We’ve had a lot of trouble over the last year trying to monetise 2cloud. Tino and I are not happy with the app’s monetisation to date, so we met to discuss why things aren’t working and how to fix that. We came up with a very simple problem we were failing to address.

There are two types of software you buy and each has an equivalent in the real world. Apps are a bit like products, things you pick up off the shelf and buy. Services are a bit like… well, services. They’re products constrained by time. Think of a movie at the cinema: you buy that, but for two hours at a time. Think of your internet connection: you buy that for a month at a time.

We believe 2cloud is a service, because that’s the only way we can keep it running. We incur recurring costs to keep the service online, so we need recurring income or we’ll run out of money. When we run out of money, servers crash. It gets ugly. We don’t want that, and we hope you don’t either.

What Makes A Service?

Tino and I then had to consider why we think of 2cloud as a service but users think of it as an app. Our answer was to brainstorm a list of services and apps, then find the common differences between them. Here are some of our findings:

  • A service is a contract with you. An app is a contract with your device. The difference is in how you interact with the product. On a service, you use clients on each of your devices to get to the same service. Apps exist in a vacuum. The Angry Birds app on my phone doesn’t know or care about the Angry Birds app on my tablet or my computer.
  • A service is sold in an unlimited market. This means that when I buy a service, it’s generally in a place where I can find services, apps, real world products, and every shade of gray in-between. The apps, however, tend to be consolidated in the app stores. Clearly, being sold in an app store is going to give people the impression that they are buying an app, not a service.
  • A service comes from a company. This is an important one; if you’re going to engage in a contract for any length of time, you want it to be with someone who you can trust. And a company, for whatever reason, is more likely to evoke that trust than a guy sitting in his parents’ basement. This doesn’t particularly gel with my stated distate for professionalism, but we’re going to try to strike a balance. We need to be a company and be seen as a company, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop working closely with our users or abandon our sense of humour. We just need to rethink exactly how we’ll do that.

Those aren’t all the ideas that came from our brainstorming session, but I think they’re the most important in this case.

What Have We Learned?

We’ve learned a lot over the last year. We’ve learned how to write better software, collaborate more closely with our users, and recover more quickly from failure. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve learned how to prevent failures from getting to the point where we need to recover. We still have a lot to learn, but we’re making a lot of progress.

One thing we noticed in our brainstorming session was that the only real changes to 2cloud in the last year, as far as users can tell, were the introduction of device-specific sending, a more reliable experience, and a faster experience. And those are all wonderful, but they’re not moving us towards our stated goals. We want it to be easy to transfer content between devices. That is our vision: a world in which the content you’re working with follows you to whatever device it’s most convenient to work on.

Why haven’t we gotten closer to this by now? In our defense, we’ve had a busy year. We’ve struggled to pay for the service for so long, fought so hard over dollar signs and balance sheets, we allowed ourselves to get distracted from the product. That was a mistake, and one I aim to rectify immediately.

We’ve tried so hard to find a monetisation strategy that works well and is unobtrusive for users. We didn’t want to turn anyone away, and it cost us both money and time as we implemented strategy after strategy trying to get the service to pay for itself. We’re done with that. We have a plan, we’re going to stick to it. It’s time for us to take a stance and live or die by it. Tino will be in charge of overseeing it and making any modifications necessary. I’m going to focus almost exclusively on chasing the vision and making it real. It’s time for us to stop worrying about how to pay for the party and start throwing the party.

Where Do We Go From Here?

From here, we’ve got a pretty clear path charted for us. We’re showing a lot more love to our web-based experience (where we can be in an unlimited market). We’re focusing a lot more on achieving our vision and less on perfecting our monetisation strategy. Our new strategy may be sub-optimal; we’ll work that out over time. In the meantime, we’re committing to the subscription model; we’re not going to devote much of our attention to it. Instead, we’re focusing on being a company. We’re focusing on making sure you, our users, get the information you need about our service. We’re focusing on making it clearer that our apps are just clients, accessing the main experience from a handy interface. We’re focusing on giving you the best experience that we can.

We hope you’ll come with us. We’ve seen what we’re headed towards, and we’re pretty excited to finally make it a reality.