January 2, 2020

Reached 890k installs and $21k/mo after 4yrs

Peter Vu @Petervu

Hello everyone, I'm super duper excited to share about this huge milestone of Habitify!

Since I'm a little bit emotional right now, I want to share my story.

I'm an iOS developer who was offered a $2k/mo job at a great company. In Vietnam, at that time, for that job, $2k is a HUGE number. But I declined it. I wanted to start a project on my own. And so I set out to make Habitify. (https://habitify.me)

At first, I made Habitify mainly for the purpose of the donation. For each purchase, I'll spend $1 to donate for African children. There were only 3 of us: one developer (me), one designer and one marketer.

That model couldn't sustain us. It was also rejected by Apple anyway.

We struggled to get by without any salary (even me) for the first 6 months. Finding the first 100 users was hard, finding the first paid user was even harder.

It was not until Habitify got featured by Apple that the whole team was rescued. Revenue started to stream in, and boy oh boy, the "feature wave" continued to happen in the following months.

Then, all my co-founders left me for a more lucrative job. There was me, all alone.

It was hard, doing everything by myself. As the app got featured in more countries, there were more support tickets to be solved. It was overwhelming and depressing.

In late 2018, I made a game-changing decision: To change the subscription model from one-time freemium to subscription (still with a one-time package). Of course, there was a massive wave of complaints, 1-star, and negative social media talkings.

But the clouds started to clear up. The subscription model kept my business going sustainably. I hired a growth lead, expand Habitify to Android and web, specialized the support team, and even invested in content marketing (which burns a lot but slowly gives some positive ROI).

But the most important thing is finally, I had a family of my own, with people around me. We had parties, hangouts, hiking trips throughout the year.


Yesterday, my growth lead came to me and said we've reached 890k total installs. I was astonished by how fast the product grew. We set a goal to reach 1 million users this year, which is 3 years after I started the whole project. We didn't reach it, but it made me realize how far the product has gone.

If there's any lesson about this, it's not about the money or the niche we're in. I think it's about consistency. Not that I'm trying to promote my own product (which helps you form sticky habits, btw :D) but that's what got me today. The product is just a reflection of my vision, and the people - the lovely and courageous colleagues who dared to join me on this uncertain project - are a reflection of the rightness of what I believe in.

Hard work and luck paid off. Always believe in your own project.

Apple reached out to us and met us in person, that's the fruit that I got to harvest after all. I never dreamed of a day like that, but it was David, the regional manager, who shook my hand and told me exactly: "We noticed you a long time ago, and today we wanted to reach out to you in honor of your marketing and development effort."

Yes, that's exactly what he said. And I never forgot that day.

  1. 17

    If there's any lesson about this, it's not about the money or the niche we're in. I think it's about consistency.

    This 👆👆👆

    1. 2

      Thanks Rich! In those 4 years, I had several downturns that (I think) would be awesome material for Failory!

  2. 5

    Congratulations, Peter. This is inspiring and makes me happy to read. Also, I am not an Apple fanboy by any stretch at all, and I know it's self-serving of them to do this, but it is still cool that they reached out to you and promoted the app. This is the second time I've read on IH recently about Apple doing it. It's cool that they care. That's all.

    Great stuff.

    1. 2

      Thanks @fitzn!

      I met David, the regional manager, during a developer kitchen in Singapore back in 2016. Back then, I was really fascinated with Apple products and wanted to learn as much as I can from other developers, so I paid more than $1k to go. I only had a few minutes to chat with David, and I didn't expect to get contacted by him YEARS later. How kind that was!

      Apple is actually very supportive of indie iOS developers, that's the fact. They sent their BD people all over the world to get in touch with the developers, host meetings to discuss how they can integrate the latest Apple technology into their apps. In return? Well, you can guess :)

      1. 1

        That's amazing! What a great story of dedication to your craft, and it paying off in a special way. Love it.

        1. 1

          Big thanksss!

  3. 5

    Oh wow. After reading Atomic habits i was thinking there wasnt any decent.habit tracking apps out there. Glad to see more love given to this space.

    Congrats on the payoff for all the hard work!

    1. 1

      Thanks, @JamesReilly! Habit tracking is not too busy a niche, I would say, since there are only a few big names on the market and the small names are not really distinguishing (or have stopped development)

  4. 3

    Oh wow! I tried to purchase 'habitify' domain recently and now I know the story behind it! I am obsessed with habits and consistency and reading all of this is inspiring (and kind of a data point to help validate my project). @Petervu congratulations on reaching this milestone!

    1. 2

      Whoops do I have a newww competitor here hehe :)

      Jking, thanks for the kind words! Please reach out if you need any help :D

      1. 1

        haha not exactly, I am focusing on even a smaller niche within habit tracking (can talk to you more about it). But even if so I am at least 4 years behind you! :) Honestly reading that 890K people have downloaded your product really motivates me to make it happen! Thanks for the offer to help! I would love to chat with you if you have the bandwidth. Actually, I've make it a goal (um..habit) to talk to 2 new makers each week via this virtual coffee group. So if you have the bandwidth let me know.

        1. 1

          Sure thing! Hit me up and we'll work it out!

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            Sounds good. Here is my link in case it works out to schedule https://calendly.com/bhumi1102/indie. If not, can make other times work too!

  5. 2

    Inspiring! Best wishes :)

    1. 1

      thanks a lot!!!

  6. 2

    Great job Peter, very inspirational to see how consistency eventually pays off. Thanks for sharing.

