On Developing And Launching A Privacy-Focused App As A Solo Founder

$100
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Snap Search
from Bangalore
started July 2019
$100
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
5.25M
alexa rank
0
followers

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name’s Rajat, and I’m from Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India. I’m the founder of Snap Search - my attempt at providing a way for users all over the world to search the web without getting tracked online.

The main product is currently available on Android and in development for iOS, but that’ll take a while. The most exciting thing about Snap Search is its appeal. In today’s day and age where new privacy-related controversies are uncovered every single day, an app like Snap Search is the ideal solution to it all. Anyone and everyone that browses the web should use Snap Search - you don’t have to worry about ads, trackers, cookies, cache, anything - the app handles all of that for you.

As of this moment, about 2 months into launch, Snap Search has crossed 9,000 searches and averaging just above ~150 searches daily. It’s a good start considering I haven’t spent a penny on marketing.

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

So, I moved to Bangalore 5 years ago to pursue my Master's degree in Computers and what a decision it was! It changed my life. In these 5 years, I participated in, won and even conducted my own Hackathons, attended multiple developer fests and conferences, took part in workshops, got a great internship and a very well paid full-time role as well. I also sold 3 of my apps to a startup in the US for some good $$$. But none of that could kill or calm the entrepreneur in me.

I’ve been building, coding, designing, developing since the age of 13, and I’m 25 now, and that’s what I like to do best.

You cannot expect every individual to share the same love for your product as you have. Take the negative and positive feedback and convert it into bettering your product instead.

The idea for Snap Search came through frustration. Just like most people, if there’s something I don’t know, I instantly Google about it. And so I did one day as well. But Google went a step ahead and decided that search query was important for me, and started showing me suggestions and news articles related to that. The next day, I even had Instagram hinting about it. And this did happen even though I used incognito mode on my browser to try to be discreet. I immediately knew I had to do something. Who hasn’t been tracked online? It had to change. So I thought of Snap Search - a way to quickly search your favorite websites without getting tracked online.

I did have some background on this thankfully. Being a lead software developer for a top VPN company, I had some experience in user privacy and ways of ensuring that. It helped a lot in Snap Search.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Oh man, this is difficult. Since I did all this alone, it was pretty easy to get it built in the sense that I could do it at my own pace and follow whatever order I wanted.

Before development obviously came research. In this, it involved finding a list of websites that are incredibly popular and users search frequently. I remember at the start I had around 10 websites listed, such as Google, Google Images, YouTube, Duck Duck Go, Bing, Wikipedia, StackOverflow… even PornHub (yes, these are incredibly popular - I had to).

Then came getting to build it. I somehow always start with the logo for whatever I’m building. It kind of gives me some kind of motivation, to always see that whenever I’m testing. This was no different. First I designed the logo, then did the rest. I don’t know why, but I instantly knew what theme I’m going to go with.

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder Old logo vs new logo

Next came getting speed part done. I had to make sure that searching whichever website you select was absolutely easy. So I thought of the simplest way to search and load the result instantly.

Then came all the aesthetics around it. Everything else that isn’t related to searching is just like a cherry on the cake - more features to give the user a wider experience, increase interaction with the app, and keep more engaged.

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder Old look vs current design

I had to go through a lot of changes to get it to look at what it does today - which I think is one of the best it ever has. There are so many minute details that I kept changing. There was a time where I had 3 updates rolled-out live in 1 week's time, each with major changes and new features added.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launch time! I find it crazy difficult to understand or rather make myself understand that the product is ready for lunch. This even applies to minor and major updates - "Is this enough?", "Should I do more?", "What if I increase the border-radius here and decrease the font size there?". But I managed somehow. Then, the impatience inside me kicked in. It was on July 16th. I gave myself 2 days to get the website up and launch on the 18th.

The initial idea for the website was rather simple. A call to action (CTA) button on top with the logo, highlighting the features in the next section and then just some info on how to contact me. I didn't really think people would come to the website much, I didn't put much effort into - it was honestly one of my most laid-back work ever. I realized I was wrong about the traffic part only a month later when I updated the website again.

