In This Episode
Welcome to the Sub Club podcast: a deep dive on building and growing subscription app businesses. Hosts David Barnard and Jacob Eiting will guide you through the ins and outs of subscription apps — sharing insider tips, predictions, and insights from industry experts.
In this premiere episode, David and Jacob chat about the early days of the App Store, the birth of the subscription app business model, and what the next 20 years of “Personal SaaS” development might look like.
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
David Barnard: https://twitter.com/drbarnard
Jacob Eiting: https://twitter.com/jeiting
Here’s the Outline of Our Conversation:
[00:58] Meet your hosts David Barnard and Jacob Eiting.
[01:25] The Sub Club Podcast mission: helping app developers make more money.
[04:55] What you can expect from Sub Club: interviews with guests who are successful in the industry, trying new things, and are knowledgeable about specific insights that don’t get talked about a lot.
[05:11] Sub Club is the first podcast focused on subscription apps.
[05:15] Personal SaaS is a nascent industry.
[5:39] Industry terminology; Consumer SaaS (CSaaS), Personal SaaS.
[5:56] Investors are becoming interested in this space; growing an app from good to great.
[6:45] Trust and ease of use: purchasing and cancellation in the App Store.
[7:22] Frustrating subscription cancellation experiences.
[10:10] Apps should make it easy for users to unsubscribe; Blog Post: Subscribers Are Your True Fans.
[10:37] Don’t monetize with subscriptions if it doesn’t make sense for your app.
[12:08] Data on subscription cancellation confusion; cancellation survey data.
[13:45] Apple’s monopoly and their responsibility to make the user experience great.
[14:08] The importance of giving Apple feedback on what is and isn’t working for developers.
[14:38] iOS 13 subscription cancellation prompt; RevenueCat’s data; Blog Post: Apple’s New Subscription Management Prompt Seems to Be Working
[16:50] How to submit feedback and suggestions for the Sub Club podcast.
[18:15] David and Jacob’s early App Store experiences; who launched first? (Edit: Turns out, it was David! Trip Cubby hit the App Store on August 2, 2008 — 9 days before Paddle Ball went live on August 11th, 2008.)
[19:45] Jacob’s first app launch: Paddle Ball
[20:57] David’s first app launch: Trip Cubby
[22:58] How Jacob got started in mobile app development: jailbreaking iPhones, learning how to make Cocoa apps on MacOS, launching AppLoop (early SDK for analytics); Book: Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X
[25:40] Engineering resources: Is it better to hire contractors or learn to code yourself?
[29:28] The democratization of the app development stack.
[31:52] Parallels between the early days of the App Store and the dot-com boom.
[34:12] Why we’re still in the early days of opportunities on App Store platforms.
[36:08] What will the next 20 years of Personal SaaS and Business SaaS look like? Blog Post: Prediction: Personal SaaS Apps Will Go Mainstream in 2020.
[37:19] New platforms and form factors; AR.
[38:49] Scale, distribution, and the subscription business model; subscription apps for knitters.
[39:00] The subscription model goes hand-in-hand with creating consumer value (users won’t pay $1/month for a fart app).
[40:49] RevenueCat’s role: providing app developers with tools that would otherwise require massive teams.
[42:25] The complexities of app commerce; Stripe.
[44:15] The “AWS-ification” of mobile app development.
[47:00] Despite its downsides, technology makes our lives better; the Covid-19 pandemic.
[48:40] Legislation around app subscriptions and consumer protections (App Store free trials in Quebec do not auto-convert to paid subscriptions).
The sub club podcast, a show dedicated to the best practices for building and growing subscription app businesses. We'll share insider secrets from the top subscription apps on the app stores. Let's get into the show. So Jacob, so it's a podcast you tell me, people want to hear about this stuff. People want to hear about subscriptions.
Let's do it. Love talking subscription apps. I haven't actually spent a lot of time thinking about subscription apps in the last couple of years. That's really not in your plate, in the novice zone right now. And just kind of learning kind of experiencing, just kind of taking it all in. Yeah. So maybe we should back up and maybe do just like a, 60 second overview.
So. The other person you hear is Jacob Eiting. CEO of revenue cat. He's my boss. Hello? Hi, JK. Not really. I mean, we're collaborating
boss, man. I just, yeah. So I'm David. I'm a developer advocate, at RevenueCat, but also indie developer. I've been developing apps for 12 years now, and this is a sub club podcast. So Jacob, why are we doing a sub club podcast? Because I can not tie myself to a desk to write enough. Blog posts that are good.
And we think this will be faster for some reason. That's part of it. Isn't you can't time me to my desk long enough for that blog posts. There's too much happening. David. I can't focus for days. Like I used to be able to, to come up with a good long piece. You, you can, you do great long, long, long reads, but it's brutal.
They are really hard. You know, art suffering is art or whatever. I made that up. Uh, but I mean, that's somewhat of a practical consideration, but really I think, you know, we've built through revenue, cat and sub club, this community. Over the last three years we've been meeting developers. I mean, that's our, our experience meeting each other was just being developers interested in subscriptions.
And yeah, so we felt like we kind of monopolize this. We sit at this hub where we're constantly talking to developers who are. Building subscription apps, trying new things, uh, building software, new niches and learning stuff constantly. It's a really amazing to see like what all of our developers are doing.
I know the developers we know are doing, and they're not always sharing publicly and they're not always, you know, cause just cause there's not a forum for it. And so yeah, we kind of felt like that knowledge is worth sharing because you know, it's not these apps aren't typically aren't super competitive.
