looked back. Cheap people are the worst customers, they can’t afford good things for a reason. They are the first to write bad review, they waste customer support time, they blame you for their fault and worst of all, they provide no value to my business.
After I raise price, the quality of the customers increased dramatically, the app made about the same amount of money and I rarely have to deal with any support issue.
This app proved that idea is a dime a dozen, execution and luck are the key to success. There are plenty of Baseball Radar Gun apps out there, but why oh why does this app got to the US Entertainment top 50 and stayed there for most of the summer? I honestly have no idea. Guess it’s just dumb luck. But I suspect it has something to do with insanely great icon design, user interface and accurate calculation. This app has actually been selected as a potential app to be showcased in the Apple TV spot. Apple’s legal department contact me and asked me to sign an agreement to release the right to use the graphics etc for advertising purposes. They also mentioned that internationalization is the key criteria they look at when selecting the finalist. I have a translating service translate the description in a few major languages and released an update. Did it go anywhere? No.
That was last year. This year, out of nowhere, the app started picking up and end up on the US Entertainment top 50 and hovering around for a long time. Even though it’s hovering at the Top 50, I was surprised to learn that it doesn’t take many download to get there and it doesn’t result in a significant amount of revenue. Well, but still, it’s nice to be the owner of a US Entertainment Top 50 apps. I tried raising prices hoping the demand is elastic, no go. I eventually discounted the price to the original trending price.
This app was my first business asset accusation. I always built my own apps or outsource the development. I sold my car in a private sales just before last Christmas, it took a bit of work but I ended up netting $4,000 more than selling it back to the dealership. Not too shabby for a few hours of work including posting the ad, test drives etc. Since I was on a buy/sell mood, I decided to use the proceed from the car sales to acquire an app. I was looking for app with some of the following criteria:
- Some kind of vendor lock-in
- Stable monthly cashflow
- Priced at less than 2 to 2.5 years x net cash flow.
- Able to do app transfer.
- Peace of mind. (No potential legal issue)
Wallet+ was a great candidate, however if has one major issue – it has iCloud integration. According to Apple, in order for app to be transferred, it needs to stick to the following rules:
Make sure the app uses only technology and content that can be transferred.
- No version of the app can use an iCloud entitlement.
- No version of the app can use a Passbook entitlement.
- The app can’t offer (or have previously offered) in-app purchase subscriptions: auto-renewable, free, or non-renewing.
So the app cannot be directly transferred, which means the app ranking, app review, customer upgrade are all gone. That’s why the app was priced significantly lower than 2 x net cash flow.
I initiated a chat with the app owner and it turned out that there had been a few acquisition enquiries, but the buyers were turned off by the app transfer issue. Without app transfer, it mean I was basically buying source code. My plan of attack was to launch a new app without iCloud backup. Turn the old app to freemium with limited cards record and one tap data migration to the new app.
The launch was generally a success with a few hiccups. For example, the data migration not working properly due to the data size limitation. Luckily, the data migration mechanism in the latest iOS version support a direct access of file from another app. I managed to patch the bug quickly. Another surprise was the ranking form the old paid app doesn’t translate to free ranking at all. Most of the sales this month are from users who need to add additional cards and are blocked because of the freemium record limit.