AppForce1: news and info for iOS app developers

David Barnhard, co-host of SubClub by RevenueCat

August 24, 2022 Jeroen Leenarts
David Barnhard, co-host of SubClub by RevenueCat
AppForce1: news and info for iOS app developers
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AppForce1: news and info for iOS app developers
David Barnhard, co-host of SubClub by RevenueCat
Aug 24, 2022
Jeroen Leenarts

Send us a Text Message.

This episode I am talking to David Barnhard from the SubClub podcast.

Interviewing a fellow podcaster is always a blast. Not much audio cleanup todo once done.

David runs the SubClub podcast for RevenueCat. I reached out to David months ago and only just now did we get to a recording session. So this was set in motion long before the sponsorship a few weeks ago became a thing.

Make sure to check David's app business called Contrast as well.




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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

This episode I am talking to David Barnhard from the SubClub podcast.

Interviewing a fellow podcaster is always a blast. Not much audio cleanup todo once done.

David runs the SubClub podcast for RevenueCat. I reached out to David months ago and only just now did we get to a recording session. So this was set in motion long before the sponsorship a few weeks ago became a thing.

Make sure to check David's app business called Contrast as well.




Runway
Put your mobile releases on autopilot and keep the whole team in sync throughout. More info on runway.team

Lead Software Developer 
Learn best practices for being a great lead software developer.

Support the Show.

Rate me on Apple Podcasts.

Send feedback on SpeakPipe
Or contact me on Mastodon: https://hachyderm.io/@appforce1

Support my podcast with a monthly subscription, it really helps.

My book: Being a Lead Software Developer

Jeroen Leenarts:

Hi, and welcome to another special edition of my podcast. I'm sitting here with David Barnard, you might know him from another podcast you might be listening to. And that's the sub club podcast by revenue cat. And I asked him to be a guest on my podcast because I was interested in his journey as a person, but also why he started the podcast with a colleague within revenue cat, because it's a company podcast, but also more of the business aspects of running an app and in app purchases, and subscriptions and all those kinds of things. So David, welcome to my podcast. Look forward to talking to you. Can you tell a little bit about your background and how you got started in tech?

David Barnard:

Sure. This point, this goes way back. I was a, I was a recording engineer. And that actually got me into being an apple nerd. So I was using a power book 17 inch PowerBook in the recording studio, and started reading MacRumors, and really got into the whole kind of Mac nerd scene, way back in early 2000. So like 2002, three. So when I, when I first started, when I first got my Apple Computer and started becoming an apple nerd, I used them in college and stuff in the 90s, but never owned one myself until then, anyways, and then that led me to all the rumors about the iPhone coming out. And I waited in line and was one of the first people in San Antonio to get an iPhone, San Antonio is a few miles away from where I live now. And I was really blown away by by the ease of use, and it just felt like this. You know, I mean, hindsight is 2020. But genuinely holding that thing in my hand watching my, you know, 50 something at the time, your old dad, and how fluidly he got it compared to he just had always struggled with computers. And it really just felt like this is a big deal. And so a few months after the initial release, in 2007, rumors of the iPhone SDK started happening. And the jailbreak scene started where people were actually building apps even though there wasn't an official SDK. And so I started tinkering with ideas. And amusingly I was listening to a ton of podcasts at the time as well and shout out to Leo Laporte. He was talking to Amber McArthur on one of their shows back in fall of 2007. And they were talking about the Facebook platform and how a lot of early games just kind of rode the wave of this new platform that Facebook had created. And so when the rumors of the iPhone SDK started circulating, and then Steve Jobs eventually confirmed those rumors, I thought this is going to be an incredible wave. And so at that time, I was working, you know, 2pm to 2am, in the recording studio, and my wife was working nine to five. And I was just thinking, I gotta, I gotta find a way if I'm going to, you know, raise a family and, and ever see my wife again, I, I got to figure something different out. And then you know, all the rumors and the business opportunities seem to be there. So I actually founded an app company a few days after the official SDK was announced in March of 2008. And had an app on the App Store in August of 2008. So this is this, just like last week was my 14 year 14 year anniversary of having an app on the App Store. And every month since September 2008. I have gotten a direct deposit from Apple. So 14 years running, I don't know how many months that is. Every month I've gotten a payment from from Apple. So yeah, so I operated my company, as an indie developer, actually don't code, worked with contractors and then eventually started forming partnerships on the code side of things. So I focused on product, business marketing, kind of everything except code and design. And I would hire out some of the design I'm kind of a conflict my way through being an App Designer sometimes. And so yeah, I operated my company for and it's still operated on the side. Now that I've joined revenue cat.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So So that's 164 months of checks received from from Apple. That's really cool. So and you mentioned that you you your background in tech is actually audio engineering, because you were like a night owl because of your job. Run the run your night shifts, probably at a radio station, I can imagine.