It's not like you're you're these are trade secrets or anything. So, so I think the more. We can educate or share what we know. I think it's better for our mission of helping developers make more money growing the GDP of the app store kind of facilitating. I think that the outdoors mostly a fast it goes, but then this real transition period where we're as, as privacy gets more important as, as monetization methods, outside of collecting money from your developer for your, from your users get less and less attractive subscriptions are really just going to be the way to do it.
And so, you know, the more we can help developers. Bridge that gap. I think the better. Yeah. And one of the things I've really appreciated about my, my role at revenue candidates, developer advocate, as I felt like you've given me a lot of license to be like, Hey, whatever helps developers go out and help developers.
Like if we can help subscription app developers. It's going to help us in the long road, whether they're our customers or not, whether, um, you know, we're, we're directly making revenue off of it or not. And so in a lot of the conversations I have in the, even in my approach to blog posts, like I really think about like, Is this for revenue, cat customers, or is this like a public service?
Yeah. And ultimately that benefits us, but it's like, I just love my role at revenue CA that I feel like I really, I can be inside revenue CA and like be a part of the team and yay revenue cat, which, by the way, we're not going to talk about revenue cap much on this. The last time you hear of it. That was my, that was my only real credential, but it is fun being in this role inside revenue cat, while also being a customer of revenue cat, but then also just having a ton of leeway in my position to just help developers and like do whatever I can content wise.
And that's why, like, I'm super excited about this podcast. Not just because. I think that, that it's going to be good for revenue kind of whatever, but I'm really excited because I have two subscription apps in the app store and like, I'm going to get to talk to other great subscription app developers and learn.
And so I think that that's really the direction we're headed with the podcast is that we're going to bring people on. Who are successful in the industry who are trying new things, who are knowledgeable about specific insights that they just don't get talked about a lot. Like there, there isn't another podcast focused on subscription apps.
It's a nascent industry. I mean, it's, I mean, it's been years, it's been five years or whatever the, since, since they started to break out, but it's still, we don't have, there's no conference go to conference for this industry. There's no like Canon for reading, you know, these, there are some big companies doing it, like.
Netflix and things, but they're not really the same thing. There's are media companies doing consumer subscriptions, small time pers I've heard it called, I've heard a bunch of franchises, like see SAS, consumers that's personal stuff. Personal stuff. Yeah. On that blog post I wrote, I mean that's and that's how early we are.
We just really hasn't like. Coalesced around, uh, uh, even a single set of terminology. And there's, there's starting to be some investors out there focused solely on these kinds of apps. We're starting to learn, like what causes an app to go from like good to great to forgive the businesses. Like there's there are, we're starting to see some patterns.
Like what, what, like what makes the difference between a, a small time meditation app and calm? Right. What are the, what are the, what are the gaps to get to those like actually like public sites. And then lastly, we're just now starting to see our first billion dollar mobile subscription companies like Trix is, is my favorite go-to example, but calm and Headspace are right there.
I mean, I think Collins right there, two yeah. Headspace there, and those, those companies will branch out of mobile and they have already, right. But they were born there. Right. And I think that's what we're going to see a lot, just because of the ubiquity of. Phones the, you know, we don't have to dive into app store drama right now, but like the ease of purchase.
Yeah. And the trust and like ease of trust, ease of subscriptions and ease of cancellation. Like I want to eat it too. Well, let's not, let's not give him too much credit for ease of cancellation yet, but no, no, no, no. You do have to give credit for ease of cancellation because I go, I went to, to cancel my, um, Telegraph subscription.
I did the free trial because I was quoted in the Telegraph through telegraphs website and I had to go through their website and like, honestly, for a website cancellation experience, it was pretty straightforward. It wasn't the freaking New York times where I had to like call them up to cancel. It's true.
You don't have a full cancellation experience in the universe of terrible cancellation experiences. It's on the ventral side, but it could be better, like, come on, like you have to go into settings and it's like, you have to click on. Apple ID. Like there's no, it's a really bad user experience. And it really drives me nuts that they have an improvement.
Anyway, that's a, I haven't, well, I mean, this is the kind of stuff that's fun to talk about. It's a little inside baseball, but this is why we're talking subscription apps, right? This podcast is about subscription app. So let's just dive into this rabbit hole for just a sec. I complained a lot about this for a long time, and I do think Apple's done two things that, that are really meaningful in this, in this specific instance.
Uh, actually, well, three things. I mean, first of all, it really is so simple. Like you just go in there and once you find it, so we can set that aside for a second, but what said there's a big jump there to like getting there. Okay. So once you get it, once you find it, I mean, it's one click, you don't have these like retention.
That's what I was going to say about the Telegraph is like, there's like this long retention survey, they offer you a discount, ask you all these things and the New York times make you call them on the phone. Like, yeah. As far as like subscription services go. So like speaking of which we, my wife and I subscribed to urban air.
It's like this jumpy place for kids. It's actually really cool. They have like crazy trampolines and stuff. So it's like, in-person subscription. And we subscribed to in-person at this place. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to cancel this saying like, they don't even have a phone number you can call, or I called the phone number and like, it was an answering machine.
They never called back like subscription cancellations are just notoriously terrible. So from the very beginning, Apple has at least made it super. Slick to just tap one thing and say, cancel my survey. Are you sure? Yes. Done. Now, now, can I make my counterpoint where I will want to claw my eyes out when I'm clicking through settings?
Now I got to remember, is it where they added a, like a root level link, but it's still obviously loads of really bad web view. That's really like janky and feels terrible. And it's like, yeah, that part, this could be fixed in a sprint, right? You have enough engineers make it a nice experience, Apple, like, please, they moved it up.
Like several layers, like add a link though. It still goes to the same. It still goes to the same thing, but they moved to that. At least you go to the app store, you click on your account. And the first thing you see of subscription, it's like, we're where should they put it like this? I mean, this is a really practical thing.
