AppSeed — An intro, a 2019 status, and further steps

AppSeed.us
8 min readMar 30, 2020

Hello,

My name is Adrian (aka Sm0ke on Twitter and Dev.to) and I’ve built AppSeed — a platform that helps developers to code their products much faster with less manual work. At the moment this article is written (30.03.2020), the platform has been used by 1500+ registered developers and more than 200 apps, generated by the platform, are released on Github under permissive licenses (MIT, LGPL) used by many developers across the globe. The service was LIVE on 1. Jan. 2019 after one year of incubation on my Linux laptop.

What is AppSeed

The whole idea behind this business is fairly simple:

Any UI Kit or design should be converted into usable, tested Web Apps coded in different languages and modern patterns using automation tools, … FAST (minutes or seconds).

AppSeed — Build web apps, … FAST.
AppSeed — Build web apps, … FAST.

AppSeed basically aims to cut the manual work usually involved in web development using automation tools and boilerplate code. When a new project is started, the developer does this repetitive work over and over:

  • Integrate the UI (this takes days to extract the layouts, components..)
  • Code the basic modules, using the best practices
  • Prepare the app with necessary scripts and configuration to be deployed LIVE

The value-added provided by AppSeed it’s a sum-up of all those steps. The flat, lifeless UI is automatically processed using an HTML Parser (in-house developed tool) that prepares the UI files to become production-ready for many technologies: Php, Python, React, Vue.

All those files and components are injected into pre-built starters and the final products are tested and ready to become real products. Using this simple workflow, more than 200 web apps were released in 2019 as freebies in the open-source ecosystem via Github, the main growth pillar for the whole project. Samples can be downloaded and used directly from Github, no account required:

This list, quite short at this moment, will become larger once the technologies implemented by AppSeed will increase. For instance, we are prototyping other technologies like GatsbyJS, Svelte, Tailwind and Bulma CSS, based on their adoption trends — more will come.

For more information, feel free to access the platform, the blog or chat with me on Twitter.

AppSeed Status — 2018 to present

As mentioned, the service was LIVE at 1.Jan.2019 and since then, the growth was quite a road for us. The product timeline (first time published here) was done with many ups and downs, I think the usual “road” that every startUp should walk on to become a sustainable business.

  • Early 2018 —start the project with Teo Deleanu, the AppSeed co-founder
  • 2018 — Prototype the idea and try to generate minimal starters. We had basically nothing, besides a crazy idea and some unstable tools and scripts.
  • Mar.2018 — Get help from Techcelerator in a 3mo program, quite useful at that moment. I have a huge thanks to the whole team, especially to Cristina — the program manager.
  • Aug.2018 — Quit my job, after 12yrs in the corporate field. My last task in this life as an employee was to provide Tech Lead over a team of hard-working engineers (miss you guys) somewhere in Bucharest.
  • Aug.2018 — Funded by GapminderVC with $25k for 6% from the company and start the development with a nice team of 6 people, organized chaotically by me, mostly.
  • 2018.[Aug Dec] timeframe was amazing, I learned a lot and push the product further but not as much as our investors expected. The product didn’t get much traction during those months, and the second $75k investment round didn’t land in our bank accounts.
  • 01.Jan.2019No money in the bank, the team was reduced at two guys only, me and Teo (part-time contributor).

This was the bottom point for the whole project. The last mail sent to the investors (8.Dec.2018) where I’ve signaled the imminent death of the whole project had no echo. We were alone with our laptops, somewhere in Romania.

The Show Must Go On — No f***g excuses.

Jan.2019 — A little bit of luck

In January.2019 AppSeed was accepted in a startUp program supported by Telekom and got funded with $6k (no equity). That was an oxygen bubble that provides us the fuel to sustain, at least the logistic costs for servers and some super light development outsourced to a few contractors. During that month, I was starting to build the AppSeed marketplace, being aware of the fact that I need a stable sales channel with 100% control over it.

01.Mar.2019 — The Marketplace is up

The first release of the platform was ready around 1.March.2019 with a disastrous UI/UX built be me. No money to promote anything, first open-source super simple starters were published on Github.

March.2019 — Team Update

Unfortunately, Teo decides to move further with other personal projects and AppSeed, become suddenly a one-man show project.

Adi Chirilov (aka Sm0ke) — Techcelerator Demo Day.

