My App Got Kicked Out The Apple App Store
Oh My George! What is going to happen to our business now?
Getting their app kicked out the Apple App store could have been a blessing in disguise. Created by 1st-time millennial entrepreneur Lucien Tavano, OhMyGeorge was birthed in his friend’s maid room in Bangkok and has grown into an actual trading platform that beginners throughout the world use to experience financial markets.
We are going to discuss that crazy moment when your app got kicked out Apple’s app store, the pain points of being a beginner trader, and lessons learned to help get your products into the app store. On more related news involving product development in the Glappitnova community, this first-time millennial entrepreneur of Tint is making millions and this first-timer got their product Tiesta Tea into to stores nationwide.
“Estimating development times was and is the thing that has always been the hardest for us. And in our early days it’s been equally hard, as a consequence, to plan our runway right.” - Lucien Tavano
Where did the idea come from?
When I got into trading I kept jumping from one service provider to another in the search of a platform that would provide me a pleasant user experience as a beginner. I couldn’t care less about being able to choose from hundreds of financial assets, set parameters I had no idea what they were for, or get my trades executed at the speed of light. I wanted to learn how to drive, and I had no other choice but to directly practice with a formula one car. Since I couldn’t find one, I started to build the one I wished existed: a platform simple enough so I could experience the markets with just a couple of taps, safe enough so I could trade for real but with some safeguards, and smart enough so as my knowledge increased the platform would always meet my needs. Oh, and fun enough too, because the legacy platforms all had that super serious and pretentious feel (and even scary/scammy feel for some).
When creating, most of the time you only get one first chance. Do you believe in getting a MVP (minimal viable product) or a more finalized product out and why?
I definitely believe in the MVP approach, but it is extremely hard to find out what’s your actual MVP or to even know which hypothesis you need to validate first. More often than not you get it totally wrong, and you only realize what it should have been when you look backward. But you should always go the MVP way because it makes business sense. And even if your product is extremely complex, there’s always a way to test your value proposition and most critical hypothesis for less time and/or less money than the real thing.
During a recent discussion you mentioned that your app had been removed from the Apple app store, can you explain what exactly occurred?
Yes, that was a tough time for our company. A while back, Apple notoriously chased down all binary options apps, and any app that was promoting or in any way helping the binary options industry expand. It’s was a unilateral move from Apple that was not motivated by any regulatory requirement. The problem (for us) was, Apple’s employees are not financial experts, and in addition to taking down the apps that were related to binary options, they also took Oh My George down overnight without any warning. We had to argue for many weeks to convince Apple to republish us (we only emulate forex instruments and promote Apple-approved apps), and we even had to remove all third-party app promotions to please them. According to Apple’s guidelines, it is not allowed to promote third-party apps within an app (a rule that obviously they only enforce selectively). After a month we got republished, but our download rate is only one-fifth of what it used to be and what took us so much work to reach.
What do you mean by enforcing selectively? Can you share some examples with the rule included and what you did incorrectly?
We are diving into App Store publishing very deep here 🙂 The guidelines that Apple opposed us was the 3.2.2(i): “creating an interface for displaying third-party apps, extensions, or plug-ins similar to the App Store or as a general-interest collection” (formerly infamously known as the guideline 2.25, with a wording that was a bit less ambiguous: “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected”).
"This rule seems to only be enforced selectively, because there are tons of Appstore-approved apps that promote third-party apps."
In our case, this third-party app promotion had been present in our app for more than a year, so we are not sure why it is causing an issue now. We argued that in no way we were mimicking the App Store, but this did not unlock the situation.
Apple’s crackdown on third-party app promotion is not new (2012!) and unfortunately we could not obtain further explanation regarding the interpretation of that guideline in our case (it is the subject of extensive discussions on many forums & blogs). Some app maker do not activate third-party app promotions in their app until after their app or update has been approved, some remove third-party app promotion when they get caught and reintroduce it later with a new update…
Long story short, we removed the promotion of the third-party app altogether (our only revenue source) and moved it to our website. Even though users are invited to visit our website at some point in the game progression, this obviously drives much less conversion in the end for us, and therefore much less revenue.
