Building an Apple Design Award-Winning app

Item not bookmarked
Resource bookmarked
Bookmarking...
⛏️
Guest Miner:
Sylvain Gauchet
Review star
Review star
Review star
Review star
Review star
💎  x
9

Majd Taby and Jasper Hauser (co-founders of Darkroom) talk with David Barnard and Jacob Eiting (RevenueCat) about what Apple looks for in a featured app, how they’ve slowly switched from a IAP-focused app to subscription and how they approach their future growth.

Source:
Building an Apple Design Award-Winning app
(no direct link to watch/listen)
(direct link to watch/listen)
Type:
Podcast
Publication date:
April 7, 2021
Added to the Vault on:
May 15, 2021
Invite a guest
These insights were shared through the free Growth Gems newsletter.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
💎 #
1

Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

12:08
💎 #
2

Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

16:37
💎 #
3

Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

19:31
💎 #
4

Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

20:20
💎 #
5

The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

30:30
💎 #
6

They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

33:30
💎 #
7

Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

34:51
💎 #
8

Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

41:25
💎 #
9

They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

51:39
The "gems" from this resource are only available to premium members.
  • Unlock access to gems from over 155 mobile growth resources
  • Define your preferred categories and receive new relevant gems directly in your inbox
  • Discuss key insights (and any other mobile growth topic) in the members-only community.
Upgrade Your Plan
💎 #
1

Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

12:08
💎 #
2

Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

16:37
💎 #
3

Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

19:31
💎 #
4

Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

20:20
💎 #
5

The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

30:30
💎 #
6

They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

33:30
💎 #
7

Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

34:51
💎 #
8

Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

41:25
💎 #
9

They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

51:39
The "gems" from this resource are only available to premium members.

Gems are the key bite-size insights "mined" from a specific mobile marketing resource, like a webinar, a panel or a podcast.
They allow you to save time by grasping the most important information in a couple of minutes, and also each include the timestamp from the source.

Become a member to:
  • Unlock access to gems from over 155 mobile growth resources
  • Define your preferred categories and receive new relevant gems directly in your inbox
  • Discuss key insights (and any other mobile growth topic) in the member-only community.
Request Access
💎 #
1

Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

12:08
💎 #
2

Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

16:37
💎 #
3

Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

19:31
💎 #
4

Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

20:20
💎 #
5

The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

30:30
💎 #
6

They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

33:30
💎 #
7

Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

34:51
💎 #
8

Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

41:25
💎 #
9

They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

51:39
The access to discussions on each resource is only available to premium members.

Growth Gems members discuss resources and their key insights (as well as other mobile growth topics) in the community. It's the perfect way to dig deeper, ask questions and get additional perspectives.
Upgrade to premium to:
  • Unlock access to key insights from over 155 mobile growth resources
  • Define your preferred categories and receive new relevant gems directly in your inbox
  • Discuss key insights (and any other mobile growth topic) in the member-only community.
Upgrade Your Plan
The access to discussions on each resource is only available to premium members.

Growth Gems members discuss resources and their key insights (as well as other mobile growth topics) in the community. It's the perfect way to dig deeper, ask questions and get additional perspectives.
Become a member to:
  • Unlock access to gems from over 155 mobile growth resources
  • Define your preferred categories and receive new relevant gems directly in your inbox
  • Discuss key insights (and any other mobile growth topic) in the member-only community.
Request Access

You need to be logged in the community to be able to see the discussion below.
You can also head over directly to this topic in the community

Notes for this resource are currently being transferred and will be available soon.

Founding Darkroom

Majd

Started working with a previous co-founder (Matt Brown) then solo before Jasper joined. Used to work at Instagram and also noticed that the adoption of mobile cameras was growing quickly.

In Norway he found himself not having the mobile tools to tell a compelling story: people had to use multiple apps, compressing several times, etc.

He then decided to put together a prototype, which took a few weeks. Met Jasper in Amsterdam to get feedback, etc.

Got featured by Apple a lot around iOS 11/12: had the top feature for a week. Darkroom was also “Best of the App Store” for 2015. During this time, Jasper was an advisor.

Jasper

Friends since they worked at FB/Instagram.

