Stories by Stuart Hall on Medium

Last updated July 18, 2018, 8:12 a.m.

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Startups are a marathon
Photo by Mārtiņš Zemlickis on Unsplash

When you start a company you have this huge vision of what you’d love it to be. But you know you can’t start a marathon by focusing on the finish line. Get through the first mile, then get to 5 miles, then 10 and so on.

Almost four years ago when I start talking to Claire about really ramping up Appbot, we talked about how broad we wanted to go. We wanted to be able help product teams build better products by focussing on what their customers really wanted. But first we knew we had to focus, so we solved the problem for mobile app reviews first.

We’ve been lucky to pick up thousands of customers along the way, companies like Paypal, Microsoft, BMW and Twitter. So many of them asked us the same thing “when can we do this for our other feedback sources?”.

So we went out and found the best machine learning people we could and put them to work. It’s taken us 18 months and training models on hundreds of millions of records. We are so stoked with the results!

You can checkout the full details of “Custom Data Sources” at

I’m so proud we have made it here. The team at Appbot, our data scientists, engineers, designers, marketing, everyone, are all so much smarter than me. There’s no way we could of achieved this without them.

I feel like we are 5 miles into our marathon, only 21.2 miles to go. But we are rehydrating and refuelling for 10 miles first.

Startups are a marathon was originally published in Appbot on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How a 1 minute action could transform your product

How a simple interaction with a user can pay massive dividends

A year ago Apple allowed app developers to start replying to reviews. It was something many of us app developers had wanted for a long time.

Recently, I got the chance to experience an example of a text-book perfect interaction with a user through replying to a review.

In mid-March, I got a notification from Appbot that a user had reviewed my WordBoard app. I’m proud of the 4.9 star average WordBoard achieves in the US.

When I opened up the review, I saw it was a 4 star review and they had a feature request included as part of their feedback:

Keen to know more about their feature request, I decided to reach out to try and get more details. I tried to keep it concise as possible and take it offline.

“Thanks for the great review! We’d love to make it a 5 star review by getting a bit more info about the placeholder variables. Could you get in touch with us at Thanks!”

A few days later I was excited to get a response via email:

Although there are limits to being able to implement the feature they’ve requested for the time being, I’m glad I’ve now got an idea of how to grow my app when the tools are available.

It was great to hear the user expand on their idea, and talk out the possibilities.

And what do you know — they did exactly that!

Sure, the revised rating is awesome, but what makes me happiest is being to understand this user’s use case better now, and to know what can be done better in the product as time goes on.

As a big advocate of feedback driven growth, I will always value these kinds of interactions. Taking that one minute to reply and asking for more information might get you that insight to transform your app and make a user delighted.

About The Author

Stuart is co-founder and CEO @ Appbot. He is also an iOS developer who founded 7 Minute Workout (acquired by Wahoo Fitness), WordBoard and Discovr. You can connect with him on Twitter.

How a 1 minute action could transform your product was originally published in Appbot on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Great article Ali! We are loving bootstrapping, it has its challenges, but what doesn’t!

Great article Ali! We are loving bootstrapping, it has its challenges, but what doesn’t!

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Feedback Driven Growth: A Process For Sustainable Growth

Everyone wants a silver bullet for growth. We all look for that amazing “growth hack” that will instantly drop millions of new users into our products.

The tech press likes to talk about the unicorns who have hundreds of millions of users a year after launching. In reality most tech successful companies don’t have hockey stick growth, they have linear growth. They launch to very little fanfare, have very few customers in the early days and constantly think they won’t make it.

It’s rarely one specific thing you do will create a successful company. It’s the sum of hundreds or thousands of small things your team tick off their lists.

DHH from Basecamp shared their amazing year by year growth.

Appbot hasn’t been around as long as Basecamp. But we are still proud of our month by month growth. We decided early on to bootstrap and try and make a sustainable growth business. Each month on it’s own isn’t a lot to get excited about. But month by month it adds up into something sustainable and profitable.

Appbot monthly growth

We could easily keep a team of 20 busy, but we decided to grow within our means.


I get people reaching out to me with a very similar question. “I’ve launched my app and can’t get any users, what should I do?”

The truth is, for the vast majority of us, it takes a long time to be successful. It doesn’t happen in one Big Bang. You toil away for years seeing small improvements and then one day, years later, you look up and think “Wow, we made it, we are alive”.

My advice to them is always the same. “Delight the few users you have”. To do this you need to be able to work out how to delight them.

The one technique that I’ve found that works is something I call “Feedback Driven Growth”.

Essentially you are using user feedback to find two critical things:

  1. What parts of your app or service are delighting people.
  2. What pain points users have that you can solve better.

Early in the life of your product it’s easy to handle this manually and keep it all in your head. “Hey, that’s the fourth person this month that wants that feature”! As you grow and you hire support staff it becomes much harder to stay on top of everything.

