Stuart Hall of Appbot on the VC versus bootstrapped pathway
Ahead of IndieConf AU 2019, we chat with Stuart Hall – the co-founder of Appbot. Based in Perth, Stuart has created three companies, including a successful exit. He will be speaking on our first panel of the day.
You co-founded the Discovr Music app, which achieved 4M downloads and had a round of funding. What was the biggest learning from this fast-growth experience?
It’s hard to separate two key learnings: have a clear monetization plan from day one, and listen to your customers.
You went on to start 7 Minute Workout app solo, which then got acquired. What do you think was the biggest key to success was from this experience?
It would definitely be the importance of building a story around your product. I believe people buy stories not lists of features. You can read the entire story at https://stories.appbot.co/how-i-got-2-3m-app-downloads-without-spending-a-cent-on-marketing-f4823b6bc779
How did you approach building Appbot differently from Discovr and 7 Minute Workout app?
The two experiences couldn’t have been any different. Discovr was a VC backed startup with a team of developers, marketers and designers. 7 Minute Workout was a side project for just me. Discovr was a big vision to change the way people discovered music. We have this lofty goal and worked towards what we thought people wanted. 7 Minute Workout started really small and iterated really quickly based on customer feedback. Discovr was a big bet with a small chance at a large return. 7 Minute Workout was a lot of small bets with a smaller possible return.
You met your co-founder Claire through the Perth startup community. What tips do you have for indie makers to find a co-founder?
Claire and I were introduced by someone that thought highly of us both. People always said great things to me about Claire. Claire heard some positive things about me. So when I started asking about help with marketing her name always came up. We started working together and got along really well. We had complimentary skills but a very similar ethos. So my advice is do the hard work up front. Mingle with the local startup community and have a positive impact. It will pay off down the track.
What are some of Appbot's biggest wins to date?
There’s a few wins that really stand out to me. Back in the early days when we finally had enough revenue to start paying ourselves a proper wage. The feeling of becoming self sustainable is something I’ll never forget. The biggest one to me is that we have created a culture where people actually want to come to work every day. A few quotes from our employees this year “It’s the least stressful but most challenging job I’ve ever had” and “you’ve created the best type of golden handcuffs, you pay us well and have created a workplace I don’t think I ever want to leave”.
How has building an online business changed over the past decade?
The major one is the cost to get an online business up and going. First off services like AWS removed the need to buy servers and install them yourself. Next services like SquareSpace and Shopify have made it extremely easy to have an online presence and setup an online store. Ideas that would have taken $100,000 to test 10 years ago can now be tested for $50 and your time.
What's it like to build a business out of one of the most remote cities in the world, Perth?
It has its challenges and its benefits. We are long way from Silicon Valley. But Perth also shares a time zone (plus or minus two hours) with 60 per cent of the world’s population. We charge in US dollars but most of our costs (wages) are in Australian dollars. So the exchange rate and managing that risk becomes important. Perth doesn’t have the talent pool of larger cities. But we also have less competition. Perth definitely has a lack of VCs and mentors that have been there and done that. But we have chosen the bootstrapped path and have no regrets so far. Perth is our home and we love it here. But it really doesn’t matter where you live, the internet has enabled tech startups to exist anywhere.
What are you most excited about for IndieConf?
Definitely meeting the people and hearing their stories. It’s going to be amazing to meet other founders on similar journeys to ours. A few of the Appbot team are also coming over which will be great fun.
How can people get in touch if they want to hear more about Appbot?
They can check out our site at https://appbot.co
If you’d like to hear more around Stuart’s journey, grab your ticket to IndieConf now. A big thanks also to Appbot for being our silver partner for 2019. :)