Jannik's Blog

Product Experiments - Successes and Fails

Last year was pretty exciting. I quit my job as a managing partner at my startup particulate and left for a new company - BRICKMAKERS where I work now as a lead developer for mobile and web apps mostly for external clients.

I also had my first mini exit when I sold my app Kennzeichen aka. Numberplate.

Inspired by books and articles about lean startup and similar techniques (eg. this & this) I decided to go this path for new projects. The lean startup principles made sense to me in a natural way because by then my most successful project Kennzeichen aka. Numberplate was my biggest success, mostly in terms of user numbers. And I followed lean principles there without even knowing about the lean startup book.

First Lean Project: memorio - Appointment Reminder App

So the first project I started consciously with lean startup principles was memorio. Basically a web app for doctors or therapists to remind their patients about appointments. I started out by sending surveys to doctor’s email addresses I found on the web. In a nutshell I asked them about their current and future interest in appointment reminder software. The response rate was pretty good and I can recommend this tactic, but it turned out that almost all doctors in Germany, where I conducted the survey, already have invested heavily in pretty powerful clinic software. To get doctors to invest in another, unknown tool would have taken a lot of sales firepower which I don’t have.

While the survey was still running I setup a landing page and started building a prototype with Django, to try and see if people would use the tool, but I decided to kill the idea because I figured that the MVP to build to get better than the already existing tools would have taken too long. Also I didn’t get much response over the landing page and had the feeling that Django wasn’t the right tool for the job. But that’s another story.

Conclusion for memorio: I could have tried other customer segments but I just didn’t feel confident enough with the idea and felt that the marketing and sales for such a thing would be too time consuming partly because I have no expertise in the medical field whatsoever. I still like the idea, but the project became too big to do after hours and on the weekend. I also had other ideas cooking which I liked more.

Second Lean Project: fa2png - Online font awesome to png converter

After starting a project that felt like a resource killer in terms of development and sales/marketing I wanted to do something really small. So I decided to build the small web app fa2png.io together with my buddy Stephan. You can read about fa2png’s story [here] (/blog/2014/05/26/weekend-project-font-awesome-to-png.html).

In terms of users and learning it was a success. We build the first version really fast and „released“ it via Hacker News. Since then the user numbers are slowly but steady increasing. By now Stephan is polishing and soon releasing a new version of fa2png. It will be under a different name and will have many new features like more icon fonts etc. I’m sure he will be writing about it on his blog.

Conclusion for fa2png: The following conclusion is not exactly news, especially to Hacker News readers, but a domain where you feel at home - in my case development - is a very important factor for successful projects. Also the fact that you can build a working and useful MVP in a short time frame is crucial to a project’s success. This conclusion lead me to my current project - Pump.

Third Lean Project: Pump - The no-BS Workout App

The motivation and inspiration for my current project came from different sources: Learnings from past projects, books, articles and projects of colleagues.

Most notably my two of my colleges at BMG14 experimented with a homework book app for pupils. They launched it pretty quickly using [Xamarin] (http://xamarin.com) to build an Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 app to test which one performs best. Since the partner company of BMG14 - BRICKMAKERS - is a consulting business the app is also a pretty good showcase for future customers. Long story short they released early and iterated quickly. They attracted most of their users via Facbook’s app advertising program and eventually landed a pretty deal with a big school book publisher.

In the meantime I gotten into fitness and couldn’t find a nice workout app to track my progress. That’s how I came about the idea of Pump. I dubbed it The no-Bullshit workout app. Since that is what I wanted but didn’t really exist. At least for Android and WP8.

Why did I start the app project?

  1. The MVP was pretty quickly to build
  2. I have at least a little expertise/interest in the field
  3. The market seems big enough

With those basic assumptions my friend and college Philipp and I started building the MVP after work and on weekends.

Now that the app is out for Android and WP8 and iOS on the way we will have to start doing marketing and sales for the app. This is when I stumbled upon an article about the 7 minute workout app. Which claims you need a story to “sell” your app. So here I am. Starting to spin up a story.

I’m planning to write about the further development, marketing and sales process of the Pumo app here on my blog. Check out part 1:

New Product Experiment: Pump - The no-BS Workout App - Part 1

I would love to hear your feedback and ideas. Leave comments here… … or ping me on Twitter (@jnk_wyrich)