It shouldn't be a top level thing. It shouldn't be a top level thing in settings or should it be. Yeah, I think so. I think so, because, and here's why, and it's bad for Apple and bad for us. It's, you know, more unsubscriptions right. But I, now that we can, that we can discuss, is it bad for us if consumers are the long view here and say like, well, just let people unsubscribe you, you know, if they want to unsubscribe that unsubscribe, you're not doing yourself any favors.
I mean, you're in the short term. Yes. But like, that's not why we're building software to short term steal people's money. We want to build these long-term as your, your thousand fans posts. Yes, link in the show notes and doesn't 10,000 thousand, sorry, sorry.
Uh, but like, I think, but honestly I think this is the way apps should monetize. That's just like, obviously I'm going to say that, but like not all apps, so, and I mean, that's true. We're in like three rabbit holes deep, but I mean, I tell. People in my revenue CA office hours, like don't use subscriptions because it doesn't make sense for your app.
And if their app is not a good fit for subscriptions, they're not going to make much money and revenue. Cat's not going to make as much money. So it's probably true in most cases, unless you're building a marketplace or some other, some other thing that monetizes in completely different way. But if we're talking here about selling software, right.
Software solves problems. Yeah. And, and software that's clearly valuable that that has like. Value that's delivered over time. Something that's meaningful. So like if you're building something meaningful for consumers that they're actually going to use and get value out of subscriptions are the better way to monetize them moving forward.
Right. And it's, it's, it's a bit of like begging the question here. It's like, Oh, I say that because I'm the revenue cat guy, but I'm also the revenue cat guy, because I believe that, right. Like it's, it's, it's all, it's all separately. So back to your point about where should they put it? Yeah, I believe absolutely like you should, I should open settings one click.
Boom. I see all my subscriptions because it's core, right? It's it's, it's the way we buy software. It's like you get this app, you know what? I'm not going to comment too much on the, the, the app store debates or whatever. But if it is a walled garden, like make everything really easy, Apple like use this position that you have.
To really just smooth out the whole process so that I know I can start a subscription because I'm not worried about canceling it. Right. I haven't done, but I bet if you did a straw poll on how to a straw poll on how to cancel iOS subscriptions, I bet a lot of people are confused and frustrated because it's just too, it's too deep.
But see, we did a deep dive in our data. I, and it's funny cause like being inside revenue, cat and the insights that we're able to see, looking at our data and talking to our customers, um, when we did that deep dive last fall, looking at the cancellation survey. What we saw was that some people already had a low single digit.
Free trial conversion rate. So there's like 95, 90 to 90% of customers. More people do. A lot of people do know how, yeah. That, that that's true. And so if there are people confused, it's a small and dwindling subset of iOS users or mobile general. Here's another, a non-scientific anecdotal data point, which is that if you search in an incognito window, how to cancel the first hit is.
Uh, see or cancel your subscription to Apple support. Second hit is canceled, pause or change your Google play subscriptions. So like, I think it's something that people still do have issues with. And also it just, it just rubs me the wrong way. Like it just rubs me the wrong way. Like if a customer comes to me or I'm an ACAT, cat customer comes to me and says like, I don't want to use your service anymore.
Like, the last thing I'm going to do is be like, well, no, sorry. Like our, give them a bunch of hurdles, right? Like. It's fine. The relationship's over don't cry. Like, just go like, it's fine. This is we're we're adults here in a business transaction. We can, we can end this business transaction. Right. It's the same thing.
I don't want to just like. Pounded over and over again. But I do think that Apple they've, they have created some kind of monopoly here. Is it a monopoly by the laws of the land? I don't know. That's for lawyers and courts to figure out, but they do have a lot of power in this marketplace and, and that's just comes a lot of responsibility.
Right. So I, I, I think it's. That's not the purpose of this podcast, but I think something about our platform as developer advocates for subscription developers, it's important for us to make some noise and just like synthesize what developers are saying and try to get feedback back to Apple. Apple's a big organization with lots of people with good intentions, but, you know, influencing them never hurts to have like a few, you know, extra data points, touch points here and there and things over and over again, if we can help, you know, uh, you know, I want to, yeah.
And so to, to dive back into a couple of those topics they Apple did, and we wrote a post-it on this last fall, they did do the thing where when you delete an app, it prompts and says, do you want to cancel your subscription? You're still subscribed to this app that you're deleting. I wonder, and we actually should do a follow-up post on this at some point, or at least look at our data and share it.
But. I do wonder, like we, we started to see a drop in Iowa, 13 of some of the conversion rates. And so I wonder if, if we do see a retention increase and like what kind of shift that that's caused, but, but again, it's like who goes in and delete stuff. And now in Iowa, 14, all the apps. Are you just going to get shoved in the opt drawer where people can forget about 'em?
So they're not going to be going in and manually deleting the apps. And so things are changing. Yeah. There's so many factors. There's so many factors to how the stuff, we were really lucky with the switch. When we did that study on iOS 13, that canceled prompt and everything. We were really lucky because there was this week when iOS 14 got released, where we had a natural AB experiment.
Where half the people in the wild had updated iOS 14 and half hadn't. There's some bias there, but sorry. Yeah. 13 to 14 or, sorry, sorry. Sorry. Let's still bunk still on 12 and then, right. It's really nice to like week period where we had this natural AB test. It's not totally natural, cause there's probably some biases to who updates sooner than others, but yeah.
Well, we'll we'll, we'll put that in the footnotes. Yeah. So we, we, we were able to actually like side-by-side measure now. It would be much harder to try and look through like time and see if we can actually like suss that out. But, but, um, yeah, I mean, it'd be interesting to see like, These things do have a macro effect and Apple's in a really strong position.
