Channing Thanks for taking the time to do a joint interview! Tell us your backgrounds and what you do at Veme.ly.
Hey everyone, my name is Maverick Eguia, and I am the co-founder of Veme.ly — a video editing tool for content creators, digital marketers, entrepreneurs, companies, and the everyday social media participant. I am a retired professional figure skater that has adapted to the real world as a someone who directs the branding, design, and creative of several brands, startups, and companies.
Hassan approached me with the idea of tackling an opening in the video editing and application market, with the recent popularity of creative short form videos in mind. Just one month after his pitch, we released an our first version on the App Store.
We bootstrapped product development based solely on user feedback and the evolving culture of social video, and have been able to accumulate over 10,000 downloads in just over 12 months. Veme.ly currently has more than 100 paying customers and an averages of $1,500 in monthly recurring revenue, with very little money or effort put towards marketing.
Hello! My name is Hassan Ahmed, and along with Maverick Eguia, we have been building Veme.ly for just over a year.
After working in six companies as an intern, ranging from Toronto Hydro to TD Bank Group, I decided that I wanted to build a software tool for an industry that I was passionate about.
Veme.ly is a social video creation platform for marketers, influencers, and small businesses looking to create video content that is trendy and effective at influencing an audience. The platform provides templates that can be used to inspire, build, and shape video content with a range of fonts, icons, and various styling options. Importantly, the app has a feature that allows the quick and easy merging of subtitles and video, with the ability to customize and stylize subtitles in order to bring your creative vision to life.
Channing What motivated you to get started with Veme.ly?
I enrolled myself into a social media course during my last year of university, in the winter of 2017. That course sparked a fascination with digital marketing and social media, and I began to notice a trend taking off on Facebook and Instagram. People were making videos with text overlays, almost like video memes. Initially, I thought about creating a social media agency focusing on services associated with video content, but soon realized that I would need a way to keep up with the breakneck speed of social media trends, and shifted my focus to the production these trendy video memes, or “vemes”. With my background in software development and my love for social media marketing, I decided to create an app that simplifies the process of creating videos with text or subtitles.
I wanted to get my feet wet building an iOS app and launching my first startup, and I saw this as a great opportunity to learn mobile technologies and build a noteworthy product. Through our initial marketing efforts and conversations with potential users post launch, we learned that there is an actual need for a product like Veme.ly. Encouraged, we analyzed competitors — such as Viva Video, Videopleap, and Ripl — in order to get a lay of the land and figure out what was already being offered, what was working, what wasn’t working, and how we could strategize for success. We found that competitor apps were doing well; they were generating large amounts of revenue per month and had a high number of users. We took a look at their features and user reviews to see what customers loved and hated about the various apps, and where we could potentially capitalize.
One of the best things we did early on was to get feedback from our active users by making it as easy as possible to communicate about bugs and features. We did this by integrating a third party plugin, Instabug, an in-app feedback and bug reporting tool for mobile apps. This helped us stay ahead of the curve and be responsive to our users’ needs.
Through the inspiration of Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee) and his social content production, Hassan and I began to realize that creating meaningful social videos that are visually appealing, with text, subtitles, graphics, and logo branding, was not as easy as influencers and media companies made it look.
At the time, there wasn't a mobile application on the market that had all the features needed to seamlessly create a high quality, well produced social video or video meme. Typically, an app only had one clunky, often limited feature designed to quickly create a funny video meme — sort of like a quantity over quality problem. Individuals or companies that wanted to share a message with a dynamic video rather than a photo would have to have video editing experience with platforms like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro or find someone who did. And if an individual or company wanted to post consistently, the task becomes a complicated and time consuming effort. What if you could record or upload a video, pick a frame for the video that's perfectly measured for any social media platform, and style the video with your logo, custom message, subtitles, icons, emojis, gifs, images, and more? Enter Veme.ly.
I had a lot of creative and design experience through working at startups and companies within the tech, commodities, beauty, cannabis, and consumer products sectors, and knew that Hassan was bringing his own strong skill set to the process. Between the two of us, I felt confident that we could produce and market a strong, successful app.
