The many pivots of building a startup from a UK Founder
TLDR: Developed App, added new features but growing too slowly > Pivoted > Attracted large brands as customers > SF Landing Pad > Coffee?
This is a follow up to a post I wrote a couple of years ago, that covered the end of Webfolio and the start of Snappd.
Well, this is what happened next.
The year of 2017 was alright for Snappd. We took the time to expand on the MVP & bring a fresh design to the app whilst really looking at how we could make the experience amazing for the users.
However, there was a problem around the corner.
In June of 2018, we had just completed a project as part of the Google DNI. It must have been a day or two after this that we saw the launch of IGTV. Instagram’s new standalone app for vertical video. I was not sure what to think of this at first. Whilst this did help to validate the app and show how important this style of content can be, having such a big & established brand that could easily remove the need for Snappd was daunting 😬.
That being said we took some time to see how users would react to IGTV. At first to our surprise, our organic download on the App Store went up. 📈That first full month new users were up around 20x the previous month.
Could this have just been down to IGTV?
The numbers kept growing until October. Then there was a steep decline & looking at the numbers in more detail, only a small percentage of these new users were actually using the app in any meaningful way. So we started to experiment.
At this time I felt we had two possible routes — Switch our focus to our Stories Widget product idea (more on this later) or Add some key new features into the app we can funnel users into and see if this makes them try the existing features.
We went with the app. Next it was onto the features to add… we set about creating mini-stories templates users (now it seems like there are 1000s of apps that do this but back then there were mainly Unfold (who we️ ❤️️& congrats on the acquisition ️) & Canva (also ❤️)
This was just a test to see if these unique and fresh templates could get users to stay for longer. And it did.
The first few days we saw usage increase a lot which was great but as time went on it was clear that the core of the app — repurposing content and discovering stories and creators — was not solving a big enough problem to keep users coming back at the scale we needed. 😑
So, remember the Stories widget product idea I mentioned earlier? This did solve a problem & one a lot of websites face across a number of industries (e-commerce in particular). So we made the call in early December to pivot all our focus to this idea. At this stage, it was just a rough MVP but did have early beta users and some even paying!
Planning started right away to really work out the areas to focus on first, as the product was rough (did I mention that?). It was at this stage as well our runway was running low, very low.
Unless we could find some cash, things would get tricky fast.
So here we were the week before Christmas, in the middle of this pivot. Money running low and an app that you could feel was slipping away. As crazy as it sounds, these are the moments you have to relish.
The next couple of months still feel like a bit of a blur, we were approached randomly by quite a huge sports publisher & a large global brand which really helped to validate the pivot. Both were interested in using our service however, they each had quite specific needs that would require further tweaks and adjustments.
As we were working on the direction we wanted to take, a lifeline arrived in the form of Ignite NI. We applied back in December & had somehow got in, we arrived with essentially 3 different products. App, Stories Widget & the Google DNI project.
Big credit to the Ignite team for helping us to focus on just one of these services. This meant switching the focus of both our time & messaging away from the app to be fully focused on increasing mobile conversion rates for brands with our new service.
By the end of the Ignite program, we managed to close a deal with the large brand who approached us, along with other brands, which has helped to build confidence in the new product. Alongside visits to San Francisco & Austin for SXSW.
By the way, applications for Ignite NI are open at the moment more info here, if you have a startup or even an idea I really recommend reaching out to the team.
Fast forward to now (November 2019) we are currently in San Francisco again on the Ignite Landing Pad.
We are here until the end of November so if you are also in town drop me a message on Twitter happy to get a coffee & chat.
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