David Barnard:

No, no, I was actually a recording In the year like so I was making albums. And that was just the that was the musician. schedule of when they want to record, you know that so many musicians are used to the night owl performance schedule. And wow, so that was just kind of the preferred schedule for a lot of musicians. I mean, I'm exaggerating a little, I mean, there were, there were plenty of days where we'd go in at 10am and leave at 10pm, or, but it was it was rarely shorter than a 10 to 12 hour day. And I don't remember ever starting a recording session before.

Jeroen Leenarts:

But I can imagine that with creative people, then once they get their creative juices flowing, they don't want to stop. And that's also probably why they pay you as an audio engineer to just keep going. Yeah, but that's not very compatible with an intended family life at that point. So I can imagine that you started looking for other opportunities. And then basically being there at the Gold Rush of the of the iOS operating system, back then it was iPhone OS, there must have been like, well, a perfect storm, really of opportunity to just be there at that point in time to actually have to click in your mind that it is a good idea to start doing something with this thing called apps. And then I'll basically be able to ride that wave, at least for a couple of years, very decently. And I'm still getting checks to this day by that venture. So what was your What was your wife's response? When you actually said, Okay, I'm gonna quit the audio engineering, and I'm going to get into this thing called apps. And it's like these little icons on this flashy new screen by Apple.

David Barnard:

She was super supportive. You know, she was she was working at the time, full time. And she was in social services. So not not making much money, but it was just the two of us. And we had a very inexpensive little two bedroom condo that we owned. So our overhead was super low. And you know, the risk was pretty low. And I actually borrowed money from family to kind of get that the first to get it launched and start getting income. And so she was she was very supportive. And then we actually got pregnant. I think two months after I started the company, so May of 2008, we found out she was pregnant. And that changed a lot. I mean, you know, she was continuing to be very supportive, but it was kind of, for me, incredibly high pressure, like I got to make this work or find another job, ASAP.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, it's just, it's not just next month's rent that you're facing, but also college education, like 1020 years down the line. That's also all of a sudden, in the back of your mind, when you're making financial decisions.

David Barnard:

Yeah, and her not being able to work to mean, I don't think her I don't think she even got a maternity leave from the job. She was working at the time, you know, that, you know, we're very fortunate these days, and especially in tech to have very generous maternal and paternal leave policies. You know, we were pretty much planning on, you know, her not having an income for at least a little while, and thankfully, things didn't take off enough to where she she actually has hasn't really worked since then. She She finished her master's degree and got licensed as a professional counselor. And actually, just next month, we'll start her private practice. Our youngest is now four years old. And so through this whole adventure, she's been, you know, supporting me and wrangling the kids. And like I said, finishing her master's degree and getting licensed as a as a counselor. So it's been it's been a wild ride.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, I can imagine because a four years old, that's also the age when you have a kid that is able to play for a little bit of an extended period without your interference. And it's, it is a game changer when these kids start playing on their own, because my youngest is also four years old. And it makes a huge difference having like, something in diapers or something that's running around and able to entertain itself. So family life, put a lot of pressure on you, or at least the intention of half of creating a family, which wife

David Barnard:

if you're going to release a video of this, but if you see all this gray hair that was having four kids and running a small business for 14 years.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Yeah, but that's also interesting, because you run you run a small business for 14 years, but what was the first product that you released with this business?

David Barnard:

So the very first app I released was trip copy, and it was too early on, you know, when I started thinking about business opportunity, you know, one of the key things I honed in on was, and maybe regrettably because there were tons of other apps that made a ton of money, but I really tried to focus on useful kind of money making and money saving tools. So the first app I released was called trip Cubby. And it was to track mileage for reimbursement. My wife in her social services role, at the time was doing a lot of driving and was not tracking her mileage. And I kept telling her, you know, if you track your mileage, you'll you'll you get reimbursed from your company from the from the place she was working at. And she wasn't even getting those reimbursements regularly. And then then, of course, if you you know, for me, once I started my small business, I knew I could write it off on my taxes. And so it was just something I knew people needed and that the iPhone could make better. So that was the first one. And then pretty soon after that, I launched gas Cubby. And so the company name was app, Cubby. And the idea was, there were going to be a bunch of cubbies for your data. So gas kabhi was the second one. And it was tracking fuel economy and maintenance. So to remind you to change your oil, you would enter your mileage and your phillips and it would calculate your MPG and kind of help you know how you're doing on fuel economy. And then the next one I released was health Cubby, which was like a health tracker. It was so early, you know, I don't even know if I lose it lose it. It's one of the oldest kind of health apps, it's still going these days. And I think it may have even been before lose it launched. So they were there was a ton of opportunities. And looking at hindsight, you know, I definitely took a very kind of indie developer approach. And, and a lot of huge companies have been built around some of the early things that I was exploring. You know, MileIQ is a great example where, you know, they built an incredible business got acquired by Microsoft, you know, while I was just kind of tinkering around treating it as a side project kind of mentality and a very indie app developer kind of mentality. And then same with, you know, these health apps where they were lose it, and my fitness pal and a whole bunch of other, you know, massive apps were built. And my health cubby app kind of flopped, really.

