I’ve invited Sahil Lavingia to do an interview because he’s a college student who keeps launching apps and websites. I wanted to find out how he keeps cranking out products while so many others only talk about launching their first site.
His products include Dayta, that’s a data tracking application for iPhone, and Rmmbr, a note-taking web app that doesn’t require registration.
Watch the FULL program
Hey, before we get started, I want to show you that I just got new business cards from PrintPrintPrint.biz. Here, let’s open them up, there they are. I asked for very plain cards, just my name and contact information. If you need business cards, go to PrintPrintPrint.biz and use the discount code MIXERGY. So, PrintPrintPrint.biz, came within a couple of days and they look great.
I also want to tell you about my second sponsor, Grasshopper.com, it’s the virtual phone system that entrepreneurs love. I say that because by virtual phone system, I mean, you don’t need heavy equipment. You could just manage the whole thing online. You can get extensions, call forwarding, voice mails to email. You can toll free or local number and so many other features. Go to Grasshopper.com.
Finally, you need to know that if you’re an entrepreneur or working at a tech start up, the lawyer that you want to work with is Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. He’s in this base, he understands this base, he represents many of the companies that you know and admire in this base. If you want to talk to him either about just getting yourself started or what he really does, is transactional work – like raising money, selling your company – he’s the lawyer that you go to, Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law.
Here’s the program.
Hey everyone, I’m Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious up-start. ‘Shut up and Ship’, that’s the message for today’s interview. I’ve invited Sahil Lavingia, a college student who keeps launching apps and websites. I invited him to talk about we can launching so many products while other people just talk about launching one. His products include Dayta, that’s a Dayta tracking application for iPhone, and Remember, which is a no-taking web app that doesn’t require registration. Sahil, welcome.
Sahil Lavingia: Thanks for having me.
Andrew Warner: So how many products have you created?
Sahil: Over the past three years I’ve probably created maybe 25. A lot of them don’t do well. A lot of them I’ve sold off. Right now I have two main iPhone apps that I’m working on and I have two main web apps. There’s four apps I have now that I’m focused on. Over the past three years I’ve probably had over 20.
Andrew: All right. In this interview we’re going to talk about how you do it, how you can launch so many. I have to start off with this; you said some of them just don’t do well. You’re a guy who’s established in your career. Not only have you created more products that don’t do well than those that did do well but here you are going to talk to me about your failures publically?
Andrew: Isn’t that too big a risk for someone who wants to bank on his reputation as an entrepreneur to take? The risk is, you’re putting crap out there. That people are going to know you for crap. Some stuff doesn’t go well.
Sahil: People are fickle. The friction to switch, to move from one website to another is ridiculously low. If something sucks, they’re going to know it sucks but they’re going to forget about it in a day. If you launch one awesome thing and ten bad things, they’re not going to remember the ten bad things or that’s the guy that did this awesome. When you talk about people, you don’t remember their failures. At least you respect them for them, if you do.
Andrew: Okay, so you’re saying that you’re going to be remembered for the good things more than you going to be remembered for the bad?
Sahil: Hopefully, yeah, that’s what I’m counting on.
Andrew: All right. One thing you and I talked about before the interview is the idea of committing publically. You said that’s important. Can you give me an example of when you did that?
Sahil: Yes, sure. In February of this year, 2010, I created this website called oneweekapp.com. Where I basically had a week off school and I said I was going to make, from start on Sunday and end on the next Sunday. Release an app and submit it to the app store in a week. Which means everything from thinking up the idea, doing all the design work, coding it, and submitting it which means dealing with the icon, the website, everything within a week. I just feel that committing publically really works. When you have something that people are looking for especially, I set up a little page that says ‘starting on Sunday’. If you don’t meet it, people are going to be upset. I was kind of banking on it. It was kind of my first big public thing. I think committing publically to it helped me a lot. If on Sunday I was, ‘okay, I’m going to make this app by myself,’ not telling anyone about it. If I don’t end up doing it, there’s no app and no one hears about it. If I do it online and I don’t meet it, people are going to be, ‘oh, this kid’s just talking. He’s not actually doing.’
Andrew: But doesn’t committing publically, especially when you’ve got such a tight deadline of one week, mean that you’re going to create whatever. That the deadline is going matter more than the product itself? The product that you end up creating is not going to be as polished as you could make it, not going to be as impressive as you could make it?
