Interviews with the experts behind the biggest apps in the App Store. Hosts David Barnard and Jacob Eiting dive deep to unlock insights, strategies, and stories that you can use to carve out your slice of the 'trillion-dollar App Store opportunity'.
Building a Content Marketing Flywheel — Fares Ksebati, MySwimPro
Our guest today is Fares Ksebati, Co-Founder and CEO of MySwimPro, the leading swim coaching app.
On the podcast talk with Fares about how to build a content marketing flywheel, the importance of content that’s inherently valuable, and why you shouldn’t give up on content marketing even if your early attempts only get a few views.
🛠️ Validate your app idea with minimal resources. Use a simple mock-up and some way to drive paid or organic traffic to gauge interest before development. Fares Ksebati tested demand for an app that didn’t exist by collecting emails via a basic website. This lean approach confirmed interest with over 200 sign-ups, showcasing an effective, low-cost validation method.
🌱 Startup accelerators: a selective boost for early ventures. For newcomers like Fares, accelerators are goldmines for skills in customer discovery and networking. They're most valuable for startups without a solid network or those aligned with the accelerator's focus. While they sharpen your pitch and connect you with mentors, their benefits may wane as your business matures. Choose one that fits your app's niche for the best impact.
🏃♂️ Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Fares’s journey with MySwimPro underscores that content marketing requires patience and passion. Initially focusing on answering common swimming questions, the strategy wasn't about quick wins but building trust and brand over time. Early content may not drive immediate app usage spikes, but it lays the foundation for brand recognition and credibility.
💸 Great content transcends user acquisition and unlocks direct monetization. Establishing a significant online presence, particularly on platforms like YouTube, offers dual benefits: attracting new users and generating revenue through ads and brand partnerships. This strategy highlights the power of creating engaging, value-driven content that not only draws in subscribers but also opens additional revenue streams.
🔍 The biggest mistake when experimenting with paid acquisition is not having the right analytics in place. Success in paid acquisition hinges on robust analytics for tracking campaign effectiveness and the ability to quickly adjust strategies. Without confidence in attribution and the ability to iterate quickly, budgets can be wasted on ineffective ads and you won’t be able to scale.
💬 Effective value communication eases the shift from free to paid subscriptions. Transitioning users from free to premium features necessitates a clear demonstration of added benefits. While consumers are increasingly willing to pay for software, that comes with higher expectations. But it’s important to remember that some users will always complain about price, regardless of cost, while some will always be willing to pay for the most premium subscription. Getting pricing right is a constant balance of qualitative user psychology with data-driven insight.
👨💻 Co-Founder and CEO of MySwimPro, an app that provides personalized workouts and training plans for swimmers.
🏊 An accomplished swimmer himself, Fares created MySwimPro to help swimmers of all skill levels improve their performance — even if they don’t have a team or coach.
💡 “With content marketing, you have to do one of three things: You have to either educate people, entertain them, or inspire them. Now, if you're really good at any one of those, that's great. But if you're amazing, you can do multiple at the same time.”
Links & Resources:
Connect with Fares via LinkedInConnect with Fares on TwitterCheck out MySwimProWatch MySwimPro on YouTube
[3:41] Fake it ‘til you make it: In 2014, Fares validated the idea for MySwimPro by driving traffic to a website for an app that didn’t exist yet.
[10:07] Don’t reinvent the wheel: Use tools that already exist (like Google and YouTube) to find what potential users are searc
Apple’s Response to the EU’s DMA: What Developers Need to Know
On 25th January, Apple published its guidance on how it would comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The response, in keeping with Apple’s response to other demands for reforms, effectively disincentivizes most apps from taking advantage of the changes. The changes are complex and confusing, and the answer to whether apps should make changes isn’t completely black-and-white.
To help developers navigate these changes, we pulled together an “emergency” episode featuring RevenueCat’s CEO Jacob Eiting and Head of Product Jens-Fabian Goetzmann, Runway CEO Gabriel Savit, and Nico Wittenborn, founder of Adjacent.
Here are the discussion’s key takeaways:
📲 The DMA Reforms How App Stores Work in the EU — The DMA mandates that app stores, like Apple's, cannot enforce the use of first-party app stores or in-app payment systems in the EU. Android already supports third-party app stores (sideloading), so Google’s focus has been on offering alternative payments via “user-choice billing”. For Apple, which does not support sideloading, the EU reforms have needed to be much more significant.
🔓 Apple Releases Opt-In New Business Terms — Apple’s response was to introduce an optional new set of business terms with a dizzying number of changes to fees and choices for developers. By opting-in, developers unlock new ways to distribute their app and charge users, but doing so comes with changes to and additions to fees paid to Apple. The changes are complex enough that developers have to analyze the implications very carefully.