Jeroen Leenarts:

But that's the advantage of having a number of products that you're working on, or that you have launched at some point. But what's interesting with the apps that you created, and 14 years of track records with creating a product on the iOS App Store and running it there is that you've also been through all the transitions of monetization opportunities that Apple has provided, because initially, it was just pay once and be done with it. And then yeah, that was you could only have like a successful app, if you kept getting more customers, it seems. And then, at some point, subscriptions, or in app purchases, it was actually in a purchase was the first thing that they released. So then you had consumables, and that was a big change. And then at some point, subscriptions, but what does that mean for you, as a business owner of 14 years running an app company?

David Barnard:

Yeah, I mean, I could I could talk about that for the whole hour, I actually did a did a podcast, I guess we can, I can find it later and link it in the show notes or something. But I spent the better part of an hour talking about the history of monetization on iOS. Because it really, you know, if you go deep and think about the different phases, you know, when the app store was paid up front that incentivizes a certain type of app, including all sorts of things like it incentivize the kind of race to the bottom, as a lot of people have called it where you could get attention by cutting the price of the app. So you take it from, and there were a whole sites dedicated to these kind of price cuts. And so there was incentive to drop your price to get attention in these price cut websites and apps. And then once you did cut the price, more people would download it in the top charts are based completely on volume. So the number of downloads, not the amount of revenue. And so if you drop your price in 99 cents, you get more downloads, and that shoots you up to charts. And then when you're in high on the charts, you get more exposure from people looking at the top of the charts. And so, you know, being paid up front and then even so many aspects of wave the way the App Store itself was assigned incentivize certain actions in certain incentivize certain kinds of apps. It incentivized certain kinds of business models like if you could be the IB rap, and just charge 99 cents for a gimmick. You know, there was so many stories of of making hundreds of 1000s of dollars on these gimmicks. And it was very different where you didn't have to prove any kind of value over time. It was just kind of not a pump and dump but it was you know, you could build up a bunch of marketing around something and have this big successful launch and make a bunch of money all up front and in the app didn't necessarily have to deliver on that. And then within App Purchase was kind of like the next phase where you could then launch a free app, and have this kind of freemium model where you really did have to, you know, deliver some amount of value, to convince people to go ahead and pay the in app purchase to unlock features. So I experimented with this in my timer app in my mirror app, like I launched a bunch of apps 30 total over the 14 years. So I've experimented with all these different monetization models over the years in the same app, releasing new versions, but then also in brand new apps. And then in 2016, when Apple opened up subscriptions to all apps, that really was kind of the most fundamental changes that, you know, if you built something that does deliver value over time, a subscription model makes sense as a way to charge for that. So, you know, if somebody's using, you know, my weather app, you know, it cost me on an ongoing basis to provide that service. So I actually had a paid up front weather app. And the way I made that work was actually to sign a deal with a weather provider where they just took a percentage of revenue. So I didn't have to worry that if I dropped the price to 99 cents, it might actually cost me $5 in weather data over the lifetime of an app user. But now that I'm able to do subscriptions in my weather app, I feel like it really is much more aligned with my customers in that I need to provide that value over time, they need to feel like they're getting that value. And then it's worth subscribing to otherwise, you know, they're just gonna leave, go download a free weather app, you know, switch to another subscription weather app. And so from those early days of, you know, if you got enough kind of marketing, if people were curious, you know, you could you could make a little money have this pay day, to now with a freemium subscription app, like you really have to, you know, demonstrate value, and then you have to provide that value over time to build a good business on top of it. So, so yeah, the the monetization opportunities of the Appstore has very much shaped the opportunities that I've pursued the way I've run my business, the experiments I've done. And, you know, I mean, I'm a little biased working for revenue cat these days. But I do feel like the, the subscription model is a great way to align incentives and to kind of force app developers to just build better apps. Because if you build a bad app, that's not very retentive, you're gonna struggle as a business. And so it's really aligned with providing that value to the users. Now, I will say, I don't think subscriptions are for everyone. You know, there's a lot of apps that do provide a more kind of limited time value that or don't provide that value of your time. And so I don't think that works for everyone. I still wish Apple had allowed a paid update model. In some ways, you know, I do think that that's maybe a relic of the past. And maybe maybe subscriptions really are just the better way to do it. But app developers never had the opportunity to explore the paid update model, and what that could mean for their business. And so, you know, again, I mean, I'm pretty bullish on subscriptions generally. But I still personally wish we had other options. Because the more monetization options you have, as a developer, the more you can do what's right for your business and align things. So as I was saying, just a second ago, I don't think subscriptions are right for every app, if it's a more of a one time use or more of a, you know, just you don't deliver the value over time, then charging five bucks up front, and then having a $5 upgrade two years from now might be a great way to run your business. But that's just not even an option. And so, to build those kinds of models, now you have to launch a freemium app and use an in app purchase. And then you pay gate the new features with a new in app purchase. And it's really less user friendly and kind of more customer hostile than I think it could have been if Apple had ever supported, paid updates on on the App Store natively.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay. And you've been doing your own app business for 14 years. You're still doing that right now. Because you mentioned earlier that you're still getting these monthly checks by Apple. But when did revenue cat became a part of your day to day life?