Sahil: Yeah, that was one of the big concerns. When people started hearing about the project, people are, ‘Oh, this guy’s just going to release like a fart app or something like that.’ All I said is I was going to release an iPhone app in a week and that’s it. I didn’t say how good it had it be. I wanted to release something good. If I spent a week trying to rev this thing up, I think I had hundred’s and thousands of people checking out. Then I end up coming out with a fart app, people are going to be, ‘This guy’s an idiot.’ Even though I didn’t say that I was going to make a great app, I kind of had to. Just because a lot of my rep was built on that app. I think it was a pretty good app. It’s pretty full featured.
Andrew: All right. It does seem to have encouraged you to keep producing. Was there a time when maybe some other obligation came up and you might have gotten caught up in doing other things? Taking care of that obligation or taking care of chores or I don’t know, getting carried away with television, that being online helped you stay focused?
Sahil: Yeah, definitely. The deadline made me way more productive than I could’ve been.
Sahil: Setting deadlines, even if you don’t tell them, tell anybody about them. You should set deadlines. There’s some law, I don’t know what it’s called, but you base your work expanse to how long you think it’s going to take. If you say, ‘I’m going to finish this in February,’ even if it would take you a day, you would take months to do it just because you know you have that time. If you know you have a week, I’m going to have to do this much today, this much tomorrow, this much the next day. If you mess up one of those days, you’re going to have to do way more work the next day. It’s a really good motivational tool.
Andrew: Okay, I see. You said that you had thousands of people who were watching you as you were building this out. Who were waiting to see what you would finish with at the end of the week. How did you get so many people to pay attention to you?
Sahil: I basically took; it was way easier than I thought it was. I basically emailed around 10, 20 Apple blogs. I just searched ‘iPhone blog’ on Google as well as the blogs that I read myself. I opened them all up, like 40 different tabs. I found the ones I wanted to featured on, which is basically all of them. I wouldn’t mind be featured on them. I just went to their contact page, found their email or contact form, wrote up a basic email template, saying I’m doing this thing in a week it starts four days from now on Sunday. It would be really assume if you would write about it and tell your readers. I would use that, copy, paste it into the thing. Edit it a little bit to make it more personalized for each publication and that was it. It was actually pretty funny. Before I started I had 3,400 blog subscribers, or subscribers to the email list, and 100 of them were friends or family, or people who knew me from before. When I tweeted about, most of them, over 3,000 of them were from Macworld which actually wrote about me. Macworld was the last publication that I wrote to. I wrote to the Unofficial Apple Weblog, the Apple blog, a ton of blogs that I had a good chance of getting featured on. Then I was like, Macworld’s never going to feature me, I might as well not do it. I checked their website and it was kind of annoying. I had to sign up to contact them, I figured, whatever, it’ll take me three minutes, if it works out awesome. If it doesn’t, that’s three minutes of my life gone that’s fine. I did and it’s the only one that featured me or one of three that featured me. It drove, by far, the most traffic.
Andrew: They were featuring you just to say to their audience, this guy’s about to build an app in a week. It wasn’t that you did it or not that anything’s there for their users to see or play with just that you’re about to, is that right?
Sahil: Yeah, one of the quotes was, ‘This guy’s either smart or crazy or both.’ People like that kind of buzz really. If you just release an app, there’s 100s of thousands apps on the store. But it you kind of have a story behind it it helps a lot.
Andrew: So, how hard is it to build an iPhone app in a week?
Sahil: For Dayta it took me around 10 to 15 hours a day for 7 days. The thing is, the functionality of the app is not that high. The actual building an app’s functionality of any app, really, is 30, 40, 50 hours. It’s the stuff that goes around it. It’s the UI, the website, the icon, submitting it to the store, the description, telling people about the app. Most of the work is the stuff that goes around the functionality of your app. That adds up to 100s of hours.
Andrew: The other thing that I noticed was that you had an email form right up on the website. Before there was even a site designed, before there was product, before there was just about anything else, you started off with email. Why an email request form so soon?
Sahil: I wanted to tell people about it even if it was just my friends and family. If I had a page that said, ‘Check back in a week, ‘ people will be, ‘Okay, I’ll check back in a week,’ and no one will. If you get their email, an email is an incredibly valuable asset. If you have the ability to email them four days from and say, ‘Hey, check out my site right now,’ most of them will read it. I think over 50% of them ending up opening the email and clicking the link and everything.
