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Startup Story: Stuart Hall from Appbot

Miles Burke
Miles Burke

If you’ve been in the startup space for a while, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Stuart Hall. Stuart is well known around town, and has a vast knowledge of product growth and management, as well as startups in general. I stole some of Stuart’s time, to answer a few questions for us.

//SN: Tell us a little about Stuart; what was your life before startups?

Life before startups is hard to remember, I know I had fewer grey hairs.

Winding right back to the start I studied Computer Systems Engineering. I started my professional career developing embedded systems and device drivers, moved to web development and then jumped into mobile after the iPhone was released.

I ran a few agencies along the way. First web application development and then mobile apps.

During that whole time, I was always dabbling in side projects. My first one was a shareware guitar tuner way back in the early 2000s. It gave me a taste of what it takes to distribute and market a product online.

My first experience in a real full-time startup was Discovr starting back in 2010.

//SN: You’ve had a great history, with Discovr which was funded, and 7 Min Workout, which was a side project which then went big. Tell me a little about the biggest differences between these two?

The experience of Discovr and 7 Minute Workout were polar opposites.

Discovr was the brainchild of Dave my co-founder. I just started as a dev for hire. We worked well together and the first version was relatively successful. Dave asked me to come on as co-founder and I jumped at the opportunity. Not long after we raised the $1.1m.

Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall

On the way to 4 million downloads, I learned so much about fundraising, the App Store, building and managing a team, content marketing and so on. I learned mainly by making a lot of mistakes.

We had an amazing team and a product I was proud of.

7 Minute Workout was something I built on a whim and in a single night. It was just me. It wasn’t a product I was passionate about. But the process, experience and sharing was something I really enjoyed. I got lucky, had good timing, got a bunch of downloads and an acquirer found me.

Both experiences were great, but nothing beats being part of a team.

//SN: Now you’re a co-founder of Appbot, which is another side project of yours which has gone full time, plus staff – when did you make the decision to turn it from a spare time thing, to a proper product on it’s own?

It happened quite organically. Appbot had been around for a number of years as a review aggregation tool. It had around 30k users, including many of the top apps.

I started by taking it sideways into a product I called AppbotX. It was a mobile customer support product. Customers could drop in a few lines of code and have inline FAQs, contact forms and so on. The response was pretty lukewarm, but a bunch of existing Appbot users asked why I wasn’t going deeper on reviews. Turns out the customer was right.

Then I was introduced to Claire McGregor as someone who might be able to help market Appbot and turn it into a successful business. We got along well and worked together even better. Before long she was my awesome co-founder and somehow now here we are about 20 months later with a great team and customers.

//SN: What was the biggest challenge you had that first month, when you started working on Appbot, full time?

I think the biggest challenge at any stage of business is making sure you are building what your users (and future users) want.

We were lucky that we had a bunch of users to learn from. But really drilling down to their problems they need solving takes time, understanding and many conversations.

//SN: As for bootstrapping, you are now in the space of building a business without needing VC or Angel money; why did you make this choice?

To be honest it was the next challenge for me. I’d been a co-founder of a company who had gone the VC route, I’d gone to solo route and I really wanted to see if we could build a company off customer revenue.

I like to think we are building a business rather than a startup, hopefully, one that can sustain itself well into the future.

Some businesses suit VC funding, some don’t. At this stage, we don’t think Appbot does.


//SN: I’m bootstrapping my own startup as well. It can be a tough road. What’s the main one metric that you look at, to keep you on course?

I’m a big believer that things flow from a great product. Obviously, that’s not all it takes, but I think that’s the heart of a great business.

Once a month I write up what I call the “Monthly Wrap” and share it with the team. The “Monthly Wrap” summarises what we have built and how we went that month. When we have shipped a bunch of awesome things revenue growth seems to follow. When we lose our way and focus on something else our revenue growth slows.

If “shipping awesome stuff customers want” isn’t a metric it should be.

//SN: You recently came back from the USA – I hear you met a number of your customers. What was the biggest takeaway that you learned from those meetings?

The biggest learning was that our customers really love what we do and we just need to focus in on making it better and better.

It’s so easy to get trapped into going for a wider audience or adding more and more features. But what customers really want is them to solve their specific problem really well.

I’m finding my role as CEO more and more is trying to keep us on track and focused.

//SN: What’s next for Appbot? You got any secret projects you can share with us? We’ll keep it between you and the Internet, I promise.

We are going to keep trying to ship awesome stuff customers want 🙂

//SN: Thank you so much for your valuable time, Stuart. I look forward to watching where Appbot goes, and encourage anyone with a mobile app to try them out and support local innovators.

Read more about some of Perth’s best founders and investors here

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Miles Burke

Miles Burke

Miles is the founder of employee survey start-up, 6Q, Founder & MD of an award-winning Perth digital marketing agency, and curates the Australian Software Guide.
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