August 10, 2018

My app has ~200 obsessed users but not growing fast enough to survive. Advice on growing faster?

Quick back story: A few months ago I was talking to my buddy Jake, who is a severe procrastinator, and also works from home like me.

I am sure most people here know it can be pretty easy to screw yourself over and not get anything done when working alone from home.

We tried an experiment where we got on skype together for a couple hours and just kept the video on while we worked.

We’d basically just message each other with every task to stay accountable. He was making a presentation, I was writing a blog article (which I usually procrastinate for months).

---

It worked insanely well—literally neither of us has ever been so productive.

Fast forward, I hired a designer and got a buddy to help build an app. It’s like a virtual study buddy on demand, for people who work from home.

I posted it in some FB groups and got about 200 obsessed users pretty fast.

I decided to leap and do it full time, and have had a hard time growing as fast as I need to break even. At this point I need some ideas to grow faster, and keep the dream alive, with limited bandwidth.

Would love some advice on how to grow something like this.

If you need some more color on what the site is and what it is about it is called Focusmate (www.Focusmate.com). I could use a boost. It’s a free site for now.


  1. 7

    Hi Taylor- I've used your product many times and I love it. Great work.

    I'd say 80% of the time, I've matched with students (of which I'm not).

    I'd try to monetize them ASAP. When I was in college I was very stingy about things like this, so it may be an uphill battle. But here's an idea that might work:

    Create a free tier with 2 free sessions a week. Design a referral program where every invite that leads to a successful session unlocks another session per week.

    I've told many people word of mouth about your product. A little incentive structure could do wonders.

    Check this out for inspiration: https://viral-loops.com/blog/dropbox-grew-3900-simple-referral-program/

    I'd also consider, creating an enterprise version of your product that you could charge big bucks for ($1000 / mo.).

    You could sell private Focusmate calendars for remote organizations.

    I'd also market it to Pieter Levels' nomad community. That's a market that has this problem, has money and is used to paying for productivity tools. You might reach out to him!

    Happy to help out, chat further: matthew@chorus.am

    1. 1

      Thanks so much Matt. Just emailed you.

  2. 3

    Hey Taylor,

    I think the concept of this is fantastic and there is definitely both a market and commercial opportunity for this. I think the two types of business model you could explore are:

    1. Referral scheme. As someone mentioned below, having a referral scheme to unlock more free sessions would allow you to really scale your user base. This would mean that you could reach a larger audience and then monetise from this, but it could also mean that you go longer without a cash flow but raise funds in the meantime. VCs like to see that type of user growth.

    2. Upsell productivity features. You are obviously solving a current pain for users. Find out why that is and see if you can create more features that relate to this problem, and then this becomes your premium model. This is the 'Jobs-to-be-done' framework of product management (https://hbr.org/2016/09/know-your-customers-jobs-to-be-done)

    Best of luck!

    1. 1

      epic feedback, thanks @jkenn2018.

  3. 3

    Just had another idea for Focusmate -- you could market it to communities. Then, if I wanted to do a session with another IH member, I could filter by that.

    1. 1

      definitely! thanks brian!

  4. 3

    If users are truly obsessed with it they'll likely pay for it. Free customers have different needs and expectations than people who pay money for the software. Do you have a plan to make money from the app? I don't see any pricing page. To support yourself you're going to have to charge someone else money, either your users or advertisers. It looks like an awesome platform! Be wary that if you grow fast with free users you're still making $0

    1. 1

      Totally agree with Connor here. If you claimed that your users are “obsessed”, there should not be any problem in converting them to paid customers.

      If they aren’t paying, they are not “obsessed “.

      Apple users are obsessed

    2. 1

      Hey @connor11528, thanks for the reminder, totally with you. Yes, we plan to offer a free and a paid tier, hopefully in Q1 next year. At the moment we're using donations to generate a small amount of revenue, and think we can scale that for a while until we are able to introduce multiple tiers.

      1. 2

        Donation is a mistake Taylor, you should monetize your app ASAP.

  5. 3

    200 obsessed users is dream.

    Have you heard of the 1000 true fans theory: the idea you only need 1000 fans of your project, to make a comfortable living from it, in the internet age.

    If you believe that theory: your 20% of the way there. In fact this is what draws me to the indie hackers model of doing business, targeting a small dedicated niche, and charging early, as opposed to the VC model of chasing infinite growth.

