Pleco: Building a Business, not an App | stratechery by Ben Thompson
Love is testament this is absolutely not true. He has identified a niche – Chinese language learning – and over many years he has worked diligently to be the app for that category. Much of that time has not been spent on development or design. Rather, it’s been spent understanding and listening to customers (which led to the aforementioned bundle change), making business deals with slow-moving publishers, careful consideration around pricing and app store presentation, investments in both free and paid differentiators, and a whole bunch of time spent on an Android app that doesn’t make that much direct money but that marks him as a leader in his space.
Make no mistake, Love has had his breaks, particularly his having started with favorable licensing terms, but I would ask every indie developer who is bemoaning his or her fate in the app store:
- Are you serving a niche that has a clear need, an audience that is willing to pay, and that is large enough to sustain your app?
- Have you developed sustainable differentiation that is more tangible than just look-and-feel?
- Do you have a fully thought-out monetization model that lets you make a meaningful amount from every customer you serve? If your app is truly differentiated then you need to charge customers accordingly
- Have you invested just as much if not more effort in non-development functions like making partnerships, licensing, promotion, etc.?
- Have you made an Android app?