00:00:05 ◼ ► And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is never longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.
00:00:11 ◼ ► It is April 17th, 2019, which for most people is just a regular Wednesday. For me, it's launch day.
00:01:05 ◼ ► In terms of like, see your schedule, create meetings, do those types of basic calendaring operations.
00:01:11 ◼ ► But do all of them in a context that is very time zone aware and very thoughtful about time zones.
00:01:18 ◼ ► So for example, when you first get the app, you set up the time zones that you're interested in.
00:01:23 ◼ ► Which, what, like say you often are scheduling meetings, you live on the East Coast and you have meetings with people on the West Coast and in Europe or whatever it is.
00:01:37 ◼ ► In terms of if you have a person that you work with, rather than it always just saying, you know, New York, it can have like Jim.
00:01:46 ◼ ► And then all of the aspects of the app will always, you know, whenever there's a time value, it'll show you that, you know, the event time across those values.
00:01:54 ◼ ► And it has a timeline layout, which shows you all of those time zones sort of stacked on top of each other with your events kind of running underneath of it.
00:02:07 ◼ ► Where a lot of what this app started with was the sense that most time zone sort of converter apps or time zone apps in general are all, they'll show you the current time across all the time zones.
00:02:20 ◼ ► And then like you can sometimes they'll have like one of those date time pickers that you can like jump forward in time to a particular point and it'll update all of them.
00:02:28 ◼ ► But what I find for myself is like the most natural gesture and experience on an iPhone is swiping.
00:02:41 ◼ ► And so I wanted to make something that kind of took advantage of that by showing you, you know, doing time zone conversion.
00:02:52 ◼ ► And then, you know, in this case, for example, like if you want to make it make create an event at a particular time at a particular time zone, you just tap on the time that's shown and it'll make an event at that point for you.
00:03:08 ◼ ► Like I had a tremendous amount of fun building the watch app for it, which the, you know, the watch app itself is a bit more of a traditional time zone conversion tool where you kind of you move the digital crown up and down.
00:03:20 ◼ ► And it shows you, you know, the time in the various places as you sort of move forward or back in time.
00:03:26 ◼ ► And then it has a robust set of complications, including, I think, a feature that I just thought was really fun to make is have a very rich complication editor where you can choose a lot of the layout and details and styling of the complications that the app can show, which are mostly around showing the time in a particular place.
00:03:46 ◼ ► So if you wanted to see the time in London right now as a complication, you can do that.
00:03:50 ◼ ► Or there's even kind of like more graphical dials or like, you know, sunrise, sunset or workday, things like that.
00:03:57 ◼ ► And they're all nicely configurable from my complication editor, which includes a full live reproduction of all of the watch faces from the watchOS, which was a lot of fun to make and completely unnecessary.
00:04:11 ◼ ► Yeah, like back a couple months ago, we were all kind of playing around with the idea of making custom watch faces.
00:04:18 ◼ ► You got really into it and you did a lot of work around that, even though we can't really do it very well yet.
00:04:25 ◼ ► But you were kind of like building the foundation of like how to render nice watch faces using SceneKit and everything.
00:04:32 ◼ ► And it's funny, like it's something that at the time probably felt like it wasn't a very good use of your time.
00:04:39 ◼ ► But you found a way, like fun diversions often turn into useful skills that you can put into your apps to directly make money.
00:04:47 ◼ ► Like this is the kind of thing where like this fun diversion has actually proven, actually proved to be a nice investment of time only a few months later when you found a reason to use those exact same skills in a shipping app.
00:05:09 ◼ ► And largely that is, I think, because you won't see opportunities to use those skills if you don't have the skill.
00:05:16 ◼ ► Like I would have just probably done the, like a standard more, sort of a more traditional complication editor kind of thing where I'd rather than showing you a live watch face that is, you know, animating in real time.
00:05:29 ◼ ► I would have just had a static image and it would have just been a screenshot from the watch or something like that.
00:05:34 ◼ ► And it would have been fine. But I wouldn't have thought about, well, why don't I just make this a fully live interactive watch because, you know, that's kind of silly.
00:05:42 ◼ ► But if you have all the building blocks in place and the skill of doing that, then suddenly you, you know, that becomes an obvious next step.
00:05:51 ◼ ► So it is definitely kind of fun to just like build up those skills and experiences and then, you know, then it's like you can put them into place.
00:05:57 ◼ ► And while it's kind of funny and slightly ironic, but it's that I spent all this time learning how to make custom watch faces.