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder Old vs new website

The website was ready on time, and I was prepared. I had shortlisted a couple of portals, websites, and forums where I had planned to post. I created all promotional images well in advance and even had my descriptions and other writing material prepared to copy-paste as adequate. Some of the websites/tools I used were:

  • Indiehackers.com
  • Producthunt.com
  • Reddit.com
  • Androidpit.com
  • AndroidAuthority.com
  • Hackernews.com
  • Multiple Slack Groups

The launch was smooth, I was sure not to have any bugs in the app for sure. Unlike web apps, updating an app takes more time - solve the bug, upload your APK (in case of Android), then wait for Google to approve and publish. Even after that, you have to wait for the user to update the app. Though if it is on the web, you just push and users get it instantly - it’s so much easier. Thus, I was extra careful.

I think after the launch on Day 1, I had about 60-70 users only and about 80 searches done through Snap Search. Much lesser than I was hoping for, so I was a little disappointed. I didn’t have any budget for advertising beyond that, and nothing else cost me for the launch, so I reminded myself this is just the first day and things will pick up soon! Fast forward 14 days and, and we crossed 1,000 searches using the app. The next 1,000 searches came in 12 days. Recently, we crossed 5000 searches in another 6 days after the previous milestone, which is half the time and 5x the number of searches. Growth came, it came slow, but it definitely came. Patience was key.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I joined quite a lot of communities while I was preparing for launch - 8-10 slack groups, indie hackers, etc. I'd interact with users there as much as possible but definitely made it a habit to keep sharing updates and milestones. I also started posting a bit on Reddit, but I don't think that really worked much. I still keep up the effort though, even if it brings it 3-4 users it's fine - might kick large one day.

I wish I had enough budget for nice ad campaigns through social media. I did, however, gather the courage and spent $200 in ads. It turned out to be effective and was money well spent. Here are the details from the campaigns:

AppBrain Campaign

I think this is one of the best, most effective, and cheapest platforms to promote your Android app. It allows you to target countries as you wish, and you get to set your desired Cost Per Install (CPI) per country, which is an amazing option to have!

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder

Google Ads Campaign

I had to try it. I wouldn’t know how it worked until I did. It turned out to get a decent number of impressions and good conversions considering I paid just about 11% of the amount as compared to AppBrain.

on-developing-and-launching-a-privacy-focused-app-as-a-solo-founder

I ran both the campaigns simultaneously, though what I did differently was target different locations through them. AppBrain targeted Asian countries while Google Ads focused on the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. What I did feel though was the AppBrain referred users turned out to stick longer.

I’ll probably launch another campaign soon when I save up for it! I will hopefully get a better understanding of both of them.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Well, as of today, more than 11,000 searches have been conducted via Snap Search, and we’re averaging more than ~180 unique search terms daily.

The majority of users are currently from Asia, quite a few from Iran too. So what I’m currently working on right now, is to enable even more payment methods to go premium for Snap Search, specifically - PayPal, Card, and even Bitcoin payments.

I think the future is bright - IF I manage to put some funding behind the marketing. There is natural growth happening as well, but if I want to speed it up, I will have to spread the word around more. That’s going to be my next focus in say 2-3 weeks.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One thing I’ve learned and I think is extremely, extremely important to have in any and every part of life - patience.

I had to learn to be patient in the idea phase, in the initial development phase, the post-development phase when I was preparing marketing material, the launch phase, and continue to have to be so every time even after that.

I think it’s also important to remember that what you built will always make the most sense to you, and others might not get it the first time or as clearly as you did and that’s absolutely ok. You cannot expect every individual to share the same love for your product as you have. Take the negative and positive feedback and convert it into bettering your product instead.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I like doing a lot of things on my own, so not much of tools going on here:

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I don’t think I’m in a position to be advising others right now - I got lots to learn from my own journey itself. But I would like to reiterate what I said about patience before. Have some patience and believe in yourself - trust you can swim and you shall cross oceans.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

If I were, to be honest with you, almost every possible position a product development company could have is open for hiring right now. Unfortunately, I really can't do that at the moment. Maybe once sales kick in nicely and I reach a good MRR I might at least hire a couple of folks for departments I such at, such as Marketing and PR.

In the meanwhile, if anyone has any ideas or doesn't mind volunteering, I'd be more than grateful and maybe I could compensate in other ways if not monetary. If you're one of them, contact me at [email protected] and let's talk 🙂

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Rajat Vaghani,   Founder of Snap Search

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