“My primary life study has been about love. Second comes economics, so here, in the form of a few rules, is a little amalgam of the two fields: the economics of love.” – Ben Stein, Economist
I just spent the last month facing as many fears as I possibly could.
I woke up a few weeks ago, bought a ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and shut my computer. Do I speak Spanish? Barely. Do I know anyone down there? Nope.
But, I do wake up some days in the grip of fear…and that’s unacceptable to me. I define fear as a sort of lurking resistance. We all feel it from time to time – not wanting to leave your apt, feeling apprehension to do something, whatever. It is the arch nemesis of change. It’s that looming cloud that pulls us back to the safe zone where everything is predictable. It can be comforting. It’s sneaky.
I refuse to live my life at any level less than 9000 RPM, peak performance, whatever you want to call it. I had a deep and un-ignorable thirst to break myself from the iron clench of all the things that contribute to this fear – convenience, technology, ease, security.
In many ways, these all represent the highest apex of our evolution. For so many reasons, they have given us everything we ever hoped for. To me, they have become a burden, slowly eating at me until I am nothing more than a profile picture and a clever tweet, unable to grow my own food, get in a fist fight, or turn off my iPhone.
As I prepare to return to my home in the United States, I would be remiss to not share a piece of what I have learned on this life changing journey. What better way to do that than to fuse the two loves of my current life – personal growth and the app business.
So, here are some thoughts.
1. There’s a reason why there are fundamentals. When you add your ad network interstitials to your app, there’s a reason why the ad networks tell you where to put them. They work.
Maybe you’ll break through and get a 5% increase or maybe you’ll think of something wildly creative that can alter the ecosystem slightly, but chances are your best bet is to rely on the research of hundreds of billions of impressions. There’s a big difference between trying to hack the market and trying to beat the market – spend more time trying to beat it.
With apps, you can spend a lot of time trying to re-invent the wheel or you can listen to the people that already have invented wheels that work mighty fine. Of course there is something to be said for being creative, but just be aware of it.
In life, I have found the same thing to be true which I will touch upon. Life is short – don’t spend all your time trying to find answers that clichés can answer in five minutes. Listen to the wisdom that’s out there already, then add to it. Be kind to people. Give back. Be healthy. Be happy. Spend 15 minutes talking to someone who’s older than you and hear what THEY’VE learned. You’ll save yourself years of angst.
2. Focus on install rates for high eCPM. Your earnings quotient (eCPM) is a factor of impressions, clicks, and installs. There are different ways to maximize each of these and different strategies from different networks.
Looking back at a year’s worth of data, my best revenue drivers were the apps that had great install rates. They didn’t get the most downloads, but they served up the best ads for the right people.
Apps can be lucrative by focusing on the traffic and driving more all the time (flipping apps works on this). But it also shifts the focus away from the apps and towards the portfolio. All apps gets a little love, none get a lot. He who is friends with everyone is friends with no one.
If you want something, in this case I will use the example of finding a significant other, it’s better to focus on winning over one person than it is to get in front of a thousand to “see if there is something there.”
Of course, this is assuming you’re in it for the long haul, but the general idea will still hold true – you’ll get the biggest return when you make an effort to provide value with the right person even if the pool is smaller.
3. There is no correlation between how much money you invest in your app and it’s success. The most popular post on my site is one about how much it costs to develop an app. A lot of people contact me and ask about how much they should be spending, wondering if it’s worth it to spend more, spend less, etc.
Over the last two years I’ve had the privilege to talk to hundreds of app entrepreneurs and hear their stories. There is absolutely no data to lead me to believe that any of them would have made more money if they had spent more. They weren’t looking for investments and they didn’t start with much money or free time. The #1 characteristic that all these people have in common? They wanted to win.
I just spent over 3 weeks surrounded by people happier than I’ve ever seen. I was asked about my job a total of four times in that period, all of which were from Americans. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
Most of the time I talked to people about travel, language, family, love, and happiness. I met really rich people and I met really poor people. The ones that were consistently giving off great vibes were the ones that wanted more out of their life. They didn’t spend the most and they didn’t have the most – they just wanted to be happy. A lot.
Not having money to start with is a bad reason to think you can’t get everything and all the riches you want in your life. You can be just as happy with small victories as you can with big ones. In fact, some of the greatest achievements of my life happened when I had no money. Learning to add Revmob to my code? I threw a huge party (not kidding).
Having a big upside is all relative – the amount you spend is much less important than how much you think you can make back.
4. Long term high ROI occurs in great games. There’s a powerful launch cycle on the app store (Apple in particular) that helps with eCPM and is one of the founding principles of all flipping. When a new product is introduced to the market, the natural inertia of that product attracts new users who are excited about checking it out.
They loved the screenshots and the fun description! When they download the app, they may click on your free game ad and you make money. You’ll only get one, maybe two shots at this on a medium to poor quality app.
To consistently drive value to users over the long term (as measured by eCPM) you have to have an app that provides value over the long term. Did you check all the bugs? Do you actively update your game to listen to feedback?
Does your gameplay make sense? Users can smell this a mile away and will dump your game after one use if you don’t change it.
You can attract a lot in the first few weeks of something new – the energy is high, it’s all smiles, every night’s a party. But after a while, reality sets in and the real tests start. Ever tried to quit a habit?
The first week is OK, then it sucks until about 3 weeks later. Same with meeting someone new. To consistently drive value from life over the long term, you need to be a high value individual. You need to have discipline and spend time to really invest in yourself if you want to make a lasting change.
Pour energy into the parts of your life that you want to change for the long term. It’s not easy, but that’s why not everyone lives the life they want. Remember that you need to work on yourself just as much as you work on your business. Often, when we step back, we realize that the success we want for our apps is actually to fill in a hole we feel in our current lives.
