Lessons Learned From Releasing Our Own App (Podcast)

welcome to constant variables a
podcast where we take a non-technical look at mobile app development
I’m Tim Bornholdt and I’m Rob Bentley let’s get nerdy so what are we talking
about today Rob we built an app believe it or not our company did build an app
it’s our first app that we’ve built for ourselves probably in years years yeah
and it’s called the Minnesota Craft Brewery Tracker which you can download
today if you go to MNcraft.beer or if you go to our website you can see a link
on there as well in our projects and we’re very proud of it
yeah that’s relevant if you live in Minnesota but probably not if you don’t
right and you can if you’re interested in Minnesota beer I guess it probably
relevant for you but the gist of the app is it’s a list of all the breweries in
the state with tap rooms that you can visit and you can open up the app and
just check out all the different information about an individual brewery
their address their phone number their Twitter you can also sign in with
Untappd which is a popular beer social network and you can see all the beers
that they have on tap which ones you’ve had and have not had and check into it
just right through the app so it’s kind of a convenient tool then try to see if
you can visit all hundred and some breweries that are in the state are you
pretty close no no I was at one point my wife and I were trying to get to
everyone in the Twin Cities and at that point there was probably 25 or 30 maybe
40 and now in the Twin Cities alone I would guess there’s probably 80 or 90
and then statewide there’s a hundred and forty-two I think in our app that many
yeah and there’s I think this year I know of at least seven that are opening
so it’s really booming it’s a it’s a crazy industry and there’s there are
people that have the app that have visited all of them
so that’s nuts to me like they’ve checked in to them all of them through
our app already yeah Wow yeah there’s a couple people that have had like blogs
and stuff where they visited every single one took pictures
documented in everything and they’re like why wasn’t this app around three
years ago well we tried yeah we started at three years ago we
did so it with this app now that it’s live we thought it’d be a cool podcast
episode to talk through some of the lessons we learned because I think as
we’ve been going through this experience even though we build apps everyday for
clients when you go through it yourself as a customer I suppose it’s nice to
have some reflection and see you know where can we change in our processes
what have we learned that would be valuable for other people that are going
through this process as well so we got I think about six different things we can
cover here so let’s jump right into it with the name yeah so Rob what are the
names of some of our other products that we’ve released well there’s the random
celebrity generator which generates random celebrities at the push of a
button we also have half-staff app that don’t see when the flag is supposed to
be at half-staff we also have a cleverly named app called the FTP camera which
uses your camera to upload pictures to an FTP server so you kind of see the
theme here our products are not very cleverly named they’re very literal and
I thought we were cool because we bought .the domain MNcraft.beer and so I
was like I had to be a sweet name for an app we’ll just call it that well one how do
you say it like min craft beer and then craft beer Minnesota craft beer like
it’s very ambiguous and then second which I didn’t realize until we like
three years down the road when we launched in the app store but MN craft
is two letters away from a very popular game called minecraft trademark and
believe it or not there’s a lot of results for that when you search in the
App Store so searching for MN craft yeah it’s hard to find us it’s an SEO
nightmare it is in an ASO nightmare yes App Store optimization so that’s one
thing we learned and we continue to try to figure out is we are not very good
with names at all very literally named products but
it gets the job done it but it’s important when you’re coming up with the
name of your product that it’s something that people can actually find and it’s
easy to pronounce if you’re going on say a podcast or you’re trying to tell
someone else to verbally go and download the app
got to have a good name that’s easy to find and just unique enough to find it
right away in the app store – right because yeah we have another one of our
products me me which is a babysitter app it has probably the most unique name of
any of the companies we’ve ever started but that one me me which is mi mi is
very close to ME ME meme which of course looking in the App Store there’s
thousands of meme generating apps out there so Mimi is really hard to find if
you just type it in a search yeah the App Store just thinks oh you meant meme
silly here you go and even if you did mean Mimi there’s also other apps out
there that are already named Mimi so yeah the the name of an app is very
important something you need to consider and a lot of people put a lot of thought
at least we don’t put a lot of thought into it probably should that’s a lesson
we’ve learned exactly the next lesson we learned is how fast you can get a
project done it usually correlates to how much you’re willing to spend on it
so we take on a lot of equity projects not as much as we used to because we’ve
learned this over the years but if you just do something for free on an equity
basis that becomes a much less priority than when somebody is putting cash in
your face and getting things done so we learned pretty quickly with this project
we started this what three years ago yeah it’s been around since 2015 yeah I