So I don't know. We just have to keep, we had to wash them all the time. Right. It's just part of the job. Yeah, exactly. So to like step back up three levels, I think we started this to say, what can you expect from the sub club podcast? That is what you think I expect. Random rants and discussions on the deeper inner workings of subscription apps and app stores.
So to wrap all that up, if, uh, I, I do want to like get feedback from listeners on like the kind of topics that are interesting, the guests who we should up on the show and stuff like that. So, yeah. Jacob is a bossman and has a lot more responsibilities than I do. So hit me up, uh, David at revenue, cat.com.
Um, with suggestions for guests, topics formats, you know, we're probably going to be a little bit experimental with trying some shorter episodes where we just do a quick hit on certain topics. Uh, we already do have some great guests lined up. Um, so we will be doing guests and deep dives into, into different things, but we'll probably be a little experimental.
So give us feedback as we go on, you know, what's working, what's not, what's more interesting. What's not, and, and who we should talk to the, the, the philosophy being quality over quantity with this stuff. I mean, we want to create content. That's not a good use of people's time. So yeah. It's hard. All right.
Let's talk war stories. So this is going to be fun. Um, we just started for episode one, you know, Jacob and I have a ton of history in the app store. Uh, you know, I had an app out that actually let's start there. So, so there's no way to know. There's no way to know who was first. I had an app. Like August 11th.
And the only reason my app was delayed is because I launched the, like the day my developer account got approved and Apple had been so inundated. I applied for the developer account, like literally an hour after, after Steve jobs left the stage in March of. 2008. This is all very vivid for me since it's been so pivotal in my life.
So yeah, it's about August 11th for trip cubby, which was my very first app on the app. Sure. So I had to be an August. It'd be very, very close because I, I w yeah, I was not fortunate enough to be there on launch day. I mean, did you have an account launch day and you just like screwed it out? It was a weird summer.
I was like, Working on an SDK company. So we were like 18, right? I was like 14. I think I would have been, let's see, 2008. I would have been like 21 now. Cause I turned 21 that summer I turned 21, five days after the app store launched. I don't know if that has anything. I was like 29 I think. Okay. All right.
So, so you know, we're in the same decade. Yeah. Uh, so I remember. I wasn't, I didn't have it on launch. I had somebody like, so there was this big, when people get into the, uh, program, there's this big underground of like sharing credentials and stuff to like build on devices. Um, so I had like gotten through like laundered.
I like literally, I like, I don't know. I do. I either sold an iPod or traded an iPod or traded some source code with somebody. I did some like real shady under the table. This is going to get my, my developer accounts can get shut down. I did some real shady transaction to get somebody like dev certificates, but it wasn't the person I was getting it from.
So it was somebody they had gotten it from, no, I know what it was. I traded source code for an iPod that they had pre-provisioned and then they gave me the like certs and everything. So I got set up. So I was working on that like in the summer. And then, yeah, I think my account got approved in August sometime.
I think that's when they kinda like opened it up and, uh, yeah, I had my, I had like this like paddle app that I had written in a weekend, like ready to ship. Shifted. Yeah, it had to be like very similar. We just were an app store connect trying to figure it out. But there's a bug where you can't see original version launch dates, which is unfortunate, but yeah, it was, it was early.
That was a fun summer. Yeah. It's a very stressful summer for me. I mean, it's been 12 years, so I think I can share this. I was freaking out. I had just, my son had just been born or no, my wife had just gotten pregnant. My wife had just gotten pregnant. We found out in like, may I jumped off the deep end to like start my company and in April.
Okay. Like founding papers, like borrowed money from family members as like, I gotta make this work. Like I got to like way more family to the app store than me. I wasn't at the time. That's a big bet. Yeah. It was a huge impact. I mean, I jumped off a cliff without a parachute. So in June, Like, I don't have a developer account.
I didn't, I should've gone to WWC. I, that was a huge regret. Like I could've just shown up that day and gotten a ticket at WWDC. They was the first year. That was the first year of my developer account. You and in 2008. Ah, so Joe stuff, a lot of friends from that year that I hang out with. Yeah. So, so I wrote this email and emailed it to every single person.
I could find an Apple at Apple and I was like, look. I jumped off a cliff without a parachute. I borrowed money from family members, ending ultrasound photos. I'm building this app and I have this vision for multiple apps. I mean, I had like a really detailed business plan. I had like a series of apps I want to develop, um, around data tracking and stuff.
And so. I, um, so I sent this email to like every email I could find an Apple and I got a call back and like, I still stay in touch with that person at Apple that like reached out to me in 2008. And the crazy thing was, they. Still couldn't get me a developer account. Like they were trying to like get me in and like get, make things happen and help me out.
But yeah, it was just a, it was a cold email saying, saying like, help me. I'm about to be a dad. And I'm like going all in on this platform and you won't even let me like create a developer account. I don't know how I'm going to have to like make money and feed my family in the fall. So yeah. It tells you a lot about the excitement around the app store, right?
That, that time was so I don't know. I mean, maybe it's also because I was like, Coming out of college, I was excited and a lot of it felt like I was in a really good, the best decision I probably ever made in my life. Non-personal decision was when, when Craig Hawk and Mary's app came out for jailbreak that the Twitter one, and like, I was big.
I was already on Twitter and I was like, Oh, I can have a Twitter app on my phone. So I jailbreaked my V1 iPhone. My, I don't know what they call it. I think was the like internal code name for it. But, uh, the old school plastic backed. Or no, it was metal. It was metal. Yeah. Metal backs, iPhone jail broke it, got, got jail break apps on there.
And I was like, how do they even, like, I had no idea. I had been like, I'd been studying programming. And like, but like I had been doing PHP and stuff like this. I didn't really understand like how you even do interface code and things like this. So I made a really good choice. Like it's thing I ever did was I went out and bought the Hill guest book.
