Post launch update

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It’s 1 month since we launched Reactor, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least.

The launch didn’t go like I wanted it to, and I am not very excited about sharing our numbers. I almost didn’t publish this post, until I read these two posts. The truth is that launches don’t always go the way you planned.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened so far:

We had over 100 signups, and only about 35 of those have translated into paying customers.

I’m pretty happy with the amount of signups, but we have a big problem with cancellations. Too many people have cancelled, and it’s driving me nuts.

I’ve read that a normal SaaS business has about a 3% churn. Our launch month was over 50%. Ugh.

It’s hard for me to even share this with you. I’d rather be writing a post about how the launch was a great success and we are rolling in dough, but that’s not the case.

Does this mean we failed, or that our product sucks?

Absolutely not. Here’s why.

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From $0 to $30k/mo and back, 2014 in review

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2014 has been a big year, I started a new business, bought a house, and I have a baby on the way.

I grew my business from $0 to $30k/mo, and now I’m starting something totally new (so back to $0 in a way). This post is about reflecting on what went right and what didn’t, hopefully there’s something that will help you.

I’ve also posted the video of my WordSesh presentation with the same name.

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Customer Acquisition is hard

Customer Acquisition

Without customer acquisition you don’t have a business.

Getting people to care about what you are doing, and eventually buy your product is hard.

For a while I coasted off of the attention we got from launching our first product, but as I dive into the SaaS world it’s becoming clear that a better strategy is required.

Customer acquisition is important for any business, but it’s especially important for a SaaS product.

Jason Cohen points out that in a SaaS business, cancellations are more costly than just the lost revenue. In fact, due to customer acquisition costs, if 10 customers cancel, you have to get 12 (or so) to sign up just to stay flat. So 12 new people signed up this month, and you have not grown, you just kept from shrinking.

There are lots of ways to go about this, let’s look at a few.

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My journey launching a SaaS product

SaaS product journey
Just launched! Trial w/cc signups this month: 113 (so far) | MRR: n/a
This is the start of a weekly series on my real-life product launch, real stats will appear here with each post.

There’s a lot of blog posts out there about how to create a product, launch a product, and grow a product. The problem is that many of those articles talk in the abstract.

You need to come up with a growth strategy, analyze your metrics, find your ideal customer, blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that stuff is incredibly important. But sometimes when I read it, my eyes glaze over.

What helps me is concrete examples of exactly what people are actually doing. That’s why I love Groove’s startup journey blog. It tells me exactly what they have actually done to grow to $100K in revenue, and beyond.

Inspired by Groove, I want to share my own journey here. I recently released a SaaS product, it’s a mobile app builder for WordPress sites called Reactor.

From triumphs to failures, I want to share exactly what we are doing, how it’s working (or not working), and even revenue numbers.

In sharing this information, I want to take you on the journey of launching a product and building a business. Check back each week for updates on how things are going with me.

Hopefully it can help you.

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My business is successful, so I’m changing everything up

Product sales have never been better for my company AppPresser. We launched in January of this year with a product that helps people make a mobile app out of their WordPress website.

It was pretty successful right out of the gate, we did $18K in the first 3 weeks, and that has grown to about $30K/month in less than a year. I figure if we pushed hard at marketing and new features we could do 500K next year.

Our product is one of the highest priced in the WordPress industry, with our most popular package selling for $499. While there are businesses that do similar things, we haven’t had any direct competitors emerge in our little niche.

I would attribute most of our success to having a unique product that met a need. It’s much different than my first business, which was a theme company. Everybody and their brother is making themes, so it’s really hard to stand out. But if you are doing something different, people take notice.

But instead of doing more of what we are doing now, we are going to change everything up.

Here’s why.

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Thoughts on Pressgram Shutting Down

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Pressgram announced they were shutting down today.

There’s always something to be learned when another entrepreneur “fails.” That’s in quotes because I don’t really consider Pressgram a failure, because I’m sure the lessons John learned from this are invaluable.

The strange thing is that they have had more media, exposure, and users than any company I’ve started. So when they shut down I’m not sure if I should feel good about my own business (still here), or if it is a portent of doom (maybe I will fail?)

It’s also strange when someone announces the demise of one venture along with a preview of their next business. John announced that he is working on a new desktop publishing project called Desk.

I think I’ll skip that one.

Entrepreneurs tend to be overly optimistic about their “next” project, you almost have to be. But what about the people that invested in this one, with time or money?

Shutting down a startup comes with consequences. You lose something. You lose trust.

It reminds me of Adii, who has had some very public ups and downs in his career.

After launching Public Beta, he shut it down for personal reasons, only to reopen it again. He’s also had a few other smaller projects that he sold off after a very short time.

I’m not super excited to sign up for the next project, because it might have the same fate as the last one. I’ve also lost some trust for the founder, because I went along for the ride and it hit a dead end.

I understand that startups fail, and I appreciate the public honesty of guys like John and Adii. I wish them only the best.

Startup failure is an inevitability, I just want to remember that the founder is not the only one who loses when it happens.

How to use the Phonegap Developer App

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The Phonegap Developer app just recently hit the app stores, and it’s awesome!

This app basically allows you to see any changes you make update in real time on your device. For example, if you fire up a Phonegap project called MyApp through the developer app, and make a change in MyApp/www/index.html, you will see that change on your device when you save index.html.

This saves you from having to rebuild and reinstall the app every time you make a change.

I’m going to show you how to install and use it in this post. (If you didn’t see the release post, check it out here.)

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Beginner Stumbling Blocks in Phonegap & Cordova

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Lately I’ve been working with Phonegap a lot for my new project AppPresser.

Phonegap is a great product, and it’s pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. The problem is that there are quirks that can hang you up as a beginner.

This is the stuff no one tells you until you encounter the problem, and search for the solution on stack overflow. I hope it helps!

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Innovation Requires Sacrifice

Innovating means…

You spend whole days trying things that probably won’t work, with no pay.

You turn away clients to spend whole days trying things that probably won’t work, with no pay.

You bang your head against the wall for weeks because everything you’ve tried doesn’t work.

Everyone else seems like they are doing better than you.

The first version of your product might have some flaws.

People might not understand what you’re trying to do, because they have their own preconceptions.

It might not ever work.

But it also means…

You know you’re doing something new and different, and that’s priceless.

You can’t wait to start work in the morning, because that thing that didn’t work yesterday might work today.

It might actually work, and…

…you might create something incredible.

Don’t ever stop innovating.

7 Things I Learned in 2013

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Instead of a “year in review” post, I just want to pass on some lessons I learned in 2013 as a WordPress business owner.

Hopefully these help you out.

1. Failure Is Not The End

I failed at something this year that was a pretty big deal.

It sucked, and I was pretty bummed out. After a couple weeks of losing sleep and being frustrated, I decided to get pissed off and use that failure as fuel for my “success” fire.

It ended up leading me to become a better developer, dream bigger, and start something better.

All told I think I’m in a better place because of that failure. Failure is part of the deal as an entrepreneur, what you do because of it is all that matters.

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