Andrew: How many people did you get to give you their email address before you launched?
Sahil: I think it was 3,600, something like that.
Andrew: Wow. The biggest source was what again?
Andrew: And number two, what was the second biggest source?
Sahil: I think the Unofficial Apple Weblog.
Andrew: I don’t remember reading about you in TUAW but you were in there. They said, ‘This guy’s about to create something.’
Andrew: All right. After you launched, did they cover it again and say, ‘Well, we told you this guy was working on an app, in 7 days, he did it, here’s the app.’?
Sahil: I think, no. I don’t think so.
Andrew: No, they didn’t give you the followup? Why because you didn’t ask for it?
Sahil: They might’ve but I emailed all of them again. I guess they’re more about the story than they are the app. But luckily when people were following along on the site, I already had a huge audience to launch it to. The thing is people felt like a part of the process. They felt like they built the app. It was kind of crazy. People would email me, ‘Oh, my, god, I’m so happy our app is being released.’ I’m like, ‘our app’? Awesome, that’s fine, if it encourages sales. I took feedback from everyone. People can see the features they suggested in the app. That really helps your user loyalty.
Andrew: Okay. Why do you think that they were thinking of it as ‘our app’ instead of ‘your app’?
Sahil: Because they kind of, the app would’ve been a very different beast if I just did it myself. A lot of the features that ended, or at least a lot features that are cut out were because people didn’t want them. Some of the stuff I added was because people did.
Andrew: How are you communicating with them? How are you getting their feedback and their suggestions for features to put in and take out?
Sahil: I set up a blog at oneweekapp.com/blog and I basically posted 8, 9 posts on average a day just outlining stuff that I would think people would useful. Small tips that really speed up the process, at the bottom of everything single post I would have a ‘discuss’ thread and then people would be able to chime in. This ‘discuss’ is awesome because trying to follow up, trying to keep in touch with all your readers is a big pain in the ass but ‘discuss’ makes it so every single comment that gets posted on your blog gets emailed to you. You can just reply to that email and it’ll post your comments. So that eased up my time, it saves me a lot of time.
Andrew: It might save more time over regular comments on blogs but I got to tell you blogging is tough which is why a lot of people who launch products don’t blog at the same time. They may blog on launch date and then again a couple of months later when they remember to do it again. Following up on comments is tough, it takes me forever to respond to comments. How did you find time to do all that while you were launching an app in one week with all these people who were looking at you?
Sahil: That’s basically all I did for that one week. I slept, ate, and coded and blogged. One of the good things about discus is most of the comments are just yes or no answers. Like, ‘Hey, are you going to do this?’ or something like that. Then I open my email in the morning, I see all these things, I reply ‘yes’ dot, enters, send. It’s really fast. It tells you, so you know the comments you’ve seen so you can reply to most of them. A normal WordPress comments thread, I use WordPress by the way, you have to load it up, see, ‘Oh, I’ve replied to these, I haven’t replied to these.’ so even then it does save a lot time.
Andrew: Okay, I don’t want to just talk about this one product about Dayta. I want to talk about some of the others too. How about we go on to, what’s the one that you bought that was borderline illegal or maybe outright illegal. We can talk openly, you were under eight at the time and you sold it.
Andrew: What was the site? Tell me about the site.
Sahil: The site was watchtheconcords.com. It’s basically when you want to watch a TV show online, especially if you’re not in the states and you don’t really have access to Netflix and stuff, like a lot of kids just go on Google and search ‘watch blank TV show name online.’ I was talking to this guy on this forum called talk freelance.com. He had this site with a few thousand uniques a day from search engines because he was the top hit for ‘watch flight of the concords online’. He didn’t know what to do with it. I offered to buy it from him for $400. The next day I signed up for some sites, I just did some advert works just put ads all over the thing. I made it so people could only view the videos once they filled out a survey. That started generating, I think the first day was $150; the next day was even more. On average around $100 a day from the app, or from the website. Within two days, I bought the site for 400 bucks and started making 100 bucks a day off of it. A month later I found out the show was shutting down. I went on sitepoint marketplace which is now flippa and sold the site for $8,000, I think.
Andrew: So all in you paid $400, how much do you think you got out of it?
Sahil: In total, over $10,000.