think yeah the first time I checked in code for the app was like January 2015
so and and our conception our concept of it came even further before that so
we’ve been working on this app for a long time and the reason it didn’t get
out as fast as as we would have liked to is because we just weren’t paying anyone
to do it and doing it ourselves we have a lot of client work that needs to get
done so it just kind of fell along the wayside we tried hiring some interns
that were just looking for experience and it just kind of didn’t work out we
then hired a paid intern and then things sped up dramatically yeah shout out to
Jeremy if we didn’t have him on Android our Android app would be pretty terrible
right now so he’s done a phenomenal job and it’s as soon as we put money in
someone’s pocket it’s amazing things get done yeah
things move so money definitely helps put fuel on the fire
exactly and just expecting too cheap to go cheap on that route we’ve bit us it
took us a lot longer to get this out the door so it we learned that now real
quick that if you want things to get done you gotta you got to pay for them
or do them yourself and if you’re busy like we are and have time for it so it
takes three years to launch an app God pay the troll toll God don’t put that in the third lesson we learned while
building this app is marketing is crucial to the success of an app on our
side we really focus on the tech part of it but marketing if you’re not a
technical person that could be the big thing that you focus on is is where
you’re going to market and how you’re going to market the app yeah definitely
if you’re wanting to start an app related business but you don’t know how
to call yourself poor all you can into marketing it find someone to develop it
and because both are equally as important to a successful product yeah
you can’t just have a cool product that no one downloads yeah yeah you got to
make it useful and and I think what really gave us a lot of motivation to
actually release the app was when I happen to find I was talking to somebody
that I met in line at a brewery and he introduced me to this Facebook group
called beer people and it’s literally just twelve thousand people from
Minnesota that liked beer and it’s that’s it’s everyday people are just
posting pictures of what beer they’re drinking and they’re good like hundreds
of likes on their pictures because believe it or not people really like
beer around here so I posted one one post on that group and said hey I’m
looking for some beta testers and I had I think like 250 people reach out to me
and want to do beta testing on it it was an insane reaction
should silent my phone I did I turned my vibrator on oh well um keep that in yeah
well guess we’ll keep that in lesson seven we learned here is you need to
silence your phone when you’re doing a podcast anyway where were we talking
about we’re talking about marketing getting people in so it it finding the
right group of people to market to is very important and making sure that you
get them in and using the app early and testing it and iterating on it and
taking their ideas and improving what you’ve got is very very important to
seeing any sort of success in your app I think most of what we’ve gotten from
traction in the app has been those beta testers telling their friends who have
told their friends and the whole social effect it’s spreading like a virus
shout-out to Dan Evans the fourth lesson that we learned was regarding the
revenue model yeah we went into this without a revenue model basically it was
I mean it was just an app Tim wanted for himself
and we weren’t really going into it with the idea of like oh we’re gonna make a
ton of cash off of this we just kind of wanted it to exist and it actually the
genesis of the app was from when we both wanted an app that was kind of like it
for a different reason that’s actually one of our other upcoming lessons that
we’ll talk about here but in terms of the revenue model yeah we had no idea
how it was gonna make money and we really frankly don’t care it’s not a
money-making venture it’s very affordable for us to run it and maintain
it so and it’s something that I wanted to see in the world and I think a lot of
my friends and a lot of people I’ve met want to see this in the world as well so
it just it’s nice to sometimes if you’re if at least if you when you start
building an app you need to at least go in with your eyes open know that you’re
not gonna make money cuz I think what happens is a lot of people think I’ll
just put some ads in there or we’ll just put it up for free and get a lot of
users and it’s like that works to a certain degree if you have millions of
users but it’s very very very hard to get there without a big pile of cash
supporting it to get marketing out the door yeah so I think see where it goes
obviously I’m not you know we still haven’t really thought of a revenue
for yeah but you know there might be an opportunity and you know
yeah we’re holes do it I’m not opposed to making money on this app you know I’m
very happy finding some way for it to generate revenue but at this point I’m
also happy just we’ve been making a lot of connections in the space and helping
a lot of people and I think there’s something to be said about the value of
generating goodwill and helping people with a something that they want that
I’ve found time and time again with this business the more you give to people and
help them out along the way without expecting things in return it always
comes back to help you in the end one way or another and it’s just great to
make connections with people you might not have otherwise made a connection
with exactly might not ever work together or do something but just it’s
