My app failed: 2 years building, $194 in revenue, 100% churn, 8 lessons

In early 2020, I launched Rithm, an app that helps you build habits, reach your goals and stay motivated.

The 1st version was a chatbot app, think of it like an accountability coach that you text with to track habits and stay accountable.

Rithm landed as the #4 product of the day on ProductHunt, had some good initial traction which proceeded to fall off a cliff.

Here are the 8 lessons for a failed version 1, see video and blog post.

Hope this helps some makers out there!


Youtube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJpntT0jtfs&ab_channel=Rithm

  1. 7

    Great video and communication!

    I'm not sure you are ready to teach lessons, as you haven't succeeded yet. To me, a lesson is learned when you do something wrong, then make it right and learned why the first action was the wrong one. I mean, maybe Rithm could be a success if it had launched at another time or had more distribution.

    You are still testing hypothesis, and proof is that you are redoing the interface, keeping almost the same business plan.

    1. 3

      There's so much content out there that's pure hype or only discusses success, that I think it's great that somebody is being so candid about failure.

      Keep it up, @KyleBolt we need more people being honest about the struggles.

      1. 2

        Thanks! Totally, many more lessons to come in the future I hope!

    2. 2

      That’s a bit harsh don’t you think? Not only successful people can give advice since most of the time, luck is part of success

      1. 1

        Yeah, didn't intend to sound that way.

        This is a thread by Andrew Wilkinson on how he lost ten million dollars on a business and lessons learnt thread

        And here's a great article by DHH commenting on it: It's hard to draw lessons from your own failures

        1. 1

          My bad, you're right. Although, on one hand, reading through Wilkinson's tweet I'm thinking "good for him sharing his own failure story and lessons" and on the other hand, David's blog post makes sense too. So you're David in this context but Kyle must share his POV.

          1. 1

            Thank you! Yes I'm just trying to share some of my own learnings, not trying to preach! Thanks again for your comment.

    3. 1

      don't speak to soon, Version 2 of Rithm post may be out soon titled
      "How I bounced back with 30,000MRR in just 6 weeks "

      1. 1

        Haha I'm refreshing my analytics page hourly lol :)

    4. 1

      Hey Mauricio, thanks for reading/watching! Hope the content helped, wishing you all the best with your maker/business journey.

    5. 1

      I dunno, I really do prefer to learn from other's mistakes as well as their successes. It's a lot cheaper to learn from other's failures instead of my own.

      1. 1

        Yes, learning from folks at around the same stage as us in our startup journey is really valuable! Hope you got a few good takeaways!

    6. 1

      I appreciated that you were maximally transparent @KyleBolt. I find your retrospective on why you think you failed valuable.

  2. 1

    the bit about maslow's hierarchy of needs was a great insight into how to analyse startups/ideas

    1. 1

      Yes it's an interesting thought experiment! Could be helpful in prioritizing ideas.

  3. 1

    What a nice, easy-to-understand set of lessons that are immensely readable and finely crafted.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for reading/watching. Hope this helps guide other makers along their journey.

  4. 1

    I think a chatbot coach is a great idea, but should be applied where it is used IRL (in real life), solving pains like people wanting to lose weight or get in shape.

    If I were you, I'd pivot the product to a weight loss coach. Up the subscription to $30 per month so it could generate a LTV of $120 and allow to purchase advertising.

    What does a weight loss coach do? Onboard asking age, height, weight and weight target/date.

    Ask daily for pictures of the plates. At end of day show a mashup of all food intake and let the user vote if he kept on the diet of not.

    Ask weekly for the current weight. Show a chart of how its going and if the user will reach their goal.

    Show motivation images and phrases. Show nutritional plates and tips. Remind about exercising. Show success stories.

    As you don't need this app, gather about 5 overweight people and let then use your app and give feedback. They'll be used as social proof on your site.

    I'm preaching what I'm doing. My app Pleke solves the pain of managing money to get rid of debt and save more.

    1. 1

      Great idea, Noom weight loss app does this and is nearly worth 1 billy by now.

    2. 1

      Idk about the feasibility of this, but wouldn't it be cool if the chatbot communicates via the messaging tool and also sends you back charts/infographics of your progress.

      1. 1

        I was focusing on a pivot for its app, which already does much of what I listed as features.

        Your idea is even better, extract the "coach engine" and connect it to other messaging tools! This would let him also reach desktop and android users. We have a path to V2 :-)

  5. 1

    Thanks for sharing this, Kyle. It's a great checklist to test new ideas against.

    The "paying customers" false positive is something I was thinking about, in relation to "lifetime" deals, e.g. pay once and get access for life.

    A lot of founders use this tactic to get that initial boost of funds, but to me, that takes away the learning of whether your product is valuable to a user long term. And a great way to determine this is by looking at churn, which is a signal we won't get with one-off purchases.

    Great writeup.

    1. 1

      Yes exactly! I avoided a lifetime / one-time purchase because that wasn't going to tell me if this was valuable for a user over the long term. Introducing a lifetime package once you know your product is sticky and you know your LTV, that would be a good time to introduce the lifetime offer (I think!). Thanks again for reading/watching.

  6. 1

    Incredibly insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      Thanks for reading/watching, glad it helped, feels good to pass on some lessons.

  7. 1

    Thank you for sharing these lessons! Definetely helpful.

    What are your upcoming plans for Rithm?

    1. 1

      Thank you, glad my lessons helped!

      So I've released a V2 recently, which is already showing much more retention.

      I've incorporated some lessons from Sarah Tavel (partner at Benchmark), specifically her 'accruing benefit and mounting loss' theory.

      Check out her content on YouTube and her podcast episode on Invest like the best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy.

      The next big thing I am working on for Rithm is a buddy feature, where you can add accountability buddies. Version 1 was single player where version 2 will have some social elements.

      I'm working on building out my youtube content as a marketing channel + testing some other distribution methods (podcast ads?)

      I hope to have some more positive posts in the months to come.

      Thanks again,

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