Feedback Driven Growth

I’m a big believer in using user feedback as a way to improve your product and hence drive growth. It doesn’t mean blindly implementing everything users ask for. It’s about discovering recurring pain points and then innovating a solution that will delight.

When you break it down Feedback Driven Growth is a very simple process. Gather and read, analyse, classify, prioritise and iterate.

Gathering and Reading Feedback

I group feedback in two forms:

  1. Unprompted feedback — this is always the best. App reviews, support tickets and emails are ideal. If the user has taken the time to give feedback unprompted you know it’s valuable.
  2. Prompted feedback — Surveys, NPS, interviews and so on. These can be great, but are often misleading because people are compelled to think of answers to your questions.

By default we will ask the first question, get the answer we want and yell out “we are validated!” and move on to building.

Back before commercialising Appbot I built a service that would easily add a support system to your mobile app. I sent out a survey to a bunch of developers I knew. They all loved the idea and couldn’t wait to use it. I built it and not one of them tried it out. But they did give me the answer I wanted so I left them alone quicker.

Analyse - Distilling Feedback into Pain Points

Often the feedback is actually a solution the customer has come up with. “I should be able to click on x to do y”. It may take a bit and back and forward with the customer to get what the real pain point is. Why do they want to do that? What are they trying to solve?

Here’s the thought process I go through for each ‘pain point’:

  • What’s the sentiment of the request, are they being positive or negative?
  • Does this fit into our goal as a company?
  • Is there a way it can be achieved with our existing tools?
  • Is it a problem a bunch of customers are facing?

Classify / Tag

Now you need to actually record it for your backlog.

I like to think of it in a few steps:

  • Is it a feature request, a bug report or a data improvement?
  • What section of your product does it fit in? For Appbot it might be sentiment, topics, integrations and so on.
  • Finally, what is the new pain point.

We then come up with a way to tag the request. For example a feature request about topics would be FR-Topics-New Feature Name a bug report in our Slack integration would be BR-Integrations-Slack-Bug Name.

This goes into our CRM against the customer where we can report on it and also find the customers to notify when it’s done.

Fix / Iterate

Fixing and iterating comes down to your own development process. But choosing what to build or fix next can be a tricky task.

I’ve written more extensively about this in the past, but we follow a basic principle of scoring based on:

  • % of customers will it benefit? — Is it something 100% of customers will use, or an integration maybe 2% will use?
  • How difficult is it to implement? (100 for super simple, 0 for impossible)
  • What potential impact does it have on our revenue? (100 for huge impact, 0 for no impact)

We add these scores together to find our the winner.

That’s It

The process of Feedback Driven Growth has helped Appbot bootstrap to where we are default alive. Hope it helps you!

About The Author

Stuart is co-founder and CEO @ Appbot. He is a recovering iOS developer who created 7 Minute Workout (acquired by Wahoo Fitness) and WordBoard. You can connect with him on Twitter.

Feedback Driven Growth: A Process For Sustainable Growth was originally published in Appbot on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Sharing a HomePod with your family or roommates

I was pretty excited to get my HomePod on launch day. The setup process was amazing and the sound is mind blowing. Siri was surprisingly good. The microphones are amazing that they can pick you up your voice when music is being played at top volume.

Maybe I didn’t read the instructions well, or I totally misunderstood, but there were a couple of things that caught me by surprise. Both are due to the lack of multi-user support. I assume this will come in future updates. Luckily, both are easily fixed with a couple of settings tweaks.

Random music appeared in my ‘Recently Played’

I appreciate what Taylor Swift has achieved. Especially the regular rebranding to stay relevant as her audience grows older. But I am not a regular listener to her music.

I was pretty surprised when my recently played in Apple Music starting showing Taylor Swift. Turns out by default music, played by anyone (including my Taylor Swift loving daughter), on the HomePod automatically scrobbles to the account that set it up.

I don’t really care if people judge my musical taste. But I do care that it’s going to start messing my recommendations!

Luckily it’s pretty easy to turn it off.

  1. Open the Home app on your iPhone
  2. Long press on your HomePod

3. Tap on Details

4. Turn off ‘Use Listening History’

Random reminders appeared on all my devices

I’m pretty sure I enabled this blindly through the setup process. But it turns out that anyone within earshot of the HomePod can add reminders, message people and more using the account that was used to setup.

It’s pretty easy to turn off as well.

  1. Open the Home app
  2. Tap on the little location icon in the top left (seems like a strange UI choice).

3. Choose yourself under ‘People’

4. Turn off ‘Personal Requests’

That’s It

With those couple of settings off you can safely use it with your family, roommates or visitors looking to troll you (my mates would do this).

When I pre-ordered I wasn’t sure if I would keep my HomePod, but I love it. I’m really looking forward to Airplay 2, stereo support and multiple users.

About The Author

Stuart is co-founder and CEO @ Appbot. You can connect with him on Twitter.

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