good to just help people all around so that’s one of the big reasons this app
exists well what’s the actual like beginning of it why does it exist so
that leads into our our fifth point of the original idea for this app was was I
guess you could call it not as cool Rob and I here we are super into a
restaurant in the Twin Cities called LeaAnn Chin it’s a chain there’s
probably 30 or 40 of them around the state
Rob’s drinking out of a lien chan cup right now and we had a goal we used to
go to business meetings together all the time because we had time but back in the
day we would go and take lunch meetings at differently engine locations and so
we were like we should try to get to every single one in the state so we
printed out a map on a piece of paper and actually like drew X’s where all the
LeeAnn Chin locations were and as we visited them we’d serve like you know
cross them off the list and and we tried to hit every single one that way well
halfway through it you know locations open locations closed keeping up a
keeping a map up-to-date that you print out on your own is pretty lame
especially in 20 I guess at that time was like 2014 especially if you’re
running your own app development company you know so we figured we should be able
to we should be able to turn this into an app so I spent a day and I whipped up
a quick prototype of a server and an app I showed it to you you were like this is
the coolest thing we were so excited about it and I showed it to my wife
she’s like this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life
and I was like okay well that’s fine and she goes why you make something useful
like tracking all the breweries because we were trying to do it my wife now
we’re trying to get all of them ourselves so that’s like starting an
idea out that was dumb admittedly and spinning it off into something that
actually is useful it’s like that’s one thing we learned from building this app
is there’s even if your your core concept is dumb you can always pivot
into something that is not dumb and actually useful and potentially
revenue-generating yeah the the app works almost the exact
same way it’s just yeah prettier and it is something more
people care about right it just us yeah I’m sure there are other chin heads like
us that really want to visit every single inch in but yeah and if we get
bombarded with emails for it we can always resurrect right and not get sued
into oblivion yeah it’s worth it yeah absolutely
finally the last thing we learned while working on this app is just how much
things have changed in our personal and professional lives oh look a lot changes
over the course of three years right Rob yeah definitely like I was just
remembering like going and fixing some of the bugs right before we launched and
looking at the code I wrote and just wondering why and they say in this space
if you look at code that you wrote a year ago and you’re pleased with it and
impressed with it then you probably haven’t grown much as a developer in
that time yeah things changed so fast and your strategies change so quickly
and we’re still even though we’re we’ve been doing this now for what seven years
six seven years we’re still new into the space and we’re still there’s always
things to learn in software and so having these kind of projects helps us
keep our technology chops up to date well yeah and it’s not like an ancient
art either it’s something that’s consistently changing so you have to
consistently change with it exactly that’s software in a nutshell yeah yeah
so final thoughts what’s your final thought on this project grab um more
just happy that we actually got it released and it’s in the App Store
people can use it and download it we can talk about it I agree it was a
long road but I’m happy it’s out there now and we did it yeah and it’s it is
really hard to launch an app I mean I think for Rob and I that we’ve launched
several apps a month and release updates to apps all the time you kind of lose
the appreciation that you have for releasing an app and going through the
whole process yourself and seeing how it starts how it matures and everything
from start to end it’s it’s it’s really useful to go through that exercise every
once in a while if you happen to own a software development company not really
the target market for this podcast but if you’re building an app for yourself
you know going with a company or a team that has built apps and shipped them
before and especially apps that they’re vested in and really truly care about
then that’s gonna really help with when you’re building out your apps to know
that you have a team that knows all these little things and can help guide
you through it yeah the learning from it’s been valuable definitely yeah I
agree and I’m just I’m so happy I can go to breweries now and check in and people
like looking over your shoulder they’re like what is that and getting to explain
to them it’s kind of like when we released Great Clips for the first time
yeah and people are like oh like what like like what is that and your honey
call it’s great clips and like I built that and they’re like what and kind of
getting that same feeling with releasing this podcast if people are like you made
this this is actually really cool yeah yeah it is actually really cool show
notes for this episode can be found at ConstantVariables.co You can get in
touch with us by emailing [email protected] I’m @TimBornholdt on Twitter. Rob is @ScottMahonis Today’s episode was edited by the
powerful Jordan Daoust. This episode was brought to you by The
Jed Mahonis Group who builds mobile software solutions for the on-demand
economy. Learn more at JMG.mn

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