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Lessons from Fishbrain: Niche social networks and building great apps

Posted by Steve Ferris on 07 December 2014

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We had the pleasure to talk with Johan Attby of Fishbrain a while ago. You can listen to that podcast here. Johan talked about the amazing success his niche social network app, Fishbrain, is having, his journey as a startup entrepreneur since 1999, and his ideas on building great prodcuts.
Here's what we learned from Johan:

1.Niche social networks are pretty great.

They can offer great value to a smaller dedicated group. Your award winning roast picture won’t be appreciated as much in a place like Facebook, but in a niche social network about cooking, you will get the engagement you want. The community is tighter, the focus is greater, and if you can facilitate the community and find a way to serve them, you will have devoted users.

2. Collect as much data as possible for your users.

It can identify more trends, and can be worth a lot of money to the right people. Once you’ve collected enough information, you will be able to make more helpful recommendations to your users. Fishbrain collects around 20 data points around a person’s catch. The user only puts in a few key details about the fish, but the Fishbrain app notes all of the atmospheric variables. The US departments that regulates fish and wild game really can use this info to make the environment better, and offer a better public service.

3. A successful journey sometimes feels like an accident.

Johan has built and sold a company, of which Microsoft Seattle was a client. He has one of the hottest startups in the thriving startup community of Stockholm. Without even trying to get a specific place, people who work hard, look for opportunity and friends often find themselves in a great position in life. It’s the untold story of success. There are few people who can plot out a path over a decade and know exactly where they want to go. The rest of us just sort of walk into things. Being in the right places and with the right people is part of that. This video is one of my favorite teachings on finding your path to success.

4. You must know how to market and sell!

Johan had a product who’s technology was 10x’s better than an American competitor, but because they new how to market themselves, they got the funding and big deals with clients.

5. Don’t build a company to sell it.

Build something genuine and people will love it and want to get involved. It needs to be a rock solid solution for your customers.

6. Do your research!

Find a need within a niche. There must be people who want this. Johan wanted to go after huge market like sport fishing, a 40 billion dollar market, because even if you don’t execute perfectly, the market is big enough to help you along the way. Smaller markets are less forgiving. Stay in markets where you already have an established network. Johan already new people within software, so that’s where he stayed. Also, exploring more than one idea will help you see objectively where the best opportunity is. With one idea, you may fall in love it and refuse to see the hard truths facing it.

7. The best revenue model for apps is to make people pay for it.

Within a a niche like cycling, the equipment is very expensive, so the reference level is pretty high. This allow apps like Strava to charge $5.99 a month for their premium plan. This is expensive for apps, but cheap in a sport where you’ll pay $3 for an energy bar. Niches where the user has a higher reference level for the cost of doing something, like a hobby or sport, will have a higher conversion rate.

8. Print ads in niche publications are a toss up.

Consider the the average age of the readership. Are they the people you want to target? Fish brain partners with many fishing magazines, but when they see that a magazine has the average age of 55, they know they should focus more on where people are online.

9. The down side of MVP's

With the amount of competition in the market today, you really need to set out to create something that a targeted group of people are going to “love”, because building a product they “like” just doesn’t cut it anymore. A minimum viable product can leave a lot out in the user experience, and this could cost you. When Fishbrain focused their geography and feature list to a specific part of the sport fishing market they saw great results. They maxed out the iTunes ratings with all 5.0’s. This goes a long way in getting featured by Apple and Google. Focus, and don’t try to be everything for everyone.

10. Take risks.

You’re not in a startup if your not taking risks. Sometimes you need to just need to bet on yourself and see how it goes.
The biggest take away form all of this is to do your research and find the right market before you build your product. Stay passionate and value the people in your network. What lesson here has been the most true for you? Tell us in the comments below . We'd love to hear from you.

Topics: Marketing Strategy

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