Patrick Thompson – Bootstraping an App Business – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here Speaker: Patrick Thompson (@pthompson)

This video is a longer version of the the talk given at MicroConf. Patrick’s talk starts around 12:45 into the video

Notes summarize both the longer version and the version given at MicroConf

Start, Just Start

  • Don’t wait for the perfect idea, climb the first hill
  • Serenditpity happens, Expect it. But it can only happen if you are moving
  • And it can only happen if you are connecting with people

 Developers Business

  • Turn your developer mentality into an advantage
  • Incremental (business) development
    • get something working (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
    • Think of your business as a marketing system: Keep improving it continuously
  • If you are bootstrapping, don’t go for home-runs, go for singles & doubles
  • Go All In & Burn the boats behind you
  • Are you a freelancer or a product person? – Don’t try to be both at the same time

Evolution Of an App Business

  • Dance on the edge of failure and keep growing
  • Started out with one App (QuickReader) on the AppStore
  • Published Lite Version with just one book
  • Integrated ePUB support for more books
  • Published localized versions (e.g. Spanish, French, German apps)
  • Added OPDS support (catalog of publications)
  • Removed Quick Reading and published MegaReader as a eBook reader – also published MegaReader Lite
  • At this point Patrick has 8 apps
  • Strip out the eBook search into a separate free app
  • Created paid version of eBook Search without advertisement
  • Added app to search for and listen to audio books
  • Published niched-down versions of the audio books app (e.g. for poetry)

Product Management

  • App itself has to work well and satisfy a need
  • App store is a hit based business
  • Aim for the Masses – because of prices on App Store
  • Internationalize your app: 2/3 of sales were international
  • Developers: Please don’t make your own graphics!
  • You have to sell a lot!
  • Create a Portfolio
    • Reuse and retarget codebase
    • Look for adjecent opportunities
    • Eat the whole animal
  • Optimizing your engagement increases retention and revenue


  • Marketing is sometimes counter-intuitive
  • it is not about you – it is about them
  • Visibility is everything
  • Traditional Methods
    • Top 100
    • Search
    • Advertising
    • Get “Featured By Apple”
    • Press
    • Social Media
    • Cheat (pay somebody to download your app from China –> increase ranking)
  • Create Levers
    • in-app ads
    • nag messages
    • Push Notifications
  • Paid vs. Free
    • different markets
    • use free apps to build visibility and audience
    • cross-promote your paid app in free apps
  • Be creative
    • Added feature to see live footage from camera behind the text
    • guest posted on a friend’s blog about the dangers of reading text while walking and how the app helps preventing accidents (tongue in cheek)
    • create a fun video highlighting the dangers
  • Cross Promotion with a book cataloging app
  • Show nag messages to upgrade to Pro version
  • Push Notifications
    • about 1/3rd say “yes”
    • Don’t abuse
    • Tie into in-app messaging
    • Start collecting active devices as soon as you can
    • Use for user engagement
  • “Free For A Day” – Campaign
  • Names are important on App Store
    • hints at functionality
    • non-generic app name
    • company name needs to be recognizable


  • Paying for advertising (didn’t work)
  • High-end copywriters
  • Mac store event
  • Lite apps
  • Partnerships
  • (The Web)


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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


  1. Excellent job on these posts. As you know it’s really appreciated.

    Anyway… Patrick posted a video/slides/etc from a longer version of his talk Should be a good addition to these notes.


  1. […] Guest Speaker – Patrick Thompson "Bootstraping an App Business" […]

  2. […] Guest Speaker – Patrick Thompson: “Bootstraping an App Business” […]

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