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Majd Taby and Jasper Hauser, Darkroom

David Barnard
April 8, 2021
62
 MIN
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In This Episode

Our guests today are Majd Taby and Jasper Hauser, co-founders of the Apple Design Award-winning app, Darkroom.

Prior to founding Darkroom, Majd spent time at Apple, Facebook, and Instagram working as a product-focused engineer. Alongside Darkroom, Majd has also published a photobook documenting the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Jasper is a 3-time Apple Design Award winner, with 18 years of industry experience in creating digital products and mentoring people. Prior to founding Darkroom with Majd, Jasper founded Sofa, which was acquired by Facebook in 2011.

In this episode, you’ll hear about:

  • What Apple looks for in a featured app
  • Why getting press isn’t always great for conversions
  • The benefits and drawbacks of bootstrapping your app

Follow Us:

David Barnard: https://twitter.com/drbarnard

Jacob Eiting: https://twitter.com/jeiting

Majd Taby: https://twitter.com/jtaby

Jasper Hauser: https://twitter.com/jasperhauser


Here’s the Outline of Our Interview with Majd and Jasper:


(2:06) Majd’s feature on The Launched Podcast; Jasper’s feature on Design Details.


(3:08) Majd’s background at Instagram and passion for photography; Matt Brown.


(5:00) How Darkroom was founded; iOS 8 PhotoKit.


(6:04) What differentiates Darkroom from other photo editing apps.


(9:23) Jasper’s background in design and photography; joining the Darkroom team.


(11:19) Why Apple featured Darkroom so heavily after launch; The Factory; Rdio.


(13:46) Darkroom’s pricing structure and business model; VSCO; Snapseed.


(18:09) How useful is it to have your app featured by Apple?


(19:03) Frustrating aspects of App Analytics traffic attribution.


(21:39) What happened after Darkroom launched—and plateaued.


(24:36) Product-market fit: Darkroom had 450,000 MAUs and was making $70,000 per year even after Majd stopped working on it; Heap.


(30:58) Combining Apple’s design principles with Facebook’s analytical, process-driven thinking.


(33:06) User feedback, experimentation, and lessons learned.


(37:04) The switch from in-app purchases to subscriptions; grandfathered IAP users.


(40:28) Is the subscription model right for every app?


(42:46) How users reacted to Darkroom adding subscriptions.


(45:40) The CSS Flywheel.


(46:00) Why Majd and Jasper haven’t taken VC money.


(50:40) Darkroom’s $5M goal; diversification and optimization strategies.


(57:50) Why Facebook ads aren’t right for every app; organic growth versus paid acquisition.



Quotes:


“When Apple features your app, it’s great and you get a lot of downloads. But those are often very low-intent users.” - David


“Apple featuring you in and of itself might not be always the most valuable, just from a conversion perspective. But when you think about it from a legitimizing you as a company or product perspective, it is extremely useful.” - Jasper


“Part of why a lot of indie apps just don’t ever make sense or get built is like, if you can go make $200k+ at Facebook, $120k really is not comparable. A lot of indies are sacrificing to keep the app going.” - David


“Indie is still an investment. I don’t think we as an industry actually appreciate that. Majd made an investment. I made an investment. Not by putting cash in the company but just like living literally off our own savings.” - Jasper


“The hardest part… is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead us to a place (and then scale) that is worth spending the energy to get there. And the second part of that is saying no to every opportunity along the way to just like go chase the money.” - Majd


“We had tried really, really hard to make Darkroom a smooth experience for our free tier. We removed so much friction that people started slipping.” - Majd


“We tried a lot of different things. There wasn’t like one thing we did and then the revenue doubled—no. It was like we tried 15 things and all of those cumulatively led to revenue doubling.” - Jasper


“Always be eager and looking for the easiest path forward and the path that’s most likely to match what you care about… I think that’s important. You’re the ones who are going to wake up every day and do this thing, so do what you want.” - Jacob


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Episode Transcript