    If those users are obsessed by the service, they will almost certainly pay for it. Assume 50 percent of these hardcore used would convert, that's an instant living wage on a SaaS pricing model.

    You also don't have to alienate users because you could give a lot for free. For example 5 co-work session for free, 20 sessions for X per month, unlimited for X.

    Why not solve the problem from resources you have, rather than those outside your grasp.

    Do you have enough users in European timezone, I would definetely pay for what you're offering.

    https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/

    1. 2

      thanks @webapppro, I have, and it's awesome. I think more entrepreneurs should focus on getting those first 10 raving fans since if there are 10, there are 1000, etc. !

      We're definitely thinking of a freemium model along the lines you laid out. If you try it out I'd be interested in your feedback and thoughts on pricing. We do have a bunch of EU users.

  6. 2

    add me to the list of users Taylor! fantastic job , add me to the list!

    i can't remember the last time i felt instantly able to work the moment the clock started. i'll be using it throughout the week to see if results last

    i agree and echo some others' sentiments that you should monetize it somehow!

  7. 2

    Read about your concept. Love it. My suggestions:

    Limit no. of pairing allow per users by day/week/month.

    If a user wants to pair more than limit either he/she needs to pay a small amount OR either he needs to invite friends and both will get X numbers of free pairing when his friend signup for it. [Similar to Dropbox free space]

    Also put a deadline of utilizing Free pairing in X days for new signup so they will use the systems after signup. [Similar to Uber free credits]

    1. 2

      Why are you stopping users to verify email id just after signup even if they are signed using Facebook or Google. Let's allow user to set goal & see availble schedule first. Put verification at the end when user wants to schedule the pairing.

      1. 1

        great feedback

  8. 2

    @taylorjacobson why didn't you tell me about this app before? 😄 I've been stuck alone in Valencia trying to be productive for the past couple of weeks 🙄

    1. 1

      haha my apologies @depomoty!

  9. 2

    Amazing app! I would start to charge people as early as possible though. You can even discuss pricing with your current customers.

    In terms of growing faster, I couldn't find Focusmate on ProductHunt. Have you tried posting to ProductHunt? And here's a checklist of directories to submit Focusmate. https://www.producthunt.com/posts/submit-checklist (I saw this app yesterday)

    Good luck!

    1. 3

      thanks for the kind words @he9qi. we definitely need to get on PH at some point, although my understanding is that's more of a spike than a sustainable strategy, so we haven't gone too wild getting it done. appreciate the submit checklist!!

      1. 2

        you're welcome!

        I think @matthewkulp 's right about that PH contains some of your target customers. Here's an article about different marketing channels that Standuply(a slackbot) used to go from 0 to 650 customers and $25000/mo. They also talked about how they used PH: https://standuply.com/blog/slack-bot-business-tutorial/

      2. 2

        This is the case for most products, but I think focusmate might be different.

        b/c PH seems like it actually contains some of your target segment (unlike most products posted there).

  10. 2

    Not on topic but you have one of the best landing pages I've seen so far! Really impressive! Incredible illustrations , fonts, colors and copy! Certainly not used to seeing many serif fonts but you pulled it off beautifully.

    1. 2

      why thank you @Moe3615. I have to credit our designer on that, he's the brave one - https://www.linkedin.com/in/vladmaconski/

  11. 2

    Hi Taylor,

    As some have already said - 200 obsessed users sounds pretty solid, good job on that, looks like you're on to something.

    I'd say definitely producing content on the subject of productivity would be helpful for you, but it's a long-term solution that only pays off over time. Also I'd assume it's a pretty crowded space, so you'll have to be good at it.

    Maybe you can try with guest-blogging on some relevant sites who have reasonable traffic. Also, search for articles about productivity tools and reach out to their authors and see if they can add you to their sites or maybe if they want to write about your solution.

    1. 1

      Thanks @Matis. Great strategies.

  12. 2

    I enjoyed your design and font choice! Bold, but it works! :)

    Now on the topic, I believe you are in a great position to do customer discovery. Talk to your customers and find patterns on 4 things:

    i) the #1 main pain they are solving with your app (forget about #2 and #3 for now)

    ii) the exact feature that solves that pain (it might be the obvious feature of having someone on a video call with you, might be something tangent, like becoming friends with someone and you are actually solving loneliness)

    iii) what identifies these 200 people as a group?

    iv) where on the world (or the internet) can you find more people of that group?

