Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be. – Jack Welch

About a year ago I screwed up big time. I worked on a single Android app for about 4 months. I then put it online and realised no-one actually wanted to use it.

I spent 95% of my time on development and only 5% on marketing. I wasted 4 months of my life.

This happened after I read the Lean Startup and after I read all of Paul Graham’s essays. That’s how easy it is to fall into this trap.

I ignored what the world wanted and built my own stuff. I felt like I was making a lot of progress. There was an end goal and a big pile of work to be done.

Looking for ideas, validating them and talking to people feels like a waste of time. It’s “not real work”.

Unfortunately the feeling of progress and making actual progress are not always correlated. You can make a lot of progress in the wrong direction, which brings you even further from your goal than your starting point.


With HabitBull, we got lucky. We got featured on a big website which brought us an initial influx of users.

Then, after we got some traction, we asked people to send us an email with 1 thing they liked about the app, 1 thing they didn’t like and one feature we could add.

This did not work. We didn’t receive a single email. People are not generous with their time.

So what did we do? We simply forced people to send us feedback. We limited the free version to 5 habits, and if they wanted to add more they had to “pay us” with a feedback email.

 

We got thousands of emails that way, which allowed us to iterate quickly.

For several weeks after that, our process looked like this:

  • read emails in the morning
  • categorise the feedback
  • implement the most requested features during the day
  • launch new version of the app in the evening

 

We did this until the feedback became too scattered to be actionable. The first few weeks we always saw a clear pattern. Usually at least 10-15 people requested the same thing.

During that period, feedback was way more valuable than money. It allowed us to make a great product that people actually wanted to use. It allowed us to quickly spot and fix problems in the UI/UX.