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Finance

Get the idea of a product you want to build and build in public - Interview with Winnie Phan & Minho Ko of NomadWallet

Startup Name
Nomad Wallet app

Revenue
$ 580 MRR

Location
Vietnam

No Of Founders
2

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

Hello, I am Winnie, I am working on NomadWallet app with my husband Minho Ko, NomadWallet is the travel expense tracking app, designed for travellers, made by travellers. The app is available for both IOS and Android.

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

Back to some years ago when both of us did not know how to code yet, we could not find an expense tracking app which features were suitable for us, who travelled from country to country, we used a tracking app together with a Google Sheet to keep track of our expense but we had to delete all the data on the app every time we move to a new country, so since we learned to code, we decided to make the expense tracking app for travellers, as we saw the growth of nomads and remote working travellers.

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

After we decided on building NomadWallet app, we asked travellers we met on the road & got very positive feedback, they gave us many ideas and features that they wanted in the app. I made quick design and Minho started to code, we decided to build the MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) with the IOS app first. 

We did not build the ios app in the public, however, we got quite a successful launch on Product Hunt and got featured on the front page of PH which helped us get attention.

After launching on PH, we decided to make the android version of NomadWallet in public, by sharing everything about NomadWallet on Twitter and Indie Hacker and asking the community ’s feedback. Surprisingly we got a load of feedback and feature requests, many designers help us on design, colors, users reported bugs directly to us instead of giving bad reviews on App Store. Building the transparent startup that we also built trust with users and community, and in this way, we get directly to what users’ need and execute on them.  

We started NomadWallet with ios and expected that ios users would grow bigger than android’s, but reality shows us the opposite, we got sales every day from Google Play not that many from AppStore. 

The sales increased sharply when we decreased the free entries from 30 to 15 but also the uninstall rate is also increased and we got many bad reviews on the App/ Play Store to complain that why the app is not free, however, we believe that 15 is the good number for users to have enough time to taste all the features before deciding to buy.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

As many other bootstrappers, marketing is the hardest thing for us, and our target users from the beginning are nomads by naming the app: Nomad Wallet app which narrows down our market even the app can be used very well by short trip travellers, got so many advice that “we are not nomads or travellers but we bought your app for our short trips and it worked perfectly, you should consider expanding your market”.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

Making the small sustainable income from NomadWallet is the biggest achievement for us, we could not imagine we come to where we are now, we started with the idea that we wanted to make things that the market lacks, if no one paid for the app, we would use it ourselves and put in on portfolio when we look for freelancing projects. It turned out that people love the app and were willing to pay for it.

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

We haven’t done much marketing so most of the traffic to a landing page has come from Twitter and word of mouth by travellers. 

We offer 15 free entries before the user decides to buy in-app purchase, so this stage is very important for us when the user needs help. App market has its serious disadvantage that if something happens, many people are not patient enough to inform you but they immediately give bad reviews on the App/ Play Store, so we need to make sure we create a clear UX for users’ feedback and bug reports, user can contact us right from the app to our feedback page or touch to DM on Twitter.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We soft-launched NomadWallet app on maker communities: Woman Make, Maker’s Kitchen… and officially launched the app on Product Hunt,  and spending days to replying comments and promoting on Twitter, Indie Hackers, Facebook groups and other maker communities.

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

We launched on PH, got featured on the front page, they tweeted about NomadWallet and posted on their FaceBook which was really helpful, it is the amazing platform to draw attention, but to get honest feedback, I suggest Indie Hacker.

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

NomadWallet app is freemium model, we offer 15 free entries with unlimited features in the app for user to try before deciding to pay.

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

The biggest challenge for us that our app is a one-off payment, not the subscription model and with the low price it is hard to create sustainable MRR.

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

The development is paused as we got enough good features and we want to keep the app lean, we will now focus on marketing to get more users, we get sales every day on Play Store but not many on AppStore so we are trying to push more sales on AppStore.

And looking for ideas to build our next product.

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

- Real feedback from target users is very important

- Build in public is the fastest way to build and grow

Do you think your mindset has anything to do with your success?

We don’t think we succeed with NomadWallet by making good income yet but we succeed in starting a life we want: bootstrapping and live a location independent lifestyle. And yes we believe that mindset is everything, to decide who we are, where we want to go, what we want to do.

I and Minho frequently have conversations about what we want to do in life and adjust our work and life to it, we don’t take either the easy road or the road uphill, we just take the road we want to go, the idea of having financial independence and enjoying what we do. 

We are trying to live a simple & focused life, it is the same way we make products, if we have a number of features we want to have in a product, we will cut down 50% of them and will only make essential features which users keep asking for.

Our motto is that whatever we do, we can not avoid uncertainty in life so just do what we love.

Tell us more about your experience with IndieHacker ?

