iOs Startups

How to move an iPhone app

Edit June 19, 2013: Apple now allows transfer of apps between teams. Thankfully I haven’t initiated the process below. There are cases where Apple doesn’t let you transfer the app, so this post might still be relevant. 

I recently took over the Tegoed app from my friends at Tupil and Zeker Waar. It’s an iPhone app that lets you check your phone balance and sends you push notifications when for example you’re about to run out of data.

I’ve developed my own apps and those for clients from scratch in the past, but this time I’m taking over an existing one. I recommend that you consider doing the same: take over an app that has already made money. There are lots of apps with early success and great potential out there that are no longer being maintained for all sorts of reasons. The owner might have a full time job, they might not charge enough for the app or do something completely wrong from a business point of view.

In this case, Tupil is too busy working on their wildly succesful Beamer app and Niels form Zeker Waar with his new startup Brainsley. The app was already making money, albeit a lot less than in it’s early days. The fact that people were evidently willing to pay for this app, puts it way ahead of earlier apps I developed and also gives it an advantage over any new – unproven – ideas I might have.


App promotion and usage statistics

Two weeks after launch my Utrecht Walking Tour iPhone app had sold about five copies. Since then I’m trying to figure out what’s causing this, in a systematic way. These are the four possibilities I can come up with:

  1. irrelevant product
  2. something crucial missing in the MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  3. bad marketing
  4. too expensive
iSimplifiedChinese Startups

R.I.P. iSimplifiedChinese

It’s been a great experience and experiment, but it’s time to close this chapter. You can still play with the app, but you won’t get any feedback from teachers. Perhaps I will pivot the idea in the future, sell the underlying technology, we’ll see.

Back in March, I read Running Lean by Ash Maurya and I found it very actionable. In particular I focussed on figuring out why the download -> install -> first use -> second use conversions were so terribly low.

In the previous post I wrote that of every 100 people who download the app, about 50 actually run it. Only 10 submit a pronunciation and only 1 listenes to the feedback given by the teachers.

I wanted to talk to my users to find out what was going on, but how do I reach them? Apple won’t tell me who downloads my application. The good news is, as soon as they run the app, I can do whatever I want, including talking to the user. So I modified the application so that I could send it a push message and the user would see a popup message asking for their feedback (picture right). If they accepted it, they would be taken to their email client with a prefab email addressed to me (picture bottom).

iSimplifiedChinese Startups

Free as in beer

A few days ago I made iSimplifiedChinese free so that more people would download it and hopefully spread the word and provide reviews. So far the good news is that it resulted in lots of downloads, but the bad news is that nobody bought any teacher feedbacks and downloads are dropping exponentially. Let’s look at the data. Do let me know if you have any thoughts on what’s going on.

The application was downloaded 881 times in 5 days. Of those 415 started the application and listened to the first phrase. 91 submitted one or more pronunciations and only 17 listened to the feedback they received from the teachers.

Zero in-app purchases of new feedbacks, zero iTunes reviews, zero emails with questions, comments or bugs.

iSimplifiedChinese Startups

How to make a Chinese language course – Part II

Using the ingredients from Part 1 I created three draft lessons for iSimplifiedChinese. In this post I analyse them in order to learn how to improve and expand the course.

All lesson material is shared under CC-SA. A Chinese speaking friend of mine was kind enough to check the material for errors, but as usual use it at your own risk 🙂

[table id=2 /]

iSimplifiedChinese Startups

How to make a Chinese language course – Part I

The goal of iSimplifiedChinese is to teach people how to pronounce Standard Mandarin Chinese. For that I need words and phrases for students to practice. But which?

The goal isn’t to teach vocabulary or grammar; there are other apps, books and teachers for that. In theory you don’t need to understand a word you’re saying in order to pronounce it correctly. However I believe it’s useful and good for motivation when you learn something that you can see yourself using in the real world.

How big should a course be?

For practical and philosophical reasons, I’d like to turn that question around and ask how short it can be. My hypothesis is that after practicing X words, you’re able to pronounce most new words correctly as you encounter them. All I need to do is figure out what number X is. My initial guess is a few hundred.

iSimplifiedChinese Startups


Apple gave me a really nice birthday present on December 2nd, when they approved my iPhone application: iSimplifiedChinese. For those who don’t know it, it allows you to practice your Chinese pronunciation by sending your pronunciations to a real Chinese person for feedback.

I expected waking up filthy rich the next morning, but unfortunately it turns out I need to do a bit more work for that. There could be many reasons why only one copy was sold in the first week, but I figured that the most import reason was that nobody knew about it. Time to reread the 4HWW chapters on Marketing.

My goal for January is to sell 120 copies or the equivalent in other revenue. If that fails I want to at least obtain enough data and insight to know what to do next. My remaining budget for this is about €50 and 50 hours.