Andrew: Over $10,000 and that’s the biggest financial hit that you had here, right?
Sahil: I think so, my iPhone apps do pretty well too. They make in the thousands a month. In terms of time spent and money made that’s probably my biggest success.
Andrew: Okay, all right. We’re not here to say this is the ultimate in profit from internet. Or that you’re the greatest, most profitable entrepreneur on the internet. What attracted me to this story and the reason why I wanted to have you on is you’re just the guy that keeps knocking stuff out. You just keep creating. How about giving me another one and then we’ll go back to the ways that you’re able launch so much. How about another project?
Sahil: Another project I did, I basically built it because I’m in college and I move around a lot and it’s kind of annoying to keep track of all my notes. I might be on my iPhone or on my computer. I might be on a school computer that doesn’t have the software that I might need like drawbox. So I set up this site. I thought up the idea, built it in 30 minutes using Google’s app engine which makes it really fast. It was only the week before that that I learned python. It wasn’t too hard. I built this site, set it up. Didn’t use Photoshop or any of that crap just built the site, wrote a blog post about it. Submitted it to hacker news, tweeted about it, created a twitter account for it, all within two hours. Then it got, there’s over 10,000 notes on it. It took basically two hours of my time plus like a little more to follow up. It resulted in over 20,000 visits and 10s of thousands of notes created.
Andrew: Okay, so I’ve heard you talk now about forums and hacker news. All these online communities, why are you a member of them? You have to consider all the work that you have to do for school and all the work it takes to build your website and all the work it takes to respond to all those discuss comments?
Sahil: Yeah, that’s definitely a criticism I get. I think when I talked about this one web app I built called, what I’m working on currently, create this guy says. You talk about building stuff all the time and being ridiculously productive. Why are you wasting time talking about your app or your project rather than working on it? I only try to do that stuff when I can’t work on it. For example, when I built ‘Remember’ I was kind of burnt out. I just spent two hours really intense on my computer. Then I was like ‘take a break.’ During that time, you don’t really need to be creative or to think or respond to comments or post on hacker news, right? You can just post it and watch it come in. The times where I can’t be productive, I do that kind of thing. I mean, it is productive; telling people about your app is definitely a good way to spend your time.
Andrew: Why? I know you told me that in the pre-interview too. I wasn’t picking on the comments; I wasn’t bringing up the form to make you feel bad about spending time on there. I wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about the benefits of being a member of those communities. Comment about that.
Sahil: I think, there was a recent blog post by Matt Mullenweg where he says, ‘Having an idea in the public and in the open is like oxygen for your idea.’ Anytime that your app isn’t being used by other people, people other than you, you don’t have any idea how valuable it is. If you build it for yourself, that’s awesome, if you use it. Really, it doesn’t have that much utility if you’re the only person using it. There might be things that you think are awesome. Then you publish it online and people are like ‘wow, this sucks.’ There might be an idea which is like; I don’t know if I’m going to use this. Then you put it online and people are like, ‘wow, that was genius.’ I think that just being a part of these forums helps a lot all the people on hacker news kind of do the same things you do, right? They’re all working on their apps on the side. A lot of them have full time jobs. They know you don’t have all the time in the world. They respect that and they’re willing to give you feedback. It’s really, really valuable.
Andrew: Okay. I think Matt Mullenweg said, ‘Usage is like oxygen for ideas.’
Sahil: Yeah, that’s the quote.
Andrew: So what kinds of feedback are you getting from a community like hacker news or, let’s see, I wrote notes about some of the communities you’re a member of. iPhone dev, SDK.com, what kind of feedback? Do you have anything specific you can share with us?
Sahil: For example, this morning I submitted ‘crate’ because we reached a 1.0 where most of the features are there. Let me open it up. A lot of the feedback is saying like, ‘Oh, this is a cool idea.’ Which is awesome but then there’s also a ton of feedback saying like the UI for this kind of makes sense to us but it might not make sense with these people. Because a lot of the time when you build things for yourself you know what to expect. When you open your website, you know I click here to do this and this and that but most people have no idea. It’s really hard to have a fresh look at your own thing because you’re spending 10 hours a day looking at it. It’s really hard to get a different perspective. Posting it to these sites, where people haven’t seen it before, are really helpful.
Andrew: So you’re going to open up some feedback that you got today on a product that you launched and submitted to hacker news.