🌀Fee Structure of the New Terms is a Complex Maze — Apple's new terms introduce a convoluted fee structure, where reduced commissions are coupled with the Core Technology Fee (CTF), where developers pay €0.50 for the first annual install over a 1M threshold. The CTF includes not just first-time installs, but first annual re-installs and updates from first and third-party app stores as well. This install fee effectively means that any high volume low average revenue per user (ARPU) app is likely to lose out by accepting the new terms.
🛑 Third-party App Stores Unviable for All but the Biggest Players — The new terms aren’t so rosy for potential new “marketplace apps”, either. New app stores will not be exempt from the CTF, making the first 3M downloads of the marketplace app itself cost the operator €1M — €0.50 per install over the 1M download threshold. And then apps within that marketplace also have to pay the CTF fee. This means that opening a third-party app store is unviable except for the very biggest attempts or for stores that have a high-charge per install (e.g. a game marketplace where users pay a relatively high one-off fee per game).
🔍 There Might Be Strategic Opportunities, but They Remain to Be Seen — Yes, most apps seem to be better off sticking with the original terms. But there might be opportunities for niche apps. For example, apps that have a low volume of installs but high ARPU (by having a costly yearly subscription, for example) might be able to absorb the CTF, even considering yearly updates. An additional as-yet unexplored change is that Apple has introduced 600 new APIs, meaning that there’s an opening for new third-party applications and integrations.
📱Gabriel Savit is CEO of Runway, a release platform for iOS and Android apps. Find Gabriel on X and on LinkedIn.
💲Nico Wittenborn is Founder of Adjacent, an early-stage VC firm. Find Nico on X and on LinkedIn.
😺Jens-Fabian Goetzmann is Head of Product at RevenueCat
Links & Resources
These aren’t the only concessions Apple has recently had to make. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered that Apple needed to allow developers to link to alternative payment methods in the US. Read more about what those changes mean.On the RevenueCat blog, we’ve written up an overview of this podcast and included additional d
How to Succeed with Freemium and Hybrid Monetization — Paul Ganev, Surfline
Our guest today is Paul Ganev, Vice President of Strategy, Business Development & Analytics at Surfline.
On the podcast we talk with Paul about the strategic pitfalls in modeling Total Addressable Market, how freemium should work, and why Surfline’s current success was actually 38 years in the making.
🎯SAM not TAM — The total addressable market (TAM) provides an overview of the market's potential size, but it's too general for strategic purposes. The serviceable addressable market (SAM) more accurately reflects the market portion you can realistically capture.
$ Understanding Price Sensitivity — Price sensitivity involves three key elements: Purchasing power (your market's ability to buy), commitment (likelihood of investing in your app), and value proposition (the value your app offers).
⚖️The Freemium Balance — Success in freemium models hinges on balancing increased conversions with retaining free users. If prioritizing one over the other becomes necessary, focus on retention to allow time for app improvements.
📈Growing Freemium Conversion Rates — A small percentage of free users convert to premium. The strength of freemium lies in its potential for increased conversion rates as your app improves and retains free users over time.
🤝Monetizing Through Partnerships — For free users, displaying ads can monetize the audience that may not convert. For premium users, focus on partnerships offering exclusive deals or benefits to enhance value and average revenue per user (ARPU).
👨💻 Vice President of Strategy, Business Development, and Analytics at Surfline, an app that provides surfers updates on current wave conditions.
🏄 An avid surfer himself, Paul joined the Surfline team because he was passionate about the product.
💡 “The biggest issue that I see with most companies that are going out to market and putting together their commercial strategy is they'll use TAM and they'll model everything off of that… But in reality… it's really important to figure out what the serviceable addressable market is.”
👋 LinkedIn🏄♂️ Check out Surfline
[4:11] The 38-year-old startup: Surfline was originally founded as a 1-800 phone number in 1985 and added consumer subscriptions in 2001 (before Netflix did!).
[5:57] When TAM fails: Total addressable market (TAM) is an unrealistic number for modeling the number of users you’re likely to get — instead, calculate the serviceable addressable market (SAM).
[14:46] Different approaches to TAM: You can calculate TAM from the top down or bottom up, whichever makes more sense for your business.
[19:04] The formula for price sensitivity: To effectively price your app, you need to understand (1) your users’ purchasing power, (2) your users’ level of commitment, and (3) the strength of your value proposition.
[24:40] Keeping the “free” in freemium: Remember to balance conversions with free user retention — it’s much easier to convert existing free users than it is to acquire brand-new users.
