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How I Made $600K in the iOS Education Market (2012 update) (lescapadou.com)
268 points by ja27 on Dec 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

I didn't realize that Montessori is considered a generic term and not trademarked [1]. Since people buy apps before they try them, the name is probably a big driver of the app's success.

Similarly, the guy who generated 800,000 books uses "Websters" in the book titles for his best selling books, which is also not trademarked [2] and can be used freely.

[1] American Montessori Society, Inc. v. Association Montessori Internationale, 155 U.S.P.Q. 591, 592 (1967), referenced in the Montessori Education Wikipedia article.

[2] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Websters_Dictionary

don't worry Montessori is used extensively in the App Store since 2 years. On my side, I've got a friend who is montessori teacher, and he test all my apps and give me feedback. There is a lot of discussion in the Montessori world about the good/bad usage of screens

Indeed, the key to success seems to have been finding a high brand recognition word that could be used without actually having to be licensed or whatever. (The apps may be fabulous, but the name is gold.)

word wizard app has not the Montessori keyword and it works pretty well !

Yeah but once you have one successful app you get cross-fertilization.

Pierre, thanks for sharing this information. It's nice to see a post on HN that does not talk about making hundreds of thousands of dollars after throwing something together over a weekend. The vast majority of successful business ventures --of any kind-- take time. Generally years.

It's also nice to see an example of a lifestyle business rather than a mega-million-dollar exit startup that so often dominates the headlines in these communities. Quite a few developers would be more than happy to earn a third of what you have earned on a regular basis. And that would be considered to be an absolute success.

I too am delving into the educational-app-for-kids market inspired by my own kids. I'd enjoy the opportunity to get some feedback from you if you are open to it. My email address is in my profile.

I think there is a good balance in discussion between hot startups and bootstrapped businesses now.

In fact, there's been a large number of exit-focused threads filled with guys who are mad at the whole situation, while I don't see too many "lifestyle business" jibes being thrown around nowadays.

of course I'm glad to offer advices. Send me mail - my address on my site lescapadou.com

Hi Pierre, nice blog post. Thanks for sharing your insights.

I was looking at your AppStore SEO. Like you mentioned, your position for "spelling" has dropped a lot. But there are other phrases where your positions are rising nicely...

For "crossword game for kids" you've gone from 10th to 7th in the past few weeks.


And your Android version has a few phrases moving up too...

For the phrase "kids words" you've risen 6 places, from 23rd to 17th. I know 17th isn't awesome, but that's a fairly popular search phrase, so at least you're moving in the right direction.


thanks ! I have to check SEO more precisely, I'm really not an expert..but you understand that losing #1 on "spelling" had a great impact

This is a follow-up from Pierre's 2011 numbers post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3157739

This is a real inspiration for all indie developers. I currently work for a startup but I have a ton of projects on the back burner I plan to unleash when I move on in a couple years. Although I understand that success in the app store is subject to variance, this helps validate the idea of a one-man shop (with outsourcing as needed of course).

No doubt OP's apps are good, but I'd think a lot of his success can be attributed to being early (as he himself states in the post as I recall).

As a current App Store indie developer, I'd say you should consider the counter-examples also. I enjoyed a book called Buttonless (http://www.amazon.com/Buttonless-Incredible-iPhone-Stories-B...) which discusses indie games and discloses sales figures.

The average picture is not the rosiest.

Cool thanks for that post I'll check that book out. I have very high profile apps on the app store I wrote for others and I can completely relate to all the hassles and insanity surrounding the market. It's very finicky and totally unpredictable. Honestly I attribute a lot of successes and failures to simple market variance.

While timing is important, I think the OP made a great choice in targeting an underserved, niche market. That's where a lot of great opportunities still exist, IMO.

The game market by comparison is much more highly competitive and has quite different dynamics, I would hesitate to use 'failed' games as a counter-example.

Pierre, my question: The income tax rate for high earners in France is crazy high. Have you considered moving?

Believe it or not, high income earners in other parts of the world are very happy to pay "crazy high" taxes.

Those countries provide a hell of a lot to their citizens, and the citizens are happy to pay.

For most of his life in Australia, my Dad, a teacher, paid very close to 50% income tax on what he earned over about $60k. He was extremely happy with this, as Australia had provided a lot for him and his family of 3 kids. We had a very good uppder-middle class life.

EDIT: A couple of examples of what "crazy high" income tax gets you.

1. My brother broke his leg horribly, required multiple surgeries, ambulance rides, helicopter rides, multiple hospitals and close to 2 months in hospital. There was never a bill.

2. My 5 years of university for Software Engineering were paid for by the Australian government, and I now have a interest-free loan for the ~$24k. Whenever I earn over $40k/year, I just pay 3% more income tax to pay off the loan. If I don't earn that much in Australia, I never pay back the loan and that's fine. (actually, my Mum and Dad are angry about this - for them, university was free like High school.)