Sahil: Yeah, sure.
Andrew: What’s the product? You said it was called crave?
Sahil: Crate, c-r-a-t-e.
Andrew: What’s crate?
Sahil: It’s ridiculously easy file sharing. It’s kind of vague but basically it uses HTML5 for drag-and-drop. I kind of hate having the standard file upload button. You hit that thing, find your file and you have to do each file individually. It takes a lot of time. We built this thing which is pretty simple. All it is you sign up for an account. You create ‘crates’ which are basically folders. Then when you open up the site, when you create a crate it goes to the crate page. It’s just a drop zone. You go to desktop select like 10 files and drag it in. Then you can share the crate URL. If you want to give someone access to all the files in the crate, so if you’re working on a project or something. You share the files or crate. If you just want to share specific files you can do that too.
Andrew: I see it here actually on hacker news. It voted up earlier today. It’s got 37 comments. The headline is review my app, crate and it’s letscrate.com.
Andrew: Let me read some random feedback. I really like your interface. One thing I’m not crazy about with HTML5 is drag-and-drop uploading. I like that it exists but please give me the regular type, by which I mean file equal input box. With drag-and-drop it means I have to resize my browser to access something on my desktop or open my file manager or navigate. That’s good feedback actually. You know what, when you said drag-and-drop, I said that’s all I want. But he’s bringing up a good point, there are times that I don’t want that at all. When I just want to be able to stay within the app, hit a button, grab my file, and that’s it.
Sahil: Yeah. That’s definitely. I think using a Mac you’re kind of use to that drag-and-drop. A lot of Windows users don’t like it. The way Windows work is kind of a little different. Most windows are full screen where in Mac they’re kind of all over the place. Yeah, I would have been, ‘like dude, drag-and-drop is so much better’ but a lot of people just prefer the old one. I would have never added that feature but now that I see, he’s not the only one there’s quite a few comments like that. We’re definitely going to add it in.
Andrew: Okay, yeah, I see a few people voted up his comment. In fact one person voted it up while you and I were talking. All right, I get a sense of how valuable that is. What about these other communities? iPhone dev, SDK, twitter, anything, what kind of feedback are they giving you?
Sahil: Twitter is pretty good. If you don’t have a twitter account, create a twitter account. Create one account for yourself along with one for every project that you launch. It’s a lot faster. People are just use to it and prefer it, rather than a custom blog or custom support solution. It’s really good on a project basis because a lot of people will arrow reply you and you can arrow reply back. It’s a lot faster and you can see real time feedback. That and then there’s the whole like my twitter account which is whenever I launch a project I say follow me on twitter to some extent. That’s awesome because every project I do, I gain a few followers. I’m up to 4,000 now. So it really helps when people know that I’ve done good stuff before and then they’ll see, ‘oh, this guy’s launching, I’ll go and check it out.’
Andrew: So, 4,000 followers is what you have total on all these sites, all these different twitter accounts?
Sahil: Oh, no that’s just my personal one.
Andrew: Just your personal one, okay. Again, from notes from before the interview you said that twitter got you a few hundred people to check out one of your past apps and then they gave you feedback on it. Many of them did. All right, okay, so I can see how that could be helpful too. The other thing that you brought up in our pre-interview was the importance of not being perfect. We talked a little bit about that at the beginning of the interview but tell me more.
Sahil: I think perfection is kind of bullshit. I can’t name a single thing that is perfect, really. It kind of ties back into the oxygen for ideas, if you really want to become perfect you can do that in the open. Being secretive about what you’re working on doesn’t really help you at all. People aren’t going to steal your ideas. Hundreds of people are probably working on the same stuff you’re working on. You’re not the first person out of 6 billion people in the world to come with this one idea.
Andrew: Here’s the thing about perfection. I’ve seen your sites. I saw the site that you have for Dayta. It looks beautiful. We understand intellectually that what we launch shouldn’t be perfect. I have to tell you when you’re in there and you’re trying to launch something and it’s important to you. It’s hard to stop yourself from making it better. Maybe not perfect but just a little bit better. Just a little bit closer to the vision that you had when you came up with the idea.
Sahil: Yeah, I agree.
Andrew: How do you stop yourself and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do it. I’m going to put up a couple of boxes on website and I’ll submit that to hacker news and let people criticize it.’ How do you stop yourself? You ever have to do that?
