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Ture Dahl Børglum, VP of Product, Endomondo:

Presenation at SlideShare: From zero to 25m users: Know your purpose and grow with it.

January 29, 2015

So my name is Ture Børglum, and I’m from Endomondo. I’ve been with Endomondo since the very early days and joined the company in 2008 when there were about – I don’t know – 2,000 or 3,000 users. They had a really great idea; nobody was using smartphones – at least not to run, so we had a difficult case of convincing people that it’s really smart to take your phone running, because there’s phone with GPS in it right now and we believe this is the future and. “This is stupid; you are idiots” and we were out of money very shortly.

I joined the company – actually, I was still studying at CBS, the growth school. At that point, there were just the founders and they had a technical guy, and then we kind of had no money. They didn’t get paid, but they had a student worker, and that was me. So that’s how I joined the company.

How many are those Endomondo? Do I have to explain what we do? That’s pretty much all of you. How many have tried our app? A great deal – that’s nice to see. Right now we have about 1.4 million users in Denmark, so that’s an thing and registered at our website of our app, so that’s a pretty good.

First of all, I’m going to talk about – Endomondo is a Business to Consumer product, and I would say, of course, no two of these apps or consumer products are alike, but there should be some takeaways that you can learn from –. Then I’m going to go through some things about the early days, how we did – how we grew in the early days. Basically I’m a product guy; I would say I don’t know a lot about growth hacking, but we did a lot of trial and error. I guess six years ago you didn’t call it growth hacking, but we just kind of did trial and error and then we’ll see. And today I guess we maybe know something about growth hacking.

And then we’re going to talk about when we got wiser and what we’re doing a little bit more today.

One of the things we found out in the beginning was that we were trying to do this sports training app. We said, “Okay, we want to do an app to unite people, so they can run around the world and compete together and share unto others and be in a running group.” We had a lot of plans about what we wanted to do, but we kind of pretty fast found out that it’s not about what we think our users should be doing, why they should use our service, or what we would like them to do. It’s about what do people use our service or app for.

In the beginning, we tried to explain this big vision of how people should exercise, and then we found out people download our app because they want to go running. They want to download the app, press start, and then run. They don’t care about having friends; they don’t care about sharing their workouts and all that.

So after a while, we’ve discovered, “Okay, don’t try to sell this great idea of what we want to do. Make it simple: say what you do, do what you say, and make it super simple.” Back then, we were the first movers within this market. I think that we were screwing all the apps doing the same – one of them was Runkeeper, an American business, and that other one called CardioTrainer – at least on some other platforms. Runkeeper is still really big and we are kind of fighting to be the leader here, but the other one – CardioTrainer – they kind of lost track at some point, and they are doing some other health-oriented stuff and all, but we don’t see them anymore.

But basically, in the early days, we tried a lot of different things to grow and different ways on how we can spread our message. We went to Spartan Runs, kind of handing out flyers and download this app and do a lot of this and tried to go to other events, and it kind of helped a little bit and got a bit of PR in some afternoon show or something like that – that kind of gave us small spikes in the user growth, but it didn’t really take off; it was kind of always a small bump, and then it went back.

Then in 2011, we kind of had – on 2010, we launched a paid app. We first had a free app, but in 2011 launched a paid app which was a one-off app for about – I think it was about 2.99. Basically, you could price it around a cup of coffee, kind of, it should be should be something that people will say, “Okay, I buy coffee everyday so I might as well also buy this app because it could help me run.

And within the first year, we kind of had about 53,000 downloads of our paid app, which we thought was kind of cool, but we didn’t get rich from that. But one thing we noticed was that it was of our free users. After trying the paid app for a while, they download the paid app version – it has some features, and they were kind of donating to us and saying, “What you guys are doing is really cool.” It didn’t really take off except that we got really good ratings in the App Store on our paid app.

For a long time, we had been trying to contact Google and Apple and say, “We are these super cool guys doing this great running/cycling app. Can we get featured or something like that?” We kind of knew that the App Store is where people notice you and of course they kind of never answered our emails.

But at some point in 2011, Google was close to having one billion app downloads in their Android Market Store, as it was called back then. And out of the blue, Google wrote to us and said, “Hey, we didn’t see that you’re one of the cool health and fitness apps in that category, in the category called Health and Fitness, and we want to promote ten really cool apps that do something in Health and Fitness for this one billion downloads deal.

And we said, “Great! Finally!” They’re talking to us and then they said, “What we will do is we will promote your app for 24 hours, two times within a week – or within these days or something like that – and we will also lower the price of the app.” So from 2.99, we go down to 10 cents. This was the only revenue we got back then, but we said, “Okay, hell yeah, whatever Google can do to promote us, let’s do it.”

And then because kind of sent out these – like when you open the they recommend some apps and stuff like that, and that’s it. “This is the best running app out there.” Then people will say, “Hell yeah, I’ll download that.” And then within those 48 hours we got 282,000 downloads. And then we kind of figured out, “Okay, we’ve been trying to do a bunch of stuff outside the App Stores and it has given some small spikes, but it didn’t really take off and we didn’t really get a lot. So we could kind of see that we really need to do something in the App Store that’s kind of – that is the place to be when you’re a consumer app and you want new users.

So the takeaway from that is that the key to growth as an app – as a consumer app – is app stores, app stores, app stores, and the two biggest one is of course iTunes and Google Play. We’ve also been in – we are in Windows phones now, on Windows Phone Marketplace, and we also have Blackberry – App World, I think it’s called – we’ve been in Nokia, Nokia Ovi Store as well. But basically these are the two key areas. Microsoft really want us to do it on their Windows Phone as well, and I hope that nobody’s here from Microsoft, but it’s difficult to take them seriously when they have sold their market shares.

