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Why my sister’s app “Status message Backup” failed :

App idea :  Backup facebook data into a printable password protected diary, scrapbook, pdf or ebook. Useful for writers, bloggers building a fan base and for Facebook pages like “Humans of Bombay”.

Monday August 01, 2016,

5 min Read


Reasons for failure :

1) Bad hire : App Co-developer was based in China. Facebook is banned in China. App Co-developer got onto to the android iOS developing team without understanding what he was signing up for. He did not even know how to use facebook. Had to teach him after he was already committed and signed on to the project.

2) No technical feasibility validation : Did not listen to friends who said it was a feat impossible to achieve. Iphone storage space is 16 GB. Figured 600 facebook user photos squeezed into a 300 page searchable pdf wouldn’t be hard to generate. Result : App takes “forever” to download data and populate the photo album download selection screen.

3) False impression of a novel idea : Will never be able to recover the time and money invested towards building what was once supposed to be a “incredibly cherish-able, novel and useful” product or gift idea for preserving family legacies.

4) Lack of experience : Google does not have a provision for deleting an in-app product. Though we would like to downgrade the app from “offering in-app purchases” to a “free app” supported through ads alone, google playstore currently does not offer that downgrade option( which is incredibly frustrating ). A workaround would be to re-upload the app as a free new app with a new product id. This would involve after getting permission from Facebook and Google playstore again, a new app name and app product id, re-marketing with the new name and re-branding - resulting in an even more additional cost being invested in what was now already a failed idea.

5) Too many of free apps out there: Low or non-existent visibility of app. Impossible to market without further losing money.

6) Cool idea — Non existent market : Not many are interested in backing up their data into a book format — except the ones who want to delete their account or memorialize a deceased loved one’s account.

7) Huge difference in performance between testing : the app on a test facebook account with 5 friends versus the app on a real facebook account with 500 friends had very different performance results.

8) Built both iOS and Android version : Never got to the stage of getting it approved by Apple and releasing it with a $100 per year app hosting price tag. Google playstore was much cheaper. We were already exhausted by the time we got permission from google playstore and from Facebook for publishing the app on android platform. Were not aware that google and apple get 30% of the revenue generated by any app.

9) In-app model failed: The inapp purchase model failed as there were no buyers. Decided to give away the app for free and support the app only through ads. Google playstore does-not have the feature of downgrading an app from in-app to free. This resulted in being unable to market the app as a free app and not being able to promote the app in Facebook groups for fiction writers as an useful tool in journal keeping – since the group admins suspected we were trying to sell a diary creation app for a very high inapp price when reality there were no in-app features in the app. You cannot set the inapp price to zero and the website incorrectly mentions the app price as $2.93

10) Deceptively hard to build : Got into it assuming it would take about 8 hours to code/build with an under $150 budget as a skill learning hobby. Between co-developers who abandoned the product mid-way to shuffling freelance developers spread across continents and 3 time-zones ( hired across 3 different freelancing websites odesk, freelance and elance), to co-developers abandoning the previous developers undocumented code and starting out with their own “custom built code” - it took over $1.5k and 11 months part-time effort to get approval from both Google and Facebook to launch the app on the play-store. Did not want to abandon the app mid-way for fear of losing out on all the effort and hours already put in — a classic “sunk cost” syndrome ( a well know economics term). In-fact the time taken to write this blog may be included in the time invested in last minute scramble to recover the “the sunk cost”. Although I must admit I wrote this blog with a faint hope of seeking self-validation that, maybe, the loss making app idea wasn’t such a dumb app idea after-all? that the failure was a result of it just not being properly executed? And then again , aren’t all ‘brilliant’ app ideas just an ‘execution’ failure?

The mistake was a lesson learnt the hard way and hopefully someone else who wants to start-up or build an app will first do their due diligence before jumping head first into building their next revolutionary app idea. By the way, do you happen to have any "revolutionary app idea" that you do-not have the time to execute?