The Death of Thankbee

Web apps  |  May 20, 2013  |  1 response  

deaththankbeeAccording to what I’ve investigated, the worst-case scenario has become a reality for ThankBee.

I have ThankBee configured to send me a copy of every “thank you” or “please come back” email that it sends for my app buyers. I noticed a few days ago that even though purchases were still coming in, I wasn’t receiving the emails anymore. So yesterday I decided to investigate. I started looking through the code and logs and everything seemed normal. I ran a test API call and found that the buyer’s email was no longer returned from Google. Not willing to call defeat just like that, I started to research a little and found that other people were asking (and complaining) about this same issue.

So, the worst case scenario has become true for ThankBee: Google is no longer sending the buyer’s email along with the purchase information they allow via their API. I can still see the buyer’s email if I log into the Google Checkout console, however, but this wouldn’t be a valid long term solution.

I sent a question to Checkout’s support team to confirm this, but it appears this will be the cause of death of an already ailing ThankBee. This was a weak point I had already identified (and blogged about) previously, and I chose to ignore it.

Post-mortem

Just before this happened I was preparing to write an update of ThankBee’s status, which I hope to do here, as well as a few lessons learned.

It’s not enough to be in the industry

I thought that being an Android developer, and knowing what I thought was a good idea, was sufficient to know what other developers would think is a useful tool. I, of course, thought ThankBee was a great idea. I got a lot of replies from people who received my “thank you” emails, asking questions and giving comments. However, I was unable to get other Android devs to understand the value I saw in ThankBee. Maybe it was because this isn’t a real problem devs are facing, but something “nice to have”. I also believe it could be because I don’t have access to a large pool of devs that I could explain the benefits to (see the next point), besides via email.

You need physical contact

As I mentioned above, I believe it would have made a difference if I would have physical contact with a group of devs (via meetups, interest groups, or similar), which I didn’t because of where I’m currently living. I believe if I had the chance to sit down with people for 5 or 10 minutes and explain the benefits, they would be at least a little more interested in trying ThankBee. An email is easy to ignore or regard as spam.

You need a customer.. or two

I already knew this, but thought that I could develop ThankBee fast enough to not make this an issue (which is partly true). Looking forward, I probably wouldn’t start a Saas project without knowing one or two people who have a real pain point that I’m trying to solve. This has multiple benefits: the obvious is that you’ll have paying customers from the start, but also they can help you find other people in their industry who need your app. Heck, you could even work together with your first customers and make a deal like: “if you can get me 5 other signups, you can get 50% off for life” or whatever.

Don’t depend on third-party APIs

This point was something I had nagging me on the back of my head, and I knew this all along but regarded it as a very¬†improbable, worst-case scenario. But no, you should avoid at all costs having to depend on a third party API. If you fall out of grace with your billing provider you can just switch to the next in line, but if you build your business around a company-specific API, you are constantly in risk of being out of business. I guess there could be cases in which this risk makes sense, but you’ll have sweaty nightmares in which the API changes and your income crashes to zero.

Next steps

I’m waiting for an official answer, but know pretty well that it’s time for a few last words and to let ThankBee rest in peace. It will be remembered.

I am (as always) thinking of the next big thing to take on. I’m thinking locally first instead of globally. I have a couple of things up my sleeve which have been delayed A LOT, but that I’m happy to say are almost ready for primetime, and which I’m sure will give an interesting boost to my passive income.