From stall to new start, MobileDevHQ founder explains the power of the pivot

Photo: Steve Jurvetson

The ugly underbelly of startup life is that most new ventures fail. And yet, despite the many warning signs, entrepreneurs continue to make the leap and fight for survival.

I was reminded of this cold, hard truth after reading Ian Sefferman’s wonderful blog post: The Value is in the Slog. Sefferman, the co-founder of Seattle upstart MobileDevHQ, writes in great detail about the challenges his company faced as it struggled to gain market traction with its first offering, AppStoreHQ.

Even though the company operated in the hot arena of mobile app discovery and at one point was attracting more than one million visitors per month, Sefferman notes that it wasn’t quite enough.

“You realize that the small amount of revenue you’re receiving — probably in the hundreds or low-thousands of dollars a month — isn’t going to pay the bills. The users aren’t coming in as fast anymore and you become a bit worried about where to go next,” he writes. “In our case, we felt like the headwind just kept getting stronger and stronger in the consumer land, even though the tailwind of mobile apps just keeps getting more forceful.”

Like many startup companies, Sefferman had to pivot. And that’s when they “doubled-down” on a new platform that was designed to help mobile app developers get better distribution for their apps.

Drawing inspiration from Rand Fishkin and the team at SEOMoz, Sefferman said the goal of the company over the past two months has been to focus on what they call App Store Optimization or “SEOMoz for apps.” (Telling developers things like the most frequently searched keyword terms in the iTunes or the Android market).

“All in all, we realize it’s very early in the product’s lifecycle still, but we feel like we’ve gone from pushing a boulder up the hill to finally starting to head down the hill now, solving a real problem for real customers and making real revenue from those users,” Sefferman tells GeekWire.

While the jury is still out on whether the transformation will work at MobileDevHQ, Sefferman says the company is now pointed in the right direction.

“So, just because the slog isn’t glamorous, requires hard work, and is generally a shitty place to be, doesn’t mean you should be giving up on your startup now,” he writes in the blog post. “Instead, now’s the time to double down and find the true value.”

No wonder that Sefferman hails from Detroit, which is undergoing its very own citywide pivot.

  • http://www.iseff.com Ian Sefferman

    Thanks, John! We’re very excited about where we’re going and think we’re putting together a great team and product.

  • Anonymous

    Love the new direction. There’s a ton of frustration in the marketplaces around optimizing for the (poor) search functionality in the app stores. There’s definitely an opportunity to reduce pain for developers here. 

  • http://twitter.com/2MorrowMobile 2Morrow Mobile

    Good Luck with the new direction!