Why we started building custom apps

We started building Hatch so that any ambitious person with a great idea could build a mobile app. WordPress for mobile apps.

Easy to say, tough to do.

Over the first year of building this company, we learned a lot:

  • In order to command valuable real estate on our home screens, mobile apps can’t just display content; they need to allow for interaction through the camera, GPS, chat, or another of the myriad of capabilities of mobile.
  • Although most users ask for similar core functionalities, the combinations of secondary functionalities are numerous. A hundred users might want a marketplace, for example, but some might also require ratings/reviews whereas others might want a way for their users to chat in-app.
  • Different functionalities would require different dashboard design tools, analytics, data displays, and app management tools.

(Okay, maybe we already knew some of those things, but we didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem until we strung them all together.)

Our main conclusion from that was that it was going to take a lot of time, money, and user testing to build an awesome mobile app builder.

In response, we’re doing things a bit differently now. We’ve been taking on custom projects that fit into our existing templates so that we can sustainably fund further feature development and collect more data on what our users might want. We’re charging users on monthly SaaS pricing for custom apps for iOS and Android (includes hosting, dashboard, and everything else that makes Hatch great), building them manually (while still using our product to speed development), and modularizing it all on the backend. We’re trying to be careful on scope and only take on projects that clearly fit an existing template or that will fund the development of a new, high-demand template. (There have been exceptions; it’s so hard to say no when money’s on the table. We’re learning from it all, though.)

We’ve been doing this for three months now and it’s going really well. We’ve been building new dashboard features every week and launching new templates almost as often. We’ve also been building apps more and more quickly— some have been built and launched in a matter of days. Best of all, the personal account management has enabled us to build open relationships with our awesome app creators so we’ve been getting a ton of great feedback.

The Hatch team hanging with the creators of the Whole Truth Booth app.

The Hatch team hanging with the creators of the Whole Truth Booth app.

All that said, this model won’t scale. This version of Hatch will definitely be a multi-million dollar company, but it will never be a multi-billion dollar company.

Our current challenge is integrating our new tech into the existing product, and productizing everything that we’re currently doing manually (onboarding, design, some of the development, etc.). The ultimate goal is a seamless, fully-automated app builder that anyone can use and anyone can afford.

At this point we’re aiming to launch a new onboarding system with new templates within the next several months. We’ll keep updating this blog as we make progress.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch in the meantime.

 

Amelia Friedman

Co-Founder at Hatch.

 

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