3 Years, 6 Months, and $0 MRR

This is my experience the last few years mostly in the mobile apps business on the side. It hasn’t really worked out, but we’ve learned a lot along the way.


If you have any questions fire away!

The Diet didn’t really work as a product. On the plus side it did help Brian lose about 40 pounds that year.

That along worth a few thousand dollars!

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Seriously though, I do not believe you’re honest with yourself:

Really, we could keep building unsuccessful things, but that doesn’t
sound like fun to us. What we’ve decided to do instead is to treat what
we do as open experiments. We will document and share what we learn as
we go. That means sharing our experiences, our ideas, our sales numbers,
and even our code.

Going forward we will be as open and transparent as we possibly can.

We are now asking ourselves the question, “What happens when instead
of building a business, you do experiments and share them with the

We have no idea, but we’re ready to find out.

I understand you have a deep feeling of a failure. But now it seems like you guys are trying to pretend you did not really wanted to build a business, it was just a game. Just for some reason a not very fun game. “Let’s just pretend it is an experiment and it should be, must be, fun again!”

It’s not gonna be fun, I’m afraid. Experiments are fun when they lead to results.

And sharing … sharing must have a purpose. It is not some magical pill that you can apply to any business and get the results. It worked for patio11, and it worked Buffer, but why do you believe it will work for you? What are you trying to achieve with “transparency”, anyway?

Now, some thoughts, if you don’t mind:

I see your story differently.

  • I see that you first chose a wrong platform (mobile) for a business
  • Then you did not apply any structured approach to selecting the product idea (be it Amy Hoy’s way or any other – you apparently were just shooting randomly).
  • Then you did not apply any structured approach to marketing.

With all above you still managed to make some money. I believe it is an achievement.

How about instead of doing some vague “experiments”, you

  1. Choose the right platform
  2. Select your ideas based on real problems of people who’re ready to pay
  3. Consistently apply marketing

How about such an experiment?


Well, what I’m hoping to achieve is that the next person who thinks that the app store is their golden ticket will save the next three and a half years and try something else. When we started this business, the only data that was out there was largely positive success stories. Those are still out there, but I’d like to contribute our little data point to the app store story that shows that the app stores might be a huge waste of time for many software businesses.

Ironically, I was told by an older software entrepreneur that he couldn’t see the money in app stores or how to build a real business there. I thought he just didn’t get it, now I realize I was the fool for not listening.

The other reason is that by sharing our data with the world, we get really interesting feedback and ideas from other people. I know that I like it when I can find some data driven post about someone else’s experience in business. It helps me out and gives me ideas.

So, I know that people like me are looking for this kind of information. More than that, those people could potentially provide insight that we are missing. So, why wouldn’t we share our information? It seems to me the net gain is larger than any potential loss.

At the very least transparency will lead to more interesting outcomes than the previous 3 years of keeping everything to ourselves.

I agree, so my question to you is…

What is the right platform?

What real problems do you have in your business that you would be willing to pay money to solve right now?

Where would you look to solve this particular problem? Outside of this forum, where do you and other business people like you hang out on the internet or in real life?

I don’t know what the next thing will be for Retro Mocha, or what niche it might be in, but I need practice asking those kinds of questions to potential customers.


Then you did not apply any structured approach to selecting the product idea (be it Amy Hoy’s way or any other – you apparently were just shooting randomly).

I think it’s possible to add some structure (what’s “Amy Hoy’s way”?) and make some estimates, but no one can predict the future. I think the best we can do in a lot of cases is eliminate ideas that just won’t go anywhere.

Then you did not apply any structured approach to marketing.

Once again, yeah, you can try and add more process and structure and whatnot, but this stuff is not math. I think some guesswork and hill climbing is necessary.

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That’s a very good point, but lost in the unfocussed post. I think you should write another blog, this time somewhat more targeted “Why the App store is not the gold mine it’s made to be,” or something similar.

You can link to other examples, I hear such war stories everyday, but it seems they are not getting through all the bullshit hype.

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There is a synopsis of her method in this blog post, under section 2. What do they need/want, and are ready to buy?:

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It was done years ago:

Half of all developers will earn less than $682 per year. Do you still think this is a good business idea?

And on ads-supported appsL

But what of Qvik and its revenues? Now the painful part. Out of 108
million ads served, Qvik earned a total massive income of… 24,000
Euros (about 30,000 US dollars). So in terms of ads served, Qvik’s
income was zero point zero two cents per ad. 0.02 cents. Not 0.02 Euros,
0.0002 Euros per ad served! Over 100 million ads sent, 30,000 US
dollars earned. That is an awefully lot of pain, for an awefully little
amount of gain. Yes, for a game developer who had a free game, it is
’better than nothing’ but only barely so. Remember this income arrives
years after the game is developed and launched, only if it achieves the
millions-of-downloads level of exceptional game success…

YMMV, but I believe B2B is the right place to be. Anything that is deployed inside of enterprises.

My problems may not be your best bets because you did not live through them. I though would love to see a good search for Outlook and a good SOAP test application (SoapUI sucks in so many ways).

Yes. most likely.

Thanks for sharing this. People tend to overlook just how difficult it can be to start a software business. It’s more difficult than people think.

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