Channing What went into building the initial product?
I consult and advise for several brands and startups through my self-owned agency, ConnexionLA, which takes up most of my working hours. Hassan was initially still in school when he started working on the app, so we have been growing Veme.ly as a side hustle during whatever free time we can find or create.
In order to build the app, I had to learn iOS programming, as well as UX and UI for mobile apps, key iOS navigational elements, and current design trends. That was a lot to take on, so I bought the Design+Code course taught by Meng To. That course gave me sturdy foundation to work from, taking me through the process of building a mobile app from design to functional product. The course took two weeks to complete, and I was able to build a prototype in about three months after that. The process involved building a high fidelity prototype in Sketch and testing with close friends and family using inVision, then building the product in Xcode and beta testing with users using TestFlight.
When I started building the app, I had just finished my final semester of university, so I had the whole summer free to work on it. I had saved up a lot of money from my past internships, which helped me pay the bills and allowed me to focus full force on Veme.ly.
Channing How have you attracted users and grown Veme.ly?
Our launch, for lack of a better term, was a public beta that we put out through the App Store. We wanted to receive feedback from as many individuals as possible, and quickly update and optimize our product as the feedback rolled in.
We launched the product website in tandem with the app, complete with custom and self-made promo videos.
After setting up the website, we began to establish our social media presence by engaging with the community, primarily on Instagram. We consistently posted entertaining and funny video content created using our app in the style of the classic video meme. Along with the post we added an abundance of relevant and popular hashtags in the hopes of gaining organic views. What did we get for all our efforts? An abundance of irrelevant and fake bot accounts liking and following our account!
We slowly realized that our social media strategy was not as organic as we thought and not bringing in the sales numbers that we were hoping for. In order to get our numbers up, we decided to execute some App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies on the app, an SEO strategy of writing and publishing on our blog, along with testing out digital ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube.
Here’s a look at our numbers over the past year:
August - October 2017
- 299,213 impressions
- 7,140 product page views
- 3,214 downloads
- $540 in sales
November 2017- January 2018
- 20,063 impressions
- 1,484 product page views
- 891 downloads
- $1,816 in sales
February - April 2018
- 39,849 impressions
- 5,269 product page views
- 2,427 downloads
- $3,197 in sales
May - July 2018
- 25,681 impressions
- 3,027 product page views
- 1,625 downloads
- $4,834 in sales
All told, our daily marketing budgeting was around $10-15 over the span of nine months, which was quite expensive for an unknown startup. For the first three months we probed broad, global audiences with our promo video on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube in order to build interest in making video memes using our app. Although we generated a lot of traffic to the app, our downloads were not converting to sales. The people we were reaching only seemed interested in a free product. In the end, we found that Google Search Ads were the best performing paid ad strategy. It makes sense. When someone needs something — and is therefore most likely to actually pay for it — they search for it. Through the ads, we made sure we were there to capture those searches and fill that need, resulting in views converting to paying customers.
We also reached out to thousands of micro-influencers and bloggers who we thought would benefit from the app. Our goal was to engage with them and build a relationship so that we could get honest opinions and feedback for continued product development.
I’ve learned a lot in a the year since the app’s release, namely that you need to focus on getting your app or service or tool into the spaces where people are most likely to be looking for it. It seems obvious, but it’s hard work. You need to continuously be developing and refining your ASO and SEO strategies. Do all that you can to help your target audience find you. For those that are bootstrapping, focus on growing your blog, building relationships with bloggers and journalists and influencers, making YouTube videos, and being active on relevant forums. Engage in anything and everything that will link back to your website. If you have some money to spend, test out a defined target audience with Google Search Ads.
This year was a year of dedication and ongoing development to get the product to where it is today. We are really excited to take what we've learned and get our product out there to those who need it!
Channing What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Besides our marketing expenses over the past year, we haven't really spent much.
Our product comes to the masses on the app store as a free app download. While most of the features are accessible with the free download, we have strategically limited select features towards for the "PRO" version of the app, which can users can access by paying either a monthly or yearly subscription. PRO users have access to all features on the app at all times. The subscription model is how we generate a majority of our revenue.
