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Appliku / Productivity / Serbia

Make sure you have competition - Interview with Konstantin of Appliku

Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hello. My name is Konstantin and I am working on Appliku.com

Appliku is a servers and deployment management panel for Django apps.

It allows Django developers launch their apps on Digital Ocean (other cloud providers are planned) without the need to set up the server themselves.

In short – goal of Appliku is to have Heroku-style convenience, but you pay flat monthly fee for Appliku account and for servers – directly to cloud provider

What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?

I was developing and deploying Django applications and sites since 2010. Since that time, I have tried so many ways to deploy apps:

- I used custom scripts to upload and run the app

- I used supervisor to run apps

- I learned about CI/CD in 2013 with Atlassian Bamboo, and it only made things more complex

- I learned about docker and docker-compose and tried this way, but still had to set up the server itself, nginx and it made initial effort to run a site very huge

- Then I found about Heroku and decided to give it a try. I was amazed by the experience of Heroku provides and used it for several months. You pick a repository, and it makes your site alive! Cool? Yes, until I received the invoice, and instead of under $20/month, there was $50+. So, Heroku didn't work for me financially, and I haven't found any other option of that level of convenience

- I decided to start writing my service that will automate everything DevOps related. I should be able to feed it a repository and expect my app magically running on a server in my Digital Ocean account.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

I started working on it in April 2019, and in February 2020, I had a fully working initial version.

I have a full-time job. I have two kids and married to a wonderful woman who not only happens to be my partner in life but also in business. You can imagine that I don't have much time left to work hard on Appliku.

At first, I was very sad about it, because I finally found THAT idea I am super passionate about.

But after some time, I realized that having time limitations is a good thing. I wanted to have so many features in the initial version. Having little time, I was able to change my mindset about it and cut features until I only had core ones. Then while spending time with kids, I kept thinking about implementation a lot, so I was able to simplify code as well.

Lack of time taught me how to prioritize. Even if I had all the time to dedicate to Appliku, I wouldn't have launched it by now, because I would want to add more and more features.

Right now, the app itself is ready, the payment processor has just verified us, the company is set up, and we are waiting on lawyers to finish some paperwork for us.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

As I said earlier, the biggest struggle is time. I have a family and a full-time job. But I am calm about it.

I don't believe in explosive growth.

I don't believe in stories of 1-day success.

I have a pretty complex application that takes time to think through, polish, and make attractive and convenient for customers.

It all requires persistence rather than a one-time colossal effort.

Also, Appliku is the kind of app that people have to trust. It has to be out there for some time as proof it will not go away all of a sudden. It is a core component for those who run their apps. And it means that I have time to think things through and develop it right.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

The biggest achievement was learning how to be calm and persistent. There are time when I have so many ideas, that I want to implement right now, but I have other responsibilities. And I had to learn how to disconnect from my side project and switch to other things. 11 months in and I am still working on it. Even more – I enjoy doing it.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Right now it is to early to talk about it. I have a newsletter/waiting list, but I have observed very little reaction on my invitations to try out the release app.I had several registrations from my posts on reddit, but that's about all. I am seeking for feedback, rather money so I kindly ask people to try it out and tell me what they think. Collecting feedback is my main priority now.

Describe the process of launching the business.

In April 2019 I came up with the idea. I began from assembling scripts to do the app deployment. It took me several days to have a python script that did the job. This short sprint proved that I can do this. In couple days I came up with a name, Appliku, which is derived from Heroku. I asked friends, they were able to hear it properly. Domain was available so we went with this name. In December 2019 when app was able to do its job we decided to open a company. This was quite a money draining process and it is unfortunate that I don't observe revenue from day one.

Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?

No, I haven't. First of all, all this sites are not going to give me much of my target audience. Second, without my own tribe I will not succeed there. Such launches should wait.

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Subscription based business model. We offer 3 paid plans with 3 day trial each. Right now there is a free plan, but it will loose its features over time until it goes away completely.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?

The biggest obstacle is inviting initial users to collect feedback. People are very busy, and it is hard to ask their time to try out your thing, even if they gave you their email before launch. I am politely reminding those brave people who signed up to find time.

Future.

Several tools do the same, but in other niches: Laravel Forge for PHP, Hatchbox.io for Ruby, etc. They have plenty of paid users. I am not a fortune teller, but I can say there is a market for Django apps. Even if Appliku will not be financially successful in a year – I made this tool for myself. I will keep using it. I will keep improving it.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today is yet another day when I live and work on things I love. Appliku should start generating revenue at some point. Even if it is not huge at first – it is still a sign that some people benefit from using it. It means that there will be others. We don't depend on other walled-garden platforms like social media. The need to automate DevOps conveniently only grows over time. Developers and founders of software startups earn enough pay for various tools that increase their productivity to either work less on boring stuff or waste less time to work on things that increase their revenue.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Persistence is the key.

Time spent on something is not equal the value of the outcome.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

GitLab for repositories and CI/CD. Digital Ocean for app hosting.

OneNote for note taking and OneDrive for file storage. Telegram bot for notifications from the app. Firefox Nightly is the best browser. Grammarly, since I am not native English. G Suite for email.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz,

Founder Quest: https://www.founderquestpodcast.com/

What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?

If you don't have an idea: go try replicate someone else's app/business. You will learn a lot.

If you have an idea – make sure you have competition. It is a good sign that there is a demand and you will not spend effort and resources educating potential customers and creating a new niche.

Also be financially stable. Either have a full-time job or have a pile of money to survive for a long time.

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