There are few standalone apps that succeed over long periods of time, and this is definitely a boom and bust period for many apps and their creators. This week alone, we’re seeing at least two startups, Outbox and Drawquest, shuttered their doors. Why? Lack of monetization strategy and the failure to provide lucrative service.
for outbox, a service that retreived and digitally scanned all snail mail for customers, it seemed a bit of a lofty, audacious scheme to provide a service that few wanted. For Drawquest, it was the lack of a monetizing strategy. As it turns out, building an app is only half of the work – the rest of it seems to rely on making it lucrative enough to pay for engineers and their lunches.
In a blog post about Drawquest, Chris Poole describes his venture, the Drawquest App, as being successful, just not financially so:
I’m incredibly proud of an amazing team and all that they have accomplished. Our most recent product, DrawQuest, is by all accounts a success. In the past year it’s been downloaded more than 1.4 million times, and is currently used by about 25,000 people a day, and 400,000 last month alone. Retention and engagement are great. And yet we still failed.
It may seem surprising that a seemingly successful product could fail, but it happens all the time. Although we arguably found product/market fit, we couldn’t quite crack the business side of things.
For Outbox, the quest was doomed without a proper endorsement from the USPS, who said, in short, that they were not going to participate in a venture that eliminates junk mail - their bread and butter:
In one of the most surreal moments of our lives (listen to it in an NPR interview), we had our very own Mr. Smith Goes to Washington encounter where the senior leadership of USPS made it clear that they would never participate in any project that would limit junk mail and that they were immediately shutting down our partnership. This 30-minute meeting was the end of our business model.
There are apps that are still holding onto the mobile dream, but the better end of that bargain may mean getting purchased by larger companies – or just charging more for their services.