On Mac iOS programming, because there was no book. I bought that book. Yeah. It was his great book in the whole year of programming books that I've used. I think that's still one of the best ones as far as like the pacing and everything. But, uh, but I did that and I learned how to make basically like Coco apps on Mac iOS, and then.
That put me in a really good position when the app store came out. And I don't know, maybe I had a hunch that that's how it would be done. I was like, Oh, it'll probably be cooked. I guess the folks making Jeffery gaps, they had reverse engineered that, Oh, this is just using cocoa. And like, we can make apps with this.
So, so yeah, so then I was like, I was like ready when the STKs dropped. That was like, Ooh, let's go. Um, and, and yeah, it was, that was, yeah. I just remember that period from like, yeah, in March or whenever they announced the first, the first dev seed went out and then I went to WWDC in 2000. Yeah. I was actually, I actually moved to California to, I had an internship at Cisco of all places, actually at WebEx, ironically on a zoom call.
Uh, and two weeks into it, I was like, this is the worst use of my time. Like, and I quit, I quit. They paid for me to move to California. And then I was like two weeks. And I'm like, now this is dumb. See ya. Sorry. Uh, Also also a good gutsy move. I did. Cause then I spent the rest of the summer just like iPhone hacking, helping people we'd launched.
I watch this company called app loop with my friend, Eric that was doing the first, um, we were like very early SDK for analytics. Um, learned a ton there. Um, ultimately all of that stuff like flamed out and never turned out to anything. Cause it turns out if you're 21 years old, there are some 21 year olds who can run a business, do stuff like that.
But like I needed a little more baking before I get there. That was. Yeah, a very memorable year. So it's funny how, like our paths are somewhat parallel, but divergent and, um, it hasn't fully, it really didn't fully Dawn on me, kind of the, my career trajectory and the early decisions I made that put me on this path.
Until I joined revenue, cat things have become so much clearer. So I bought that book, the Erin Hill hold the grass book or whatever. Yes. In like the April 1st or March 25th or like days after the, they announced everything. Cause I was like, okay, I'm going to build up. So I got to learn to program, but like I didn't have a background in programming.
I mean, we had like kind of tinkered around with PHP and HTML and built some websites and CSS and stuff. So I get like, you know, four chapters in like a week of like hardcore studying. But in the meantime, I'm like doing incorporation papers and like, you know, like trying to like start building up this infrastructure for a business.
And I'm like, I'm not going to be able to learn how to program and actually build something in two months or three months or whatever we were assuming at the time it was like, this is not. Going to work. And so I hired a contractor who was a Coco programmer, uh, Jonathan Johnson. Um, I haven't talked to him in years.
I should get back in touch. And it's interesting. Cause like, from that point on, I have questioned should I have learned to code and there's been so many times in my career where. If I had just learned to code and I had the free time to do it, that I have had so much free time to do that stuff. Over the 12 years I've been running my business.
And I feel like if I'd have just learned how to code, I could build the stuff I wanted to build, because my struggle from the very beginning has always been okay. Engineering resources. It's like, I don't code. So I'm either paying contractors, which is always, you know, are they hourly? Are they by project?
And then the projects balloon and like, it just turns into a mess or get super expensive. And then I started partnering with developers and that. Well, this has been fantastic in some ways, but then better, a better alignment. Right. But then my app partners have just like disappeared or gotten jobs or like get really busy in the day job.
And so then I'm like twiddling my thumbs, but then what, what has happened is that over this 12 years, you know, I don't. Twiddle my thumbs. I'm not like out paddle boarding 24 seven, or like I end up, and this is where, like what led me down the path of eventually joining revenue CA is that I was doing deep dives into market research and analysis, and really closely following what was going on in the app store.
So all the time that I would otherwise have been like actually programming and building stuff, instead of twiddling my thumbs, I was like reading blog posts, reading business. Books thinking about marketing, like analyzing the app store, like watching the top charts every day, tweeting writing blog posts.
I've wrote a, quite a few blog posts early on that kind of like got me more noticed. Um, and I wouldn't have done those things if I'd have been like head down programming the whole time. And so it's kind of led me here to where I am as you know, somebody who has this like really weird mix of skills, because I do like.
You know, project manage and build apps. And I still have two apps in the app store, but I'm not coding. I'm not designing, you know, I'm not necessarily a great marketer, but I know a lot about marketing. And so it's like this just really weird mix of skills. It turns out actually plays really well into my role as developer advocate.
And then even just like the experience building my own apps. Yeah. I mean, I think it's, it's kind of a, um, So nice to kind of look on what it does take to run an app business, right? Yeah. Just to tie it all back together. You know, I think one of my attractions to the app store as a marketplace and the play store, but mobile in general is a few things.
One, I love the form factor. I think tiny computer in your pocket has so many, so much like. Access to data and your life. And like there's so many ways to improve people's lives with that form factor. So that's like my first attraction to mobile, I would say you can hold a mobile. It's the only software you can hold in your hand really.
Right. Um, and that's, that's just really appealing to me. And then secondly, it's the ecosystem and sort of the democratization, like. There it, I don't know if it's true, but it definitely feels like you can, Indies can thrive on the app store. Like if something about between the apps. I don't know if it's the app stores, play stores distribution.
I think distribution is part of it. I think the, just like the form factor does reduce scope slightly. Like. PCs are harder to build for there's more surface area. Like web apps are nice, but like they also have limitations, but there's something about the mobile form factor in the mobile platform that makes it easier and more accessible, you know?
And then sort of thinking about. What that does is it creates a need for these like polymath, like people who can code. And it's really hard to do. I know we know people who do all of it and I'm blown away by them, like amazing marketers, amazing developers. Like they do everything and it's hard, but they do it.
