So what to do?

Posted by Tom Philip 8 Comments

You’ve released a minimal Read it Later client for Android and within a week, the official feature rich Read it Later app for Android is released. It’s a real sucker punch. I thought their would be some pivots but not one so soon. Something that is already been publicised in the press, has intimate knowledge of their own api and publicised as the Android app for their service, is always going to very difficult to compete. There are options:

  • The obvious one is to quit now, at least I’ve failed fast. Take what I’ve learnt (more about the Android environment, more about lean startups) and not waste my time and energy on something that can’t compete. Thankfully it was a MVP of sorts, so not a great amount of time wasted.
  • Pivot. I envisioned Laters being more than just Read it Later, so I could test whether there’s demand for the video side of watching stuff later.
  • Compete on price. Maybe Laters wont have all the features the official one can but then maybe it could be a budget version or Ad supported.

I’m not sure yet about the future of Laters. I’m going to monitor the stats over the next 2 weeks and see how things pan out. Then I’ll report back. I’ll fix and bugs and perhaps any really quick win features but major features I will hold off until I decide what to do next. In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the extra time I now have with my new daughter.

Anybody who’s using Laters, I’d be interested in your thoughts.


Categories: Roadmap

8 Responses so far.

  1. Andrew says:

    What about Pivoting but including other ‘read it later’ providers, e.g. instapaper? Not sure how many people use more than one of these providers but perhaps your app could help in migrating between the services, etc.

    • Tom Philip says:

      It’s one to consider. I might experiment with to see if there’s demand. There’s already some instaper clients in the Market but it depends how good they are.

  2. e-t172 says:

    Well, as long as Laters stays free and the official app non-free that’s probably not going to be a problem. If you want to make Laters a paid app however, that’s another story‚Ķ

    • Tom Philip says:

      I think an income of some sort has to come from Laters. Whether that be ad supported and optionally combined with a a paid for pro version. Without any income there’s no way to pay for further development.

  3. Nate says:

    Hey Tom,

    This is Nate (the developer of Read It Later).

    I just found your post and wanted to say I’m sorry about this.

    I actually saw your app go live the same day we went to beta testers and it killed me because I knew exactly how it was going to feel.

    Before going full-time on RIL I had spent 3 months working 24/7 on a project built on top of Twitter. Two days after the launch Twitter decided to remove an API that the app was entirely based on. I felt like I had the rug pulled from under me and all the hard work was going to waste. But in the end, it wasn’t a waste. I learned an enormous amount from the experience and it ended up using a lot of the tech/knowledge I built from the app when I needed to scale RIL. Luckily it worked out.

    You built a clean, great looking experience in a simple app. After poking around on this site, it seems like you’ve got a great head for product and vision. I’m confident you’ll continue to make great things.

    Again, I’m sorry to have been the one with the hand on the rug this time.



    • Tom Philip says:

      Hi Nate,
      Much appreciate you dropping by and sharing your experience. Makes me feel not so bad :) No apology required though, it’s just one of those bad timings. It’s certainly been a learning experience, so plenty to take away.

  4. Tim says:

    Hey Tom, I totally agree with Nate’s comment. When one door closes, another opens. You would have never learned the things you have if you’d never started the app. Like you say, you might find a unique angle that you can take with Laters. Or, apply what you’ve learned to your next project. Just don’t give up!

    • Tom Philip says:

      Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your support. It was certainly a learning experience and a lot I think I will use again. With the likes of accounts, lists and syncing, in the ‘packing’ idea that is still on the back burner. The tricky decision I think is to come, with deciding to focus elsewehere or to continue. There’s some further metrics which I think will help with that decision and perhaps some more of those ‘Not Yet Made’ features could help with finding a different angle.

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