App Store Learnings (post 1 of 4)

(We’re two web software geeks who decided to make a move to mobile. Our first app– built mostly on a part-time basis while we were wrapping up other commitments– is TouchBase Calendar, an iPhone Calendar app (iTunes link). It’s #5 or so in Paid Productivity as I write this. This series is about what we’ve learned so far.)

Post #1: Genesis & Backstory (note: a little light on data/techniques)
Post #2: Evaluating a (Paid) Mobile App Idea: How Much Could it Make? (coming soon)
Post #3: Launch Strategy & Sales #s (coming soon)
Post #4: Ongoing Marketing (coming soon, if we learn anything interesting)

Genesis and Backstory
(note: post 2-4 will be a little heavier on data/techniques, if you’d like to hear when those posts go up, follow me on Twitter Got questions you’d like addressed in upcoming posts? Please let me know in the comments.)

When I stepped down as CEO of RescueTime (now profitable, still growing like gangbusters, yay!) I entered a weird time in my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next or who I wanted to do it with (I obviously couldn’t recruit co-founders out of RescueTime), so I started having lots of “coffee dates”. It was exhausting stacking up half a dozen meetings a day with a broad assortment of folks.

It was a big transition from being a “maker” (on a maker schedule) to a guy who would meet with anybody. One thing that I came to realize (like a lot of people) that calendars suck– mobile calendars especially.

Mobile calendars fail to take advantage of the fact that they are on an amazing communication and mapping device.

Say I’m in the car driving to a meeting and realize that I don’t recall the exact address of the place I’m going. No problem! I’ll just pull up the event. It turns out that even if you’ve taken the trouble to add location to the event, your calendar doesn’t give you any way to get a map for that. Here’s what you see:

Even if I did go to the trouble of inviting Paul to the event when I created it (which I rarely do), I’m still 4 taps away from being able to compose an SMS.

And typing a coherent message on a touchscreen (often in a hurry or at a red light) ranges from painful to downright dangerous (texting and driving is a killer). Which is silly, when you think about it– communication around your calendar is generally limited to some very common messages, like:

  • I’m here, where are you?
  • I’m running X minutes late.
  • Hey, I just wanted to confirm our X o’clock meeting at Y
  • I need to postpone our meeting a little bit because I’m behind schedule.

When I looked at my SMS logs, I realize just how many of my messages were (usually typo-ridden) variations on those messages.

After almost a year of coffee meetings (and a few fun projects like CubeDuel), I found a co-founder close to home. Montana Low (who I’d worked with a bit at Jobster and RescueTime) had been freelancing for a few months and was looking to jump in as a founder. We both had some commitments to wrap up but wanted to get our feet wet with a tractable mobile idea.

We wanted to build it, but the big question lingering in our mind was “would it be worth it?”. If we did build it and “won” the category we were shooting for, would it be worth spending a few months of our free time? We’ll explain how we answered that question in post #2 of this series!

  • Hakon Verespej

    Dude, great to see you blogging again! The next few posts look like they’ll be really useful. Thanks for sharing!

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