David Barnard:

So in 2017, I started working on a whole new version of my weather app that I had launched in 2011. Ivan as perfect weather. And by 2017, it was pretty clear, especially for an app like a weather app where you have ongoing costs over time that subscriptions were the way to go. And so I launched weather Atlas in the action was right around this time in 2017, so about five years ago, and we launched it with a subscription model. And it was a struggle. So a lot of the time that we should have spent working on differentiating product features, we were building out subscription receipt validation, and, you know, how do you renew the monthly subscription and keeps status updates and everything. In the app, we actually did it all client side, which is a huge nono. But a ton of apps were doing it at the time. And it just created so many bugs. And you know, we never, we didn't track the amount of time we put into it. But I would bet something like a fifth to a quarter of the development time that we spent on the app over the next two years. And even building up to that launch in 2017 was building out the subscription payments, and then also maintaining it, because we just had so many bugs. And so by early 2019, I was just I was fed up, I was like, you know, I would be pushing like, hey, let's let's get this new feature out, let's fix this. And the developer was troubleshooting monthly subscriptions. And then then I was like, You know what, just remove the monthly, if we're having trouble with monthly subscriptions, just remove it, because what was happening as people would subscribe, and at the end of the month, it would cut off their access as if they had unsubscribed. But they still had an active subscription. And so we had some flawed logic and how we were updating the receipt client side, which again, it's not a good thing to do. So So I think it was like maybe fall of 2018. I was like just removed it to hang monthly subscription. But we're still having the same bugs with the annual subscription, but at least it was occurring less frequently. And so we got less support about it. And so I was just I was just fed up. And I think the first my first introduction to revenue cat was Jacob the revenue cat CEO, when they were just like four people in 2019. DM to me or cold email me or something is like, hey, you know, I saw on Twitter, you're you're having trouble with your subscriptions, you know, check out this project, I'm working on revenue cat. And so So I took a look. And I was super impressed had a bunch of kind of nerdy questions for Jacob on on like privacy and what, and then I was really leery of startups, I had been burned by the parse acquisition, we had built a bunch of infrastructure on this company called parse. And I believe Facebook acquired them and then rent it for a little while, and then shut it down. And we were kind of left to scramble to, like, rip out that infrastructure. And thankfully, we didn't actually have to replace it, because a feature we were using for just didn't really take off. So we just kind of end the life, the features, but it was still like this huge issue to have to rip out all this stuff. And so I was really leery of, you know, installing a third party SDK to manage payments. And you know, what happens if if problems happen? You know, what about user privacy? What about the company shutting down? You know, are your SDK is reliable? Are they open source? You know, I had all these questions. And I mean, every single answer was what I would have hoped for, you know, it was the SDKs were open source. So if there was a and still are to this day, you know, so if there's a crashing bug, we could, we had the power to go fix it ourselves. We knew what was going on, we knew what data was collected, we knew. And so I started the process of getting revenue cat installed in my apps. And then revenue cat had hired a kind of marketing ish person. And that didn't work out and and I forget exactly if I asked Jacob or Jacob asked me, but we ended up chatting about me working in some kind of role at revenue cat. And my apps had not been performing well, that kind of couple of years leading up to it. And I was kind of getting tired of, you know, the end life and not having a paycheck. And, you know, a lot of apps the way my app business would would run as I'd, I'd have a big launch and make a lot of money and then I'd spend down that money and then I'd make some money, and then I'd spend down that money. And so it's very kind of inconsistent revenue, of course, because I was just then kind of starting to make the transition to subscriptions. And so made a lot of sense. So I actually joined revenue cat, part two I'm in 2019. And it's been really fun, you know, coming to revenue cat as a customer, and then seeing how well it solved my problems gives me a really unique perspective for, you know, to work with my colleagues inside revenue cat, and then to also kind of be a very public person representing revenue cat to the developer community more broadly.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So a lot of things to unpack there. So, app business of 14 years, and then three years ago, so when you were 11 years in, you started getting involved with draft new cat. And it seemed to solve a lot of your most pressing issues. So it basically took a lot of headache away, it seems. And, but but is there a common thread that you and your colleagues at revenue cat, that they all have their own experiences with, basically, an app store business, and then they come across revenue, cat, start using it, and then I don't know, at some point, you cross the thresholds, and you're hired.