And there are advantages. You can move very, very quickly. Um, but there are disadvantages in that. Like you're gonna be doing everything a little bit less good, but, but all of the things kind of create this, this ecosystem. I dunno for, for just like interesting economic activity. Right. Interesting. Yeah.
Little businesses that some of them get really big. Right? You look at it like a story, like, and not to keep coming back to light tricks. Cause like very few companies are going to be light tricks, but they started out very much. Like you, I don't know, they lose a couple of Covanta was not, it was not a one person thing, but it was like, let's make an app.
And then suddenly their app got popular and then it got bigger and they bootstrapped it for awhile. And then eventually they were like, Oh, let's bring in some financing and like grow this thing. And it's a billion dollar company now. And that's like, Amazing. And they didn't even set out to do that. And initially, I don't think, I don't know, like it can ask, but, and that's just awesome, right?
That, that happens. That exists. But outside of the app store, I think the store stories are a little harder to come by potentially, but there's an interesting parallel too, on the web. It's like, I feel like. The early days of the app store were like the.com boom. In a way it's like, Oh wow, there's all this potential.
And you have tons of people just throwing stuff against the wall and everything. And there was just massive growth. And so in a lot of ways, it feels like 12 years on the app store. So mature. How could I possibly build a business in such a competitive market? Like, you know, every niche is already being well-served.
But it's just not true because like we're like what, 40 years into the web and probably what, 20 years into like the consumers into the web, the web lab. But like what I was going to say, it's like 20 years into like the consumer web, like mainstream web mainstream, consumer web. So yeah, we're only like, 12 years into the new mobile paradigm, but, but it's, it's kinda like that and make it less, I would even make it less because I don't think until subscriptions existed, we really had a functioning app store economy we had for some like niches, but the, the ad, the Apple really Apple and Google allowing more subscription app.
So categories really changed the way. I mean, everybody's been, been, been, been wanting paid upgrades for a long time. It's never going to come. I don't think Apple just decided that's not what they want to do. They're going to do subscriptions and it's working for a lot of categories. Right. But it goes back to like, it, it does like create these sort of like this bar.
Right. But to your point about niches and it being tapped out, like, I don't think so because there's a lot of people in the world. That haven't really gotten to the point where software is top of mind. And if you believe in, you know, we all hope that quality of life continues to improve around the world is going to be opening up niches.
Things that we didn't even know needed software. Right. And there's going to be people there. And then the beauty of the app store is that it creates a mechanism for people to. Build that for them, or we're making an ad for, like, this is going to show up in federal court. This one's going to happen is making an impassioned argument for the existence of apps for monopolies.
But yeah. But, but, but no, I mean, I, I really believe that. Yeah. What's particularly fascinating too. And, and, and, and I was trying to get to that is that, you know, we're 12 years into this new mobile paradigm, but, but, but we're not really 12 years in. And like, what you're saying is like when subscriptions, when Apple up ended up subscriptions in 2016, it happened around the same time.
Like. Penetration of smartphones. Has it been growing, growing and growing, but it, it it's like started to level off just as like the real business of it's like right around the time every adult in the world had a smartphone. Subscriptions and real business models were enabled by the duopoly of app stores.
And so, so it's, it's like a perfect con confluence of timing that you could really start building businesses. All of a sudden when every single person, every single adult in the world who has disposable income or not. Has a smartphone in their pocket. So that's where, like the it's just crazy to think 12 years on, but it really feels like we're in the early days of opportunities on these platforms.
I mean, look at, look at what's happened in SAS to like bring it back to web mobile websites in general. Like we thought the.com boom was big. No. Oh my God. Look at the look at the company's IPO and now they're huge and they're growing and they're. And they're providing, you know what, wasn't in the, maybe you could draw some parallels between the.com boom and like app store circuit, 2008 to 2014, where it was like masons and like interesting and niche and kind of weird and hard to make a business out of penetration.
Like you don't, he didn't have as many people who are on the web who had a PC, right. And propensity to spend propensity, to use online services, right. To buy software. Sit on the web, I, you know, for better or worse, the app store is our distribution model. Right. And it's, and it's finally reached maturity.
So I, I think now we're just starting to see. Yeah. We're just starting to see the growth of this market. Um, yeah, really. And then if you think about how this starts to play out over the next, like 20 years, We're we we're, we've been talking a lot about personal, personal SaaS and consumer stuff. And like I wrote that whole blog post in December, like personal SAS, like consumers are warming up to subscriptions.
Developers have the business model to actually build really valuable niche software that consumers value enough to start paying for subscriptions. So it feels like we're in the early days of that, but what's the next phase four or five years from now? It's business. SAS. Being mobile first because people, I mean, that's a hot take.
That's a prediction. That'd be interesting because why not? Yeah. There's, I mean, that could be, yeah. A whole episode talking about like, how does, how did these like personal, because there's a customers we've dealt with that are like, kind of walking the line between like a business SAS and like a personal SAS and like, what are we, how do we make that work?
I think those are. Barriers that exist now that as the market develops, that those barriers come down will create even more opportunity. Um, and so, yeah, I mean, I, I agree. I think we're in this crazy thing 20 years from now, like what it's going to look like. And, and I think, and I think the, the, you know, backing out of this, just the app stores and just mobile.
Right. I think that. We're going to see this trend repeated where we have new form factors. Like I think AR is one of them. Um, Apple's obviously working on something, everybody's got something and I would be surprised if we don't have anything around AR in the next 10 years, that's mainstream and just like.
Platforms, we haven't even thought about yet potentially like those are gonna keep happening. And I, I can't believe that this model won't get repeated for better or worse, right. Where the company that invests in the platform tries to capture the value by creating a distribution channel. And it's, you know, You could argue either way about what the fairness of that is, but I, I think that software is democratization of the creation and consumption of software is going to keep getting pushed down further and further.