3. The Australian government will pay a "wage" to low-income students going to university/college (approx. $176/wk)

4. The Australian government pays unemployment benefits to any adult out of work (approx $228/wk). It does not matter if you have ever had a job or been fired or not. This payment will continue forever.[1]

They will also help to pay your rent, with a program called "Rent Assistance"

Despite what you might be thinking, Australia has a very strong economy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Australia

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment_benefits#Australia

UPDATE: Dole is $228/wk

>Believe it or not, high income earners in other parts of the world are very happy to pay "crazy high" taxes.

>Those countries provide a hell of a lot to their citizens, and the citizens are happy to pay.

When you have a $600k per year income, those services aren't necessarily as valuable as they are to someone who makes $60k per year.

Seems that I've upset some people. Have you forgotten that international business does exist?

Don't know if this is your opinion or if you're just stating a fact about others, but that is some selfish social pariah thinking right there. "Fuck you, I've got mine". Unfortunately, that's what seems to go through many rich people's minds.

Well, in your previous comment, you pointed out that paying high taxes is not an altruism, but just a deal/agreement with your government.

So, at some stage you might be comfortable with the conditions agreed, but you might also get to another stage of your life, when it is not comfortable anymore - thus you start seeking better deals.

There is nothing bad or evil in this.

Some people attribute part of their success to the opportunities a society has offered them, and feel an obligation to share and give back what they received in the first place.

Unfortunately, the US doesn't really do that in very visible ways for people in the middle class and up besides offering a good environment for business, and barely seems to get the job done for poor people, which raises the question for many of what people are actually paying for. I feel an obligation, but much of the reasoning is abstract.

Sure, it is not about giving back vs not giving back - it is about _amount_ you give back.

For some people it is 20% and for others - 75%.

The Australian government is paying for my education in the manner described above - when I graduate and hopefully get a well paying job I will attribute part of my success to society helping me out with my education.

And be more than happy to pay high taxes.

This is extremely short-sighted. While the person themselves may not directly benefit from those services, they benefit from the fact that those around them do. For example, if we assume that the $600k is an employer (pretty common), then having employees who have received good public education is good for their business.

I could have business operations in France but it doesn't mean I have to live there.

Security so the poor won't rob you, flat roads to drive your Ferrari, healthy coughs from the homeless. Taxes have its uses.

It would seem to me that when you make 600k a year, paying more taxes isn't as painful either.

Anecdotally, the years I've been in this situation I've found it extremely painful - way more painful than the years I make $40K or so.

I'm sure there's a threshold beyond which you just don't care, when you already have enough money to do everything you could possibly want, but whenever I've written a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government I think "well, that probably would've paid for the college education of one of my kids" or "well, invested prudently that would've let me retire years earlier." I've also thought "huh, I'm getting exactly the same services as everybody else but paying ridiculous amounts of money for them."

Neither's a particularly good feeling.

Two completely different responses to the reluctant taxpayer:

1) You don't want your fair share of government services. You really don't. You don't want to be in prison. You don't want remedial literacy training. You don't want drug rehab. You don't want your children taken into care. You don't want to live on unemployment. You want to pay for these things to exist in case you need them one day. Also, the fact that other people get them may also be to your advantage.

2) The value of the welfare I received as a youngster is more to me than the cash value plus interest. I grew up poor but now I'm comfortably middle class thanks to care and opportunity that was blind to my ability to pay.

I am happy to pay now for more than my share of the burden of education and health care for others, while having more money left over than I strictly need. I have benefitted from the education and the healthcare. Without it, I would not be financially comfortable, healthy, or have children. I did the work myself, but I would not have been able to do it without educational opportunity and occasional medical care.

If you grew up comfortably off, you might not feel the same way I do. You might resent paying for those less fortunate than yourselves. I don't, because I was one of them.

Think of it like this: when you were born, the government made a huge investment in you by providing you with healthcare so you don't die, school so that you can educate yourself, roads so you can get to work etc. Now you made a successful business using this investment from the government, but they also own XX% of your business, it's not entirely yours. This is an analogy but I think it holds very true. Sure it hurts to pay back to your investors, but without them you'd never have reached the point at where you are today. Escaping from the responsibility of paying back is immoral in my opinion, but unfortunately it's also good business in this world.

Bad analogy, since the government that invested in my healthcare and education when I was growing up hasn't asked for a dime of my money. (Who knows - maybe they should.)

I do get the point you're trying to make, but no matter how you feel about taxes intellectually, I don't think anyone ever says "awesome, I get to write a very large check to the government" before they've reached the threshold where they have enough money to do whatever they want.