David Barnard:

You know, it feels like early on that was maybe a little bit more the case, we actually have this kind of club inside revenue cat in the app, kind of club where we meet and chat about apps, I've actually been a little while, but my colleagues have kept the flame going. So it's probably probably only, you know, six out of now we're closing on 60 employees who have active apps in the App Store. And now, you know, with back end engineers, and, you know, security engineers and data engineers and data scientists, and, you know, the just the breadth of folks that we're hiring and product marketing and content, marketing and sales people and, you know, we're a pretty big company now closing in on 60 employees. And so that's just much less the case these days. Although for a lot of our I would say, you know, more key hires, like a couple of our head of product was was not an indie developer, but worked at an app company. And that experience just translate. So directly, he worked at a subscription fitness app. So he really did understand our customer, he essentially could have been our customer, and was working on all the same problems. Another one of our product managers came from IAC, where, you know, again, he wasn't an indie developer, but he was VP of product for one of IAC subsidiaries called taltech. So yeah, it's kind of kind of a mix, I'd say maybe six employees who kind of actively still have apps in the App Store and or kind of came to revenue cap from the indie scene. And then probably another six or eight employees who worked at other app companies. And I mean, you know, our co founders, Jacob and Miguel, they were actually doing subscription app infrastructure at elevate the brain training app. And that's what kind of inspired building revenue cat because they were kind of, again, facing all the same problems I faced of, of what a hassle it was to build and maintain this subscription infrastructure. And at the time, I believe elevate was like 1020 30 employees. So it wasn't like they were a tiny indie company, it's just really hard to do. And even these days was shortcut to making it somewhat easier. You know, if you operate across multiple platforms, if you're doing Android and iOS and collecting web payments on on stripe, you know, yes, circa two makes it it easier if you want to just do it yourself. But once you start, oh, now I want to get the data from my AP into amplitude. So I can get better product analytical. Now you have to, you know, have the server server side back end, you need to start adjusting the server, the server notifications, you need to build a tool to get those events forwarded to amplitude that oh, now I want to do like wind back campaign. So I need to to put together a CRM. So now you're now you're kind of rebuilding your internal data stack, because there's things you didn't realize you needed that now you need. And you have to build a tool to get that data into braze or iterable, or some of these other CRM platforms. And so So yeah, so we we handled kind of the base level, kind of in the complexity of like, I just want to get my app working. But now, you know, we solve that in a way that works for the biggest apps in the App Store. I mean, we're working with notion and visco and like a bunch of huge apps, that you know, have the teams that that they could build it themselves. But you know, we we build it in a scalable way. We've worked John Smith is another customer hit number one in the app store. And, you know, we can handle that kind of scale. You know, we talked on the podcast with David Smith about how, you know, if he'd have been trying to run his own subscription infrastructure, it probably would have fallen him over and cost him hundreds of 1000s of dollars, because the scale of him hitting number one in the App Store was just insane. So yeah, it's it's super fun to kind of have come at this from that indie mindset and have a lot of employees who come from, you know, their smaller app companies or, you know, somewhat larger teams, but then realize we're scaling and building this for the biggest apps in the App Store.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Indeed, and, of course, the case that you mentioned there with, with Richard Smith, that was like, over the past few years, one of the really big runaway successes that we've seen in the app store, I think. And of course, if you have a big enterprise, that that's doing in app subscriptions and stuff, that's a different skill altogether. But yeah, just seeing what a social media success can do to to a product of an indie developer. I can't imagine that, that David had like his his moments when this all was happening, Will everything Stay? Stay up? Will everything keep on working? And what was revenue cat at that time? Like operating? Like, yeah, we're fine. It's like, or wasn't really like, okay, something's happening here. And now we need to make sure that we, that we batten down the hatches and try and weather the storm that we're in right now a good one to have, but still,

David Barnard:

yeah, no, I mean, I'll be honest, it was a it was a firestorm inside revenue cat for about a week, there were a lot of late nights, you know, I'm not on those teams. So you know, it didn't impact my life. But our, you know, everybody from Jacob and Miguel, the CEO and CTO to our infrastructure, folks. Thankfully, we are fully distributed. And so there was a little bit of being able to, like one of our lead back end engineers in Taiwan. And so there was some kind of being able to pass the torch and not stay up all night. But, you know, it taught us a lot about the kind of areas that we needed to work on. And it was incredible growing experience for us. And it really, it was one of the things that was kind of the I mean, looking back, I don't know that Jacob and Miguel say this. But to me, it felt like perfect timing, because it helped us to get all of those things nailed down and understand where kind of the bottlenecks were in preparation for over the next year, we started landing bigger and bigger and bigger apps that were bigger and bigger scale. And then since then, I think we've had three or four other apps hit number one in the App Store, three or four other customers hit number one in the app store. And so So yeah, that that week of firefighting, and then the months of kind of fixing things on the back end and stuff was was pivotal to us, you know, being prepared to grow like we have the couple of years since that happened. So we didn't go down, you know, there was no, you know, data loss, no, you know, we just Smith customers were able to purchase and subscribe and all that kind of stuff. And so while there was you know, firefighting and it was tough keeping things up, we we managed and didn't have any downtime during that, that crazy, we quit, it was just going insanely viral.