Sahil: Yes, definitely. I wish crate was perfect. I wish that every single person said that this is the best thing ever here’s my wallet. That doesn’t really happen. It’s definitely tough. I like when my sites are well designed. I think they are but there just comes a, logically, it just makes sense. Today, I could submit it to hacker news and potentially get hundreds of new users and feedback to make it even better. Or I could just keep it secret and it’ll be me and my cofounder using them. Logically, it’s tough to do it. It’s tough to let yourself out there especially because a lot of us like just coding by ourselves and doing our own thing. A lot of the time stuff just happens unexpectedly and people just receive it way better. For example, have you heard of mindcraft?
Andrew: Of what?
Andrew: Mindcraft? Yes, but I haven’t used it.
Sahil: So mindcraft was, well it might be even more fascinating than anything I’ve done. Is that notch that created the game, is making, I think it’s in the millions now, off mindcraft. Mindcraft isn’t a full game it’s an alpha version. He didn’t expect it to generate hundreds of thousands of sales. It just happened. He knows it’s not perfect. I’m sure people criticize him a lot but he’s making millions of dollars. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t regret telling people about mindcraft before it’s maybe even a beta version.
Andrew: That’s good point. Also, what am I doing having you on then when I should be interviewing him?
Sahil: You should definitely, get him on.
Andrew: Mindcraft founder. Somebody out there if you know him, please make the introduction. No, I have a point and a purpose here to this interview. I want to talk to you about how you keep launching the sites. I think it’s important to see, I wish I could show people what, as I look at letscrate.com what it looks like to me today because I got a feeling by the time they see it, it’s going to be different. The reason I want them to see it is because it’s just so friggin’ bare bones. It’s nothing but a simple form, a nice looking logo. The logo you probably got the icon from somewhere on line and you attached some text to it. So it’s nothing revolutionary here but it’s a nice first start. I could see how I may shift this. I may say, you know I created Dayta, Dayta looks beautiful, I’ve got a reputation online, I’ll work until this site looks a little prettier before I launch, then a little prettier still. That’s the big point here that you just keep launching these sites. Reputation, I’ve got a note here that that’s important to you. You build your reputation on your blog and then you can move those people over to each product that you launch. What do you blog about?
Sahil: I blog about almost everything, although mostly stuff that has to do with entrepreneurship and start-ups. I think, I only recently started a blog which if I could change anything that I’ve done before I wish I started a blog earlier. I’ve always planned to do it but I just got around to it recently. A blog is really awesome because when you release a product, let’s say you launch it on techlaunch or whatever, it gets a ton of traffic. It goes like this basically, your traffic goes up like that and then it’s like, drops, typically where it was before. Unless it’s amazing, it’s basically back to zero or really close to zero. Then you have to wait until your next launch. Where you really stick a ton of features to get back on techlaunch and then it goes back down. With a blog, every post is a potential spike in visits. Every spike in visits is going to lead to some visits to your projects either your previous ones or the ones that you are talking about in the post itself. I always try to tie back to a lot of the products I’m working on currently because that’s where I get the ideas from my posts. For example, I thought about this idea. I kind of always had it, crate was just kind of beginning. I didn’t really know how to tell people about it because it’s really simple. As you see it, it’s a logo, two links and a footer, copyright info basically. I looked around and saw how a ton of other sites have started their communities up. I looked at how they kind of faked. Every time an admin would a post submission, the submitters name would change. So it gave a perception that it was more active than it actually was. I had this idea and in 20 minutes, 30 minutes, I banged out this post called faking it. I talked about that kind of thing and to fake it until you make it, where in the beginning you do these. It’s not really lying. A lot of start-ups do lie. They’ll fake their visitor numbers. There’s a lot of ways to imply that you’re a bigger site. If you have a jobs page, bam, it’s assumed that you have more than one person.
Andrew: If you have what page, it’s assumed you have more than one person?
Sahil: Like a jobs page.
Andrew: I see.
Sahil: You’re accepting jobs. Small things like that. Everyone does it. When you first start a blog and you have three RS subscribers. You don’t tell everyone you have three RS subscribers. A year later when you have like 4,000 then, bam, you try to highlight it as much as possible. I wrote a post about that in 20 minutes, posted it to hacker news. It was kind of received well. It was like both ways. There was a lot of people that disagree which is fine. Controversy’s awesome. It got like 180 up votes. I think over 15,000 people visited it in one day. Out of that, a lot of people are like oh, this guy’s kind of controversial maybe I’ll check out his other stuff. Bam, that leads to thousands of visits to my other sites and to my apps and everything. That’s just one post. If you write a post every couple of days it helps a ton.