[37:48] Ads for all: Consider partnering with relevant brands to provide special offers to further monetize your paid subscribers.
Lessons from 121 A/B Tests - Kenneth Schlenker, Opal
On the podcast we talk with Kenneth about scaling to $5M in ARR on paid ads, positive and negative results from 121 A/B tests, and why they still haven’t built an Android app.
💡 The Power of a Single Metric: Concentrating on just one key metric can be remarkably effective. In the early stages, it's common to take on too much. By zeroing in on a solitary metric, it becomes simpler to iterate and conduct large-scale testing.
👀 Subscriptions as a Market Fit Gauge: The subscription model acts as a litmus test for your app's value. Gating access early and observing if users are willing to pay offers clear evidence of your app's worth.
💬 Flexibility in Attribution Methods: There's no one-size-fits-all approach to attribution. Various apps adopt diverse strategies. Often, straightforward methods like asking users about their discovery path during onboarding can be the most reliable.
🤳🏼 Prioritizing Creativity in Paid Marketing: If your strategy leans heavily on paid marketing, expect to dedicate at least 80% of your efforts to crafting creative content. For smaller teams, collaborating with content creators and influencers can be an effective strategy for scaling.
📱 Choosing a Single Platform for Initial Launch: Easing early-stage challenges is feasible by focusing on a single platform. Many startups overextend by launching on multiple platforms simultaneously. Opting for a single platform, such as iOS, allows you to concentrate your limited resources on achieving initial milestones before considering a broader launch.
👨💻 Founder and CEO of Opal, an app that helps users limit their screen time and find focus.
📱 Even though iOS includes screen time management tools, Kenneth and his team believed they could improve the experience – and that users would pay for it.
💡 “Essentially, if you get people to pay for your products… that's a pretty strong signal that you have something pretty valuable.”
Links & Resources:
Connect with Kenneth via LinkedInCheck out Opal: https://www.opal.so/ X: https://twitter.com/kschlenker Episode Highlights:
[1:09] A three-phase approach: How the Opal team tackled building a subscription business for a screen time management app.
[4:54] When ad spend is worth it: Opal implemented paid marketing from the beginning – and it paid off.
[10:44] Attribution made easy: Sometimes the simplest method of finding out where users came from – just asking them! – is the most useful.
[13:08] Contracting creatives: Consider hiring independent contractors who care about your mission to build your ad content.
[17:22] From premium to freemium: Many apps (like Duolingo) start out free, then add paid subscriptions later. Opal is doing the opposite.
[25:53] Work smarter, not harder: Releasing your app on a single platform (instead of iOS, Mac, web, and Android all at once) can save your team a lot of time and money.
[30:07] Lessons from 121 A/B tests: Prioritize the bigger swings that will significantly increase your uplift early on.
How to Pitch Your App to the Press – Matthew Panzarino, Formerly TechCrunch
On the podcast: How to pitch your app to the press, the importance of focusing on differentiation, and why customizing your pitch to an individual writer is so much more effective.
PR for user acquisition (UA) is best suited for acquiring very specific users. If you’re looking for big numbers then there are better channels to use. But PR allows you to pinpoint your UA to reach smaller, higher-intent audiences, such as early adopters or power users, who help you fulfill a particular goal.
When working with PR agencies or consultants, know what kind of outcome you’re after. For apps that just want to reach a wide audience, a firm focused more on outreach at scale might be sufficient. But most apps will benefit more from a strategist who will help craft deep meaningful stories over the long-term.
When pitching, think about the writer, not just the publication. Find the writer who will have the greatest personal interest in your story — not only will your pitch success rate be higher, but the subsequent write-up will be much more meaningful and useful to you down the road.
Keep your email pitch brief and your press-kit comprehensive. Use the subject line and body copy to highlight uniqueness; feel free to use images but keep it brief. Your press kit, however, should provide enough detail for the journalist to write their story out-of-the-box — but don’t go as far as to write it yourself.
To effectively pitch your app to TechCrunch, specifically, focus on what sets your app apart. A well-executed idea with quality design is just the starting point. Elevate your pitch by highlighting unique features and differentiation. Adding personal stories can further enhance the appeal and depth of your pitch.
👨💻 Former Editor-in-Chief of TechCrunch.
✍️ With over 14 years of experience as a tech journalist, Matthew is an expert in the art of the pitch.
💡 “Those stories tend to be the most potent, valuable, and interesting long term, especially for early-stage companies. You convert somebody into a believer, a believer in the thing that you’re doing, the thing that you’re trying to accomplish, the mission that you have. And those writers will become sort of chroniclers of your progress over time. If you’re able to capture one or two of those [writers] ... to get into the minds and hearts of individual writers at a publication, it’s so much more valuable than, ‘Oh, we got covered by Publication X.’”
