I have received a regular newsletter from Roger Hamilton 5 minutes ago, author of the Wealth Dynamics system which profoundly changed my business life and how I perceive different talents in people surrounding me. Roger is a very bright guy and in every newsletter is something worth spreading. This time it’s a story of Evan Spiegel of Snapchat.
How to get (and forget) $3 Billion in a snap
Two years ago Evan Spiegel came up with the app Snapchat as a college project. This week he turned down a $3 billion cash offer from Facebook to buy the company (!)
What makes a 23 year old reject a $3 billion offer on a business which until today has had no revenues? How did one idea grow so quick so fast? What can you learn from a freak growth story like Snapchat’s?
In September 2011 Evan and his partner, Bobby Murphy, came up with the idea of Snapchat as their class project at Stamford, and set up the company from Evan’s father’s sitting room (Evan still lives with his Dad).
Last year, Evan dropped out of college to work on Snapchat. Today, more than 350 million images are shared on Snapchat every day (already four times more than Instagram).
Here’s 3 lesser known things about the Snapchat story:
1. DO THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE
While everyone was trying to copy success stories like Facebook and Instagram, that keep all your posts and photos forever, Snapchat came from the opposite direction. As Evan says “A buddy of mine was bummed about a photo he sent. When Bobby and I built the prototype (where photos and videos are deleted soon after being received), we realised how much fun we were having sending the photos back and forth.”
2. TRY, TRY AND TRY AGAIN
At college, Evan and Bobby tried over 50 different ideas before getting to Snapchat. When they got to that, no one liked it. Evan took the idea to his design class for review and says “All the VCs and people who came through were like ‘This is the dumbest thing ever… So, obviously, I went back to Bobby and I was like, ‘Oh, they really liked it!’”
"People call it an overnight success," Evan says, "But it was anything but.” If they had listened to the ‘experts’, Snapchat would never have gotten off the ground.
3. RELY ON YOUR EARLY CUSTOMERS
With no support, they both thought the idea would fail: “We didn’t think we were ever going to raise venture capital.” All they knew was they liked it and wanted to keep working on it. But while the grown adults thought it a silly idea, the app began going viral in high schools in California.
That’s how they attracted funding. As Evan recalls, “This guy named Jeremy Liew, who works at Lightspeed Ventures, one of his partners, Barry Eggers had a daughter who was using Snapchat. She said her 3 favorite apps that everyone was using at her high school were Angry Birds, Instagram and Snapchat. So Jeremy sent me a Facebook message.”
"I ended up meeting with him and showed him some of the early data we had. That was the month we were not going to be able to pay our server bills any more. Bobby had a job that was paying for the server bills at the time. And it just got too expensive, so the timing was awesome. My dad didn’t want to pay for disappearing photos any more.”
What can we learn from Evan’s story? If you’re working on something you love, and the people using your product love it too, don’t listen to the ‘experts’ telling you what can’t be done.
The greatest barrier to progress is the ‘illusion of knowledge’. Those who ‘know best’ rarely know ‘what’s next’.
As for Evan turning down $3 billion from Mark Zuckerberg, what comes next? How long will Evan keep living with his Dad? Evan’s reply: “Until he kicks me out.”
Follow your Genius!
Founder, Entrepreneurs Institute
Interactive slot machines portfolio by Flow Studio
Forbes fair is one of the major business events in the lottery business in the Central Europe. Synot as a technology leader grabbed visitors attention by an interactive motion controlled presentation using the Leap Motion controller which accurately tracks hand gestures.
We’re very happy to announce that internet strategy consultant Cedric Maloux, former CEO of Geewa, has become the first member of our Advisory Board. Cedric’s role is to help us invent and market new products for the Leap Motion controller using his great innovation and product development skills.
“Cedric has a track record spanning back to over 15 years in the online and gaming business. His turnaround of Geewa, bringing them back from the verge of bankruptcy into the TOP10 developers on Facebook within two years, was impressive,” comments company co-founder Richard Horin.
The main task of the studio for the upcoming months is to develop several Leap Motion apps and games on this new emerging platform.
"Flow Studio is at the forefront of the next revolution in gaming where the player’s body becomes part of the computer games. We have been using a keyboard and mouse for too long and it’s time to play with our hands. I’m extremely excited and grateful to the talented Flow Studio team for inviting me and I know they will create a killing entertaining experience for the Leap Motion device,” said Cedric Maloux.
Cedric recently published an article entitled “The next revolution in gaming is… You!" which was inspired by the recent developments in the gaming industry.
Synot Holding is Flow Studio’s new business “power-up”. The successful lottery giant invested $250 000 into our team to help boost development and also help us hit the jackpot with Leap Motion apps and games.
With the new funding we are increasing our capacities and development speed. Our goal is to launch several Leap Motion enabled apps and to find the right market within the next 12 months. We are exploring different areas where Leap Motion brings major controls improvement from entertainment, over interactive visualizations to education. Funding gives us an opportunity to experiment, try different solutions, learn quicker and launch faster.
Being a part of the Synot family gives us access to several interesting start-ups including Madfinger Games, the authors of iOS smash hits such as Shadowgun and Dead Trigger. What we want to give back to the holding is creativity, ability to come up with original solutions and modern trends which will develop the main lottery business.
Bootstrapping isn’t bad but it’s great to be on the next level!
Few months ago we’ve worked with Shane Lee on his new book AppSource. The title brings 10 stories of developers who outsourced their apps and games and our interview is part of this. Many things changed (e.g. we don’t outsource as much today :) but it still might be inspirational for you. Read the shortened story here on the blog or buy the whole book at Amazon.
