Monday, January 13, 2014

Jelly isn't a Social Network, but it is Interesting

Jelly is a new "social network" that recently launched from one of the founders of Twitter. The founders call it a cross between a search engine and a social network. 
Using Jelly is kinda like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers. But, that’s where the similarities end. Albert Einstein famously said, “Information is not knowledge.” Knowledge is the practical application of information from real human experience.
Jelly changes how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks. It turns out that getting answers from people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms. Also, it has the added benefit of being fun. Here are the three key features of Jelly.
Essentially, you snap a picture, add a question, and send out to everyone within 2 degrees of you on Twitter and/or Facebook. See something unusual and you don't know what it is? Snap a picture, circle it, and see if someone else knows. I saw a post from Mark Zuckerberg today asking what type of spider was in his shower. 

As far as I'm concerned, it's far more similar to Quora than it is Twitter or Facebook. As for my app business, I think it could be more useful too. I don't know if Jelly will take off, and I don't know how receptive it will be to this sort of thing, but I think it would be incredibly useful as a way to do market research. Can't decide on an icon? Put your choices out there and ask lots of people which they like better. As it is designed to be a question and answer network, this would work far better than posing the same question on Twitter or Facebook I suspect.

I've seen some people complain about the 2 degrees, or "friends of friends" approach. Personally, I don't think they realize this isn't a social network. It is a question and answer site. The more people you have looking at your question the better chance that someone knows the answer. Frankly, I think it would be fine for me if my "network" included every single person signed up for Jelly. I guess I could simulate this by following the top people on Twitter. Follow a handful of celebrities and you are probably 2 degrees from almost everybody there.

Perhaps there is also a use case where you would want a closed private version with only your close friends, but I suspect that would be better served by a different medium. If you want to ask a personal question, this isn't the correct forum. It is for general questions, and as such, it is almost certainly better served by larger networks than smaller ones.

My first 2 questions posed to the audience?

1. Do you prefer apps with a more flat iOS 7 design or the old skeuomorphic design better? Link to Jelly Q

2. Anyone have or plan to get a smartwatch this year? Echo, Pebble, Galaxy, only if Apple releases iWatch? Link to Jelly Q

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My App Business 2013 Year in Review

2013 was an interesting year for me in many ways. Overall, it went pretty well, but I was also disappointed by several things. Coming off of 2012 where Apple changed their search algorithm in the summer, and then the App Store in the fall, my goals for the year were mostly to diversify and try to stabilize my earnings. While I had some success with this, frankly I didn't work hard enough to meet all of my goals. I'll go ahead and list the figures first, and then talk about the successes, failures, and goals for next year.

Paid Apps

iOS - 52,120.76
Android - 3,263.71
Mac - 2,774.34
Windows - 620.81
Amazon - 246.84

Paid Total - 59,026.46


Revmob - 7,298.55
Admob - 5,119.04
iAd - 1,285.22
Amazon - 25.36

Ads Total - 13,728.17

Apps total - 72,797.11   ~500,000 total downloads

Book - 1,456.31

Freelance - 10,700

Total Revenue in 2013 - $84,953.42

27% increase over 2012

Going into the year, I wanted to do a bit more freelance, more Android, more free apps, a book, and potentially a SaaS app. I succeeded with the freelance. I took on a 2 clients that were much better than I've had in the past, made more than I did last year, and still didn't spend that much time freelancing. Overall that was a success.

I did make more money on Android, but not a ton. Aside from freelancing, I didn't work much on Android this year. I didn't make any new apps, and I didn't do any updates after March. I just never set aside the time for it. Overall I'd label my efforts in Android as a failure, but I am happy I did increase my earnings from basically 0 to something with my efforts towards the end of 2012 and early in 2013. I don't have any immediate plans to make a new Android app, but I would like to put some more effort towards Android this year.

Thanks to the changes Apple made in 2012, free apps have become a very important part of any iOS strategy, and they were already very important to Android. I made a big effort to add free versions to many of my apps, and it paid off very nicely this year. The free apps were very instrumental in keeping my paid apps going. I ended up making almost exactly the same from paid apps as I did last year (which is not something I expected to be able to do with the changes) and I added 13k in ad revenue. This was a success for me.

I set a goal to write and publish a book this year. Part of it was that I simply wanted to write a book. Part of it was that I wanted to expand on this blog and help other indie devs like myself. And part of it was that I hoped to diversify more and make a bit of money. I'll call this a partial success. I did write and publish a book. The feedback I've gotten has been almost universally positive.

The only negative feedback I've gotten was at launch from a few haters suggesting that I was another person who made all my money telling people how to make money and not doing it myself. No worries there, I made very little money on book, and quite a bit on my apps :-) If I really wanted to make money from the book I should have priced it much higher and added some other materials in different tiers. I may eventually do this, but for now I have other more important things to do with my time.

Unfortunately, I didn't get around to releasing a SaaS app in 2013. I did get started on one late in the year though, and this will again be one of my biggest goals for 2014. I consider this an almost complete failure, with the only positive being that I decided on an idea and got started on it.

Overall, I can't complain too much about the way 2013 went. I made significantly more than I used to working for someone else, and frankly I worked significantly less than I did then. My biggest complaint is that I didn't push myself to work harder. I had a great first 6-8 months of the year and then things slowed down. I had hoped to get the SaaS app released by the end of the year, but life got in the way. Between my mom having a major surgery and the holidays I basically didn't get too much done in the last 2 months. The good news is that I am able to take the time off and mom is doing better, the bad news is my business has been stuck in neutral for a bit.

Goals for 2014

I want to continue to diversify my revenue streams, and I'd really like to smooth out my income a bit. Due to the nature of my apps, I make significantly more money in the summer than I do during the winter. In addition to adding apps and improving on the ones that do well year round, my biggest goal is to release the SaaS app. Adding monthly recurring revenue is a major goal for me this year. Instead of starting every month at 0, it would be nice to having a little bit higher base, even if it isn't huge.
Thankfully I've known this for awhile, so I just give myself a set salary each month and the significant overflow during the summer easily covered any shortfalls I had in the winter. That is a key point for anyone in this business. Don't spend every dime you make, as you aren't going to make the same amount every month. Save some to help smooth things out in your budget. And like me, you probably want to invest in diversifying your business so that you avoid having too many low months.

Discuss on Hacker News

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.