“Free Initial Release” discussed on CoreIntution

One of my favorite tech/developer podcasts, CoreIntuition by Daniel Jalkut and Manton Reece,  discussed the “Free Initial Release” strategy on their Episode 75. As fas was I understood them, the episode title “Please Don’t Make The Same Mistake” does not refer to “FIRST” – even though they were quite critical of the idea. As I’m not really productive after staying up till 5am to watch the SuperBowl, I just wanted to give a summary of their discussion. (Main points are from Daniel and Manton, some of the words are mine.)

CoreIntuition’s View of “FIRST”

Daniel thought that FIRST would be “too obviously scheme-y” and could project the wrong image. Initial users (who got the app when it was still free) would look bad if they recommended “this great free app” to their friends, only to find out it wasn’t free any more. At a minimum, you have to make it very clear that the app is only free for a limited time (and even then some will miss that statement).

Manton suggested that it is undervaluing your work – “free app = not worth anything”. Trying to work in the “bargain basement” works for some apps (and he probably meant that you don’t want to be in that market as an Indie Developer).

Basically, they both suggested not to over think things and do the simple thing: Make something that’s worth buying, call it 1.0 and charge for it from day one. (They also mentioned Gus Muellers answer to “Why doesn’t my app sell?”: “Maybe it just sucks.“) Both believe that useful software does finds a way of getting sold.

Their Suggestions

They also suggested alternatives :

  • Release a free “technology preview” or beta, but make sure that you have a way of contacting these users so you can “convert” them to paying users later. (This is probably impossible in the iOS AppStore but may work when developing Mac software.)
  • Create a “freemium product”: A basic free product, which serves as a platform of selling a “Pro” version or additional features (possibly through InApp-Sales).

My Take on their Discussion

All they had to base their discussion on was a short tweet about the basic idea of “FIRST”, so they discussed FIRST in a scenario that is a little different than my situation. (That’s totally normal and certainly no criticism on their views.) Overall, I found the discussion very interesting and I am re-thinking my pricing strategy. I especially found the “don’t over think it” sentiment very compelling. Thank you very much, Manton and Daniel!


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