00:06:04 ◼ ► And then actually my actual use of that skill is just recreating the existing watch faces in a completely non-custom way.
00:06:16 ◼ ► But, you know, nevertheless, it was still, you know, this is still a fun little feature.
00:06:20 ◼ ► And it's one of the parts that like, you know, it's not the main show of the app, but I'm glad that it's in there because I'm really kind of proud and enjoy.
00:06:49 ◼ ► And then secondarily from that, just like the concept of it, I really like how you've taken what was this, like, you know, the timezone support in calendar apps is usually, if it's present at all, it's usually pretty basic and pretty half-butted.
00:07:08 ◼ ► But what you've done here is you've taken this normally ignored or minimally implemented feature and made an app that specializes in doing that feature really, really well for people who really need it.
00:07:29 ◼ ► But for people who do need to schedule things across multiple timezones or with people in multiple timezones, it's pretty hard to use the regular apps to do that.
00:07:37 ◼ ► They really fall down pretty hard. And so you've made an app that's custom made for that kind of need, which while it is not the common case, it is a large population that needs it.
00:07:48 ◼ ► Which is the perfect kind of app to make. And so you've made that. You've named it Calzones, which I think is one of the best names ever.
00:07:55 ◼ ► And by the way, the Calzones name is wonderful too. If you search the app store for Calzones, your competition I think you're going to have not a lot of trouble with.
00:08:07 ◼ ► Yeah, it's apps for various pizza places that serve Calzones. And so I think you'll be alright because you are attracting a global audience, not just a one town's pizza place that happens to serve Calzones.
00:08:20 ◼ ► I also love that you've made this beautiful, lightweight, nimble app and named it after this heavy food.
00:08:30 ◼ ► Yeah, and what does it do? It's one of those lines, like the origin of the app, which I think is a funny thing too, where I didn't start out wanting to make this app.
00:08:41 ◼ ► It wasn't like this, I sat down and was like, I'm going to make a new app, let me go and do this.
00:08:46 ◼ ► It started from, I was working on adding timezone support to pedometer++, and as part of that I had to do all this work for having a nice timezone database and really understanding how the timezone system works in iOS.
00:09:00 ◼ ► And then one day I was like, huh, I wonder if you laid out timezones linearly rather than as a comparative, what that would look like.
00:09:07 ◼ ► And then I did it, and I was like, huh, that's interesting. What about if you throw your calendar events there?
00:09:12 ◼ ► And then I just sort of quickly mocked this up in a very quick, half-baked version, and then I sent it over to Mike Early, who's the co-founder of RealAFM, the network that this podcast is on.
00:09:24 ◼ ► And he's someone who I know does a lot of work with timezones and scheduling events, and his job is basically, he is constantly scheduling calls with people all around the world and recording podcasts with them.
00:09:37 ◼ ► And that's what he does for a living. And his reaction was the reason I made this, because he was just incredibly enthusiastic.
00:09:42 ◼ ► And it's like, he's that person who looks at it and is like, yes, this is exactly what I need.
00:09:48 ◼ ► Because it is an app that is, like you said, not solving the traditional problem that a normal calendar app is trying to solve.
00:10:01 ◼ ► What if timezone support is the number one feature and the number one goal, and every feature in the app has to do it well, and then you back into all the other stuff, the kind of more traditional, boring calendar aspects of it?
00:10:15 ◼ ► And it's like, that certainly limits its market, but I don't need it to have this massive market.
00:10:20 ◼ ► At that point, I'm competing against the built-in iOS calendar app, which is pretty good and installed by default on everyone's phone.
00:10:31 ◼ ► What I'm really wanting to do is compete with a much fewer set of applications, timezone converters and things like that, that are a much smaller market and a much less competitive market, which is typically a much better place to play.
00:10:44 ◼ ► Oh yeah, from an indie app perspective, the general design trend, as I ranted on ATP last week, the general design trend of minimalism on mobile is such that most apps will try to design for that middle 80% of what they think everybody will use, or almost everybody will use, and cut away or omit any features that are considered edge cases.
00:11:10 ◼ ► And so if you can identify a group of potential customers that is, by most accounts, an edge case in their mass market equivalent, but that there are still enough of them to have a market for an app that's dedicated just to them, you can make an app that specializes in just that edge case.
00:11:30 ◼ ► And as long as it isn't too much of an edge case, which the app store is pretty big, even a tiny edge case is still a lot of people, if you can make something that specializes in an edge case that the mainstream apps either don't even accommodate at all or accommodate poorly, that can be a great business.