Long term returns come from strategic investment.
5. Freemium is the best way to make money. In pretty much all cases, especially games, free to play is considered the golden standard. Flood your game with users, then monetize them through awesome game play. This is a deviation from the older Paid model.
Why does this work? Because you are giving away something before asking for anything in return. You are making the first step and offering value for free in hopes that it is good enough to get value back from someone. Granted, this also gets you a much higher download volume, but the psychology is the same.
This is a lesson that’s been around for centuries – you must give before you get. If you think that you are so awesome that people should flock to YOU and automatically think you are amazing before you give them anything, you’re in for a rough journey. The most successful and happiest people know that they must swallow their pride and output free energy before anyone comes back with reciprocal energy.
Anyone who’s done this knows that the returns on giving first are ten fold anything you would get without doing so, both financially and emotionally. It’s nature’s way of balancing. Give and take…but you must give much more at the beginning.
6. Focusing on your daily metrics will drive you insane. I don’t think I need to convince anyone of this. I talked to a few of the ad networks about their website metrics – on average, each developer visits their sites 6 times a day. eCPM is out of whack? Shit storm on Facebook. Revenue is higher than yesterday? Massive euphoria.
The morning coffee buzz is replaced by that dopamine flood driven by logging into your Chartboost account. It makes or breaks your entire day. All the work you’ve put in, all the progress you’ve made in your app journey means shit. Your daily rev is down 30% and life sucks.
If I measured my self worth with everything that happened each day, I think I would go insane. In fact, I DO go insane sometimes. Fuck is this the right shirt to wear? I’m not being healthy! Ugh I sounded like such an idiot speaking Spanish in that café. Sometimes it sends me into a tailspin.
But that’s why I’m down here – to break that daily cycle. All the mundane, daily crap that everyone has to deal with means nothing in grand scheme of things.
My brother and his friends came down here and we ran a marathon through the city. At mile 10, I thought my legs were going to collapse. I also had this power moment of realization that I am living one of the biggest dreams of my life.
In the middle of a busy street I yelled out “YEAH!!!” which prompted someone else to yell out “Yeah!” which led to the crowd laughing and clapping.
If you wake up every day and need a big revenue day to make you feel great for the next 6 hours, realize that you’re feeding a bad addiction. Try waking up writing down everything awesome you accomplished the day before. Focus on your goals and take five minutes to be grateful for how far you’ve come. Shit – be grateful that you get another day to give it a shot.
Days will have highs and lows because we get so many of them. Can’t say the same about life.
7. Follow a plan to get expected results, roll the dice to get unexpected results. With apps, there are a lot of people that have made a lot of money. Chad, Trey, Quoc, and others have all crushed it with apps.
They all lay out blueprints that show you different ways to reach your goals. I try to do that with app flipping and re-skinning in the hopes that I can help all of you get to you to where you want to go.
There’s a certain amount of creativity involved, but for the most part these plans will help you make good money making assets that will
consistently make you money back. Following a plan is the #1 way to get an expected result.
Similarly, not following a plan is the #1 way to strike it big. It’s also the #1 way to completely eat shit. The only difference is if you believe in what you’re doing.
I can’t recommend one or the other because we’re all in different situations, but I can say that I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t rolled the dice. I put up a bunch of apps with celebrities and rode a fine line of trademarks and copyrights and it paid off big.
I quit my life managing monster attorney web strategies to build fucking skee-ball games! It worked out.
Being a “risk taker” is relative. Some people think sky-diving is risky. Others think driving down the street is risky. What’s the difference? How deeply you believe that it will work out the way you want it to.
Some people think I take big risks but I don’t see it like that. When I close my eyes, I see the world I want and the life I want. I think it’s risky to be safe. Waking up in 50 years and wondering what my life could have been is a risk I am not willing to take.
Making shit happen is step one. Hustling is step two. The rest is up to you. The most powerful and exciting moments of my life happened when I said “Yes” to situations that I felt uneasy about, then went so hard that I refused to allow failure be an option.
Being in Argentina has taken my level of faith to epic proportions and has taken me to places I never thought possible, spiritually. I was forced to make every situation positive. Every day required my being positive to do things as simple as go to the grocery store or order coffee.
Total focus for the simplest of tasks. There isn’t time to think about the negative possibilities because I feel like I’m in survival mode all the time. You don’t entertain failure when your biology thinks your surviving. You HAVE to make it work.
After this trip, there is very little doubt that, no matter what, everything will work out in life. It just will.
It’s not about taking out a mortgage on your house and “going for it!” That’s just dumb. It’s about saying yes to life. It’s about waking up in the morning and focusing on the one reason why it can all work out instead of the 500 why it might not. It’s about re-defining what you think is risky, stepping back and asking yourself what’s important in your life.
The foundation of all faith, in my opinion, is the acknowledgment of possibility. If there is something that you want and you can say “yes it is possible” (even if you don’t know how), then you’re on your way. Accepting the fact that there is a path opens you up to knowing that you can realistically fulfill your dreams.
Rolling the dice gives yourself the opportunity to win big.
Apps are an amazing opportunity for all of us. Every day I wake up grateful for everything I have and
everything I am able to share you guys. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I can leave one thing to this world, especially the app world, I want to be a reminder that any one of you can be successful. I am just another guy who wanted to make it, that’s it. All I’m here for is to provide tools and energy to help you do the same.
Remember that the science of it all will pale in comparison to the success that comes from believing you can crush it. It WILL work out for you. Who knows, maybe you won’t be making millions of dollars…
….maybe you’ll just start to feel like you do.
Build great apps. Build great lives.
Rock and fucking roll,