I find it really interesting that back when I was a poor grad student, the small amount of money I paid in taxes would've made a much bigger difference in my standard of living than the large amount of taxes I've had to pay in one of my good years. Because of this, you'd think the small amount of money I paid when I was poor would be much more painful to pay, since it could've meant the difference between (say) living in a garret or a decent place. But that wasn't the case.

Psychologically, at least for me, the absolute dollar amount seems to matter a great deal, and so does the absolute dollar amount others are paying. I don't think I'm a freakish psychological outlier, so perhaps this provides some insight into others as well.

I agree, it will always be difficult for the human mind to see his treasures taken away. We tend to easily forget the help we received and assume we did it all on our own. As previously said, it also has a lot to do with the benefits you can see in society.

For me, it helps to think of all the things I have my country to thank for. I saved up to my first computer when I was 10, with government subsidies, which later led to my career. I attended university for 5 years without paying tuition and without being a burden financially on my parents. The government paid my tuition when I went to a US school for a year. They even got me a lawyer when my US landlord sued me for $30,000 for a leak they were responsible for. I'm thankful for my cousin, whose mother died in cancer and father died after having to have his leg amputated (becoming an orphan at 17), and he himself suffering for his whole life from an incurable disease even after a kidney transplant. I'm thankful that he can life a normal life today with no medical debt and a normal job. I'm thankful for the government providing living assistance to my grand mother, who recently suffered a stroke, so that she can continue living at home close to her friends. I guess I have a lot to be thankful for, and I try to think of that when I pay my taxes.

Oh man, that's an awesome government indeed! May i ask which nation you hail from?

Any developed country != America

And you can get those same services, maybe better quality, for a 18% flat tax in Hong Kong. Patriotism doesn't mean accepting a poor quality of government.

Yes, you noticed that the government is not a free market.

And sustainable societies have moral hazards.

And if you really want to live in true freedom, where freedom to knock down the house around you is not specially excepted under some theory of Objetivist morality, good luck finding off the hordes.

Easy, tiger. I might find paying large amounts of taxes painful, but that doesn't automatically imply I'm an Ayn Rand fan, don't see the need for some form of social safety net, and don't get why a progressive tax system is an unfortunate necessity.

How much is not having your money stolen from you by an angry mob worth? Seems to me like the rich are doing their best to recreate the jacquerie.


Try getting a serious sickness in the US and watch your $600K melt away, watch your insurance company dropping you, or refusing to cover you because you forgot to mention some minor thing when you signed up.

Intestine transplant costs more than $1 million. Heart transplant - $700-800K. Bone marrow transplant - $600-700K.

This is why I think free healthcare actually promotes entrepreneurship. I have a family and run my own business in New Zealand and have no concerns over healthcare as it'll all be covered by the government.

When did non-government sponsored benefits equate to no health care at all?...especially if you're making over half a million dollars per year.

When your insurance company drops you.

If you make half a million a year, you have options for paying for services yourself instead of relying on someone else (like an insurance company) to pay it for you. You can just, you know, buy healthcare.

Note that some of the life-saving operations listed above a) cost significantly more than $500k and b) are related to ailments that will likely stop you from working on AwesomeApply.io or whatever it is for a potentially indefinite period of time.

You're right--there's a lot more to it than just "the tax rate". You've got to consider what that tax rate is getting you. It's also reasonable to have high earners pay more in taxes than low earners--the high earners arguably benefit much more from the infrastructure in place allowing them to even earn a high income in the first place (eg, rule of law), so it is in their interests (and power) to keep that infrastructure humming. When you're rich, social darwinism seems all good and well until you've got the disenfranchised in front of your castle with torches and you can't call the police because their budgets were cut.

That said, I think france is a pretty good example of a place I'd never want to live if I planned on producing anything of value. I don't think it's a coincidence that france is not exactly a hub for startups. Australian and French economic policies are quite different.

So regardless, it's not an apples to apples comparison and not all tax spending is created equal. Personally, I think the French have really bad economic policies if they're interested in anything more than stagnation and taxation is partly to blame.

Are you sure about number (4)? The link you supplied seems to say something different I think.

Yep, my brother is receiving it right now, and I've used it in the past.

Things have changed in the last few years where they will actively make you apply for jobs, and possibly force you to work on community projects (known as "work for the dole"), but essentially you still get ~$228/wk when you don't have a job, forever.

UPDATE: Sorry, since moving to North America I keep getting fortnight and week mixed up. It's $228/wk, or ~$400/fortnight.

