The year was 2010 and after buying my first iPhone, I was instantly transfixed on searching the app store for new apps to download. It seemed incredible to me that these little programs could be installed in a matter of seconds with one tap, allowing you to take your phone to a whole new level.
It wasn’t long before I discovered the hit game ‘Doodle Jump‘, which I quickly became obsessed about playing ( I still have a pretty mean high score). While the game was an absolute global smash, it seemed incredibly simple & it wasn’t long before I too was beginning to imagine how I could make a Doodle Jump like hit.
So I set out to bring my own mobile game to life & in the process learnt a seriously valuable lesson about the power of building a mobile app for your audience. See how it all went down in a short clip from my talk at SFB in 2017.
What’s the Big Lesson?
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Read a transcript below
00:00:01] Now I briefly mentioned this at the start but I mean I have an addiction or an obsession and this is something that I have built my entire business around. You know I am a PhysEd teacher. But what I actually do in my teacher role is help PE teachers use apps. That’s exactly my whole business. So much so that I literally talk about apps 24/7 to all different audiences and love it. And it stemmed back from 2010 when I got my first iPhone who had one of those like back in that sort of that was when I got my first iPhone and I actually started downloading apps four weeks before I got the phone in sort of preparation for the fact that I would get them. So it was a massive change for me. And at that stage I switched everything that I was writing about how I could use apps in PE and that was actually my website at the time. The first content piece I ever wrote about apps in PE and it changed the game for me. But somewhere along the line you know I became massively obsessed and realized that there was this entire, Opportunity for people who were early to the market to become app Millionaires. And I got massively obsessed by this. Who remembers the game Doodle Jump?. There’s like quite a few in the room. I read this article in 2010 and he was making a million dollar sales related to apps. And I thought you know could I be the next person to make a Doodle Jump game. Seemed pretty obvious.
[00:01:27] You know it’s pretty easy to use wasn’t all that innovative. And you know the opportunities here seemed obvious. Build an app make a million dollars. And that was my mindset at the time.
[00:01:39] It seemed easy enough. Little did I know.
[00:01:42] So I bought this book programming and objective c anyone know what that actually is about. I had no idea. But apparently that’s what you program apps in. I bought it and I sat down and I spent 15 hours straight devouring and I didn’t eat didn’t do anything but try and learn how to build the next million dollar app called What I would do with Jump esque and after 15 hours this is what I built. That was my. Hello world press a button. It reveals the word hello world. And I realized I was a long way off. This whole idea of building a million dollar app so I went back to the drawing board and I bought this book completely changed it and this told me how I could hire people to help me build an app. And I went onto Elance which is no longer and I hired someone who could help me bring an app to life. And what I came up with was this amazing app called. Bug Drop. Just pretty much inverted everything rather than having Doodle Jump I just called it Bug Drop. And you know I thought I was onto a bit of a a winner here. And you know I literally took the money out of my car loan which was about seven thousand dollars. I had no money paid the person to build this app because I knew that it would be a million dollar at least I thought it would be. I’ve got some footage of what bug drop looked like in those early days and I was like super proud of this app at that time.
[00:03:13] Be prepared to be amazed.
[00:03:17] I mean the idea of this was that you actually had to tap the bugs based on the number that was on the screen. And you know I was showing people and you know they weren’t that impressed by it but I was like over the moon This is my million dollar app. And you know it was much less complicated than a doodle jump. But you know I put it out into the market with the following.
[00:03:39] Tweet. Now by this stage I’ve been talking to PE teachers for a round about sort of three years about technology and how they could use it. So little bit of a market not fit you might say. I randomly send a tweet filled with spelling and grammatical errors and that’s the only piece of marketing I did for my amazing Bug Drop game.
[00:04:01] And then I got my first review. What, do you think they thought?
[00:04:12] It’s the worst game ever. “Thanks light my firewire”.
[00:04:17] But you know people are haters. I sort of expected this. So I went to the people in my life that would support this decision and my brother and I are pretty similar with our game choices so I know what would my brother have to say. I’ve got some of the messages that I sent to him. First message was have you actually downloaded a game yet which is what I sent to my brother and he replied with the following. Not very supportive at all.
[00:04:48] At all. So who do you normally go to when.
[00:04:54] When you need that support. This was mum so I got in touch with her and she was really confused at first she didn’t even know what it was. What is this. And I replied it’s my game bug drop. What are you doing building games for. To which I said it’s going to be the next Doodle Jump. Million dollars. You know just you wait. And she replied with the following. Maybe stick with PE teaching. Which. Which is really quite harsh I must say. I was a little bit deflated at this point because there was not one person who thought my game was actually really useful which was a bit of a bit of a let down. I’d spent all my money on it from a car loan but she was really right. She was actually really right. I was trying to be something that I absolutely was not. And the whole realization that this led to was that. I actually needed to start again but this time I had to focus on building stuff for my actual audience that I had. Now I had already curated PE teacher audience how about I build some solutions that fit their needs and I believe that all the people that you serve in your audiences, your customers, your prospects are very much an opportunity to build an app that is resonating with them that helps them deliver some sort of result. So I went back to the drawing board with the last remaining funds that I had and all I could afford to do was rehire the bus drop animator.
[00:06:28] And he drew the following pictures for me which is very PE teacher centric. You may have done these in your time at school but its a very popular activity. I used to do this as a teacher myself and we bundled that into an app. All it did was have pictures on the screen that the kids could work through and we did the same thing promoted it and it just went insane. These are kids all over the planet using our new app, known as Balance It and you can just be in the same like that for many many years. And it was a real realization because I actually started to make money from matching an app to an existing audience that we already had and that was that paid back my Car Loan for starters. But then made me realize that I was probably sort of on to something here. I made an app for an audience. Could I repeat it again. So I did. I literally went out and made the same app. In the same context for the same type of audience. And if you ever downloaded those apps theyre all virtually the same except the content inside of them has changed. I brought the one out and modified it and that was a massive lesson because I quickly realized that content and function is okay in an app and you’re probably sitting there and thought you got an idea for it. Great. But do you actually have an audience that you can directly influence with that so that it can be guaranteed successful and unfortunately budget wasnt successful.
[00:08:01] Or maybe fortunately, but all my PhysEd apps since have been really successful because I married them closely too.