00:11:48 ◼ ► And as you said, there's usually a lot less competition there, especially if you're going to go in there and make something good. A lot of edge case needs might have a couple apps in the store here or there, but they're usually terrible and unmaintained and not modern and not very nice.
00:12:04 ◼ ► And so if you can go in there and make something that you're going to do a good job with and make a nice app for a specialized need, that's usually a pretty good market to get into.
00:12:14 ◼ ► And I think too, it's finding a market that, I'm excited in a weird way that this is a market whose primary user I expect is business people. It is people who are doing this as part of their job.
00:12:32 ◼ ► And so it's an easier market to then convince to buy something, I suppose. I'm not trying to convince somebody who is just doing this for fun or as a hobby or those types of more for entertainment kind of purposes where they're much more price sensitive.
00:12:51 ◼ ► A person who I'm trying to convince is most likely someone who coordinates calls and meetings across time zones as part of their job. And for them, paying a few dollars to have a tool that makes their life easier in that way is a much easier sell.
00:13:08 ◼ ► It's much more obvious. If it saves them time or means that they don't miss a meeting because they had some misunderstanding because the UK changed daylight savings time but the US hadn't or something like that and then suddenly you miss a call and that ends up messing something up.
00:13:23 ◼ ► The stakes and the impact of that are much higher. And so making an app that is like catering to that kind of a person where they see it as like, Oh yes, this is exactly what I need. And like the cost matters less than a lot of my other apps like are even here on the health and fitness side where it's like it could be important to them.
00:13:40 ◼ ► The importance is not monetary in the same way. It's much more of an ephemeral kind of general need. And so that was also something that I thought was kind of nice about getting into a segment where hopefully it's much less price sensitive and race to the bottom in that way.
00:13:57 ◼ ► And I want to get to the pricing in a minute, but first let's talk about our pricing and our sponsor. We are brought to you this week by Linode. With Linode you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode cloud. You can get a server running in just seconds with your choice of Linux distro resources, node location and so much more.
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00:16:08 ◼ ► Sure. So the app is going to be paid upfront. It's going to be $4.99 in the US App Store and whatever the equivalent is around the world. And I wrestled with the business model for this app tremendously.
00:16:22 ◼ ► In some ways it was just as hard as some of the weird technical issues I had to solve. And given that it was a timezone app, there was a tremendous number of weird technical issues.
00:16:30 ◼ ► I went through a variety of approaches that for a while I was like, "Oh, it'll definitely be free with in-app purchase." Or, "Oh, it'll definitely be subscription based." And then I was like, "Oh, it'll definitely be paid."
00:16:42 ◼ ► And I went round and round. And I settled on paid for a couple of reasons. The main one being, I came to terms with the fact that I don't think that is strictly the way to maximize the income this app will generate over the future.
00:17:00 ◼ ► I think there are probably other ways that I could squeeze more money out of the app, assuming that the app does well and builds an audience. But what I liked about paid upfront is A, it was straightforward. It was easy to build. It was if there's no code I need to manage. There's not this big infrastructure I need.
00:17:17 ◼ ► It is a simple and obvious proposition that I'm presenting to my customers. That I like the fact that it's just like, "This is the app. This is what it does. Is that worth $5 to you?" And it isn't one of these things that is this much more complicated situation of there's some kind of limit or situation inside of the app where maybe you could buy the app for free and then it only lets you show one timezone.
00:17:41 ◼ ► But if you want to have more than that, then you need to pay the upgrade. Well, what if you only need one timezone? It's this weird thing where when you download, you don't really know what you're getting. Where are you going to hit these points that are awkward or there's limitations?
00:17:56 ◼ ► I just don't like that. And you could imagine some kind of subscription thing, which is what seems to be what Apple is pushing on their side. And it sort of makes sense. It sort of is the kind of app where you could imagine that working. But A, the technical side of subscriptions, as best I can tell, is still complicated.
00:18:14 ◼ ► And there's all these weird app review issues with it where people are getting rejected because they don't know if you need to have this big wall of text. There's all these weird rules and things around subscriptions that it doesn't feel settled yet.
00:18:27 ◼ ► And it's something that I was like, "You know, I don't want to deal with that. This is not my main app. I imagine my bread and butter is still going to continue to be health and fitness apps for the foreseeable future.
00:18:37 ◼ ► I'm excited about this app. I think it's important and I'm going to continue working on it. But this isn't like I'm launching a new company who's focused on timezone-oriented calendaring. This is something that is going to join the stable of other apps that I have.