Government is always the problem, not the solution.

don't believe everything that is written in the newspapers, it's only for the super-rich :-) I think that France is one of the best place for authors (Ireland is the best one I think) Indeed there is a specific status for authors in France and tax rate is much better that if it was a salary. So actually I'm considered as an software author in France because I sell nothing, I just give to Apple the right to sell my apps and they gave me royalties. I don't even own a company.

don't believe everything that is written in the newspapers, it's only for the super-rich :-) I think that France is a good place for authors (Ireland is the best one I think) Indeed there is a specific status for authors in France and tax rate is much better that if it was a salary. So actually I'm considered as an software author in France because I sell nothing, I just give to Apple the right to sell my apps and they gave me royalties. I don't even own a company. To give you a number I think I pay 35%/40% of taxes, and for me I'm really happy to pay (honestly if you pay a lot of taxes it is because you earn a lot). Note that it includes social security and retirements. The issue with some people that have a lot of money is that they don't realize how others people live and they always want more. I did not have a lot money 3 years ago so for me it's really OK to pay.

I wish people were a little bit more patriotic about paying taxes. Well, provided the taxes go towards good things. It's so frustrating to see businesses getting rich on the back of a country's resources and infrastructure, only to abandon it when it's time to pay back.

A company must compete for earnings. They must provide something at a good value, or the earnings won't come in.

Governments have no such competition, except for the single case that a citizen can leave if they feel the value proposition is insufficient for the price (aka tax). Of course, in some countries, even that is not an option.

I'm curious what infrastructure Belgium lacks that is unique to France to justify the difference in rates.

I know that, and that's why I'd likely make a terrible entrepreneur. Businesses have to take every advantage they can, because their competition will.

People and businesses don't leave a country because "they feel the value proposition is insufficient". They leave because they've already used all the resources and infrastructure the country has to offer, and now it's payback time. Only problem is, payback time is voluntary, so of course most of them go elsewhere.

I don't know enough about the difference in tax rates between Belgium and France, but somehow I doubt that Belgium is some sort of tax free haven where public utilities are made with fairy dust and bunny kisses. Public service costs money, and sure there is much waste in most systems and there are differences, but in the end it will cost.

But it isn't as if they hadn't been paying all along. It's a complete mischaracterization to say these people have "used all the resources and infrastructure and now it's payback time." It's been payback time all along. It's a pay as you go system.

He is moving, and thus won't be using anymore of the resources, and thus shouldn't have to pay for what he is no longer using.

Just fyi, from what I've read, Belgium's top rate is 50% vs France's soon to be 75%. I don't recall if the tiers occur at the same earnings level. I assume that what I've read is accurate but I haven't cared enough to follow up on it.

How much in taxes did you pay during the first 19 or so years of your life, though? Enough to fund your medical care, education, etc. during that time?

Taxes can't work as a real pay-as-you-go system. The times in your life when you're directly consuming the most services are pretty much the times when you're not capable of paying much in taxes -- you're too young to work, still in school, sick, old, disabled, etc..

The people earning the most money, and the most able to pay taxes, are done with their education, in good health, and generally very capable of taking care of themselves.

Especially at the beginning of that period of their lives, it seems extremely unlikely that they've already paid enough into the system to cover services they've already consumed. At some point (ideally) they'll pay off the debt from their pre-work lives and start paying down the services they'll need after retirement... again, though, this is not at all pay as you go.

(And of course this is ignoring taxes that fund more general and/or indirect benefits -- like economic infrastructure -- but those can be thought of more as pay-as-you-go).

My parents paid for everything I directly consumed for the first 20 years (besides my meager earnings from jobs), except for my public schooling, which is paid for by their property taxes rather than federal taxes. I owe them a debt much more than I owe the government for the things directly consumed.

I imagine that this is how it works for many middle class families - children generally aren't large marginal consumers of Federal resources, unless I'm missing something significant. Their healthcare certainly isn't that significant (generally some antibiotics and vaccines), and is generally covered by private insurance.

The property taxes = education bit is quite US-specific, but still -- property taxes are paid by the people with the most property -- not the ones with the most children. (Outside the US from what I've seen education is not normally linked to property taxes).

But the same argument holds true; if you assume your parents are paying for you with the money they put in, are you sure they paid their own

If your parents paid enough in taxes to cover your education (and assuming someone else in turn funded their "public" education, etc.), that's obviously not always the case. I should add that government services for children (like daycare and significant tax breaks to parents, in France) can be much more significant than in the US.

Children's healthcare is another thing that's not used in proportion to how it's paid -- there's a chunk of the population whose kids will only ever need a few jabs and stitches now and then (so those kids don't "owe" much). Then there are a few kids who will require thousands or millions of dollars worth of care -- including special schooling, etc., not just direct healthcare, and the problems they have may mean they will never contribute anything back.

That gets at the whole point of all this -- yes, of course some people pay more than they consume, because these are services intended to make life more fair. Imagine if your parents didn't pay enough property taxes to fund your schooling, so you didn't get to go. Or if you have a child with severe disabilities, and you have to leave your job to care for them and build every ramp you need by yourself (or mortgage your house to pay for medical treatment).