Jeroen Leenarts:

It's a pressure cooker, then you quickly discover where the where the problems are in your infrastructure and where you need to, like beef up some things to make sure that you can hang on and maybe even optimize some code here and there. Yep. You also mentioned that you're kind of a public person, and especially in your role with revenue cats, that's clearly the case because you run a lot of their public facing marketing, at least that's the impression that I have, but have you always been like, the outgoing type the public face of a company or brand of something? Or is it something that you grew into over those 14 years of being an app business owner?

David Barnard:

Yeah, you know, I never thought about it quite that way. You know, with a recording studio it was a very kind of interpersonal you know, getting to know the musician over many long hours in the studio and kind of politely working through the challenges and you know, the you know, when singers performing and they're off pitch and having to say, hey, let's, let's try that one again. And let's work on that pitch and so you know how to had a little bit of that kind of experience and the the job as a recording engineer, if you have a music producer, are with you, the music producer kind of acts as a sort of product manager of the album, where they kind of manage budgets and time and kind of keep things moving forward. But, you know, a lot of the, I was just working in a small recording studio. So we just had all sorts of bands who didn't have the money for a producer. They weren't, you know, signed with a record label or anything. And so I ended up kind of being the the kind of, you know, producer and kind of product manager for that for the album. So got a lot of experience there kind of that led to the kind of translated somewhat into being app developer of kind of managing the the apps I built. But then transitioning into the app development, it was really more about, about what I could do to learn and get attention from my apps and early on. And still to this day, I probably over rely on getting press and attention for my apps. And so back in 2008, pretty soon after the launch of actually before trip hub even launched I mean, I was emailing the unofficial Apple weblog, and Macworld and like all the Mac rumors and all the big sites back then and saying, hey, you know, talk to me about this app. And then that actually, then I started blogging, and John Gruber, linked to my blog, various blogs that I wrote about the experiences as an app developer. And then that led to getting quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, I did an on air interview with CNBC. And so it just kind of snowballed not necessarily, intentionally, and I never, you know, never took a kind of PR class or, you know, learn anything about public speaking. But I started getting invited on podcasts. And so I would, you know, do interviews, you know, Rene Richie, interviewed me for the no fish shop, what was he at TTIP. I always forget what it stands for, but, and then eventually, forget all the names of the IMO is what it transitioned into. And so yeah, it just somewhat happened by accident that, as I, you know, immersed myself and wrote more and more and was on Twitter and in the community that I just kind of got asked and thrown into that kind of public spotlight more and more, and just got really used to, you know, talking to people in the press and talking to people throughout the industry.

Jeroen Leenarts:

And the recording stuff that you did before the app work that you got involved with, how long have you been a recording engineer before you got into the whole app ecosystem.

David Barnard:

So I I started tinkering with recording music in the early 90s. When I was like 12, I played the piano and then ended up playing in bands and stuff like that. And so I knew since I was like, 12, or 13, that I wanted to be a music producer. So so when I went to school actually studied sound recording technology at university, I spent a couple of years bouncing around. Before I actually landed the it was kind of a contract gig with a friend's recording studio, where I was kind of a contract engineer where we would just split the money 5050 For whatever, you know, we could book and that back to your earlier comment about you know, working 1012 hours in the studio wasn't just kind of not wanting to interrupt the flow. It was a we charged by the day, not by the house. I didn't do a very good job of saying hey, it's it's a 10 hour day you're paying for it not a 14 hour day. And so they would, you know, if we especially if we were in the flow is really hard for me to just cut things off. So I started that in like 2003 So I was a freelance recording engineer for four or five years professionally before I started the company.

Jeroen Leenarts:

So are you seven nice kid or an 80s? Kid?

David Barnard:

Born in 79,

Jeroen Leenarts:

so that's a good that's a good that's good built here because that's also my built here. Nice. Yeah, I'm actually this week is my birthday. So Congrats. Thanks. Um, and so you got started as a recording engineer, then you got into app development then you came across revenue cat got employed by them because the the monthly payment of salary was very enticing. Must have been a good offer as well. But did you get started with with podcasting right away when you started drafting cat was that part of your goal when they hired you or what's the deal there because supply up as a podcast. To me it's been around for a while now. But