March.2019 — God is up there, watching Netflix

The first good news for AppSeed was the agreement with Creative-Tim, a Romanian-based web agency and a powerful player in the UI Themes market. After a 1-to-1 meeting in Bucharest with Alex Paduraru, the founder of Creative-Tim, I got access to the whole premium UI kits bundle and the permission to generate the first bundle with premium and free products, listed in the AppSeed marketplace.

That was huge, in terms of business traction for the project. For newcomers, Creative-Tim has more than 1mil (yep, a MILLION) registered users into the platform and products listed in Bootstrap and the official Vuejs marketplace.

2019 — Growth Strategy

With a $0 ad budget, the main strategy was, of course, to use organic growth through articles, topics, and interactions on relevant communities related to my business persona: solo developers and small web agencies. After a short scan over the tech market, I’ve built a list of relevant platforms for my business:

  • Dev.to — this platform has a super nice and supportive community
  • @Reddit — is another super powerful medium IMO. Reddit is full of hacky guys and experienced engineers.
  • Github — After realizing the power of this platform, all my BitBucket repositories were migrated to Github
  • Google — powerful and scary at the same time

I will say a few words about each, how I get traffic or knowledge to push forward the project.

2019 Growth — DEV.to

All open-source projects developed by the AppSeed platform lands at some point in an article on Dev. Samples:

The list is quite long, and every article published on Dev got some traction for the business. My account will hit 20k followers in a few days. I’ll drop here some numbers:

Adi Chirilov aka Sm0ke — Dev.to profile
Adi Chirilov aka Sm0keDev.to profile
Adi Chirilov aka Sm0ke — Dev.to Stats
Adi Chirilov aka Sm0keDev.to Stats

2019 Growth — Github

Github helps my business in two ways:

  • Connect my products with relevant consumers — the solo developers
  • Force Google to take into account what I have to offer

The service traction was great and become visible after release for more than 50 free apps. Currently, the AppSeed Github account has more than 200 followers and some nice numbers around this metric:

AppSeed — Github Stats
AppSeed — Github Stats

I will not tell the whole story regarding the Github growth strategy, being a business secret, but I will drop bellow a suggestive picture:

  • AppSeed Repo listed on the first page in Google for “nodejs starter” keyword.
Google Search for keyword — Nodejs Starter, AppSeed REPO #1 position.
Google Search for keyword — Nodejs Starter, AppSeed REPO #1 position.

Google — Such a scary MF…

I realized somewhere in the middle of 2019 that Google is something super powerful, and did some hacks to use his power and drive traffic to AppSeed. Google for me, is like that kid from Matrix, who teaches Neo that “there is no spoon”.

Google — Such a brilliant entity.

It took me a while to learn how to communicate with Google. Of course, it was no budget to pay a good SEO consultant, but that was a good thing after all and super rewarding to see the results in the charts a few months later.

  • Organize the links an AppSeed to reflect a simple and logical structure — This was done with many 301 redirects to use old links popularity into the new structure.
  • Update the README for all public projects to be SEO friendly and link logically with AppSeed content
  • Buy satellite domains like admin-dashboards.com and release as open-source projects to control some small parts of the market related to the AppSeed products.

The charts, after Google, understood my plan. The numbers are still low, but the trend is up, and this is super cool.

Users growth 284%, Session Growth 336%

AppSeed Google Stats —Users, Sessions
AppSeed Google Stats — Users, Sessions

Source of Traffic Growth

AppSeed Google Stats — Source of Traffic
AppSeed Google Stats — Source of Traffic

Active Users Growth

AppSeed Google Stats — Users Growth
AppSeed Google Stats — Users Growth

Nov.2019— First sale

After a long struggle (~= 2yrs) to put the service on the right track and built a real business, the first sale occurs on 8.nov.2019 and was amazing. Since that date, charts are going up for sales and traffic. I’ll drop below the PP sales report by country. Numbers are still small but provide enough rocket fuel to move on.

AppSeed Sales Report — By Country/Region
AppSeed Sales Report — By Country/Region

Mar.2020— Partners

The current position was not possible without partners. This year we’ve signed contracts with web agencies, from different countries:

Guys, thanks a lot for reading this long and boring post. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or chat with me on Discord and Twitter.

Thank you!

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