If the people who would otherwise be covering the difference all stop paying once they've covered their own services, that leaves a heavier burden on the people left. If enough of the lucky ones check out, services-for-all simply disappear.

In another post I likened the government with an investor. It invests in you and everyone else, and thus owns part of what you create with that investment. The difference is, if I receive venture capital for a share of my business, I don't get to decide one day that I've paid enough to them and take my business elsewhere. Why should it work differently in society? Society invests in everyone, but not everyone makes it big. For the system to function, you need to hold up your end of the bargain. Instead, we get a race to the bottom. It's particularly apparent in the US, where even individual states try to steal businesses from other states with lower tax rates and perks.

That is an interesting take. I feel like you have the relationship backward though. The taxpayer is investing in government. I am purchasing (renting really) the use of infrastructure and police protection.

Except it is compulsory, so it isn't even fair to call it investing. It is far more akin to the cliche of the mafia extorting protection money. You pay the mob, they keep lowlifes away from your business. You don't pay, you are punished, severely.

I feel no more allegiance to my government than I do my local grocery store. Actually I probably feel more for the grocery store because they are much better at what they do than the government is at what it is doing.

And I have some choice. If the quality goes down at my current store, I will take my business elsewhere.

I certainly don't think I should keep sending money to the old grocery store when I've moved on to a new one. And that is the way the law is written in the US. You pay taxes for the current year. It's not indentured servitude.

Why do you think my view is backwards specifically? Can we agree that businesses and individuals in general tend to succeed according to the power law? On average, in a population, there will be a very few extremely successful individuals, a moderate amount of fairly successful, and a vast majority that aren't very successful. All evidence from every society of every corner of this world seems to indicate this. I think this holds true with both businesses and individuals if left by their own accord. If this assumption is true, it would be impossible to look at society membership as a simple "fee" or renting. This will simply hit a majority of people disproportionately hard. In my world, it makes much more sense to take an analogy from the investing world. Investors have to invest in many duds before getting a payoff. If investors simply required a one-time fee for helping a company out, they could simply not exist unless that fee was extremely large.

You might want to argue that the successful people rightly deserve their exponential wealth, but I believe that circumstance and chance is a large factor in success, and I also believe that it's in the best interest of the successful to fund the failures to some degree. Again, all evidence I've seen points to high income inequality being the main perpetrator in criminality, unhappiness and overall societal disfunction.

Full disclosure: I grew up in Sweden, so my view on government will probably be fundamentally different from yours. The Swedish system has many problems but also many benefits. I have seen enough benefits that I would gladly pay the high tax rate, yet there are many in Sweden who don't.

I think a lot of people end up characterizing this poorly, and there is a lot of propaganda on both sides of this issue.

For me, paying taxes isn't a problem. Even paying more taxes than people who pay less is perfectly fine. The problem is I see far too much waste and far too little benefit. The revenues that the government is currently getting is more than enough to fund the things that most people want funded. The problem is we are also spending huge amounts of money on things that only a few special interest groups want. Roads are awesome. Police are great. I'm glad we have a military. etc. But that's only a small part of our total spending.

The OP is from France, and that is how this discussion started. I think they have a 75% top tax rate. To me that seems really absurd, and is way past the point of paying someones fair share, or "paying back" any investment in them. To follow your analogy, did they get 75% equity in him? Were the roads really that key to his success?

it's 75% after 1M euros (before it is 45% maximum). and I believe there is a lot of ways to prevent from paying this (eg if you do an investment in french island)

American's aren't patriotic about paying taxes because it doesn't feel like we're getting anything back for them.

Let this be a marketing lesson, I suppose. I know that I'm getting things for my tax dollars, but I don't see them.

For instance, I want to go to Mexico right now, and getting a passport is ~$130.

Why? Why am I paying money for something that feels like a "government thing that I have to have". Isn't this what taxes are for?


We have public schools, sure, but they're awful.

We have police...but the majority of people I know see them as predators, not protectors.

We have awesome national forests, and state parks...but you have to pay every time you want to use them. Some of them are just plain closed.


America is an awesome, awesome place. But we're bad at marketing to our members.

I'd say that it is also affected by our military spending. Wikipedia puts our military spending for 2012 at between 1 and 1.4 trillion dollars. When you are spending 20 to 30 times the amount of money for your military, you can't offer the same social benefits as other countries.

And yet we spent around 3 trillion. You'd think that other 2 trillion could do some good too.

There have been several people in this thread suggest that the government has been largely responsible for their success so they should be happy to pay tons of taxes, and then given examples like roads and police as their reasoning. I really like having roads too. Guess what, roads and police are a tiny tiny portion of our current spending levels, so no I'm not happy to pay huge amounts of taxes (note i'm not in the top tax bracket and have no worries of my taxes going up further).

