March 20, 2024
Never Tell Me the Odds

The scene in Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo says "Never tell me the odds" The other day, RevenueCat released a report about the state of the app subscription market. And the facts are not shiny:

the top 5% of apps generate 200 times the revenue of the bottom quartile after their first year, while the median monthly revenue an app generates after 12 months is less than $50 USD.

Oof.

Anyone who’s been paying attention to the App Store game will not be surprised to learn that most apps don’t make enough money to justify their existence. That’s a lesson I’ve personally learned many times over the last 15 years.

There are many reasons to justify the failure, but I think they can all be lumped together in one concept. I just happened to have read Seth Godin’s 2007 book The Dip. Godin’s concept of “the dip” is the place where most people get stuck on their way to becoming “the best” at whatever they’re trying to do.

Godin’s book challenges us to think about what being “the best” means. As I survey the landscape of indie apps in particular, I see low-effort geegaws and itch-scratching side quests. What I see comparatively rarely are apps that shout “look at me”, that tell a story, that readily justify their cost.

“The dip” that Godin talks about is the recognition that we can all reach a level of expertise that puts us in the same league as most others, but we have to push ourselves to accelerate to the next level. It’s not enough to be merely good; we must excel to be successful.

The most successful people are the ones who not only do the hard work to push through that dip, but who relish the opportunity to find the edges of their abilities and add to them.

If you’re trying to be “the best” — as in my case, I want to have the best blogging app for Apple platforms — then you have to give yourself a hard look, accept every mote of criticism, and never cease the struggle to improve. And never stop thinking of your endeavour as a business, so pay attention to the marketing, the promotion, the pricing.

To ensure this isn’t a mere side quest, but the inevitable road that this is all leading to: that small-but-not-invisible percentage of RevenueCat clients who make a living in their business.

So never tell me the odds. That famous quote from Han Solo tells us that he knows something we don’t: he’s going to bring his skills to the numbers game, and bend the averages in his favour. Take a page from his book.

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