What is happening with all these moodboard websites. I move from one to another and they keep getting shut down. Am I doing something wrong? Am I not being loud enough about them? Or maybe is just my luck? Is it too hard to ask for an app that will outlive my milk?
I run Niice, a moodboarding tool and (I guess) ex-competitor of Octobox. I’m actually really disappointed to see it go though, just as I was with Icebergs.
That said, I can understand why this happens. It’s one thing to design and build a useful product, another thing entirely to build a sustainable business. The two aren’t necessarily related either: there are plenty of sustainable business with crap products, and plenty of failed businesses that had fantastic products (Everpix springs to mind… may she rest in peace).
I don’t know Milosz (the creator of Octobox) or why he’s having to shut the service down, but I’m sure the decision wasn’t made lightly. A product like this is your baby, you pour a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, and you really value people who embrace it as part of their workflow. That said, if you want it to stay alive it needs to at least cover its running costs, and if you want it to grow it needs to cover development, marketing and support costs too. A common conversion rate for freemium services is 2%. That means you can have 10,000 active users, yet only 200 paying customers. If you’re charging $5-$10 per month (which seems to be what most people feel a service like this is worth, when balanced against all their other subscriptions), that means those 200 paying customers make you ~$1,500/month. I’ve heard people describe Amazon S3 as ‘basically free’ because $0.03/GB seems pretty cheap, but on image bookmarking sites it soon gets costly. Add to that Heroku hosting (because it’s cheaper than hiring a system admin, trust me…), an email service (we use Mailgun), Intercom for customer support, Kissmetrics (or Mixpanel) for event tracking (because Intercom doesn’t do ‘analytics’ very well) etc… and the monthly costs add up.
Long story short: If you’re using an ‘indie’ app that you’d like to be around in a few years, then pay for it. It makes more of a difference than you might think (even just in terms of motivating the developer to keep going), and it definitely costs less than the time you lose switching services each time one shuts down.
Note: Niice is actually covering its running costs pretty comfortably, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m keen for it to still be going strong in 10 years though, which is why we’re doing the following:
- Bootstrapping. Not having a pile of money in the bank helps keep things real. It forces you to keep running costs lean, and ensure the app is providing real value (i.e. worth paying for) from Day 1.
- Charging for features that cost money to run (for example, only Pro users can upload images). This makes it a lot harder to demo the app’s full capabilities to free users, but it means your running costs don’t increase unless your revenue does too.
- Providing a backup. Right now we do this in the form of Two-way Dropbox sync, but I plan to add more options down the line. If worst comes to worst, you’ll still have your stuff.
Thanks for the honest breakdown Chris. I think you're right that costs are the #1 reason why apps like these get shuttered.
I migrated from Kippt to Niice (via Raindrop) and haven't looked back - great service!
Thank you for writing this and great work on Niice, Chris :)
For me the reason isn't so much the cost ($20/mo), but just lack of time to develop this app further. I see how much work it would need, even for me to become a paying user, and it's just something out of my reach. Btw, all the code for Octobox is open source.
Thanks for your website. It's been very helpful many times in my career.
This is amazing! Thank you so much! I actually have a Niice account but I haven't use it lately, definitely going to go back to it! This is also good inspiration to use in other business.
I find it hilarious that people are just suggesting other ones that could just as likely have the same happen.
I now just use full-page screenshots from Chrome using an extension and save them to Dropbox. I think eventually I'll write a simple script that's open source to just look through my folder I use and display it in the browser. That's all I need really.
That's why after trying most of them I found Pixa (running on OSX) see my comment below :)
+1 to Dropmark. Loving it.
I had the same problem 2 years ago and I found a solution that's not going away since it's not web based (but I sync over dropbox)
I use Pixa on OSX, I store 5000+ images on it in various categories
I can store psd, ai, svg, jpg, png, tiff, pdf, bmp, gif, ico, icns, and even sketch, Pixen, Acorn and pixelmator files
It even come with browser extensions to save images or full page screenshots
I feel you. I've stopped using the smaller startup apps now coz they all get shutdown or get bought eventually. I've been using Ember for the last few years but not a big fan. Dropmark, Raindrop, etc. all look great but I'm not going to move all my stuff and then get ditched again.
I've been considering building an open source self-hosted version or maybe even building it on top of wordpress (instead of starting from scratch) due to simplicity of installation and it having all the necessary parts built inside it.
Just use Pinterest.
Maybe try setting something up with a more established company and hoping that one day they embrace the sort of technology that these smaller tools have.
Dropbox? Evernote? Pinterest?
Best of luck!
If you choose a more established vendor, then how will the small fry ever rise to the top?
Well, if he's looking for stability, established products are usually the way to go.