Links & Resources:
Connect with Matthew via LinkedInCheck out TechCrunch - https://techcrunch.com/ Episode Highlights:
[1:12] Pitch perfect: How to pitch your app to a tech reporter in a cold email (that they’ll actually read).
[14:01] Stand out from the crowd: A competitor’s downtime or failure may be a good opportunity to market your app, but it isn’t enough — you need to highlight your app’s differentiating features, too.
[18:05] Know your audience: Choose not only the right publication but also the right reporter to write about your app.
[26:41] Broad versus targeted UA: Getting your app featured in a publication like TechCrunch can help you acquire a highly interested group of users (early adopters, power users, and people who will send you feedback).
[38:12] The big leagues: What TechCrunch is looking for in a pitch.
[45:15] To PR or not to PR?: Whether or not you should work with a PR firm depends on your app.
[48:18] The whole kit and caboodle: Create a press kit that makes it easy for a journalist to tell your app’s story.
The Subscription Value Loop: A Formula for Growth – Phil Carter, Elemental Growth
On the podcast: We talk with Phil about his Subscription Value Loop framework, what it means to create robust value for customers, and why A/B testing shouldn't be your first step in price optimization.
📈Quantitative growth models can help inform your growth strategy. These models are built around key user actions and growth loops incorporating variables like acquisition, retention, and monetization. They serve not just to align the company around common growth objectives but also as a tool to identify strategic leverage points for driving user and revenue growth.
📲The subscription value loop can model successful consumer subscription apps. This loop, devised by Phil Carter, is a framework for consumer subscription apps that focuses on value creation, delivery, and capture. It identifies the most impactful areas to allocate resources, aiding in decision-making for product development and marketing strategies. It emphasizes the importance of balancing value creation for the user with the business's need to capture value, ensuring a sustainable and efficient growth model.
🔁The 4Rs of value creation — robust, rapid, repeatable, remarkable — emphasize creating a product that solves real customer problems with strong product market fit, delivering value quickly, ensuring long-term engagement and value through repeatable benefits, and being compelling enough to spark word-of-mouth promotion. This framework guides in developing products that not only meet immediate user needs but also maintain their relevance and appeal over time.
💲Value delivery is efficiently connecting users to your valuable product. The playbook of relying on paid marketing to acquire users no longer works, due to increased app store competition and reduced efficiencies caused by ATT. The healthiest subscription app businesses are built on a robust organic acquisition strategy as a foundation, where paid ads are supplementary.
🎯The 5Ps of value capture — paywall, pricing & packaging, payments, promotions — focus on the strategic elements crucial for monetizing a subscription app. Paywall strategies should, as well as adopt general best practices, be tightly aligned with the nature of the app; pricing & packaging perhaps offer the greatest leverage for later-stage apps; payments is about an awareness of alternative payment methods and ensuring you have a clear and transparent payment flow; and promotions should be thoughtful and targeted.
👨💻Founder and CEO of Elemental Growth, an advising consultancy focused on helping app businesses unlock their potential.
🔁 Phil developed the Subscription Value Loop, a framework for understanding how to maximize growth in consumer app businesses.
💡 “If you don't have a repeatable value prop that can sustain long-term retention, and your primary growth loop is paid ads, that's where you see a graveyard of companies that have just completely failed.”
Links & Resources:
Connect with Phil via LinkedInCheck out his website - www.philgcarter.comFind Phil on X: @philgcarterCheck out his Consumer Subscription Growth CourseCompanies Phil has helped:
Quizlet (https://www.quizlet.com/)Faire (https://www.faire.com/)Ibotta (https://www.ibotta.com/)Matter (https://hq.getmatter.com/)Save My Exams (https://www.savemyexams.com/)uDocz (https://www.udocz.com/)Knowunity (https://www.knowunity.com/)Rise (https://www.risescience.com/)
[0:44] From consultant to growth guru: Phil’s journey into the subscription growth world began with mission-driven app businesses like Quizlet.
[5:25] What you need to know to grow: Any quantitative growth model will be “wrong”… but you’ll learn so much building one, you should still do it.
[8:30] The Subscription Value Loop: A framework for identifying product-market fit, building a remarkable solution, and investing profits into shoring up your competitive advantage.
Love the content, really helpful for anyone building subscription apps! More like the latest episode please
Sub Club has quickly become a favorite in my feed! I'm consistently impressed by the engaging conversations, insightful content, and actionable ideas. I truly learn something every time I listen!
Super insightful for indie devs!
Great guests, stories, and insights are shared.