How Transparency and Good Timing Helped Me Capitalize on New Tech

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

Hello Indie Hackers community! 🙋 I'm William Candillon, a 31-year-old software engineer from France. I currently live in beautiful Zürich, Switzerland. Last year, I took a sabbatical in order to work on some experiments building software, the React Native Starter Kits being one of them.

That is when I started participating in the Indie Hackers community: for every experiment I considered or conducted, I could learn from someone who had experience in the space. In the case of the React Native Starter Kits, the interview with Creative Tim founder Alexandru Paduraru was a key resource.

Do things transparently. Start with the smallest step, like a landing page, and share your goals with the community.

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React Native Starter Kits are premium React Native boilerplates for iOS and Android. The goal is to provide developers with 80% of the work needed for their next app. That can also include backend integration with Firebase. Many use cases are covered, such as a social media app, a productivity app, a listing app, a music app, and so on.

Each template is kept up to date with the latest best practices in React Native development. Being a software engineer at heart, I try my very best to provide the best code quality possible. For instance, heavy static analysis is used on the source code, as well as strict type checking.

A typical example is the Airbnb template. I met many people who want an Airbnb-style platform for a particular vertical. Maybe it's the Airbnb of sports or cosmetics. By getting the starter kit, they can get a fully functional prototype for iOS and Android.

The main customers are digital agencies that are using these kits as cookie-cutter solutions for their customers. Many developers are also using these starter kits to build a side project. In fact, there is always a bump in sales during the holidays. I attribute that to people using time off to build something cool.

Originally, the kits were exclusively sold through a React Native market place. In the meantime, I've started to build my own sales channel through Medium stories and, more recently, via a YouTube channel. Today, half of the sales are made directly, of which I'm really proud.

Home page

What motivated you to get started with React Native Starter Kits?

When I started my sabbatical, I partnered with fitness instructors in Zürich to build a fitness app. For this project, React Native was an obvious choice: it completely disrupts the economics of building and publishing an app. It was my first experience with React Native and many mistakes were made. I decided to reflect on the lessons learned and package them into a premium quality React Native starter kit.

The original premise was simple: it needed to be done regardless of any commercial aspirations. Even if no one bought the product, it would still be incredibly useful for me to use in future projects. A sales channel was already available which was encouraging: the NativeBase React Native marketplace.

Zürich is a small city, but it truly has a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and makers. By working in cafés linked to the startup community, I was able to meet incredible people. The cost of living here is high, but I see that as a good thing: it pushes you to be ambitious about your venture.

What went into building the initial product?

The project was bootstrapped by building a landing page that contained screenshots of the finished product, even though not a single line of code was written yet. A template from InVision was used for that. People could leave their email if they were interested in getting the kit once it was ready.

Then I linked this webpage on a Medium story about my first React Native project. A dozen people left their email which was a small validation. But besides getting a couple of emails, it was valuable to describe in clear terms the value of what I was trying to provide on a landing page. I would definitely recommend doing this exercise before starting to build anything.

Building the first kit took around three weeks of full-time work. To me, that was by far the most enjoyable part of the process. After that, I set up a small Stripe checkout button on the landing page and notified my early leads. But the real volume of sales was made via the NativeBase marketplace.

Get Started

How have you attracted users and grown React Native Starter Kits?

The first sales channel was the NativeBase marketplace. At the same time, I started to write stories on Medium about my journey in React Native. If possible, I would contribute open-source packages, as well. Putting parts of your work in open source is more about improving them than promoting them. The contributions that I received as well as the exchanges with the community have been invaluable.

The list of my Medium stories is available here. And this is my Github profile.

Putting parts of your work in open source is more about improving them than promoting them.

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Lately, I've started to code the starter kits live on YouTube. For this new experiment, the premise was again very simple: even if no one watches the video, it would still be more productive to write code in a focused environment, explaining my thoughts out loud, not checking Facebook. Not only has it been an extremely enjoyable process, the feedback from the community has been great, and it really gives potential customers a sense of what they would be buying. It has also helped tremendously with customer support. Many questions can be answered by pointing to the right YouTube video.

Below, you'll find the evolution of the monthly users in my direct sales channel.

Month Users
Oct 2017 617
Nov 2017 700
Dec 2017 1965
Jan 2018 1374
Feb 2018 4056
Mar 2018 4700

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

The business model is simple. It's a one-time fee to get the starter kit that gives you access to the source code, all future updates and six months of support. People also get access to the git repository where the starter kit is built. Below is the gross monthly revenue for the product.

Month Revenue
Oct 2017 2176
Nov 2017 2358
Dec 2017 4725
Jan 2018 5151
Feb 2018 3808
Mar 2018 5750

And here's a look at revenue without the marketplace commissions:

Month Revenue
Oct 2017 1523
Nov 2017 1530
Dec 2017 3122
Jan 2018 3917
Feb 2018 2973
Mar 2018 4430

What are your goals for the future?

There have been many technical lessons learned from this journey with React Native and I plan to share them with the developer community on Medium and YouTube.

I should have done live coding on YouTube from day one.

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I will provide a "freebie" of React Native Starter Kit to the community soon, which I'm really excited about.

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

I love writing these starter kits, but I have absolutely zero knowledge about sales. There are probably some opportunities that I should investigate like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads. As a geek, it's easy to get sucked into doing cool software engineering and forgetting that everything else is just as critical, if not more so.

The size of the React Native community is substantial, but there is a lot of mistrust in these starter kits, as there should be! 😅 Beginners in the community might not have enough knowledge to grasp the value provided by these kits, and people who are advanced enough to understand the value might consider doing it themselves, just because it's fun to do. Therefore, the targeted segment in this large community is relatively small.

I should have done live coding on YouTube from day one. It's just very hard to put yourself out there, and it took a lot of time to gain the confidence to do it. Right now, the production quality of the video is low, and it's something I would like to improve in order to provide a better experience for subscribers.

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Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

This experience was only possible because stars were aligned. Technological advances such as React and Expo, as well as Backend-as-a-service platforms such as Firebase, have enabled me to create these starter kits. These products have vibrant communities around them and have absolutely changed the economics of building and publishing mobile apps.

A good example is Expo. Thanks to this library, a potential customer can play with a starter kit on their own iOS or Android device, and it's as simple as scanning a QR Code with your phone. These innovations are exciting.

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

I would like to advocate for doing things transparently. Start with the smallest step, like a landing page, and share your goals with the community. Be so transparent that you might even record yourself building something. Take small steps in the open.

Where can we go to learn more?

Please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. The website for the React Native Starter Kits is available here.

William Candillon , Founder of Start React Native

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