Hello All – This is Scott (Bea’s husband) again. The last time you heard from me is when we originally launched the Bulk app. As Bea mentioned in her previous post, the app has been a success in collecting package-free locations worldwide – and in bonding the zero waste community together.
But we have had our share of challenges as well:
- Ongoing App Maintenance is an annual activity: We originally believed that once we went live with the app, that we’d be all set. Wrong! It turns out that Apple and Android are constantly updating their platforms, and that some of those updates actually break the apps that were developed on a previous version. Some of these updates require simple testing and fixes, but others are much more involved (e.g., new design guidelines and standards, new platform sizes, i.e., iPhone 6 / 6+) and require a more fundamental rewrite.
- App Development requires specialized skills: These platforms need to be maintained by people with a special set of skills – maybe even several people – who are knowledgeable about iPhone development, Android Development, database development & support (to store all of the locations, reviews, ratings, etc.) And – these people cost real money. We believe in paying a living wage to the people that are helping out with this effort – so we are paying our US based developers between $90-120 hour – and our intern $15 per hour.
- We lack the funds to make many great improvements: We’ve received countless user suggestions – but we’ve not been able to add all the features that we would like: French language support, automated address filling via Google integration, ability to add more pictures, comments, more categories, etc. and the creation of a website to be able to access these locations online.
Bottomline: App Development is expensive! Despite these challenges, we have been able to do the development to-date on a shoe-string budget, spending a total of around $30,000 over the past four years. Not bad when we compare this to the average cost to develop an app of $270,000. But sadly, the shoestring approach is NOT working – the Android app is broken (I recommend NOT downloading it until we fix it) – and the Apple app is in danger of breaking as well.
- Aren’t you making money with this app? Developing an app to make money was never our goal, and that is still true today. And, given the challenges noted above, it is really impossible to make money on this app – to keep it going, and to enhance its functionality, requires considerable expense. So all money raised in the crowd funding campaign will be spent on saving and hopefully enhancing the app.
- Why don’t you get sponsors or advertisers to pay for the app?Sponsorship options are limited due to the international nature of the app. And, we do not want to open up the app to the clutter of advertisers – nor do we want to support products that do not fully represent the zero waste lifestyle.
- Why don’t you charge for the app? We did consider this – but, it’s not a financially viable option since we would need to pay the entire development fees upfront and then we’d have to wait for the money from app sales to pay ourselves back – without any guarantee that we’d ever recover the amount! If you’re like Bea, you’ve probably never spent a dime on your smartphone apps 😉 So it is risk we cannot take. Furthermore, we believe that paying to get the app doesn’t suit the zero waste community.We strongly believe in the sharing economy, and want to make this tool as accessible as possible. After all, the app’s success (i.e., sharing bulk locations worldwide) depends on maximizing the amount of people who can share their locations.
The reason we have invested money and incredible amounts of time on it, is because we love this app. We love the fact that we can search for locations when we are on the road. We love that it unites the community globally – and we want to ensure that it remains an ongoing resource for the zero waste community!