Issue #2 - Söka
Hard to believe it’s the 2nd issue already. I’ve been amazed by the support, so thank you for reading and sharing.
I’m really enjoying the insights and background from different developers and apps. I hope you are too.
This week, we take a look at Söka, created by Roddy Munro. It's an app designed for creating travel bucket lists, and it utilizes AI to assist you in curating your lists.
I must admit that when I heard about its use of AI, I had my doubts about its effectiveness and wondered if it was simply a buzzword. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Söka truly excels in simplifying the process of creating new bucket lists.
What is Söka?
Söka is an innovative and user-friendly app designed to help people create, manage, and explore their personalised bucket lists. Whether it's embarking on travel adventures, setting life goals, or pursuing unique experiences, Söka empowers users to curate their dreams and aspirations in one convenient place. With AI-powered bucket list generation, a virtual scratch-map, and an element of gamification with unlockable app icons, Söka makes turning imagination into reality an exciting and seamless journey. It's the perfect companion for individuals seeking to unlock extraordinary experiences and track their progress along the way.
Where did the idea for Söka come from?
As with most of my good app ideas - my wife Danika! She’d been trying some of the other bucket list apps out there, but whether it was a lack of features or a poor user experience, none of them were what she was looking for. She’d been bugging me for a while to make a bucket list app, and I finally caved. But I think I’ve enjoyed working on Söka more than any of the other apps I’ve launched!
The core bucket list experience that you see in Söka was largely influenced by Danika, and she’s been my alpha tester since day one.
Where did the name Söka come from?
Coming up with a good app name is one of the most difficult parts of the process for me. I was trying all kinds of combinations, and testing them with friends to see which one worked best. I was really stuck on the word “Strive” or “Persevere”, but those words (and variations thereof) just weren’t sticking.
That’s when I started looking for translations of some of these words in different languages. After a lot of playing around with different words, I came across “Söka”, which is Swedish for “to search for/seek out”, which I think was a pretty great word for conveying what the app was about. The only complication with this word is the pronunciation. Because of the umlaut, it’s pronounced like “serka”, and that’s why the first screen you see when you open the app for the first time is what the word means and how it is pronounced!
What’s one stand out feature you’d like everyone to know about?
Definitely the AI features. You can enter a location (or if you’re feeling lucky, let Söka pick somewhere for you), select the type of activities you’re looking for, and Söka will generate a complete bucket list for you. You can then choose which goals you want to add to your bucket list. This feature uses ChatGPT under-the-hood, with a custom backend that I’ve stood up to parse the results and return it to my app. I’m really excited about the update I’m working on now that will be released to coincide with iOS 17, because that’s going to give users even greater flexibility over what kind of bucket lists they can generate.
How do you promote Söka?
Other than posting about it constantly on Mastodon, I maintain Instagram and TikTok accounts for the app. I post a mix of content that I’ve created myself when traveling, or bucket lists I’ve generated using the app.I’ve also recently begun searching for travel influencers who I can pay to share content related to Söka. I did this for the first time in July, and that one TikTok got over 43,000 views, and resulted in over 1,000 new downloads for the app.
How did you decide on the pricing?
It’s important to me to make an app free to download so that everybody gets the chance to try the app, and see if it’s right for them. If a user pays up-front on the App Store but decides the app isn’t what they’re looking for, there’s a good chance they’ll leave a negative review. The free tier lets a user create up to 3 bucket lists and up to 30 goals, plus they can use the AI features 5 times. This gives the user every opportunity to experience the app, and exposes them to most of the app’s features.
Söka+ - which is the totally unoriginal name for Söka’s premium tier - removes all limitations within the app. I have it priced (in USD) at $1.99 per month, $8.99 per year, or $29.99 for lifetime. The AI features are the app’s only current recurring expense, so the subscription prices I’ve set will help to cover those costs.
I typically price lifetime at about 3.5x the cost of an annual subscription - the average user won’t use the app more than 3 years - so that’s been a price that’s worked fairly well.
After 4 years of having subscription-based apps on the App Store, I’m starting to get a good feeling over what a user is willing to pay for a certain kind of app.
Do you think the lifetime pricing could be an issue in the long run?
I actually think it’s the opposite. There are so many potential users who are vehemently anti-subscription, that they’ll pay well just to avoid it. Unless that user generates over a thousand bucket lists, they still won’t cost me more than they’ve spent. Once averaged out across every user that’s paid for lifetime, the income will far outweigh the expense.
I also see the lifetime pricing as something that will likely increase as I add more features. I consider it like when you back something on Kickstarter - the very first backers get a really great deal on the app, before the price begins to go up as time goes on. The money made from lifetime early-on will help cover all of the initial expenses of launching an app (app icon design, marketing, etc), while those who are happy to subscribe will contribute to the recurring revenue statistics!
How did you launch Söka?
By launching it the Friday before WWDC 2023! Terrible decision by the way, I don’t recommend it. Apparently, if Apple are holding a major event in the near future, none of the press outlets will cover you because they’re too busy talking about the latest rumours.
That meant that any downloads I got those first few days were purely word-of-mouth. I tried pretty hard to make sure that in the run-up to launch, I was sharing a lot of content about the app, both on Söka’s social media and my own. For the first time, I made a point to share it on my personal accounts like Facebook, which really gave the app a big boost through friends and family.
How long did it take to get to the first version?
About two-and-a-half months. I wrote the first line of code in the middle of March, and I had a basic proof of concept just 2 weeks later in-time for a vacation to Portugal.
Is there anything you’ve learnt that stands out?
Time your app launch to coincide with Apple’s quiet season. July and August, and November until April are pretty safe bets. If you launch during the busy season, the likelihood of the press writing about your app goes down by quite a lot. On a similar note, make sure you take the time to prepare a press kit. If you don’t have a press kit, journalists are highly unlikely to even both trying your app.
I’ve also learned that having a beautiful app icon is one of the most important things you can possibly have in an app. The app icon is often the first thing that people see when they discover your app, and if your icon does not capture their attention or it looks amateurish, there’s a good chance they’ll move on to something else. I learned that the hard way! Since commissioning somebody that knows how to design a beautiful icon, the number of downloads and paying users have increased significantly.
Any tools or apps you would recommend others check out?
I’m a big fan of ImpressKit, which is a tool that lets you create and host your press kit through their website. It does the heavy lifting of organising the press kit, and you can easily update your image assets as your app evolves. Filip (the creator of ImpressKit) has been very receptive and quick to act on my feedback, which is a huge plus.
As for apps, I’m a huge fan of both Crouton by Devin Davies, and Up Ahead by Dan Gauthier. Both apps have been huge inspirations for me, and they’re two of only a handful of apps that both my wife and I actively use!
Where can everyone go to find out more?
Advanced Reminders: Reminder times can now be set individually for each contact. You also now have more interval options for reminders, as well as the possibility to set repeating reminders on specific days of the week or month
Thanks for reading. If you have an app, tool or service that would like to be included then please get in touch.
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