My app made $1300+ in the first month and I failed to grow it.


My first Android App made me $1300+ in its first month. I failed to maintain and grow it due to lack of focus.

πŸ’΅ Show me the money

My Adsense Account in Feb 2015.
Android App Earnings - Feb 2015

And this is what it looked like in Mar 2015.
Android App Earnings - Mar 2015

All this from a single, simple app that displayed some Hindi to English phrases in a list format.

πŸ— The process

I got laid off from the place I worked for 11+ years (that’s another story which I will share in a future post) in Aug 2014.

My last position was as a manager overseeing a quality team where I began as an engineer 11 years back. I didn’t want to go back to the job of a manager at another company. So, if no job, then what?

I decided I am going to build web apps. I haven’t written any code for a few years. I had written PERL and Python but not for some years now. 37signals(now Basecamp) and DHH were all the rage then. So, I jumped into learning Ruby on Rails. I had never built a Full Stack App. I didn’t get much further. After a couple of months, I abandoned it.

Time to get on to the next shiny toy. Mobile Apps, especially on Android were still picking up. I decided to give it a shot. I narrowed down on the India Market. It was hard to get users in India to pay for apps. So, the obvious choice was to go with a Free App with in-app ads

I chose the learning category for my first app. I wanted to make sure I target the largest user-base. I narrowed it down to building a Learn English App for the Native Hindi Speakers. Hindi Speakers are the largest cohort by languages in India.

I had never programmed in Java or for Android before this. I spent a few weeks getting Android Studio to work on my Ubuntu laptop. At last, I cobbled together a simple list-based app. The first screen showed a list of phrase categories in both Hindi and English. For example Numbers, Greetings, and so on. Clicking on one of the categories takes you to the second screen with a list of phrases in that category. So, two screens and a JSON file with 100 odd words/phrases. I also added the logic of showing a small thin banner ad at the bottom of the page on the details screen.

I generated the build, created an Android Developer Account, and uploaded the App. This was the end of Feb. Nothing happened for a couple of Days.

🌱 Green shoots

Then a couple of days in Mar, I happened to log into the Developer Console and the No. of Installs was in 10,000s. I logged into Google Adsense. And it showed my estimated earnings to be a Few hundred dollars.

This was the first time I made money on the internet, outside a regular corporate job.

That Month, Adsense made me 1300 dollars. And throughout its lifetime, the app made me little over 2000 dollars and had MAUs at around 50K at its peak.

☠ The Mistakes

Yet, this is where I made my first big mistake. Instead of focusing on this one app, I started replicating it. For example, I made apps for Learn English from Kannada, Arabic, and so on. None of the other apps got any traction. I did some minor improvements to the main Hindi to English app. But the revenue & usage tapered off in a couple of months.

Android App Earnings

If I get to re-do it, what would I do differently? I would double down on the first app. I would add more features for the Hindi users first. When the user growth got stabilized, only then I would have added more language pairs. Focus is what matters in the end.