Andrew: How do you come up with content to post about?
Sahil: I don’t know. Most of it has to do with a problem I’ve seen. That’s kind of like a cool thought that I had and I try to make it into a full fledged like 500 word post. Everyone complains, oh, I have too many ideas, too little time. Then people start blogging and burn out in like two weeks. People are like, I don’t know what to write about. I will like the early days of my blog, it’s been around about seven months. I don’t think that’ll be a problem. If you build cool stuff and you talk to smart people I think ideas for your blog are going to come.
Andrew: I’ve got another note here about doing weird stuff. Why should people do weird stuff? First of all, what do you mean by doing weird stuff?
Sahil: People don’t, I think people are so use to like ads on sites. Like skyscrapers and stuff, you’re basically blind to them. You don’t even look at them anymore just because you’ve seen so many of them. That’s kind of happening with web apps. If you visit, like web apps almost all of them look the same. Logo in the top left, you have the navigation on the top right, then you have two screen shots of the app. Then you have like a blurb there and like a call to action. It’s the same thing over and over again. I think trying to find a way to differentiate yourself. Either with a color or a theme helps a ton. Just like the way you talk about your product. For crate, we kind of joke around a lot, when you log in, on the log in form, it says ‘hello, there beloved user.’ It’s kind of like a joking attitude. A lot of people are, oh that’s kind of cool how you did that. They remember it which is awesome. Like ycombinator, they use the color orange which isn’t a very popular color. Now whenever I see the color orange, anywhere related to start-ups I’m, ‘Oh, this must be related to ycombinator.’ Even if it’s not, that’s awesome that they’ve got that color down. It’s theirs, you know?
Sahil: Just doing things like that. Trying to be quirky helps a lot.
Andrew: What did Dayta do? What kind of revenue did it generate?
Sahil: Dayta on the first day generated around 400 sales. Was at $0.99, so 70% of that was around $250. The next it was like $180, it kind of went down after that. It maintained around a few thousand dollars a month for a while. Recently went I released the update, I just did the same thing I always do. Just email a bunch of blogs, hopefully. It’s like an hour every time, might as well do it. That led to being featured on the 7:20 web blog the day of the app. It got, it was received better than the actual launch was. I made over $500 the first and it was maintained for a few months. I made, I think over $10,000.
Andrew: Over $10,000 and when did you launch it?
Sahil: In February, I think.
Andrew: All right. What else do I want to know here? I think that’s everything in my notes. It looks like Dayta did better or it’s grown since last time you and I talked.
Sahil:: Yeah. I just made it free for.
Andrew: I was going to ask you why did you make it free all of a sudden? I checked it said, November 20th you made it free. Two days ago.
Sahil: Yeah. So I made it free a couple of days ago because it was kind of going down a little bit. I wasn’t really, like, I think there’s a barrier. I think kind of like a VC, you know, VCs invest for the home runs, right? That’s what most people say. They don’t really care as long as those home runs are really big. They kind of balances out with their not so awesome investments. That’s kind of how I think about my projects. If I launch 20 of them, hopefully, at least a few are going to do really well or better than expected. I think that’s a great way to think about it. If you’re, VCs know that most of their things are going to fail. If you know that, if you’re fine with that, it really helps you open up. Dayta wasn’t, it’s doing really well, I’ll probably make it paid after a while. I wasn’t really happy with the sales. I said this is not a home run. Like a home run would probably be like hundreds of dollars every single day to me. The difference between making 50 bucks a day and zero, it’s there but it’s not. . . to me it’s not worth making it paid if I can get so much more exposure. I made it free. It’s kind of crazy. I made both Dayta and Color Stream free. I think, let me see if I can find my tweet. So, I’ve never hit $10,000 in a day before. Then today I got my stats for yesterday, my apps were downloaded 62,784 times.
Andrew: Wow. So you never made $10,000 but as soon as you made it free it hit 62,000.