Relationship with Apple

Majd

Were sharing space with people that had a consultant working as a liaison with Apple and their developers. It helped putting together a demo, etc. Majd had also worked at Apple.

[💎@12:08] Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

Initial monetization

Majd

The strategy was to build a free app with millions of users, then upsell them with premium features like filter packs and tools. Which is part of their strategy today, except now there is a subscription.

They had a shopping-cart model and IAPs were often $1. There were not many subscription apps at the time. Their prices were too low, they were not pushing the IAPs, etc.
[💎@16:37] Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

David

A lot of users from Apple features are usually low-intent users. 

Jasper

It’s hard to know how your users found your app. Even “browse” can be from a category, from a feature, etc. 

[💎@19:31] Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

[💎@20:20] Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

What came next

Majd

Crossed the million doownloads very fast, made $60k from that launch. Then it went down to close to nothing: $60k over the next 12 months.

They needed to see at least double of that, just for 1 person, to be able to live off it.
Stopped working on the app for all of 2016, went to Europe and wrote a book. Then he needed to find a job.

They realized that everyone they knew that used Darkroom initially was still using it. They were still making $70k a year, so decided to give it a next good try.

Had like 450k MAUs. It really showed strong product/market fit and retention, even though they had a biased view and high expectations based on their experience in FB/Instagram.

In 2017 he started working on bug fixing, introduced new features, etc. Revenue went up to $120k/year.

Jasper

Living off your own savings to build an indie app is an investment.

Working at Sofa it was all about polishing everything. But in his years at Facebook it was more about business and funnels. Majd had worked at Apple. It was about combining these worlds to make Darkroom work. 

It was done step-by-step.

Majd

[💎@30:30] The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

Business things they started implemented

Majd

They started building features that people wanted, prioritizing what they were asking for: raw support, editing support, adjustment-to-frame tool, etc.

They are still working on some of that.

On the monetization front: a lot of people didn’t know they could spend money on Darkroom. 

“We removed so much friction people started slipping”

[💎@33:30] They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

Jasper

It was about finding the nuance.

They tried 15 things that cumulatively allowed them to double the revenue. An example was fixing the fact that users were not being able to find the IAP button if they initially said “not now”.

Majd

They also changed what they sold and for how much they sold it.

[💎@34:51] Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

The above was one of their biggest insights.

Switch to subscriptions

They became 3 people when switching to subscriptions one year ago. Now they are 5.

They grandfathered people in: if they paid for the IAP a while ago, they still have access to everything even though they don’t use the subscription.

Jasper

Ambition is to keep improving the app, rethinking the tools, etc. If you have a single IAP model for this, it doesn’t work.

They started by testing out subscriptions by fully pushing towards a single purchase, so the flow was already in place when they switched to subscription.

Majd

They only make money from new people that download the app and subscribe. So the bet was that 1 year later when people renewed it would start paying off.

[💎@41:25] Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

Goals, motivation and vision

Majd

They do not want to have VC-scale, and VCs wouldn’t be interested anyway. They want to keep the company relatively small and grow revenue. Their ambition is still to be a highly-profitable business, though.

Jasper

They’ve seen VCs, had opportunities of M&As, etc.

Having a VC-backed company is a totally different way to live.

How they plan on scaling

Majd

They haven’t spent a dollar on ads yet.

Jasper

They just finished adding Mac as a platform (+15%), after adding iPad (+20%). 

The subscription part is still new.

Now they’re preparing for App Store Optimization and potentially for some advertising, too.

Majd

There are business fundamentals that will make them grow, and ads are just one aspect that optimize what already exists. Ads are not going to radically change their business. Darkroom is still for the same people and serving the same purpose.

[💎@51:39] They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

Now they’re trying to slightly change who Darkroom is optimized for to hit the traditional high-end/power users. They still have some missing features. Everyone new that will come to Darkroom will see the product’s depth and that will help convert them.

Right now nobody knows when someone uses Darkroom. They’re working on helping users tell the world they are using the app.

Jasper

They can’t be only reliant on the App Store features for acquisition.