If we stopped spending absurd amounts of money on so many ridiculous things we'd probably have more people not complain about their taxes. On the other hand, if we stopped spending the absurd amounts of money, our current tax revenues would be more than enough.

Don't know what the deal with passports is in the US, but if it's anything like the UK, the fee isn't profit making and covers the cost of running the passport service and a premium to cover the costs of providing consular assistance.

In this way, it's the epitome of "getting value". You don't need a passport, and if you don't have one, you're not paying for people who do have one to receive consular assistance.

The cost of running that passport service?

Isn't this a federal agency? Why wouldn't this be covered by federal taxes? Likely import/export taxes.


So when it's something you personally want, everyone's supposed to chip in and pay for you.

But when it's something you don't personally want, the government is spending your tax dollars wastefully.

Got it.

In case you don't understand the American tax system:

In the US we pay income tax. That is, a percentage (a large percentage) of my income goes directly to the federal government.

In addition to this, when goods I buy that are manufactured in other countries are imported, there is a tax levied against them.

I was using the passport thing as an example of "poor marketing" on behalf of the US Federal government because my perception is that I already did pay for it.

As opposed to your theory of he should pay for the thing he wants and also be happy about paying for what everyone else wants?

As opposed to my theory that he's going to end up paying for some things in addition to taxes, and his taxes are going towards some things he doesn't personally use, so he might as well get over it.

What are the alternatives?

1) Everyone only pays only for what they personally use. Services utilized by a relatively small subset of the population become prohibitively expensive, such that only the wealthy can afford them, or they are discontinued entirely.

2) Everyone pays completely for every government expenditure and every transaction between the government and the public. Taxes go up because now everybody's paying more for a larger number of expenses they'll never use.

3) Taxes pay for the things almost everyone uses, plus they subsidize the essential things that many people use to the point where they're not cost-prohibitive to only the wealthy. Additional required operating costs for these select services can be paid for through fees to the people utilizing them.

Yes, my theory is that the third option is the best.

Being a patriot doesn't mean I can't complain about horrible service at a high price. I live in the worst run state in the US, with the highest income tax rate, bad public services, and a massive budget deficit. Are you saying I should be proud to send that tax check in every year to a broken system?

I wish pro-tax types would stop providing a smoke screen for bad governance.

Taxes are one thing. Greater than 50% is theft.

50% is just a number, and without reference to what is received in return has no meaning.

$500,000 for a car could be considered theft, until you see it is an italian supercar. Then it may not seem so out of kilter, depending on your values and point of view.

"50% is just a number, and without reference to what is received in return has no meaning."

Paying more than 50% of the money I earn to the government is theft. It doesn't matter what I get in return because I really have no choice in the matter.

"$500,000 for a car could be considered theft, until you see it is an italian supercar"

You aren't forced to purchase that sports car, so I would hardly call it theft.

50% is just a number. By even your own definition paying 1% would be theft if it's done against your will. But this is a democracy, so you do have a kind of choice in the matter. Also - a way to think about high tax full-service countries is to think of them like an all inclusive resort. It costs more, but the drinks are free.

It's significant because that's the point at which the govt is getting more than you for your work. That's why it feels wrong to many, and is not just like any other number.

50% is an arbitrary number, not an actual threshold demarcating theft. Why is 49% not theft but 50% is?

How can it be theft, when the rules are agreed upon beforehand?

Or, choose a country with low tax rates before setting out to make a fortune. Then, there's no conflict.

The 75% tax rate is for people making over $1 million euros[1]. If you make below that, you pay 45%.


Going off in a tangent, it isn't necessarily the taxes that keep startups down:


Thanks for sharing, PierreA. I started on iOS at around the same time as you, and became profitable this year (not quite as successful as you, but still doing well). It sure looks like it does take that long (2+ yrs) for an indie developer to gain enough experience to do well!

happy to know that! Yes that's a long road and the experience you gain help you to know what you have to do . You can be more or less lucky (I was pretty lucky with the education market) but most of all you have to be persistant and learn from mistakes (I think I've already heard that somewhere else...)

Nice post, but what's left unsaid here is exactly how much he spent on marketing. His gross revenue might have been $417k for the last 12 months, but what's his gross profit?

that's a good point, and I will add this in the report. I work at home so my expense are only a little bit of marketing, some devices and I've made a trip to a conference this year in california, and a very important thing is that I have to give some royalties back to the speech engine company for the word wizard app. So according to my files, it is about $35K. I would say that marketing is not very expensive but takes a lot of times (anyway buying ads don't work well) EDIT: updated the expense (bad euros/dollars conversion before)

Thanks for responding publicly to my question, Pierre. Class act. And congrats on your success.