But one of the things we also kind of noticed was that our users really liked to refer other users to our app. Some of them like to be social about it and just brag about what they were doing and we didn’t really have any good referral or invite program. Of course you can do it; you can type in an email, or scan your email address or something like that, but it wasn’t super intuitive and it was kind of in-your-face, kind of invite some people.

But then when Facebook launched their single sign-on, it was easier to make it possible to share on Facebook. We could see that a lot of our users were actually also on Facebook, so we were kind of fast and said, “Let’s do this. We are a small team; we can easily implement this,” and after we did it, I think two weeks after or something like that, Facebook contacted us and said, “What are you guys doing? We haven’t heard of you, but you are kind of one of the top 40 of most-used apps that use single sign-on and sharing.” And we had no idea; it was a little bit of a lucky guess, but we just thought this is where our users want to be, so we took a gut feeling and went for it.

Then it kind of gave us a spike as well and you could see now we’re in the loop with Facebook; now we can talk with them about what can help us grow in that sense. That really helped with the as well.

But basically, kind of going into more growth hacking and what you can do nowadays are all these ranking algorithms in Google Play and iTunes. Nobody really knows how it is exactly; of course it’s very secret, but a lot of different apps have tested it out. There a lot of things that are taking place – installs for the last couple of hours, the last week, reviews and ratings and those stars and what people are saying, how engaged people are and all that. We tried to look at some of these things and kind of the green ones I highlighted up here, the ones where we can do something.

Like reviews, we want people to review you – that’s clear. But when do you want them to review? That’s basically when they have a good experience with you. You don’t want to all the time just say “Review me! Review me! Please give me a good review in the App Store.”

What we have found out that we have made this what we call the Happy User Program that would be going in and see when are people kind of active and using our app a lot and doing some different things, where we believe, “Okay, this is a user that actually – that is really engaged with our app; they are commenting on a lot of users’ activities; they are doing a lot of workout. And then once in a while you can see the reviews go down because we had a release where it has some issues, so there were some crashes. Then we need to get the reviews up; we can activate this Happy User Program, and then we notify our users that are active. “Hey, do you mind reviewing us again and spend some time, just a little.” And they’re happy, so they’ll do that.

You can also kind of say, like in the app, we also have in the menu where we always have in the bottom of our menu where you can give us a one to five-star rating, or just give us some feedback, where the user can type in some feedback for us. And then we have a support team going through this feedback, and they can also give one to five stars. And if people give us a four or five-star, we say “Thank you very much. Do you mind sharing your good experience with other people on the App Store?” So we direct people to the app stores that way as well.”

I think silent keywords – if you do apps, you know these are super important. Just from changing our app name to Endomondo Sports Trainer – we were called for four years – to Endomondo Running, Cycling, Walking, Workout Tracker with GPS and Maps. Kind of a crazy name, but the thing is, Apple doesn’t like it when apps do this. But the thing is, the title is so damn important, so the more keywords you can put into the title, the better. But you cannot keyword spam; it needs to make sense, so you need to kind of make a sentence that describes your app, and that also helped us.

And yeah, basically this has been our growth over the years. Maybe I should just go back – localization is also up here, which for us is very important because only about 7% of our user base is in Denmark. We have people from – I don’t know – out of 80 countries or something like that. We grew 400% in Laos last year; we have not done anything in Laos; I have no idea what happened, but something happened there so we kind of at our app. So there are some 20 languages on Android, 15 on the iPhone, and that’s not only – they have the language in the app installer, the app description, the keywords, the naming, everything you do about it. That can really help you grow in other countries as well.

This is the growth we’ve had over the years and it’s been pretty steady in the beginning. The first million was a tough goal, but then starting off –. Actually if you look at this, you can see we have a few, small bumps – where is the light. There are some small bumps here and up here. This is actually seasonality, late in October, November, people get lazy and it’s colder outside so they don’t want to do anything. But then right around New Year’s, there’s a spike – New Year’s resolutions! “Yeah, I’m going to do a lot of productivity!” That will last, sadly, 14 days, and then if you forgot about your New Year’s resolution, so we’re doing a lot, kind of to say how we can retain users. They have the positive flow about “I want to do – I want to exercise for the first 14 days” but how can we retain them after the first 14 days?

So the last thing I will be talking about is, only briefly, when you talk about growth, it’s not only about getting user downloads and stores and what it is – it’s always kind of activating people, and you kind of need to ask yourself, “What do I know about my users or the people who use my service?” We kind of tried to measure a lot of metrics, but I just put out two now.

We kind of know that within the first week, when someone downloads our app, I think one thing that’s common for everybody is that they need to get it right away. They need to know what is this app about and what you use it for. And then we can kind of see that within the first 48 hours, we need people to go out and running. I think in our case, it’s a little bit rare. The most apps, you need to use it right away like a game or some other app, but sometimes people got to and they don’t have their running clothes on, so if they kind of told a friend at a Friday, then I’ve got to go running there. But hopefully within the next 48 hours, we want them to go running.

People have a habit of exercising, like have a plan for a week: “I’m going to run every Sunday” or something like that, so we need to make sure that the second workout is within seven days, and then make sure that they stay on that pattern.

Also, the social pattern: if they have three friends, they’re twice as likely to stay with us and stay active.

So ask yourself, “What do I know about my users?” If you don’t know what to know about users – that’s fine, but investigate. Figure out to dig into some things.

And that’s basically it. But just a last quote, “Don’t think too much about building a big, fancy product.” Just say, “I need to build something that’s simple, get it out there. It’s better to build half a product than a half-assed product.

Yeah, that was it.