00:18:51 ◼ ► And so I don't want it to have this tremendous complexity and take all this time working on things that aren't making the app itself better. And so paid up front is a straightforward way to do it.
00:19:01 ◼ ► And then in terms of pricing, I decided, on the one hand, you can always go for $1.99 or $0.99, or maybe I could make it $10. You can kind of go in between.
00:19:11 ◼ ► And I just kind of settled on $5 because it felt fair to me. And I feel like with a lot of this kind of pricing stuff, I try and do things that would make sense to me as a customer.
00:19:24 ◼ ► And I don't like apps that are subscription-based very much. I don't really like that feeling of tying into something, but it's good. It gives me apprehension.
00:19:36 ◼ ► And there are many apps that I subscribe to, and it's not like it's a problem in that way. But there's an apprehension there that I wanted to avoid with this.
00:19:43 ◼ ► And the reality is, I was like, "What do I really want this app to make?" And on a financial side, I was like, "You know, I think whenever I launch something new, this is something that I've
00:19:52 ◼ ► had in my mind for kind of a long time." For me, an app that is doing well would make something like maybe $100 a day. So that would be like $36,500 or something in a year.
00:20:07 ◼ ► And at $5 or $3.50 after Apple's cut, that's not a crazy number of people to imagine getting. I think that works out to be 10,000 or 11,000 people to buy the app in a year.
00:20:22 ◼ ► And that's basically like, if everybody who's listening to this right now went and bought the app, which of course you totally will, I'm sure, that would basically hit that.
00:20:35 ◼ ► And that would be fine. And if I can imagine that number being reasonable, that seemed like a good place to go. Whereas if I did like, free with in-app purchase, say I have a 10% conversion rate and the same $5 in-app purchase.
00:20:49 ◼ ► Now suddenly, rather than needing like 10 or 11,000 people, I need 100,000 people. And the marketing around that and the support for that and all of those types of things start to get out of hand very quickly.
00:21:02 ◼ ► Like I kind of like the fact that the audience may be smaller, but it will hopefully be more committed, more invested, and care about the app in a more specific way.
00:21:13 ◼ ► And so all that kind of came together to be like, you know, I don't know if this is the optimal way, but there are many things in my life that I do where I'm trading simplicity for money.
00:21:22 ◼ ► It's like the same reason that I pay someone to mow my lawn. It isn't that I can't mow my lawn or that I could opt if I was optimizing strictly for having more money. I would do that myself, but I do it because it makes my life simpler.
00:21:34 ◼ ► And so, paid up front seemed like the way that would make my life simpler. Let me get the app out there. It should support its development, I think. And then, lets me also have a good balance between my other apps.
00:21:45 ◼ ► Yeah, like when you first told me this was going to be paid up front, for the first like day or so, I thought, "Hmm, I don't think that's a good idea."
00:21:54 ◼ ► But I wanted to like think about it some more, and when I did think about it some more, I realized like a lot of what you've been talking about, like I, it's important to match your pricing model to your app's market type and size, basically.
00:22:07 ◼ ► If you're going for free up front with in-app purchase for some kind of upgrade, you're depending on getting a lot of people in the door by it being free up front, and then therefore being able to convert some reasonable number of them to paying you.
00:22:22 ◼ ► But that really depends on getting a ton of people in there up front. And that works for any app that has, well not any app, that works for many apps that have mass market appeal.
00:22:33 ◼ ► But this is a specialized app, and as you mentioned, it's really more business targeted for most of its use cases. And so, when you have a more specialized app like this, it's harder to justify free up front because you're not going to have as many people coming in.
00:22:49 ◼ ► Not because people don't like free stuff, but because not everyone needs this app at all. So, it's because it's a specialized app. I feel like a different model than, you know, make it up on volume, basically, is probably warranted because it's going to be hard to get high volumes for a specialized app, even if it's free.
00:23:08 ◼ ► So, the more I thought about it, and as you explained it, I think it makes a lot of sense. It's a combination of both, it is a specialized market, so it's going to be hard to have free up front work out with the math long term.
00:23:22 ◼ ► And also, that as you mentioned, you're not going to become Timezones Inc., Calzones Inc. This is a side project, really, for you. And you're not going to try to expand this into being your entire business.
00:23:35 ◼ ► And so, therefore, the complexity of different models, whether you're going to start selling business ads at the bottom of it and make it free or something like that, or if you try to build a whole subscription system or have a more complicated in app purchase setup.
00:23:52 ◼ ► And as you mentioned, it's kind of hard to say where to draw that line. I think you're right. I think it makes sense because anything more would either make you probably a lot less money and/or be even more complicated to implement and maintain over time.
