Over the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time researching markets and problems.
Here are some things I did:
Made a list of the top 5 grossing apps on the App Store in each category to gauge the most profitable sectors, here’s a spreadsheet of that data
Browsed trending subreddits on SubredditStats.com - here I looked for fast-growing subreddits, this is a good proxy for interest in a space
Browsed emerging social trends on PewResearch - they have a ton of survey data to back up macro changes between generations and age groups, very interesting and informative
Organically made a list of ideas/problems that I’ve been thinking about over the past few months
Looked for apps that make lots of money, but have bad ratings, meaning they are ripe for disruption
Going through all of these was very informative and helped me understand how society and the market currently stand. One strategy that I used to employ for thinking of app ideas was to find an app that’s making a lot of money and just copy it. I’d continue iterating on my app and over time, I’d start making some money. I did this for Command which has been making roughly $15k/profit for the past 3 years. Seeing what apps are generating revenue is helpful for making sure you don’t enter a dead market. If there is a competitor app making $1m/month, you know that there are users who are willing to spend money to solve that problem. It’s a form of validation. This is why I’m always going through the top-grossing charts.
Taking a step back, there have been some problems I’ve been thinking about more and more over the past few months. Obesity is one of them. When you think about the biggest problems that society faces right now, you probably think of climate change, poverty, crime, healthcare, etc. The trends about obesity I have found particularly startling. Out of all the fields, this is one where I feel like I could build something impactful and, I’m very interested in it, which is helpful.
This is a chart I stole from the CDC’s website. We’re approaching a point where almost half of America will be clinically obese in just a few years. It’s a massive problem. Massive problems mean massive opportunities.
You can actually see the interest in the weight loss space in real-time. Check out the top-grossing apps in the Health & Fitness category. Weight Watchers is #2 and MyFitnessPal is #4, both make over $3m a month. Further down, there are another few weight loss apps making over $500k a month.
Weight Watchers is way more than just an app (in-person meetings, retail sales, etc.), whereas MyFitnessPal is literally just a calorie tracker. I pulled up the top calorie-trackers on Appfigures to see how popular their keywords were.
These popularity figures are really high. So I did some digging to figure out what it would take to build one of these apps. How would I get nutrition info, recipes, calorie recommendations, etc. I kept digging and did a google search of “reddit myfitnesspal” to see what people were saying about this app. Were there any clear problems that I could build on top of or leverage? Turns out a lot of Redditors are switching from MyFitnessPal to Lose It! because MyFitnessPal basically hasn’t been updated in years.
I downloaded Lose It! and played around with it for a bit. It’s a very complex app—there’s a ton of shit going on. Food logging, macro logging, waterlogging, recipes, ads, aggressive monetization, community, social features. Yea, copying this app would be a monster project.
So yes, I could probably spend the next 6 months trying to build an amazing calorie tracker and probably make some good money. Tons of people are already searching for these kinds of apps, and maybe with a killer design and efficient marketing, I could make a dent. Maybe a year from now I’d be gaining some ground on them and two years from now, we’d be neck and neck. That’s a plausible scenario. Again, because I already know people are interested in calorie trackers and paying lots of money for them if I built a half-decent calorie-tracker, I’d probably make some cash.
I’m beyond that though. My business thinking has moved on from the “copy and iterate” approach that worked well for me in the past. So instead, I’m trying to dissect the underlying problem these apps solve and find a new angle or twist.
Basically, people want to lose weight, that’s the problem. Nice, simple.
My Reddit Adventure
Now, let’s talk about another piece of the puzzle. During my Reddit research, I stumbled upon r/MealPrepSunday which is a top 200 subreddit. It’s a community of people who every Sunday will cook all their meals for the entire week and organize them nicely in meal-prep containers.
One of my hypotheses was that people are meal-prepping to lose weight. That’s what I’ve done in the past. I know that a big reason I personally eat unhealthy is out of laziness—there’s nothing simple and easy in the fridge/freezer at home so I end up snacking or grabbing a burrito. When you have a fully-prepared healthy meal waiting for you, it’s easier to eat clean.
I looked up the Google trends chart of “meal prep” over the past five years and noticed that interest in it has been growing and peaking in January … when everyone starts their New Years’ resolutions to lose weight. Bingo.
So, I went back to the App Store to see if there are any apps related to meal-prepping. I found Mealime which lets you browse recipes designed for meal-prep, output a grocery list, and even order groceries in the app. Very cool concept, they’re only making $50k/month though. They aren’t really emphasizing the weight-loss angle at all and it doesn’t look like they are running any ads either, strange.
I started going through their app and ran into the same problem I always have with recipes. Every damn recipe will take me a long-time to cook and completely destroy my kitchen and dishwasher. It’ll be an entire afternoon. Who’s got time for that?
Then I thought back to what my tendencies with food have been like lately. I’ve been optimizing for zero cook time. For example, I made this for lunch yesterday and it took me 5 minutes:
It’s vegan chicken tenders I cooked on the stove in 5 minutes, microwave vegetables, microwave rice, and hummus. It’s quick and doesn’t destroy my kitchen. Simple, easy meals like this are how I eat healthy. I feel like people believe that to eat healthy, you need to cook all your own meals, meal-prep, and go hard overall in the kitchen.
So at this point, the creative juices are flowing and I’m getting really excited. I decide to make a quick post in r/MealPrepSunday to see if people would be interested in a recipe/cooking guide for virtually zero-cook time meals—meals that could be made in just a few minutes with minimal cooking and cleaning. And it blew the fuck up.
Here’s the post:
Quite some validation. I think in general asking on a relevant subreddit “Would you be interested in X?” is a great way to test the waters for an idea. So now, this is my plan. This week, I’m going to come up with a dozen or so recipes that fit this zero-cook time definition and make a huge post on the subreddit.
Now the question is, how can I turn a post into an app? Well, right now I’m thinking that I’ll try to create my own subreddit for this concept and start building a community that I could later market the app to.
As for the actual app, I have some early ideas of what it might look like. I’m thinking it’ll be something like Mealime, but the marketing and branding will be more oriented towards weight loss and saving time, i.e. “Save time and lose weight with these zero-cook time delicious meals.” We already established that there’s intense interest in weight loss apps—recipe apps not so much, which is why I think that angling is super important.
Anyways, it’s been a really exciting week. I’m remembering why I love entrepreneurship so much. Hope you found this helpful and informative : )
P.S. here are some other notes I had around ideation.
Fascinating approach and strategy, thanks for sharing Zachary.
This is super neat! Thanks for sharing it! :)
Question about your spreadsheet though: the Average Revenue Per Download column seems incorrect. It seems you're taking the total revenue for the last month and dividing by the *marginal* downloads for the same period. Are you assuming that all the revenue in a month comes purely from new downloads? :)