Introducing the beta version of appear.in premium!

Oh boy are we excited today! It’s time to introduce what we have been working on for the past 10 months: the premium version of appear.in. In this post we’ll share some of the learnings from the process of monetizing a startup, that can hopefully be useful for others facing this challenge.

From today, any user who has claimed a room in appear.in can now upgrade that room to get premium features, which in this beta version includes:

  • Support for up to 12 people in video conversation on web and mobile
  • Server BOOST: Improved stability and quality of group calls, reduced CPU usage
  • Branding of your room with custom logo and background image in room and on welcome page of locked rooms
  • Video of presenter while screen sharing

This first version of premium will allow you to upgrade an appear.in room for $12 per month. And fear not, the free version will continue to exist.

To kickstart the spread of appear.in premium, we are happy to announce that from today we are entering into a global partnership between TechstarsStartup Weekend and appear.in. Now the next generation of entrepreneurs can collaborate from anywhere — in branded rooms like this one:

Why did we decide to launch a premium version?

Since we launched the first version of appear.in to the world on August 5th in 2013, we have received thousands of emails and tweets with feedback, feature requests, criticism, bug reports and complaints that browsers/cameras/microphones are not working — but most importantly, even when complaining, users have kept saying “great job, keep going!”. One of the first users who sent us an email right after the launch said “Fight hard, it will be worth it. Your service is really exceptional. Happy to pay for it if/when you go that route.” Little did he probably know that this day would actually come!

Once your product reaches a large enough user base, people will actually start telling you that they want to pay, and what they want to pay for. This is what happened to us:

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of uptake from business users, both in small, medium and large companies. This has translated to a lot of feature requests that were specific for business usage, and that are also fairly complex and expensive to build — and thus would be hard to prioritize investing in unless we saw a way to monetize. One such thing is the new server backend infrastructure that the premium version is now running on; without that, we would not have been able to offer reliable support for larger groups. Quality of audio and video is THE most important thing in the service, and we needed more control over this. In addition to reducing CPU usage and giving more stable audio and video, this has also enabled improved support for group conversations on mobile devices.

How did we develop the premium version? 🤔

To validate the hypotheses we had for what the premium version should be, we decided to reach out to our core users. Because we needed to start developing the product in February 2016, we needed to split the research in two parts:

  1. A feature prioritization survey — which segments of users exist, and which features are important to them?
  2. A pricing survey — for a given offer, what price would users be willing to pay?

In January this year we sent out an invitation to a survey to some of our most active users. We chose to run what’s called a MaxDiff survey, which asks the user to rate which features are most and least important to them, in pairs of four from a random selection of 20 potential features. The result is a list of all 20 features being ranked by importance. This type of survey also groups the users with similar preferences in segments. To get a good idea of who the users were we also added some screening questions, like team and company size, primary use case, platforms used, etc.

Luckily more than 1000 people replied to the survey, and several hundred also replied directly to us on email with additional explanations of how they were using the service and to what extent their need was met. This study confirmed our hypothesis that enough people wanted support for larger groups, and this gave us the confidence to start such a large technical project of building the new server infrastructure, in addition to guidance on which other features to prioritize.

In June we had a pretty good idea of what the product would look like, and that’s when we did a Price Sensitivity Meter survey. This asks users four questions about their willingness to pay for a given offer, and the result is a price-demand curve, telling you how many % of users will be willing to buy the product at different prices.

The outcome of this was interesting; the ideal price was within the range of our hypothesis, and even slightly higher. Having data behind the decision of what price to launch with, gave us confidence to go for a higher price than we otherwise would have. However, it remains to see if the data translates to real life or not. We will actively gather feedback from beta users on whether they feel the price is right for the product after having used it. Ultimately, we want a price that is fair for the value people are getting from the product, while it allows us to build a sustainable business from delivering it.

Why is it in beta?

There are many features we know people want, that we haven’t had time to build yet. These include recording, better layout handling, and a better chat solution. Some of these features we have on the road map, but haven’t had time to make — and some we just didn’t have time to finish properly before the launch (see our list of known issues/bugs). That is why we are calling this phase a beta.

The primary goal for us over the next few months will be to make sure the premium product is aligned with what people need and are willing to pay for. Undoubtedly we will have to make lots of tweaks and bigger changes which will require tough prioritization. But we try to anchor all our decision in data and input from real people who use our service every day. So thank you for sending us emails with feature requests, or tweeting screenshots of what should be improved in the service. It’s actually super helpful!

Going global with Startup Weekend 🌍

When we thought about possible ways to reach a bigger audience that might be interested in appear.in premium, we naturally looked at the startup community. appear.in has been global from day one, and with users in all countries of the world, we also wanted a way to spread the product globally.

As a global volunteer organization that gathers entrepreneurial minded people for a weekend to try to prototype and validate an idea, Startup Weekend was the perfect partner. We are happy to announce that we are from today entering into a global partnership between TechstarsStartup Weekend and appear.in. Through this new partnership, Startup Weekend participants will have six months free access to the new premium version of appear.in.

appear.in was built to help people like founders and entrepreneurs collaborate easily through video. Forcing yourself to put your idea through a weekend of intense prototyping and user testing often reveals whether it merits life, and whether quitting your day job to work on it is a good idea. Several successful startups have sprung out of Startup Weekends all over the world. One of the startups formed at a Startup Weekend in Norway was Swipe.to, who make it easy to share presentations with a large audience simply with sharing a link, just like appear.in — and who has in fact today released a new version where appear.in is integrated. We are excited to be part of helping the next generation of global entrepreneurs emerge!

Surprise! 😀

As a treat to you who have actually read this blog post all the way down, you get a coupon for one month free trial of appear.in premium! This coupon will be available for the first 1000 people and can be redeemed until Friday November 18th:

To start the trial:

1: Enter your appear.in room (or create a new one)

2: If you don’t already own the room, click “Claim” in the top menu (if you don’t see a claim button the room is already claimed by someone)

3: Go to Settings in top menu & click “Upgrade

4: Click “I have a coupon” and enter this coupon code: BETA-1-MEDIUM (must be redeemed before Nov 18!)

5: Give us feedback after you’ve tried it for a while!

Hold on! I’ve got a question! 🤔

Will the free version of appear.in continue to exist?
YES! We are extremely committed to developing the free version in parallell with the premium version, to ensure that the barrier to starting a video conversation is as low as possible for everyone, not just paying customers.

Can I upgrade more than one room?
Yes, you can upgrade as many rooms as you want!

Will you have a product that supports many premium rooms?
We have plans for a premium product designed for companies who want all their employees to use appear.in. Development of this will likely start in Spring 2017. Get in touch at pro@appear.in if you’re interested in this!

Where do I go if I have other questions?
You’ll find answer to the most common questions on our FAQ page. If not, shoot us an email at feedback@appear.in.