Q: From what I understand, you outsource the entire programming and design aspect of all your apps. Have you had any difficulties in communicating exactly what you wanted to do while doing so?
Yes, for sure and all the time. This is one aspect which you can’t avoid 100% when the entire team isn’t sitting in one office. In fact we don’t have problem with the results but how we get to them. Although we are used to work with freelancers it still brings some misunderstandings. What helps is to write down detailed brief, call afterwards and to set open atmosphere where nobody is afraid to ask others about anything.
Q: How necessary do you think an NDA is for someone outsourcing development of an app?
Generally we have a rule to have a written deal with key members of the team. It is valuable for both sides because we set some rules, responsibilities, payments and sanctions. NDA for secrecy is unnecessary because everyone has tons of ideas but execution matters.
Q: Do you think that you’re at any sort of disadvantage without understanding the basics of iOS programming? How do you mitigate the risk that the programmers you hire might possibly take advantage of this situation?
By choosing the right people whom we can trust. Game development is long and painful process and relationships need to be strong. We always want to set the cooperation same as we would have in a company even if the work is only for hire. You can motivate people with profit share, bonuses for reaching milestone within a set time, etc.
Q: Did you expect Power of Logic to be as successful as it was? What do you think you did right with the app and why?
Regarding Power of Logic expectations we’ve assumed it will earn us more money soon after the launch. It appears as a success after many months when we have closed the sponsorship deal with T-Mobile and later discovered new revenue streams from advertising. Anyway the main goal was to learn about development and marketing which was incredibly useful.
I think there are two main reasons why we can consider the game as a success:
Q: If you were starting out in iPhone app development again, what would you do differently?
I want to be 100% that my idea and execution are truly unique. You will spend probably months of hard work and pay bills to various contractors so the confidence is essential. What I consider great is to share the idea, concept, mockups and demos with as many people as possible. Don’t be afraid someone will steal the idea because everybody is busy to do so. We are getting incredibly valuable response with Sortee from the very beginning and this is maybe the biggest difference between Logic and Sortee development for us.
Next time I would hire a designer and programmer full-time. Unfortunately we are delayed for months with the game development just because we have chosen programmer who is working on another game simultaneously. This costs us in total much more money.
Q: What were your biggest challenges and lessons learnt from releasing your first app?
There were many but I want to mention one that’s very important: test your future colleagues! CVs and portfolios are not enough. Interviews and polite phrases are not enough. Test real skills on real briefs with real outputs and real deadlines. This will tell you much more about the candidate and will save you an unbelievable amount of time and money.
Q: Do you have a process for going from app idea to full-blown development?
Yes, we have two steps pre-production: first game idea is captured in one page template where the author describes basic mechanics, design style, pros and cons, etc. When we decide to go further we create detailed sketches of the game and a game development document where we try to cover the game from its basics to the finer details as how we animate screens and which text appears on Facebook wall when player shares its high score. This is from our brief which can be used for time and price estimates both on our side and contractors side.
Q: Do you conduct beta-tests with potential users for your apps? If you do, how do you go about it?
We test the game with early prototypes. First we use only our partners and friends and the best thing is to just let them play and watch what they do without any interruptions. When we progress further we have at least three testers who get testing screenplay and form how to capture bugs and ideas. This time we plan to make also a third round of testing with general public with Sortee.
Q: Now that there are more than 700,000 apps on the app store, do you think that the market is becoming a bit too saturated for the average independent developer to succeed?
Who is the average indie developer? I am sure there is always enough space for great applications and games. The market is extremely competitive but I think when you work really hard and think wise about steps you are making then you can become a success.
Q: Why do you think most indie developers seem to have such a hard time making a living from selling their own apps?
Because we are fighting big production houses and the consumer doesn’t know the difference between “Indie” and “Commercial” products. If indies wants to get attention, their apps must be on the same level of quality as titles published by the big players.
Q: What words of advice would you have for someone just starting out in iPhone development?
Find a market niche because App Store is huge and the smallest target group is still big enough to earn you lot of money. Create something unique and get a confirmation of at least 10 experts it is truly unique. Hire only the very best people to your team and motivate them well.
Q: Aside from Chartboost, which you mentioned in your post mortem, do you use any other online resources for app development? (Eg: Test Flight, App Annie, etc)
Test Flight, App Annie, Distimo, Flurry, MobileDevHQ, Promoter and Yaycodes.
Q: What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of focusing on the iPad?
Advantage is definitely higher monetization per user and more space for the content. Disadvantages are moment of usage (usually at home in the evening) and number of devices which is still significantly lower then amount of iPhones.
Q: The buzzword for a while now in the app developer scene is ‘Freemium’. Do you think that pursuing this strategy will continue to be feasible over the long haul? What are your thoughts on how app monetization will change in the future?
I have a very simple answer of todays figures in Flurry: Logic has ten illegal downloads on one paid in last weeks. Freemium can help us to get at least part of the money we are missing now. But the model has to be fair, well implemented in games mechanics and generous to players. And that’s pretty difficult!
Co-Founder of Flow Studio, Petr Fodor, spoke with BeefJack about the potential existing with the Leap Motion to blossom new ideas in the realm of educational software. Some interesting comments were also made in response to the studio’s experience with the device.
“Just imagine a construction game using virtual hammer, handsaw or chisel, and let kids create anything they want to.
For kids, it’s natural to wave hands, point somewhere, grab anything. The challenge here is to design natural gestures and don’t let kids think what we developers expect. It must be a smooth experience.”
- See more at: http://bit.ly/1b9N7bd
Photo by Mathieu Marunczyn