00:24:10 ◼ ► And so what you have here is a very simple money setup, basically, like a very simple business model that you're probably not going to take over the world with this. You're probably not going to retire on this. But it will probably pay for itself. It will probably justify its existence.
00:24:26 ◼ ► You will probably come out ahead on this. And even if you could have some possibly larger total return if you did something more complicated, it makes sense with what you need out of this app to keep it simple.
00:24:38 ◼ ► Yeah. And I think that's exactly the importance of understanding, too, and I think just the broader point of there is no one method that is best. It is entirely about finding what is best for the developer, for the app, and for the audience.
00:24:54 ◼ ► It is finding whatever that good fit is. And for some people, that's going to be free with ads. For some situations, that's going to be paid upfront. For some, it's going to be subscription. For some, it's going to be all of the above.
00:25:04 ◼ ► It's going to be finding something that works. And in my mind, I think it's helpful that I feel like I have an ideal user in my mind. And I think it's to try and have pricing and a business approach that works and makes sense for them.
00:25:19 ◼ ► Even just in the sense, when you think about the person who, like if I say I did it with a subscription-based thing, like if you're in a business context using this app for work, and you're going to be signing up for some kind of subscription, you know, $5 a year.
00:25:33 ◼ ► Now that becomes something that you start to have to decide, like do I need to get approval for this and get an expense report? It becomes like a thing if it's this ongoing cost that you're going to incur.
00:25:44 ◼ ► Versus if it's like, it's a one-time purchase. It's like, whatever, I'll just pay for it myself. I don't need to go and get, you know, to submit an expense report and do a whole big thing. I can just say it's fine and do it.
00:26:03 ◼ ► So, this is actually kind of a fun situation because we were, I realized I wanted to launch today at about 10 a.m., which is usually right around the time where we were wrapping up recording under the radar.
00:26:18 ◼ ► Usually on a Wednesday around 10 o'clock is when we're wrapping up. And so I figured it might be kind of fun to actually launch it on the show.
00:26:24 ◼ ► And so I think that is what I am about to do. So it is out in the App Store and I am about to hit go.
00:26:36 ◼ ► It's like, there'll be a link in the show notes, of course, to the app if you want to go, if you're listening to this and want to go check it out.
00:26:43 ◼ ► That is definitely the, you know, that would be much appreciated if you have enjoyed listening to it and if you have feedback from it, like, by all means, you know, go get it, take a look at it, and that would be a wonderful thing.
00:26:57 ◼ ► It is intimidating to launch something, I will say. And it is, you know, in some ways it gets easier and in some ways it doesn't.
00:27:04 ◼ ► That this is, you know, I've launched, this is probably like the 60th app I've ever launched.
00:27:13 ◼ ► I know there will be cool parts and there will be exciting things and those great feelings that are awesome.
00:27:18 ◼ ► And there will also be people who hate it and want to tell me about it loudly that they don't like it.
00:27:25 ◼ ► And we talked about this previously where, like, I know all the things that are wrong with it and other people don't, so it's actually probably not as bad as I think.
00:27:32 ◼ ► But I will say something that I think was oddly reassuring that I found this week as I was kind of preparing to launch.
00:27:38 ◼ ► Was the realization that what I'm about to launch, what I just launched, like a minute ago, that is the worst version of this app that I will likely ever ship.
00:27:47 ◼ ► Or, like, obviously some kind of, like, you know, you never know, you ship some terrible crashing bug and blah, blah, blah.
00:27:59 ◼ ► And that is strangely reassuring that while I like it and I think it's good and I go buy it like it's awesome, but this is, it's only going to get better.
00:28:11 ◼ ► And that is a strangely reassuring thing to put something out into the world knowing that it will get better.
00:28:21 ◼ ► And, you know, now I get to hear from customers who have actual use cases and actual problems that they want solved.
00:28:27 ◼ ► And that's a really, you know, like, exciting thing to have that opportunity to make it better and better and, you know, to get, hear what people, you know, people's reactions to it are.
00:28:38 ◼ ► That's awesome. Well, big congratulations. And even though you just told people how this version is the worst, I got to say it's, it's one of the best 1.0s I've ever seen.
00:28:55 ◼ ► If it isn't showing up in the search index yet, which it wasn't for me a few minutes ago, you can search for Cross Forward Consulting, which is David's company name, and it shows up under that.
00:29:03 ◼ ► So, but, or you can just hit the link. So, go buy Calzones. What a fantastic name for a fantastic app.