Um, and so, yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's good for consumers. And then, you know, For our shtick at revenue cat and on this podcast, like the developers are a critical piece in that chain, right? To get software, to deliver, to, to consumers and, and, and make people's lives better. That's all we want to do here, David, we just want to improve lives.
We want to help developers make more money. And hopefully improve improving lives, improve the lives. But I mean, ultimately that's what it means that the mission statement if improving people's lives, but it's a little too broad it's down the stack, but ultimately like that's actually part of what's cool about the subscription model.
Is it? You can't build some like crap app that doesn't like a fart app is not going to. Be something that people submit a really good fart app, but, but, but that would be an outlier. He's going to pay a dollar a month for a fart app. Like, does that bring value into people's lives? And that's where the subscription business model, I do think aligns better with con creating consumer value.
And, and what's really interesting too, like going back to the whole like niche point and stuff, it's like, uh, you know, one of our customers built a. Subscription app for N for knitters. I like, I don't know how the Becky love it. I don't know how, like it matter, right. Because, because it will be as it'll be as big as it needs to be to support that, that, that endeavor, right.
I mean, big enough, the software will go away eventually, but, and any developer can tackle that. There's exactly, there's a much better chance that that niche will be served by an indie or like a mid-market or some the scale that, that niche. Can support will be filled now because we have this democratization, like all the way down to like the single app developer can build enough to get enough going in most cases.
I mean, obviously there are some niches that are just too, too small that won't support something, but you can at least get some ongoing revenue if you want to do something as a side project. Right. So, so there's just like all these different like scales and. Back to like how we can help is there's a lot of analogies, all like a lot of the developers doing the like a hundred dollars thousand dollars, $10,000 a month app have a lot of the same problems with somebody doing a hundred thousand dollars, a million dollar a month app.
Right. It's different scales, but they're still all worried about distribution and retention and all of these, these things. Yeah. I mean, and I think that's something that, that. Needs to be talked about. We need it, we need it. We need to have a space to discuss this. We do. And we said we were going to talk much more about revenue cap.
I just got to say one more thing. We see it every time somebody says revenue, K, you gotta put a dollar in the jar. We should, should, uh, we should do like some kind of a charity thing and like donate every time, every time. The word revenue cat had spoken on the sub club podcast, revenue cat donates 10 bucks to a worthy cons.
I'm hoping out of her spending that series a that's. What I was going to say is along with that democratization, Up and down the stack. I think we play an interesting role. We as revenue cap play really interesting role in that, in that we're providing tools that would otherwise require massive teams like revenue, kind of 17 people now, or 18, I can't even keep track of someone here.
18. Do you? I need to take off her 18th offer, went out, offer letter. Yes. And that's why I can't even keep track. Um, so. I don't know that light tricks even has 18 or calm or Headspace even has 18 people just working on subscriptions. And so like last month when we hired a data scientist, I was like, I've got a data scientists like me, a little in the app developer.
And that's, what's fun about being inside and being a customer of revenue CA is that like I can see on the, inside our roadmap and like where we're headed. And know that as a revenue cap customer, I'm going to get the kind of tools that only large companies could afford to do. And so to stop talking about us, um, it's exactly what you're saying though, is all they ever do is talk about revenue cat on this podcast.
But, but, um, but the entire stack really is democratized from the bottom up. Like, like you couldn't have thought, you know, 20 years ago that, that. A single person could build an app and then manage all the complexities of selling that app with collecting taxes around the world and everything like that.
And I think a lot of people take for granted, like how much has. Has been developed even just in the last five years. Like people act like, Oh, you know, why can't you just use Stripe on the app store as like, well, Stripe didn't exist even five years. Yeah. I mean, not in the form. It does now. Right. It's not assessable in some countries.
And like, there's. The amount of work that the app stores do for compliance is insane. Like they do so much, you even know this and maybe you can fill me in to Stripe, do a good job managing like VAT and like all the local sales tax, like, are they actually making payments for developers the way Apple and Google have to like manage these incredibly complex complexities of local regulations and taxes?
Yeah. I don't not, not, no, no, they don't. They don't do it overnight. So now, because I don't know a lot of tastes, they don't know what you're charging for. Like Apple knows that you're selling software so they can kind of put some rules on like, What tax law gets applied to that, um, Stripe is more general.
So yeah, generally you're required to kind of do that on your own. And I think that's true. Somebody who's worked at Stripe can correct me. That's my understanding. And it's complex, like a lot of SAS companies kind of skirt this in the early days, just because like trying to, even in the United States, like you're supposed to collect sales tax for each individual state and by with doing estimates and stuff like that.
But Apple like just takes care of Apple, Google. Yeah. So, so it's an amazing, like, as this ecosystem has progressed that like, I can go as a developer, use one signal to do my push and over here, I don't have to like stand up a server and like deal with all those complexities. Like, yeah, it's a, it's a service I might have to pay, but that's, what's even great.
Like about so many of these services, including revenue cat is that 10 bucks. I bet the jar is that, is it so many of them have freemium and low cost tiers oriented around these smaller developers. So it's just, it is really incredible. See, it's the AWS certification of mobile, right? Like everything, things are becoming abstracted, the capital expenditures.
And in that sense, I don't mean buying computers, but code like code is a capital expense in some, I mean, for your business, certainly. I don't know how you. It's your books, but it's you pay somebody to build a thing and then you own the intellectual property. It's a capital expense. Right? And so like, in that sense, any piece of code you don't have to write is like less startup costs, which is better for iteration speed and like all kinds of things.