    1. 1

      You are welcome Rick! Where's Siteguru in the development phase?

  7. 2

    Congrats bro, your journey was so amazing and inspiring, thanks for sharing with us.

    1. 1

      You are welcome @lmoresco!

  8. 2

    Congratulation! I believe doing the little work consistently is the key.

    1. 1

      Thanks @sensen! That's true! In business, you combine that with innovation and constant market observation and analysis, and I believe you will rock!

      1. 2

        Right! Thanks for sharing the story, @Petervu.

        I'm currently making 2020 the year to start generating revenue for my app, so it's inspiring!

        1. 1

          Ahh all the best to you! what are you doing to start generating revenue?

          1. 1

            Working on the IAP and continuing with the premium features.

            Getting more new users, too, on the side. And try to encourage them to have a habit of using the app to type. :)

  9. 2

    Congrats! Hard work usually pays off if it's done towards a clear goal. I think you deserve the amazing growth and wish you for more to come! :)

    1. 1

      Thanks for the kind words, @XCS!

  10. 2

    I love your story.

    I think it's about consistency.
    Holy truth!
    Best luck and success in the new year.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much! All the best to you, too!

      P/s: I love your landing page! Did you design it yourself?

      1. 2

        Thank you very much!
        Yes, I did it on my own (I'm not a designer at all :)

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  12. 2

    Awesome work Peter :)

    What apps/ideas had you worked on before settling on Habitify? Did you think you had a strong product even before it was featured by Apple?

    1. 2

      Hey @jarrad_obrien, good question!

      I had made an app called Pro Video Slideshow to help people create amazing videos from their footage, but I realized my incompetence back then to make such a complicated product, so I decided to leave it there (it's still in my submission list to Apple haha)

      That experience taught me to start with what I have, and what I'm excited about. Although, of course, I had to learn a lot along the way, I had some base and knowledge in habit tracking and data visualization/management so that made the first few stages much easier to breathe.

      I wouldn't say that I had a strong product before it was featured. But I would say I had a stable and well laid-out plan for developing the product in the long term, which helped me adapt to changes, fix bugs or add new features fairly easily. For example, I decided to go with Firebase from the first days instead of using iCloud, because I know one day I will want to expand the app to Android (synchronization between devices is one of the usp of Habitify so :D )

      1. 1

        Thanks for the I'm depth answer :)

        Were you balancing Habitify development with employment or were you always working on it full time?

        1. 3

          I was on it full time! Ever since I quit my job, I didn't pursue anything else besides the app. Since it's my own money, I gotta be serious even in the worst time, you know T_T

  13. 2

    Huge congrats Peter this is absolutely insane!!! Incredibly inspiring and fascinating to hear about the story as well. In some ways it's very similar to what we've been through so far (especially the battle for early users and the feature rescue) and I just hope we can make it through to your guys levels :)

    1. 1

      Thanks @nickdaniels! I think luck has a great role here, too :)

      I'm so excited to get in touch to hear more about your stories! Maybe I can help, dunno, but I'm glad to know I wasn't alone :)

      1. 2

        Cheers Peter, yeh it would be great to chat and compare notes. I'll drop you an email over the weekend and we can take things from there :)

        1. 1

          Thanks Nick! Gotcha!

  14. 2

    Congrats @Petervu on your journey and success.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much @sodux! Which memorable projects are you working on?

      1. 1

        I'm building something "fun", hopefully. Launching a beta this month, thanks for asking.

        1. 1

          Awesome! Keep us up-to-date!

  15. 2

    Inspiring, congrats for the good work and consistency.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much @tunatore!!!

  16. 2

    Congrats bro. It's a great time to be a maker! My app is in the same space as Habitify, but I have a lot of respect for it.

    I've downloaded maybe 50 apps in the category. Habitify is one of the 5 which I know the team is serious about helping users. You deserve the success!

    1. 1

      Ohh thanks for the kind words @irid! I'm very curious about the remaining 4 apps. Could you share with me and other IH makers here?

  17. 2

    Congrats @Petervu for this massive milestone!

    As an early stage, pre-revenue founder, it's very motivating to see stories from "the other side", thank you for sharing what must have been a very bumpy ride. Wishing you much success in the future!

    1. 2

      Self bootstrap is really challenging, I've been there, so all the best to you @omneity! Do you think I should share a more detailed story about the >bumpy ride?

      1. 2

        I would definitely be interested to learn more about it.
        On a high level, which challenges you encountered and how did you manage to turn the situation around! (An interesting tidbit in your article about your co-founders leaving is a perfect example of that)

        Sometimes some events feel like the "end of the road" for many, and it's powerful to read that it doesn't always have to be the case.

        (And it could be a perfect advertisement of Habitify, since I am sure part of your success is about establishing good habits wink wink)

        I followed you for if and whenever you manage to produce it :)

        1. 1

          Thanks @omneity for the encouragement! You got me so hyped about it!
          Sure, I'll spend some time to write on our blog. Since it needs serious reflection I gotta take some days off maybe ;)

          Now? I'm really tied up in my newly launched app :D

  18. 1

    Thanks for sharing @Petervu, very inspiring 🙌

    I'm curious about those first 100 users, and those first who paid. How did you go about marketing your product? Did you localize on a particular area or had users all over the world from day-one? Was it only with Apple that you knew you were building the right product for the right people?

    Just dowloaded the app, btw, and I'm loving it. I managed to exercise and meditate each morning for the past 7 days - which is something I had never managed to turn into a daily practice.

    Keep it going ❤️