Majd

They’ll probably focus on growth things that compound like influencers, content, etc.

Running ads is not how they get the 4x growth: they don’t have the infrastructure, the analytics, etc.

They’re still working on their funnel and fixing retention.

Jasper

Sometimes you also get a lot of users that don’t care as much when they come through ads.

Darkroom wants to “professionalize mobile photography”.



The notes from this resource are only available to premium members.
↘ At this point, you know what to do ↙
Upgrade Your Plan

Founding Darkroom

Majd

Started working with a previous co-founder (Matt Brown) then solo before Jasper joined. Used to work at Instagram and also noticed that the adoption of mobile cameras was growing quickly.

In Norway he found himself not having the mobile tools to tell a compelling story: people had to use multiple apps, compressing several times, etc.

He then decided to put together a prototype, which took a few weeks. Met Jasper in Amsterdam to get feedback, etc.

Got featured by Apple a lot around iOS 11/12: had the top feature for a week. Darkroom was also “Best of the App Store” for 2015. During this time, Jasper was an advisor.

Jasper

Friends since they worked at FB/Instagram.

Relationship with Apple

Majd

Were sharing space with people that had a consultant working as a liaison with Apple and their developers. It helped putting together a demo, etc. Majd had also worked at Apple.

[💎@12:08] Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

Initial monetization

Majd

The strategy was to build a free app with millions of users, then upsell them with premium features like filter packs and tools. Which is part of their strategy today, except now there is a subscription.

They had a shopping-cart model and IAPs were often $1. There were not many subscription apps at the time. Their prices were too low, they were not pushing the IAPs, etc.
[💎@16:37] Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

David

A lot of users from Apple features are usually low-intent users. 

Jasper

It’s hard to know how your users found your app. Even “browse” can be from a category, from a feature, etc. 

[💎@19:31] Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

[💎@20:20] Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

What came next

Majd

Crossed the million doownloads very fast, made $60k from that launch. Then it went down to close to nothing: $60k over the next 12 months.

They needed to see at least double of that, just for 1 person, to be able to live off it.
Stopped working on the app for all of 2016, went to Europe and wrote a book. Then he needed to find a job.

They realized that everyone they knew that used Darkroom initially was still using it. They were still making $70k a year, so decided to give it a next good try.

Had like 450k MAUs. It really showed strong product/market fit and retention, even though they had a biased view and high expectations based on their experience in FB/Instagram.

In 2017 he started working on bug fixing, introduced new features, etc. Revenue went up to $120k/year.

Jasper

Living off your own savings to build an indie app is an investment.

Working at Sofa it was all about polishing everything. But in his years at Facebook it was more about business and funnels. Majd had worked at Apple. It was about combining these worlds to make Darkroom work. 

It was done step-by-step.

Majd

[💎@30:30] The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

Business things they started implemented

Majd

They started building features that people wanted, prioritizing what they were asking for: raw support, editing support, adjustment-to-frame tool, etc.

They are still working on some of that.

On the monetization front: a lot of people didn’t know they could spend money on Darkroom. 

“We removed so much friction people started slipping”

[💎@33:30] They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

Jasper

It was about finding the nuance.

They tried 15 things that cumulatively allowed them to double the revenue. An example was fixing the fact that users were not being able to find the IAP button if they initially said “not now”.

Majd

They also changed what they sold and for how much they sold it.

[💎@34:51] Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

The above was one of their biggest insights.

Switch to subscriptions

They became 3 people when switching to subscriptions one year ago. Now they are 5.

They grandfathered people in: if they paid for the IAP a while ago, they still have access to everything even though they don’t use the subscription.

Jasper

Ambition is to keep improving the app, rethinking the tools, etc. If you have a single IAP model for this, it doesn’t work.

They started by testing out subscriptions by fully pushing towards a single purchase, so the flow was already in place when they switched to subscription.

Majd

They only make money from new people that download the app and subscribe. So the bet was that 1 year later when people renewed it would start paying off.

[💎@41:25] Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

Goals, motivation and vision

Majd

They do not want to have VC-scale, and VCs wouldn’t be interested anyway. They want to keep the company relatively small and grow revenue. Their ambition is still to be a highly-profitable business, though.