Hi Pierre,

Would you be able to comment on how your process and decision on picking a speech engine company?


it was simple - I tried all the major engines on the market and take the best one for iOS. All companies almost offer the same license (20 to 30% of your income).

Watched your videos on montesori numbers. Very impressive. Have you thought of doing iphone aps with arithmetic for the older kids and/or prodigies ? I learnt to add three digit numbers when I was like 6-7. I didn't understand what I was doing...like I didn't know why 7+4 was 11...but understanding can wait. Its very useful to nevertheless pattern match your way to addition & multiplication. You can learn multiplication tables upto 20 or so simply by osmosis...not repetition, but intelligent pattern matching. You look at 3 and 7 and just automatically write 1 in units place and carry over 2....reasoning can come later. There were various tricks for remembering factorials & summations & the like...it was a real blast.

I'm happy for your success, but as a developer, having one app for each of {French, German, Swedish} sounds like spam. It reminds me of "auto wallpaper" apps or the like.

The actual question of course is: how does establishing a unifying brand fare compared with a bazillion of generic apps?

another point for localization : I can sell an app at a higher price in France (tier 4) because of the euros rate. tier 4 in france is a little bit like tier 3 in the US (eg 3$ in the US and 3.5 euros in France - it was 3 euros before Apple updated their price). In Sweden, where there is less competition I can set the price to tier 5. In the English market (which is 73% of my income), all the apps are $3 (except today).

and actually for the Word Wizard app, I can't release a single app with all languages because it uses a text to speech engine and each voice is 90M ! In addition, due to the contract I have with the text to speech company, I can't release an app with several languages...

Looked it up some more; most of the difficulty of speech-to-text engines are text normalization and converting words into sounds. Since you only have dictionary words, you might be able to use a phonetic dictionary.

Wikipedia and discussions with another techie friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_synthesis#Challenges

How many words do you have in total? Is it possible to record most or some of them?

90M is a lot; maybe we could work something out? :)

text to speech engines do not work like this. They built the pronunciations of any words on the fly using their phonetic sound library. so 90M is for the sound library I think

If you had 2-300 words, it would be much cheaper to just record the words.

Otherwise, if it's still just dictionary words, it's just a lot easier if the dictionary already breaks down the word into phonemes, and the speech engine then collates the phoneme sounds together. You're not actually using most of the features of a text-to-speech engine, so I don't see why you'd have to pay for the full price tag.

So: how many words? And what's a price that would make you want to buy a license to a simpler engine? :)

Unfortunately the search algorithms/hotlists work much better for separate editions then unified editions of many things.

Pardon my newbiness, but what generated your charts? Is it part of the iOS Store, or a third-party dashboard?


Does this sound ironic to anyone else? Do educators ever post about how much money they made teaching children?

Ironic that I get more money than an educator ? Yes it is in a way. But it is the world we are living, no ? (and we should not start to talk about bankers) On the other hand, there is no comparison between a software developer and a educator (I teach nothing except to my kids)

An educational App writer has much better operational leverage than a single teacher of 30 kids. The App also has to compete on a global stage, so the rewards to the winner are likely to be higher too.

Can you explain?

An average teacher posting about what they earned teaching children would be boring; "my salary last year was $X; this year it's up 2%".

This is interesting because making educational apps is far riskier than applying for a salaried job as a teacher -- you might make a grand total of $0 or only slightly more after many months of work.

Maybe you're saying that any educational software should be permanently priced as cheap as the developer can afford, to reach the maximum number of kids?

That's not obviously the best approach, though, even if we assumed that every developer choosing this market would be so philanthropic as to forgo all profit; that would also force them to all remain tiny one-developer shops with minimal support, etc.. Is that necessarily a good thing?

Also, publicizing moderate success in a risky endeavor (apps in the education market) is a good thing for the market as a whole -- anyone who reads Pierre's post and realizes "hey, if I do right, maybe I can actually make a decent living doing that" will mean more good apps for students.

Well, he is a developer who writes educational software and he is explaining how he did what he did for the educational market. I think in a market context the numbers make sense and help both shed light on an opaque market and to give tips to those trying to break in.

Actually educators have salaries, the author of the post tries to automate and gamify some aspects of education, and posts report on how successful it is.

Teachers don't take on the financial risk of failing or spend 6-12 months teaching before they ever know if they'll be paid for it.

Congrats! That is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Having said that, every time I read one of these types of success stories I'm reminded of Jacques Matthieu's "So you're making good money. STFU" post. http://jacquesmattheij.com/So+you+are+making+good+money+now+...

I hadn't read that STFU piece before, but it is truly awful. It basically argues "Don't talk about your success because you'll give away your secrets and increase competition, lower the barrier for competitors." One presumes this goes double for actual code: don't open-source! You'll give away all your secrets!