David Barnard:

yeah, so the podcast is Two years old this month actually, I had to be convinced. I was a recording engineer, you know, loved the, you know, audio and all that kind of stuff. But honestly, in 2009, I mean to 2019 It just felt like everyone was starting a podcast. And I was like, Do we really need another podcast? And so if, you know, funny enough, Jacob and our head of marketing, Corey, really had to convince me that it was something worth doing. I mean, I wish I could take credit, like, I pitch them on, on, on the idea of a podcast. And I think when I got hired, I did actually put in there as kind of one thing I could work on, potentially with a podcast. But by the time you know, they, it was time to actually start doing a podcast, it was, it just felt like there's so many podcasts who would actually listen to it. And, you know, they, they convinced me there would be value in it. And, you know, again, having been on a bunch of podcasts, having, you know, even been on camera with a big news organization, you know, had some level of personal skill. And and I will say that, I mean, I listened back to some of those early episodes and cringe. Hosting a podcast is a different skill set. Yeah. Knowing how to ask questions and try not to ramble on and I still have really bad verbal tics that I'd like to work on. That you notice just 100 times more when you're when you're hosting a party.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Oh, yeah, the worst thing that you can do is editing yourself, right? Yeah. Yeah, I have to do that every week. So but so basically, you got started at revenue cat, but and you did audio engineering, you had an app business? What did they hire you for them? Because it was not for a podcast straight up that that came later. Because that it sounded like they thought a we have we have David here, he knows something about audio, podcast audio, Hey, David.

David Barnard:

You know, it was it was a bit of a fluke. And looking back, it was probably just the right time to hire somebody like me, but also crazy to hire somebody. I think that thinking was more in my title, there is Developer Advocate. It's doesn't, I'm not a developer. So that's always been a little tricky. But the kind of idea that Jacob was kicking around and hiring me was that I would kind of be the voice of developers inside revenue cat, and then the voice of revenue cat, in the broader developer community. And so, you know, with my contacts, you know, having so many friends in the industry, having so many friends in the press, having so many friends at Apple and other big companies. And then just knowing the industry inside and out. I've just been able to do all sorts of stuff inside revenue cat. And so I don't have a super defined job role. I mean, I kind of do a lot of things that a typical developer advocate wouldn't do. You know, I mean, I was hosting webinars, but but not, you know, some of the webinars, we'll talk about our product. And then now we're doing webinars more just kind of broadly about, you know, learning the business fundamentals, you know, the podcast, I actually have a community called the sub club community. And it's a private community where we chat about all things subscription app related, and there's hundreds of folks in there, you can get to chat dots up club.com and sign up for a waitlist, if that sounds cool. So yeah, I've just done all sorts of stuff inside remedy can. And I think it does make sense in that, you know, really early in a company. You need people who can wear a lot of different hats. And as a longtime entrepreneur, myself, I was no stranger to wearing a lot of hats. And so, you know, early on, I was, you know, helping out with product and just helping with whatever folks needed and beta tests, helping the beta test features and writing content. You know, I had written a post on my personal blog years ago called The Ultimate Guide to subscription app testing. And then we we ended up migrating updating and migrating that blog post onto the revenue cat blog. And it's, it's been one of our best performing posts we've ever done from an organic stamp organic search standpoint. So yeah, I really kind of put my hat in a lot of rings and just pitched in in all different ways I could over these these last three years. So

Jeroen Leenarts:

you could you could condense it down to that revenue cat came up to the point they thought, Okay, we need something to be a liaison between our own developers and the broader develop community. And that's, that's a Developer Advocate now start waving hands in the air, Jacob, something in that regards. And then they, they came across you, an entrepreneur with apps in the App Store familiarity with the subject matter of the company being in app purchases and subscriptions, you had a track record of being able to show that you can do all kinds of different things so that you can do what needs to be done to get the work to the finish line. And there was a position open and you were willing, and that combined. And then at a later stage, the podcast became a thing. They pitched it to you. And it really sounds like it was like, Hey, we have an audio engineer, let's do a podcast Is that about right? Oh, what's it really,

David Barnard:

it really isn't, it was really more just a, you know, so one of the taking a step back. And this is actually something that attracted me to revenue cat as an employee written out again, I started contract actually didn't go full time until just the spring, or summer of 2021. So I've only been full time for a year as a as an actual employee versus kind of a contractor. But one of the things that attracted me to the company is that our revenue model is that we charge a percentage of our customers revenue. So we have different plans with different amounts, it's somewhere in the ballpark, depending on what plan you select. And then you might have breaks for enterprise customers get a lower rate. But it's in the ballpark of 1%. And so you know, we manage the transactions track the revenue, it's we have a figure called we call monthly tracked revenue. So however much revenue we tracked in our system, we bill you based on that, what that has done for us is, we're highly incentivized to help our customers make more money. And so that was maybe even the broader thesis behind hiring me as well is that if and starting the podcast and building the community, and so much of what I do, ends up being about helping our customers make more money. So by by interviewing some of the top folks in the subscription app space by talking to people like Curtis Herbert, who is incredibly, you know, inspiring story of an indie developer success, you know, We're inspiring our customers to to follow those patterns to learn from those things and grow their businesses, which then in turn directly affects our bottom line. And so, you know, so much of what we do ends up being very highly aligned with our customers, because of the way we charge this customer. So, if we charged as a lot of companies do by user, so you know, I think Mixpanel still charges per user, will Mixpanel is not very affordable for a freemium app, because you have a ton of people using it for free and only a small portion pay. So there's a real imbalance there, which I actually used Mixpanel, for a little while for one of my freemium apps, and it was just ridiculous, it was just way too expensive. And then you have the other side of a company like amplitude where their billing per API call or event or packages, which I don't remember exactly, and they, you know, have evolved this over time. But essentially, it's kind of a pay per API call use, or pay per event tract kind of usage. And so then, you know, they're highly incentivized to get you to use more events, and you're highly incentivized to use fewer events, even if using more events would actually be more beneficial to your business. And even though on their end, tracking more events, isn't really that much more expensive incrementally. And so, you know, with revenue cat being aligned with our customers revenue, the podcasts just made a ton of sense. So, you know, it probably is a marketing channel for us, you know, people hear about revenue through the pipe revenue cap through the podcast, they know we're doing good work, they know. You know, we're talking to the the biggest apps in the App Store and sharing strategies and best practices and things like that. So there, there is a marketing component to it. But I would say kind of the the even more important thing to me personally, and then probably to revenue cat over the, you know, five or 10 year time horizon is that the more of our customers and even just the subscription app space broadly, that we can aspire to build great businesses, the better we're going to be in the long run. And so So yeah, it's it's been an honor and an absolute blast to to run the podcast and to talk to really smart folks and get to ask them all sorts of questions. And you know, I reveal my own naivety probably more than i i I would like, you know, having only ever worked on very small, not especially successful apps, I have a very different perspective. But it's really fun, you know, getting to talk to people who work on apps that do 10s, or hundreds of millions of dollar a year revenue, and really understand what it takes to succeed at that level. And kind of the different ways that those companies operate, then an indie developer does. But again, it's like we talked to people all up and down that spectrum. Because even you know, smaller developers have incredible stories to learn from and have strategies that can can be pushed up to more successful apps. And then there's more successful apps sometimes have strategies that can work for, you know, a startup that's just getting going. So it's, it's been so fun to chat with so many people in the industry and learn so much from them along the way.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, well, that basically covers two of the questions I had on my list. So we're checking them off right now. So just to give a short recap, revenue cat as a company is very interesting for an end user or developer to get involved with because they are incentivized to help you along your journey to grow your revenue, so that they can take that 1% cut off that revenue. So if you as an individual grows, then their revenue grows as well. So that's why the incentives for revenue cat and you as an app developer date align very nicely. And also the the payment requirements that they put on you as a customer is very decent, I think just taking away a lot of headache for for less than a percent is sounds like a good deal to me, right? And then there's the sub club podcast that's it's run by you, for revenue cat. And the gimmick of sub club podcast is that it actually goes into the details and the nitty gritty of what it can actually take to to build an app store based business either through in app purchases or subscriptions. What are the difference between the two? When should you consider your options? And what options do we actually have? And what does it take to actually grow beyond a certain level, you know, we all have the tip jar in our in our own little apps. But once you really grow, and you you get customers and you have subscriptions, and you're dealing with churn, and you want to make sure that you keep your churn, rate out, rate down, but then also grow your customer base, the strategies that are involved there, and what kinds of problems you can actually run into there. Those are all talked about in the sub club podcast, I think. So not only technical, but also on the business side of things. I've been listening to it for quite a while now. And

David Barnard:

we probably focus more on the on the business side than the technical and development side. And, you know, we've had investment bankers on we've had multiple VCs on who focus specifically on subscription abs. We have had some developers on but we've also had a lot of marketers like consultants, you know, people on all different sides of the equation. And actually, I'm scheduling one with a data scientists. And that's going to be a really fun episode, because we're going to talk about, like, what is data science for subscription app? So yeah, I really, I really enjoy getting to cover a really kind of broad, get a really broad set of perspectives and ask a really broad set of information of questions to elicit different perspectives on the industry from from a VC who's investing and what you need to do to entice them to fund your app to the you know, when you're when you're huge thinking hire a dedicated, you know, content marketing person, like how do you run that show? And so, kind of like, you know, kind of spreading it out across like so many different functions in the in the subscription app space.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, cool. If people want to know more about revenue cat, they should go to revenue cats.com. If you're interested in the sub club, podcast, if you haven't heard four, sub club.com Where can people find you online?

David Barnard:

Probably the best is just Twitter. Like, don't tweet a ton and rant about all sorts of random stuff. But that's where I do kind of talk about app industry related stuff. So Dr. Barnard on Twitter.

Jeroen Leenarts:

Okay, cool. I think we covered everything that we wanted to talk about David. So unless you have something else to add or share, I'd say enjoy the rest of your day. And I look forward to maybe someday meeting you in person, you know, somewhere.

David Barnard:

Yeah, I wish I was going to 360 I do have so we to meet each other next week if I were but but I'm not so maybe WWDC next year or sure I'll be over in Europe not too distant future going to conferences and whatnot so yeah I'd love to love to chat in person sometime