Many of our traffic comes from IndieHacker, people IndieHacker gave us their honest feedback, which hurt but yes are very valuable too. 

For example, we named our product Nomad Wallet and nomads were our target users, the conversations on IndieHacker soon showed us that our target was wrong because nomads are very budget travellers, and in the ocean of free expense apps it was very hard to persuade them to pay, the people there recommended us to target travellers instead of only nomads because they were using our NomadWallet app but they were not nomads. Unluckily, the name of the app could not be changed but we retargeted users to travellers, sales increases.

Are you guys nomads?

We are not fully nomadic but part-time nomads, we set up our home base in Saigon, Vietnam while continuing to travel periodically.

How are you finding money for your nomading life?

The money sources we get from

  • products at the catlab.dev : we are bootstrapping our own products (1) and get freelancing jobs (2), we are trying to increase the income from the (1) source, and decrease the (2).
  • investments

Why one should use nomadwalletapp ?

We live in a global economy where traveling is pretty much part of the job, for most people, and the real problem for travellers is keeping track of these expenses.

NomadWallet is an app designed for travellers by travellers that gives you a way to quickly and easily record and track your expenses on the road.

We focus on making the app that is simple but functional & beautiful with these key features:

Quick & easy to use 🌏

— A simple easy-to-use interface that will get you started in no time 

Multiple currencies support 💵

— Automatically show local currency of your current trip – very useful for around-the-world travellers.

— Multi trips support with multi currencies in the trip and all converted into your home currency

No worry about exchange rates 🙅‍♀️

— The exchange rate for each entry will be fixed at the time of adding expense and will be not changed in the future in the history

— The exchange rate was calculated on the fly when you add an expense entry, good for people traveling abroad.

Spread-Over monthly expense 💫

— Spread expenses over multiple days (ex: hotel/ bike rental cost)

— No need to use an excel anymore to split your chunk of expense to days (ex. $500 / 10 days).

Visualize your spending 📊

— See spending histories of all trip/monthly/daily with one click

— Interactive pie charts for a visual view

Backups & Export data ⏫

— exporting data to CSV is easy.

— Daily automatic Dropbox backup of all of your data (manual backup is available).

Private is everything 🤫

— We respect your privacy, data are stored in your local phone

And a lot more 🎒

— Customize categories of the trip by your taste.

— Visualize your spending by calendar view, pie chart and all 

— Snap your receipt photo & add the expense, no more receipts or bills in your pockets.

— Sort your expense by cash/credit card/debit card payment type.

— Add real photos of your travel to Trips.

— Share your summarized expense of trip on Twitter with fellow travellers.



What’s your favorite country you stayed at?

We both agree that we love Taiwan the most, especially Taichung, easy to find the coffeeshop to work, food is amazing, we spent every night to listen to busking in the parks and playing with dogs!

What’s your advice to people who would like to become nomad?

Make sure to have the finance sources before starting nomading, or it will hurt really bad and you can not fully enjoy your nomad life.

What’s the first thing you expect in a country you are nomading?

The available of work-friendly coffee shops or coworking spaces

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the digital nomad / expat lifestyle?

Benefits:

  • Every day is a fresh and fun day
  • Want or not you will be some level of minimal living style. I used to travel with more than 15-kg-backpack and come back home after 6 months with 6-kg-backpack.
  • Have a more focused life: being a nomad means you have no or very limited attachments, that really helps us the better-focused life by decluttering our stuffs as well as our mind.
  • Gain knowledge from the real world, different cultures. You will have more times saying: omg that really happened in life.
  • Test your business ideas with real customers in real life.
  • Spend money wisely: when you are on the road, you love to see things but you don't buy them because you don't want to carry on your backpack. You will spend money on experiences, food, activities... rather than things
  • Develop your networks, have more friends, meet people who, in the future can be your important ones.

Drawbacks: (oh I don’t see many drawbacks of being a nomad)

  • It is hard to have long-term relationships with people and to create social circles on the move.
  • can not own a pet ( the biggest drawback for us :D), and because we have cats we decided to be part-time nomads :D

How are you guys taking feedback from the users? From App Stores reviews or talking with them Using any tool or something else? 

We got feedback from:

  • Ask travellers we met on the road
  • our feedback/ feature-request page on the app
  • reviews on App /Play Stores
  • we build things in public so we got many feedback from communities such as Twitter, IndieHacker, Facebook groups, Telegram groups...

Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?

Jason Fried the founder of BaseCamp

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

Books written by Jason Fried: Getting Real, Rework. Listening to IndieHacker podcasts.

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

Get the idea of a product you want to build and build in public. Let your target users show you what you need to do, you will quit early if the market doesn't show any interest then move on new ideas, or you will go faster and more accurate with people 's help.

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