Jasper

They’ve seen VCs, had opportunities of M&As, etc.

Having a VC-backed company is a totally different way to live.

How they plan on scaling

Majd

They haven’t spent a dollar on ads yet.

Jasper

They just finished adding Mac as a platform (+15%), after adding iPad (+20%). 

The subscription part is still new.

Now they’re preparing for App Store Optimization and potentially for some advertising, too.

Majd

There are business fundamentals that will make them grow, and ads are just one aspect that optimize what already exists. Ads are not going to radically change their business. Darkroom is still for the same people and serving the same purpose.

[💎@51:39] They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

Now they’re trying to slightly change who Darkroom is optimized for to hit the traditional high-end/power users. They still have some missing features. Everyone new that will come to Darkroom will see the product’s depth and that will help convert them.

Right now nobody knows when someone uses Darkroom. They’re working on helping users tell the world they are using the app.

Jasper

They can’t be only reliant on the App Store features for acquisition.

Majd

They’ll probably focus on growth things that compound like influencers, content, etc.

Running ads is not how they get the 4x growth: they don’t have the infrastructure, the analytics, etc.

They’re still working on their funnel and fixing retention.

Jasper

Sometimes you also get a lot of users that don’t care as much when they come through ads.

Darkroom wants to “professionalize mobile photography”.



The notes from this resource are only available to premium members.

The detailed notes taken for a resource are an easy way to see the gems in context to get a better understanding. They also include any relevant visuals from the source.
↘ At this point, you know what to do ↙
Request Access

Founding Darkroom

Majd

Started working with a previous co-founder (Matt Brown) then solo before Jasper joined. Used to work at Instagram and also noticed that the adoption of mobile cameras was growing quickly.

In Norway he found himself not having the mobile tools to tell a compelling story: people had to use multiple apps, compressing several times, etc.

He then decided to put together a prototype, which took a few weeks. Met Jasper in Amsterdam to get feedback, etc.

Got featured by Apple a lot around iOS 11/12: had the top feature for a week. Darkroom was also “Best of the App Store” for 2015. During this time, Jasper was an advisor.

Jasper

Friends since they worked at FB/Instagram.

Relationship with Apple

Majd

Were sharing space with people that had a consultant working as a liaison with Apple and their developers. It helped putting together a demo, etc. Majd had also worked at Apple.

[💎@12:08] Darkroom always presented things to Apple in a pristine manner (slide deck design, time on screenshots, etc.) and in a way that fits the Apple brand: it gave the impression of a high-touch photo app, using all the APIs, that was coming to the App Store. So it made sense for Apple to feature them.

Initial monetization

Majd

The strategy was to build a free app with millions of users, then upsell them with premium features like filter packs and tools. Which is part of their strategy today, except now there is a subscription.

They had a shopping-cart model and IAPs were often $1. There were not many subscription apps at the time. Their prices were too low, they were not pushing the IAPs, etc.
[💎@16:37] Features like filter packs are more of an aspirational product more instead of a functional product: filters are about making your photos look like the photos of people you follow on Instagram. So you want to have messaging that makes influencers talk about it on Instagram, etc. It took them a long time to realize that.

David

A lot of users from Apple features are usually low-intent users. 

Jasper

It’s hard to know how your users found your app. Even “browse” can be from a category, from a feature, etc. 

[💎@19:31] Download-to-purchase conversion tends to be poor for users that come from Apple features. On the other end, some influencer videos bring great conversion.

[💎@20:20] Apple features legitimize you: if you keep being featured year over year, press and bloggers can’t really ignore you.

What came next

Majd

Crossed the million doownloads very fast, made $60k from that launch. Then it went down to close to nothing: $60k over the next 12 months.

They needed to see at least double of that, just for 1 person, to be able to live off it.
Stopped working on the app for all of 2016, went to Europe and wrote a book. Then he needed to find a job.

They realized that everyone they knew that used Darkroom initially was still using it. They were still making $70k a year, so decided to give it a next good try.