Sahil: Yeah, 25,000 downloaded Color Stream and 40,000 people downloaded Dayta. That’s awesome. There are two things that I really like. Money, which having money is awesome. Notoriety, some influence and I think 60,000 downloads in exchange for a couple of days of no revenue is definitely worth it.
Andrew: Well, I like your honesty. I think most people pretend that they don’t like money. They come on here and they say it’s all about having influence or, not even influence, trying to change the world.
Sahil: Impact the world or better changing the world.
Andrew: Right, right.
Sahil: It’s easier to do that with money though.
Andrew: All right. Actually what was the other website, the other app that you talked about? Color Stream, what is that?
Sahil: Color Stream is my other app. It’s basically a color palette creator and manager for your iPhone. That was my first app. It’s, yeah, so that’s what it is. It did pretty well. Sometimes it does better than Dayta even though it’s way older, it’s around six months older.
Sahil: So, yeah, those are my two main apps.
Andrew: All right. You’re now in college, right?
Sahil: Yup. I’m in college.
Sahil: Yeah, USC but actually since the last time we talked I’m basically going to take a leave of absence and go to Palo Alto and work for a start-up. Continue full time on my own stuff.
Andrew: I see, so you don’t even have a place of your own, you don’t even have a company that you’re going to. You’re just going to go to Palo Alto and figure it out.
Sahil: I have potential offers just from my blog and people that see my stuff. That’s another thing about avenues. The people who read that stuff are really smart and really well-connected and really influential. Just posting my app, review my app, people will be like, ‘Hey, crate looks awesome, do you want to work for us?’ That’s awesome to have that kind of thing. It I go to Palo Alto and oh, crap, I need a job, I’ll just email all these people. I’ve gotten like over 50 job offers. Not even trying, just building stuff that I think was cool. I think people like that more than anything else just being able to build stuff.
Andrew: All right, well congratulations.
Andrew: We’ll tell people to go check out your website. What’s the url for your personal site?
Sahil: It’s my full name dot com. So – s-a-h-i-l-l-a-v-i-n-g-i-a.com and feel free to email me. I’ve talked a lot about don’t be afraid to email people. It’s so little, the benefit if it works out is really good. Please email me, I’ll definitely respond, hopefully. Yeah, it was nice being on Mixergy.
Andrew: I’m glad to have you here. Hey, one more question. What’s it like to date as a developer in college? You have the same experience I had, who the hell wants to talk to someone whose head is in business instead of on a keg stand?
Sahil: It’s, I don’t know, I think, there’s definitely people who prefer both. When you say, oh, I’m working for these companies that, like basically what I say, you know Mark Zuckerburg. Everyone knows him because he was in the social network. I’m going to be the next one, bam, that’s all you need to say.
Andrew: I see, so that’s how you introduce yourself to woman too.
Sahil: Yeah, I’m the next Mark Zuckerburg.
Andrew: Do woman in southern California understand who he is, I know he was in a movie but, they’d know the actor more than the character.
Sahil: Yeah, I think he’s one of the few.
Andrew: So, I’m going to be the next Mark Zuckerburg, does that work for you?
Sahil: It has worked, yes.
Andrew: It has? You’ve gotten to date a girl because you said, ‘I’m this cocky, I’m going to be this guy, watch out.’?
Sahil: Yeah. People are like; you don’t even have to say it a lot of the time. People just, oh, you’re doing this thing. You’re making money, that’s awesome. People just assume, oh, you’re going to be the next Mark Zuckerburg. I guess so. I don’t think I am but if that’s what you think that’s awesome.
Andrew: You’re kind of hoping you would be though.
Sahil: Yeah, that would be awesome if I have that kind of influence and that impact and that cash.
Andrew: I’ll tell you this, no better place in the world to date than in southern California so before you leave you’ve got to date as many southern California girls as you can.
Sahil: Yeah, that’s good.
Andrew: We’ll save that for a future interview, when we talk about your early life. All right, man, it’s good to see you and thank you all for watching.
Sahil: Nice talking to you, see ya.
PrintPrintPrint.biz – Get business cards like the ones I held up at the start of this interview or have anything else printed at PrintPrintPrint.biz. Use discount code “Mixergy” for an automatic price cut.
Grasshopper – Don’t make the mistake of comparing Grasshopper with other phone services. Check out their features and you’ll see why Grasshopper isn’t just a phone number, it’s the virtual phone system that entrepreneurs (like me) love.
Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.