Our secondary model is based around the potential pay-as-you-go user. We set up a video credit system, allowing access to modify and style a social video just like a PRO user would, on a one-time basis. Within this payment system, users can create a custome video in the app that doesn’t have the Veme.ly watermark.
At this point, about 85% of our revenue comes from our subscription model.
Channing What are your goals for the future?
Our overall goal is to become the number one platform for video editing and marketing, where users can quickly and easily create effective viral videos and analyze their video performance all in one space.
Our first goal is to build a stable, highly effective, and user-friendly product. We want the experience of creating and editing video content to be flexible, customizable, and intuitive. Once we’ve laid a solid foundation for the creation and editing process, we plan to offer analytics features that will provide meaningful insights about videos created using our platform.
One of the main roadblocks is speed to market, as we currently only have one developer working on just the iOS platform. We are looking to hire more developers that can help build the product faster.
Over the next six months we want to increase our monthly revenue to an average of $15,000 per month, which means getting about 1,500 monthly subscribers.
We plan to do that by putting everything we’ve learned over the past year into action. Our reputation on the web needs to be strong, so we plan to focus heavily on PR, our blog, posting how-to videos on YouTube, and collaborating with micro-influencers and bloggers.
Ultimately, we’d like Veme.ly to become as ubiquitous for video creation as Canva is for graphic design.
Channing What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
If I could redo this year, I would have dedicated all of our marketing efforts and capital towards our SEO strategy. I learned that our audience of paying customers need to be able to trust us, so we need to be seen as reputable on the web. We need people to talk about us, and we need people to find us. In order for that to happen, we have to have a strong, trustworthy presence on search engines.
Since this was my first iOS app, I had only ever planned for it to be a front-end application and didn’t think we would ever want or need users to create accounts. However, once we saw some user growth and started introducing more features, it made sense to get users signed up in order to have a point of communication with them. Had we began with Firebase for analytics and user sign-up from the get-go, we would have had a lot more user data to work with. This was probably a bad miss and shows the inexperience on my part.
Also, since it was my first app, I changed the architecture of the app frequently in order to allow more features to be developed and integrated. If I had to start over, I would think more carefully about the correct IOS architecture for the app, taking functionality, scalability, and long-term growth into account. I would also definitely use Firebase as a starting point for analytics.
Channing Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
For building iOS products, I have found Matteo Manferdini and Meng To really helpful. Matteo’s course is more for advanced users who have a firm grasp of iOS fundamentals and are looking to advance their skills to more of an expert level.
It’s also a good idea to select a co-founder that complements your skill set, as it helps both individuals leverage on their strengths to their greatest potential. My strength is in product development and I have firm grasp of software development principles, while my co-founder’s strength is creative direction and marketing. Neither one of us could have made this work alone — together, we make a great team.
Both of us love learning new skills and regularly seek out knowledge to help hone our skills and get us towards our ultimate goals. I am constantly learning new iOS tricks to help speed up the process by following iOS blogs.
We are in the moment where the consumption of content on social media is shifting from static photos and images to dynamic videos. We feel we have optimally timed our product to set ourselves up as the best and most user-friendly video editing tool.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
To quote Gary Vee from his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, “Your number-one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are, and preferably at the moment they are deciding to make a purchase.”
For both company and brand, telling your story has become more important than ever, especially within the video medium. Tackle the beast that is video with meaningful content.
If you are building an iOS app that you intend to grow into a business, be sure to devise good architecture that can easily accommodate new features. Take some good online courses that teach you best-practices, and instill those into your work. It will save you trouble down the road.
Make sure to have analytics right from the get-go so that you can understand user behavior, and leverage existing platforms like Firebase to speed up the development process. Also, make sure to include Instabug or a similar tool that allows users to easily communicate with you about any issues or feedback they have for the app.
Channing Where can we go to learn more?
We'd love to hear from you! Our product development is always progressing and we are all-ears to suggestions and criticisms.
You can also contact me personally any time at: firstname.lastname@example.org
—, Founder of Veme.ly
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