Slopes Diaries #1: Prologue

I loved Behind the App from Inquisitive on Relay FM. It was a 10-episode podcast series that took listeners from app inception to launch through a series of conversations with great app creators.

What I loved the most of it was how insightful and personal it was. They weren't talking about the code and technical challenges; they were talking about the stress, the ideas, the failures along the way. It felt like the kind of conversations you'd have with close friends over beer.

I believe our community is more likely to succeed if we share these struggles publicly, enabling us to learn from each other. I want to see us talk about this kinda stuff more (not just in retrospect), so I'll start.

I'm going share more about my app, Slopes, and my attempt to turn it into a more substantial, and stable, part of my business. Right now I spend ~2 months a year on it with the rest of my time doing independent iOS consulting. I'd love to see that ratio move more towards Slopes.

I have no idea how many posts this series will turn into, or how long it'll last, but I hope you'll be able to learn something from my mistakes and ideas. You might be reading what will become the death-log of Slopes, or perhaps how it becomes a strong part of my business.

I hope it's the latter.

What is Slopes? Think Nike+, Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyRun, etc for skiers and snowboarders.

Sales chart of Slopes profits

I'm going to start this series off with a taboo: a chart with actual axis numbers. This is what the life of my app has looked like. Sept 2013 - Oct 2015. Being a winter sports app, Slopes has a very seasonal sales pattern.

The first winter of sales made back my sunk costs plus a little extra to pay for my snowboarding trips. I entered into this venture with healthy expectations, so "paying for my snowboarding season" was a happy first-year outcome.

Its second winter is when I started to get traction in the market. I played with ASO a bit, learning more about which keywords I should be targeting. Revenue-wise the business got healthier as I started playing with my pricing (spoilers: raising my price paid off). Slopes has made ~$10k in the last year and this third winter is looking like it'll be the best yet. Heck my current summer sales are healthier than my first-year's winter sales.

The easy thing for me to do would be to keep the price where it is and hope I get more downloads this winter (and next winter, and the following) to sustain my efforts. Eventually though, like all paid-up-front software, I'm going to saturate my market and sales will decline. Upgrade pricing, you cry, but I'm not a fan.

I have a lot of ambitious ideas I'd love to implement, but I need more reliable revenue to take them on as they'll greatly add to my future ongoing costs. I want to get in front of this kind of problem now, and hopefully build a more sustainable business along the way.

So I'm going to throw my current business model out the window with 2.0.

Fun times. (I'm scared to death)