It's that kind of selfish, greedy outlook that makes life suck. Jealously guarded secrets retard the growth of industries - and presumably, if you really care about your customers, and you're building good stuff, then you want more good stuff in the world. Of course it sucks if you get undercut, or your product gets cloned. And you can't rely on your market to know the history and do the right thing.

The saving grace, and why Matthieu's post is horse shit, is that software is a lot like art. People don't want clones. They want Plants vs. Zombies not a clone. It's music, it's art, and guarding your secrets about how you make your art is unhealthy.

One of the things you get, too, is influence and respect from your peers. Pierre certainly has mine. He's put together an excellent resource for those who want to follow in his footstep writing and selling apps having realistic expectations about what it takes, and some great links to resources for doing things like promotion. It's still a lot of hard work, clearly, but he's increasing the size of his community, not giving away the secret sauce.

"Don't talk about your success because you'll give away your secrets and increase competition, lower the barrier for competitors."

This is the truth. I know I've gotten ideas from posters like the OP talking about how profitable an app is. If I have a bigger team or more resources, I could take away your customers pretty quickly.

"Jealously guarded secrets retard the growth of industries"

Really? Rather than everyone using the exact same idea/code base and branching off from it, we have completely different products. It helps the growth of industries and ends up being better for the consumer (more choices, etc).

"They want Plants vs. Zombies not a clone. It's music, it's art, and guarding your secrets about how you make your art is unhealthy."

Don't blame anyone when you can't make any money because you gave all of your best stuff away for free.

Making money from the app store (or any startup) is hard enough as it is.

Do you really want to take a chance and give away any competitive advantage that you may have had?

Do you realize that the exact same argument can be made against honesty in government? "If you're honest, look at all the money in bribes you're giving up! Everyone does it, it's almost impossible to get caught and even if you do, it's a slap on the wrist. It's stupid to not take bribes."

And sure enough, everyone starts taking bribes. The corruption spreads to every level of government, because every individual makes the same calculation: take the bribe, more money for the family, don't take the bribe, less money.

Secrecy is a bribe.

When I began doing apps, I was inspired and motivated by such posts. They gave me the motivation to try and do it. So I thought I could give back. I did the same post last year, and I'm sure I have new competitors because of this post but that's OK for me. I'm here to build great apps and competition is very good for that !

STFU why? I love reading success stories, they're so inspirational.

I posted an article explaining his reasons. Why ask "Why?" to me?

The designer of IBM's Harvard Mark I said, "Don't worry about people trying to steal your ideas, if they're original, you will have to ram them down people's throats". I have had some minor success in Android apps ($30 a day), but I do not worry much about competition from giving advice for how people can make their apps more popular. Even if the competition is in my domain - I have an educational app too, but only for math - I do not see a spelling educational app as competition. It makes Android a healthy ecosystem - when Android had a smaller market share, I was more scared of iOS or possibly Windows Mobile overshadowing Android then I was over other Android developers. Also, a lot of this advice has been given by others already, including Google sometimes. Have a good, simple, relevant app icon. Have a descriptive app name. Have the app work for devices with different sizes and different densities. And so on. It sounds logical, but I see many people with low download numbers who do not follow this advice.

I started doing an Android spreadsheet which could handle Excel. I got XLS files working, but more modern XLSX files were tougher. I hit a brick wall and saw it would take, at a minimum, months of work, maybe even more than a year. So I open sourced what I had (a bare bones spreadsheet which could handle XLS), announced its existence and moved on. You would think I might have gotten some interest - a spreadsheet which can handle XLS, and with some work, XLSX. But I did not. As Paul Graham said in his essay on Viaweb, it was "running up a stairwell". The number of people who know Java is a certain size, the number who know the Android API are smaller, and the number with the skills to work on this advanced problem is quite small. I am sure if ABS author and Square employee Jake Wharton wanted to help me on it it could get done, as he is an expert Android programmer. But he is too busy building up Square and maintaining ABS and his other projects. If you choose a difficult task, you do not have to worry about competition in the way you do with low hanging fruit. I myself have had some success with more easibly attainable goals on Android to where I don't know if I myself would have the time to work on that spreadsheet nowadays, even with a capable partner. There are too many sure things that would generate money with a few weeks of work to devote time to a big project like that. Maybe when my apps generate even more revenue, and competition crowds out all the low hanging fruit will I go back to a more ambitious project like that. Worry about competition? It is as sure a guaranteed money maker as there can be with a few months of expert work, sitting on Github and interest is minimal.

Now I have learned a trick or two to get my apps noticed that I do not share with people, but 99% of what I know I can share with little fear. It requires some domain knowledge and some work, and those 2 things are a big enough barrier to get people from doing what I talk about any way.

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