Had like 450k MAUs. It really showed strong product/market fit and retention, even though they had a biased view and high expectations based on their experience in FB/Instagram.

In 2017 he started working on bug fixing, introduced new features, etc. Revenue went up to $120k/year.

Jasper

Living off your own savings to build an indie app is an investment.

Working at Sofa it was all about polishing everything. But in his years at Facebook it was more about business and funnels. Majd had worked at Apple. It was about combining these worlds to make Darkroom work. 

It was done step-by-step.

Majd

[💎@30:30] The hardest part of being an indie is having the conviction that the path is worth going on and will lead you to a place where it can scale. They also had to say no to so many opportunities, keep their vision and not pursue a pivot (like photo templates for SMBs).

Business things they started implemented

Majd

They started building features that people wanted, prioritizing what they were asking for: raw support, editing support, adjustment-to-frame tool, etc.

They are still working on some of that.

On the monetization front: a lot of people didn’t know they could spend money on Darkroom. 

“We removed so much friction people started slipping”

[💎@33:30] They started making sure that there is an upsell on the first session, after realizing that this is when most people buy. It was a mentality switch to realize that it wasn’t being pushy/greedy to showcase the full potential power of the app and give the option to purchase.

Jasper

It was about finding the nuance.

They tried 15 things that cumulatively allowed them to double the revenue. An example was fixing the fact that users were not being able to find the IAP button if they initially said “not now”.

Majd

They also changed what they sold and for how much they sold it.

[💎@34:51] Before changing to subscription, they ended-up consolidating all the filter packs and tools into a single in-app purchase. As they kept raising the price, the only thing that changed was that the revenue increased.

The above was one of their biggest insights.

Switch to subscriptions

They became 3 people when switching to subscriptions one year ago. Now they are 5.

They grandfathered people in: if they paid for the IAP a while ago, they still have access to everything even though they don’t use the subscription.

Jasper

Ambition is to keep improving the app, rethinking the tools, etc. If you have a single IAP model for this, it doesn’t work.

They started by testing out subscriptions by fully pushing towards a single purchase, so the flow was already in place when they switched to subscription.

Majd

They only make money from new people that download the app and subscribe. So the bet was that 1 year later when people renewed it would start paying off.

[💎@41:25] Even though they “grandfathered in” previous single purchase users (i.e these users still have full access), they added a screen giving them the option to “support Darkroom”. A fair number of people opted into that, partly because Darkroom had been around for a while and the app was always improving.

Goals, motivation and vision

Majd

They do not want to have VC-scale, and VCs wouldn’t be interested anyway. They want to keep the company relatively small and grow revenue. Their ambition is still to be a highly-profitable business, though.

Jasper

They’ve seen VCs, had opportunities of M&As, etc.

Having a VC-backed company is a totally different way to live.

How they plan on scaling

Majd

They haven’t spent a dollar on ads yet.

Jasper

They just finished adding Mac as a platform (+15%), after adding iPad (+20%). 

The subscription part is still new.

Now they’re preparing for App Store Optimization and potentially for some advertising, too.

Majd

There are business fundamentals that will make them grow, and ads are just one aspect that optimize what already exists. Ads are not going to radically change their business. Darkroom is still for the same people and serving the same purpose.

[💎@51:39] They always try to maximize the user benefit for the amount of work they do. Example: the delta of user benefits they could leverage by adding iPad (+20%) and Mac (+15%) was more than adding new features on iPhone.

Now they’re trying to slightly change who Darkroom is optimized for to hit the traditional high-end/power users. They still have some missing features. Everyone new that will come to Darkroom will see the product’s depth and that will help convert them.

Right now nobody knows when someone uses Darkroom. They’re working on helping users tell the world they are using the app.

Jasper

They can’t be only reliant on the App Store features for acquisition.

Majd

They’ll probably focus on growth things that compound like influencers, content, etc.

Running ads is not how they get the 4x growth: they don’t have the infrastructure, the analytics, etc.

They’re still working on their funnel and fixing retention.

Jasper

Sometimes you also get a lot of users that don’t care as much when they come through ads.

Darkroom wants to “professionalize mobile photography”.