    This is kind of specific and opinionated, but consider the overall message: You have to tune your message and spread it to more people of your target audience.

    1. 2

      thanks @rodrigo, this kind of laser-focused approach is great

  13. 2

    Hey Taylor! This looks really cool and the website design is clear and beautiful 🤘

    I am curious about what your growth goals are? I saw that you say on your website "Focusmate is free. In the future we will offer a premium service." 200 obsessed users is fantastic and I think the next step is to calibrate how many paying customers you have. I don't have any specific activities you can do to grow, but my advice is to set a numeric amount you want to reach (e.g. $3,000 MMR) and then use that to evaluate any potential activities.

    1. 2

      Hey @bensheldon, thanks so much! We've done some testing and have about 50 paying customers via donations, so we know we can convert, but even those 50 are only a few hundred $ in revenue a month. If I may ask, what is it you find helpful about setting that next milestone? That resonates intuitively but I'm interested in how it plays out practically, in your experience.

      1. 3

        Take the following with a grain of salt because I’m not sure where you are in your life or where your business slots into it, but I’m totally rooting for you 🎉

        I got the sense from your question that there are two parts:

        1. Mindset

        2. Marketing Tactics

        I’m focusing on mindset.

        I start projects with a goal of earning $100/day. That was a decade ago when I was younger and cheaper, but it directly ties to my lifestyle and necessity.

        The toughest, anxiety producing thing for me is feeling like I spend my time wisely. Having a goal, that’s tied to money, helps me no waste time of big projects with risky outcomes.

        For me, the best progress I make is incremental. How can I spend the next 2 hours to increase my income by $1/day. That line of thinking has forced me to do things that I’ve procrastinated about, but ultimately have been the most worthwhile. For example, setting up a $10/day Facebook Ad spend. I procrastinated for literally years, and then in a moment of organized lucidness, did the back of the envelope math and realized just how worth my time it is to spend 15 minutes a day poking at it.

        That’s how I’ve made the most progress myself: doing things that seem unsustainable, but are just small amounts of time invested over the calendar. I spend an hour a week writing friendly emails to my users. Those have led to plenty of insights and reframing of my value props and marketing messaging. I think of that hour in terms of how many paying users I’ll gain.

        For about 6 months I did time tracking as if I was an agency. That was really helpful to reflect on how my time was supporting my goal (or usually wasn’t).

        I’m wishing you all the best. Figure out your goal! 👍

        1. 2

          great advice and story ben. thanks so much. scary idea to do time tracking for 6 months but worth considering :)

  14. 1

    Impressive 30 sec video! May I ask how did you get it done at this level of quality? Did it cost a lot? I will need to have one made for my app soon.

    1. 1

      I think it was $150. bought here during a sale: https://30secondexplainervideos.com/home

      1. 1

        Thank you Taylor.

  15. 1

    Not trying to be negative, but your landing page looks very-very similar to usefomo.com (header, colors, fonts..)

    1. 1

      no worries. I quite like the Fomo website :)

  16. 1

    2 easy solutions: Charge people or find funding.

  17. 1

    Nice website!

    1. 1
  18. 0

    Taylor, I've used Focusmate. Besides seeing other people around the world pick their nose while working, what's the real pain you're solving?

    I think the solution could be offered as a training program up front with the tool included for free once you've paid for the $99 course ( or whatever price )

    The course would include you using the tool and filling out some forms about what you notice. The goal being to just learn to re-center yourself on your work even if you don't have somebody watching you. Then, of course, you could use the tool.

    However, it's not social. It's not sex. It's often a random stranger.

    What's the appeal?

    That being asked, I think you did a great job of pulling this together, so it just needs to be wrapped in a nice business model. No?

    1. 3

      B Ball, there's the psychology you're missing.

      Human's are social creatures, only few of us are built to spend most of our time alone.

      There are soo many people who just can't shut themselves in a room, and work alone. This app solves that problem, as weird as it sounds.

      The analogy would be going to a restaurant alone, or bowling by yourself.

      1. 2

        You're right. What's better than going to a cafe by yourself is the pre-work check-in and the after-session wave.

        I tried to be very good about the guidelines when I used it, so I greeted -- got to work -- then said "good session -- ciao" and it was cool.

        I think I'd be more apt to use it if it was a paid tool.

        1. 2

          It's a valid thought, a number of people have said they'd only use it if it were a paid tool.