When Apple took down your app what was going through your mind? Were you like oh f**k I just spent years of my life and a lot of money developing this app and they just killed my business?
No, not really. First because that was just one more problem on top of many others (it sounds bad, but what it means is that we are used to dealing with issues that seem business-frightening at first, it’s almost business as usual, so we don’t freak out anymore), second because our financials are good and our fixed cost extremely low, so we know we have time to adjust our strategy, even pivot if need be. We initially had a very aggressive growth-at-all-cost startup approach, but with time (read: many roadblocks and failures) we realised that it wouldn’t work in our case, so we are taking the slower (but not less rewarding) bootstrapping route now (growing at a pace allowing to always be profitable), and it has already proven to make much more sense.
Also, we knew about Apple’s change of policy regarding specific financial instruments (binary options), so we were aware that there was a good chance Apple could get confused and take us down by mistake while chasing down non-complying apps (unfortunately, there was not much we could do to prevent that mistake to happen…). It doesn’t mean we weren’t upset though, it felt really unfair.
It seems that your success is somewhat dependent on Apple and Android. Are there things that you can do to help isolate yourself from the impact that they have on your success?
Yes, we are a mobile-only trading platform, because our target users are mobile-first consumers. So we rely and depend 100% on Apple’s Appstore and Google’s Playstore for distribution (there are other stores for Android, but the traffic is much less than on the official Playstore).
Our strategy has been from day one to use a development framework that allows us to publish on both app stores simultaneously, so the risk is at least split between the two. Our marketing strategy had been so far mainly focused on ASO (App Store Optimization), with new users discovering us as they search the stores. We will focus in the months getting other sources of traffic in order to be less dependent on the app stores’ search engine algorithms, but the only way to totally eliminate our dependency to Apple and Google (if at all possible) is to offer a responsive web-app to our user (a mobile-friendly web-based version of our app).
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to provide the same level of user experience with a web-app, so, for now, we are sticking to the mobile-only approach, adjusting our product’s features as the stores’ guidelines evolve.
What are some suggestions for people developing an app and wanted to get it into stores?
- Draw and get feedback, then prototype and get feedback, and only then start the development itself. Also, it’s obvious, but if you’re not a developer, get feedback early on on your wireframes and prototypes from developers too (not just from your potential users), otherwise you will have big surprises when you will want to start the development.
- People who download your app will give it only one single try, and you’ll have about 5 seconds of their time to make an impression, think about it. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Bye!
- Most consumers aren’t able to distinguish a native app from a hybrid one, so don’t hesitate too much: unless your app has very specific needs that hybrid can’t meet, go for hybrid.
- Think about your acquisition strategy as you design and build your app. It will have an impact. It should have. And don’t think that the hardest part is to build the app. It’s to market it. Period.
- Finally, if your app is also at the heart of your revenue streams of your business, make sure you have enough cash to survive two or three storms in a row.
Developing (and maintaining) a real-time trading app is not an easy task, you cannot simply hire any freelancer or agency (or fully build it internally if you’re generalists - we learned that the hard way), go for specialists of the trading industry.
I also don’t think developing trading apps are good opportunities for small bootstrapped businesses, because they require a lot of development and therefore a lot of funds to even get started. Raising money from venture capitalist will also prove to be difficult because unless you’re into offering a value proposition for users as big as RobinHood’s “commission-free trading”, the potential of your business will be too niche for any venture capitalist return on investment requirements.
There are, however, many profitable app ideas to build for the trading industry (education, technical analysis, market news, etc.) that are worth exploring for indie developers. If your app has a differentiating element (which it should, obviously), try to isolate that, package it as your version one and focus on launching just that. Your marketing message will be clearer. Then build on top of it. Also, don’t rely on just one business model, but try to incorporate several (e.g. ads, premium features, etc.). Good luck, and feel free to reach out to me.
If you could have a drink with anybody (alive or dead) who would it be and what would be the topic of conversation?
It’s gonna be cliché but it’d be with Elon Musk, to talk about his master plan for the human race! I would also like invite Vitalik Buterin to join, because a conversion between Elon and I would probably be very cool, but a conversation between Elon and Vitalik would be mind-blowing.
For the more extended version of this article with an explanation of how the app works and the forex industry, you can view here.