It was better for consumers. Once again, it's like developers, this is all very rosy. I'm sorry. Are we overselling it here? I mean, we're zealots, right? That's on purpose. Like we really do believe in this. That's why we, that's why we work on this, this company. That's why we're doing it because like we do. I mean, and that's, that's the one thing that's fun about this group of people is like, we've come together kind of under this common banner with, with backgrounds that are, you know, makes sense.
And yeah. And then just tying it into what we want to do with this, this brand or this sub club. Media empire is, is just try to, I would really love like my long-term vision for sub club, like revenue cap, like you said before, like that's a way that's a way for us to we'll make money wherever it doesn't matter.
We'll figure that out. Like we're going to, we're already making a humblebrag. Uh, but that's, that's neither here nor there. And like, you know, whatever, some clubs. Honestly, like there's, there's benefit to the company too. So this is what we're doing it, but, but you know, for us, if we can contribute, if we can help, I would love to see like a community form that can bring developers together that are in this camp that are in this industry.
Right. Because there's when an industry gets really developed. There's a lot of things that help, like there's a lot of things that crop up more services, just connections, like hiring leads, like, like tricks and tools of the trade. Right. And that can all be facilitated through communication. And so I think that's, that's something that, that I'm hoping to like build up with this sub club community, um, over time.
Yeah. And podcast is just a start, stay tuned folks. Let's take it, which we had like a ton of notes on like other stuff we get to talk about, but I don't think there's a better way to end then, then having talked about our zealotry for the. Real. And I mean, you know, as, as much as we can, there's so many negative things that we can talk about.
Social media addiction, uh, addictive, psychologically manipulated free, free to play apps, subscription scams, like all these things that are absolutely negative thing. Very real, very real, very real. But, but there is this like core element that technology for all the. Ills can and does make our lives better.
Like, I mean, the pandemic has been a perfect example of like my kids getting to FaceTime my parents. And like we face some time on like 10 times as much now, even just to like brighten my kid's day and brighten my parents' day. And like, you know, Apple powers that, you know, for better or worse do opoly or not like Epic store, like all the crap that's going on, like with battles and stuff.
It's like at a fundamental level, there is. There's good for humanity that can be done and is being done through technology. And so our zealotry for it is for the potential of that to continue and to continue benefiting society. We can, hopefully we can push on some of those, those downsides too. Like that's, that's something we kind of talked about with the cancellation thing and, and, and, and stuff.
I mean, that's another benefit sometimes. Well, good trade organizations. As you do, like can conform standards and stuff like this, like the NPAA and things like that in order to avoid state regulation, you like do some self-regulation honestly going back to like the subscription cancellation nightmares you were telling us about the beginning.
Like that's almost a place that you would expect to see state intervention at some point where there already is in, um, Quebec, um, free trials. Don't auto convert. That's a, that's a, that's an interesting little bit of sub club tidbit for you there any, uh, subscriptions on the app store originating in the.
Province of Quebec do not auto convert to subscriptions. Wow. So I did not even know that. I guess that's what, the kind of things, when you manage $400 million a year humblebrag and app store revenue, you start to see some of these edge cases. I had no idea that was the case. Sure. It's written down somewhere.
I just draw the greater point is I could do. I think there's probably subscription legislation in the future as this big, as it could be, you know, as things become less business oriented and more on the consumer, eventually like consumer protections will come in and stuff like that. And I think that's an area that we'll be able to help with two, hopefully.
Yeah. So. Did we cover everything, wrapping this, wrapping this thing up, we didn't need, we could talk for like four more hours and barely cover notes. My favorite part of this David is we get a second one-on-one every week. That's nice. This doesn't count, Jacob. I have so much. Boss man. Um, yeah, so actually I would love to, to, to maybe do another show sometime just you and I talking war stories, because there's some fun stuff we could talk about from the early days.
We, we kind of gave a, a glimpse into it, talking about the very, very early days, but there's a lot, that's happened in 12 years and you worked at Apple and elevate and stuff. I've built like. Gosh, 20 different apps and had various levels of success. We'll have to, we'll have to do another show where you and I just kind of, we can spread out the days building a little bit over time.
There you go. I can give it all up in the first episode. So yeah, let's, uh, let's wrap up. Um, this is way longer than we intended it to be for an episode zero, but hopefully this was really fun to listen to in the on, Oh, we'll be able to cut most of it. So don't worry. Just trim it off. Um, so wrapping up, um, if you want to follow Jacob, he is J IDing, right?
That's at Twitter. You can find me just, how do you spell it? Jacob, Jacob revenue, cat Twitter. You'll probably find it. I got brevity cat. That's probably, I should just change my name legally. And then I'm dr. Bernard on Twitter. He and I both were like, you probably don't want to follow us on Twitter. We just say don't follow us on Twitter.
No, no, no, no follow Jacob. Not me. I already have enough. I already have enough followers. I'm embarrassed to spread the love around a little bit. I tweet. Um, and then, um, yeah, and then, so we're going to have a feed for this podcast. We're actually creating a separate site for sub club. And so we will probably be posting various, you know, might do some direct content just for sub club.
Um, so keep an eye on, on the sub club website. We have a, do we have a URL for that yet? Is it. Now look at the shit posts in the show notes. I think we're still, uh, still figuring out what the domain is gonna be just in time. We're doing things just in time. Here. That's up club. Um, so yeah, check out the website, follow us on Twitter and, um, expect to see, so this episode zero, we're going to probably record three or four episodes ahead and launch with multiple episodes in the queue.
So you probably could go on from this and just listen to a couple more episodes and, uh, yeah. Exciting things to come talking subscription apps and consumer benefits and obscure, random topics that most people don't want to talk about. But we do thank you, David, to make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.
Thanks so much for listening until next time.