Going to Market with the Crypto Portfolio App I Wanted for Myself

Hello! What's your background, and on what are you working?

Hello, I'm Francesco Pretelli and I created Bitfolio, a simple iOS app to track your crypto portfolio.

I've been a software engineer for more than 10 years and currently I work full time as a mobile developer for a large company, while also enjoying developing side projects.

I started as an embedded engineer and lately moved to mobile development.

Over the years, I've created different apps (mobile and desktop). Bitfolio is the latest and is the most profitable so far, with around 800 active daily users and a revenue of ~$1,000 per month.

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What motivated you to get started with Bitfolio?

Back when crypto wasn't cool yet, there weren't many apps to track your portfolio, and the existing ones were not fitting my needs.

Being a long time "hodler" (one who primarily holds rather that is an active trader), I didn't do daily trading and I just wanted to check the total value from time to time.

I remember talking about developing Bitfolio to my co-workers and nobody understood it; they just weren't familiar with the crypto world. (They are all riding the train now, while pretending they always did it.)

If I had to start over, I'd probably do more investigation into what people want. I based all my initial decisions on what I wanted, which was just enough to start.

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My plan was simple, I wanted an app that showed me the current value and a chart of the historical trend. That's it!

That's all I needed to start: I had a problem, and I needed to develop the solution. I never considered the financial side of it.

What went into building the initial product?

One night when I was working on a different project, I decided to do a bit of investigating about APIs and how to retrieve the current Bitcoin valuation. Luckily, different exchanges and services were providing both current and historical data for Bitcoin, so I quickly set up a new Xcode project and made a first working prototype that was running the next morning.

That initial app sat on my phone in debug mode for more than a year; it was enough for my needs at the time. But then more crypto currencies started to emerge and I decided to buy few Litecoin and Ethereum (back when there was only one), and my test app called Bitfolio on my device was not enough anymore.

I had just finished another side project and the timing was perfect to revamp my app and add more features. I put down a few ideas and a sketch on paper, made a quick mockup, and created a new Xcode project.

Be humble, start small, and focus on something you really want and understand.

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It took four months of spare-time work (with a short pause of about 2-3 weeks to welcome my daughter into this world) to have the first version ready. It had just the bare minimum features requested to make it work:

  • A ticker section
  • A portfolio section supporting BTC, LTC, ETC, and ETH
  • A transaction section to add BUY transactions

It was really, really simple, but it was enough at the time. I was proud because the app looked really slick, it worked great, and served the purpose well.

Then the big crypto rush came…

How have you attracted users and grown the Bitfolio?

Before releasing on the App Store, I stared asking on Reddit and other crypto-related forums if people were interested in testing my app. I received about 100 responses and had about 50 active users testing my app before it was released.

Once released, I waited about one month before doing any actual "marketing" work. I wanted to be sure it was working fine among the initial users. When I was sure the app was stable enough, I posted it again on Reddit, other crypto communities, and Product Hunt.

This gave me my first 1,000 users and enough momentum to gain new users every day. I kept working on it, adding functionalities, and started using App Store search ads.

The app has a rating popup that appears after some time that the app is available. App Store reviews started coming in and this attracted even more users. The number of users kept growing day after day, at a steady pace, until one day Bitcoin jumped to $5K. Crypto was suddenly cool and the app started to take off.

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What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Bitfolio is a product targeted at the end user. It offers a free version where it's possible to add up to five tickers and five transactions, and a Pro version that unlocks everything in the app.

I've been trying different strategies to see what is best for both my revenue and the user. At the beginning, the limits were only 1 ticker and 2 transactions, but it was clearly not enough for a user to stick with the app. The initial pricing for the pro version was 2.99 USD, which seemed fair for most of the users.

I've tried doing a Xmas promotion and lowering the Pro price to 99¢. I don't think it attracted more people, but I believe people thought it was a cheap app.

The current model, priced at $4.99 USD, appears to work very well for now; it gives the users enough space to be able to evaluate the app so that if they decide to upgrade, they know what they are getting.

Bitfolio currently generates an average of $1,000 per month, it is obviously always related to crypto currencies price, and it usually goes from a minimum of $10 per day to a maximum (so far) of $180.

I've tried to keep the expenses at the bare minimum (zero, really). I didn't do any paid marketing and the Search Ads campaigns I'm currently running are using a promotional credit offered by Apple.

What are your goals for the future?

In the short/medium term, I hope to be able to implement all the features requested by the users in the past months. I would like to offer a good solution for every person, from the average Joe to the expert trader.

And, of course, I want to keep having fun and learning while developing.

It also would be great to find someone else who could collaborate with me to build a better product, which spans from crypto to stock trading and is available on every platform.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

My main mistake was relying on an API that was discontinued without any notice. One day I woke up and the app wasn't working. I thought the server had issues, but after a few days it was clear that the developer decided to pull the plug an API I was using.

I had to find an alternative, and quickly.

If I had to start over, I'd probably do more investigation into what people want. I based all my initial decisions on what I wanted, which was just enough to start. But clearly I would have saved a lot of refactoring time.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

As I said above, I was quite lucky to be in the market at the right time when the big crypto push came. But as my friends say, a shitty app wouldn't have made a dime, no matter what!

Being a really slick, simple, and good-looking app helped a lot to compensate for the lack of features.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

Be humble, start small, and focus on something you really want and understand.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, even in production; shit happens, and unless you are dealing with life-saving hardware devices or others people money, don't worry too much!

Where can we go to learn more?

Dowload Bitfolio if you have an iOS device http://www.timelabs.io/bitfolio/ and please send me your feedback.

You can follow the development on:

You can also follow me directly on Twitter @timefrancesco; and, please feel free to comment below and ask me anything.

Francesco Pretelli , Founder of Bitfolio

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