7 Days of “Being”

The week I launched an app, was featured by Apple, gained 50,000 downloads, and was banned by Instagram.

What we thought would happen

We launched Being primarily as a public proof of concept. While we knew from our internal beta tests and conversations with friends that people were intrigued by the concept, we set out to prove a few things that would validate the concept on a grander scale.

  • Gain 5,000 active users in the first month. This number was pretty arbitrary, but having launched two apps prior to this, I knew acquiring those 5,000 users wouldn’t be as easy as it sounds, especially without a paid acquisition campaign.
  • Generate 25,000 feed views (defined as a user opening a feed in the app) in the first month. This would serve as a metric to measure the stickiness of the UX. Again, this was a relatively conservative benchmark, based on the assumption that we’d have 5,000 users and each of them would view at least 5 feeds.
  • Prove engagement with Instagram content through measuring Likes & Follows generated within the app. This was by far the most important metric to us. We would set out to validate Being as a powerful new platform to generate engagement by unlocking the power of who someone follows as a source for discovery and curation. Measuring the value Being added back to the primary network was critical, since we intended on establishing a long-term partnership with the network on which we were based. At the end of the day, if someone Likes a post or Follows a user on Being, there is an Instagram user on the other end of that action receiving a push notification — directing them back to Instagram.
  • Acquire 3–4 press hits in first and second tier tech publications for general brand recognition and user acquisition. If there is one thing I’ve learned in working with the press, it’s that no press is ever guaranteed. So we’d spend a few weeks prior to our launch lining up a few articles, hoping that the concept was something writers thought would resonate with their readers, which would in turn help spur downloads.
  • Get featured on Product Hunt. If you’re reading this, there is a 99.99% chance you’re familiar with Product Hunt and the potential power of the so-called “Product Hunt Effect”. If you happen to fall in the 0.01%, read this, this, or generally anything here.
  • Have fun and make some new friends along the way.

What actually happened

For the sake of this blog post, I’ll keep it relatively short and to the point. But believe me when I say that the seven days following our launch were the most exciting, stressful, energizing, nerve-racking, sleepless, rewarding days of my professional life.

  • Over 500,000 feeds viewed by users
  • Nearly 50,000 app units downloaded
  • Featured as a Best New App on the App Store in 92 countries
  • Top 30 social networking app in the US, and Top 10 in various countries
  • Retention rate of over 75% (users who opened the app 2x or more)
  • Tens-of-thousands of Likes generated on Instagram
  • Tens-of-thousands of Follows generated on Instagram
App units downloaded, from time of launch to time of API revocation. Source: iTunes Connect

APIs & the Independent Developer

Our proof of concept was a success. However, success isn’t a straight line, and it sure doesn’t come without a few unexpected curveballs. At around 8pm on Thursday 2/25/16, without notice or explanation, we discovered that our Instagram API access had been revoked, cutting off our access to all Instagram data. Surely, this was an automated precaution, resulting from the great amount of activity hitting their servers, right? I mean, they would never pull the plug during this time of critical growth and while we were still featured on the App Store homescreen, would they? Whatever the reason, Being v1.0 was paused indefinitely.

What’s Next

Our weeklong experiment taught us so much (namely that Murphy’s Law is a real thing), while also confirming that there is an incredible demand for the immersive and authentic experience that Being provides. We also met an amazing number of people throughout this journey. From fellow entrepreneurs reaching out to discuss the future of the product to friends of friends who have offered their guidance throughout the process. To each of you — Thank you.



Founder of Being. Guitars, movies, art and plants. East Village, NYC. http://www.beingtheapp.com

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