An accidental success — how to launch an app in a day!

TL;DR: One weekend hackathon = number 1 app in 5 countries.

Download Popcorn here

A few months ago, we set about on building a bigger vision around our original mission “To be the best mobile commerce company”. It’s a simple mission, but big enough to manoeuvre within, and keeps all of us passionate about mobile & focused around the same goal. Our major motivation was to leverage the tech behind Grabble — we wanted a chance to be more creative and innovative, using our framework to power various opportunities.

We had a very clear idea of how to turn this vision into something scalable, exciting, and relevant. Like a diamond in the rough, Mobula was born — a modular, mobile platform. The modular component is the brain sitting behind our future plans. The idea was that we could turn what we had learnt about Grabble, into fully scalable, repeatable, ‘dumb modules’, and long story short — build a framework to power infinite numbers of mobile experiences off the same code base.

The Vision

“An app in an hour”

It was, and remains ambitious, and our goal with Mobula is to work with direct to consumer brands at scale, and deliver them best in class native mobile experiences for their customers. The way we built the platform means that, in theory, we should be able to assign a designer for a day or two to the code kit, and he or she would be able to turn around beautiful native apps in no time at all. That was the theory, anyway. So, we thought we’d test it out with a hackathon.

Let’s test this theory out!

Because we were so famous for shopping, we decided that a fairer test on the platform’s flexibility would include nothing to do with this industry.

Because we didn’t want to distract our content team, the next rule was that all content must be generated from open source API’s available from various databases and then use basic algorithms to generate the content automatically.

So, rule number 1; NO fashion/e-commerce
Rule number 2: NO distraction for our content team

The Product:

Say hello to Popcorn. Using moviesDB we were able to put together a never ending list of different streams of content, link them all to trailers where available to watch in the app — and essentially create a really nifty little product over a weekend.

What is Popcorn? Discover films, watch trailers, save to watch lists, even buy them through the app on iTunes.

Pretty simple stuff, and we were, of course, very happy to push ‘publish’ on the App Store, knowing that any technical problems we might come up against were also likely to be relevant for clients, but it was all much smoother than expected.

Home Screen on Popcorn

Almost too smooth. And then…

The Release:

We decided to actively NOT get in touch with the App Store. We simply wanted to know that it would work, that there weren’t any bugs, that the tech we had built in the Mobula platform, that we started to need to road test, was indeed as useable as we believed. So last Wednesday, we released it.

What happened next:

By Thursday we noticed we were getting a bunch of downloads.

By Thursday afternoon that number was rapidly increasing. We were all very perplexed. Then we saw our feature on the homepage of the UK app store in ‘New Apps we love’.

9 days in — key facts:

  • £0 marketing spend.
  • 0 Tweets, marketing, literally, nothing.
  • Over 120,000 downloads
  • UK Homepage feature — “New apps we love”
  • Featured as best Entertainment app alongside Netflix and IMDB
  • It’s the number 1 app in Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic & Iceland.
  • Number 4 in Portugal
Popcorn is the number 1 app in 5 countries

So what have we learned?

Well, for starters, we learned the ONLY important thing that matters to us at Mobula. The platform works! We want to go from an app in a weekend, to an app in a day, and eventually, an app in an hour, so we can hit scale. But as your first test, I believe it’s fair to call this a success.

It was also great fun for the team, coming together to brainstorm, and launching something that we own, that everyone that participated can be proud of.

It now means that anyone with an idea in the team, can come in on a weekend hackathon and put together their own app ideas and publish them, so long as they remain ‘on mission’.

We also learned that if you build something simple and beautiful, with a valuable enough proposition for people — they’ll come.

Long story short — great products find audiences!

What we haven’t learned

How to monetise it! As it was simply a weekend test and quick launch, it’s already been 100x more successful than we were hoping for, but our mission remains the same — we want to work with brands, and deliver them the best in class mobile commerce experiences on the planet in a scalable way. Spending time on monetising Popcorn at this point would be a distraction, unlike building features that can be applied for clients.

The Conclusion

I guess you could argue we are learning about discipline. But one way or another, my conclusion on our hackathon project is that it’s a roaring success we can all be proud of, and helps signal the start of the new dynamic culture we can create as a company at Mobula — creating ideas from nothing, launching them, sharing success, and going again, whilst partnering with great companies to deliver these experiences to them.

If this is what we can do in a weekend — imagine what we can do with more time! On to the next one, I’m already excited about our next weekend get together, but in the meantime, it’s a weekday, so back to our day jobs!