There are millions of apps out there. Many are very successful, but most are not. What are the steps taken by successful app makers that distinguish them from unsuccessful ones? In addition, many people have ideas for an app but don't know where to begin. What are the steps you need to take to create a successful app? As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-Baptiste Hironde.
Jean-Baptiste Hironde is the CEO and Founder of MWM, a leading publisher and developer of creative tool mobile apps in the music and visual art categories. MWM began as a passion project to make DJ equipment more accessible, which Jean-Baptiste worked on during his time studying aeronautical engineering at EPF School of Engineering in Paris. This led to the creation of Edjing, a turntable mobile app that has been downloaded more than 150 million times, and a portfolio of 40 other mobile creative tools followed, which have garnered over 500 million downloads across 182 countries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I launched my first company when I was just 21 years old while studying at Aeronautics University in France. I was able to raise my funding goal before graduation. While attending university, I frequently DJ’d at various parties around the school. My dream became to make DJing accessible to anyone, as hardware was very expensive at the time—which is still true today. I ended up partnering with my best friend and together we built the first DJ software for mobile platforms in our dorm rooms, which we called edjing. This would eventually evolve into what MWM is today, revolutionizing both the DJing and app development worlds.
Most of us have been around a lot longer than apps have. What were your hobbies and interests in your youth before anyone knew what an 'app' was?
As mentioned before, DJing was and still is a passion of mine, and has been from an early age. I’ve also always been interested in software and hardware, leading me to create different types of technology that could be utilized.
It has been said that our mistakes are our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?
While the team was working on edjing, we had the idea to add virtual currency to the app. At the time, only mobile games were using virtual currency so we worked hard to prepare a massive update that would allow users to buy special songs and other in-app perks. Unfortunately, the whole update was blocked by an app store guideline that only allowed virtual currencies for games and not other apps.
MWM and its app store partner had a long discussion about why virtual currencies were only allowed on games and after several months, we succeeded in convincing them to allow us to ship the update. The lesson was that sometimes when you innovate in an ever-changing industry, you need to check with your partners to make sure they are ready to take the leap, otherwise your team’s hard work can go to waste.
I tend to meet two types of app developers; people who are passionate about app development and technology and people who started an app because they saw it as a means to solve a problem. Which camp would you put yourself in, and how did you arrive there?
I would say I fit into both categories here and am a combination of the two. I’ve always had a passion for technology and building software/hardware with the capability to solve problems, such as with expensive DJ equipment. Today, too often app developers don’t have the resources to pay for expensive tools to get their ideas and apps off the ground. MWM can give these developers access to necessary tools that they otherwise wouldn’t get. This is a crucial problem we aim to solve, as there are so many great ideas out there for apps that can better the world, but not enough people can see them through. MWM hopes to change that for the better.
Can you tell us a bit about your app? How does it help people? What do you think makes it stand out? What are you most proud of?
MWM is a smartphone app development studio and publisher behind some of the most popular apps on the Apple App and Google Play stores. MWM started when I was in college and couldn’t afford DJ equipment, and had the idea to create an app with all of the same capabilities. So MWM truly started with my first app, edjing Mix, and the mission was to give other aspiring creatives like myself the ability to access typically expensive tools right from their smartphone and at a much more affordable price.
The MWM team has invested a lot of time and effort in researching and developing complex technologies to provide users with the best possible experience. Since then, all of MWM’s apps have been built with the same mission—giving creative people the tools they need to unleash their creativity right from their smartphones. Most of our apps simplify processes like music mixing, video editing, and more, giving creatives a place to start without a huge investment.
Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you've taken to build such a large community?
MWM’s suite of 50 apps has over 500M downloads worldwide. edjing Mix has more than 50M downloads.
1) Find your niche. Be 100% focused on the problem you’re trying to solve or the unique experience you want to provide.
2) Make it fun. Adding gamified elements to creative apps helps engage users and keeps them coming back.
3) Ask for feedback. Don’t stress about nailing down all of the details—get friends, family and colleagues to use the app and share their thoughts—this will help determine if you need to redefine your niche.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
Almost all of MWM’s apps rely on a freemium pricing model with the option for in-app purchases or a subscription for premium features. We need to have virtually no barrier to accessing MWM’s creative apps, so basic features are available for free so users can try out things like music creation, video editing, etc. Once a user discovers their talents, or is committed to growing their skills, they’ll be much more likely to pay for other features or a monthly subscription.
Can you tell our readers about the most unconventional tactic you've used to test, market, or gain feedback on a product? What did you try, what was unique about it, and what was the outcome?
One unconventional tactic we've used early in MWM’s life to test, market, and gain feedback on our products was hosting live beta testing events where we invite users to come and test our app in person, give us feedback, and share their thoughts with our team. This approach was unique because it allowed us to get face-to-face feedback from our users and make real-time adjustments to the app based on their suggestions. It also allowed us to build a sense of community around our product. This tactic has been successful for us as it has helped us to improve our products and gain valuable insights from our users.
What are some of the strategies you have used to improve your products and build on their success?
We constantly gather and analyze user feedback, then implement new features and updates based on that feedback. Diligently conducting market research and monitoring mobile industry trends and innovations are pivotal to ensuring you aren’t falling behind. MWM currently has a team solely dedicated to research and development but up-and-coming startups should regularly read tech publications, subscribe to newsletters, and follow industry leaders on social media. Additionally, MWM has built proprietary intelligence tools to track user engagement and analytics to get real-time insights on how well our portfolio of apps is performing. This way we can develop tailored strategies on how to adapt and optimize specific apps based on their performance.
We also make sure to stay in close communication with our users through social media and email to keep them engaged and informed. Additionally, we continuously measure and optimize the performance of our apps by using analytics tools.
Related Read: 10 Best Product Feedback Software In 2023
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app?
1 . Understand and address a real problem consumers are facing. That can be as simple as improving an existing process. For example, edjing Mix makes DJing more accessible by putting music mixing software on smartphones in an easily understandable format, which lowered the barrier to entry to DJing. We didn’t replace turntable equipment, but we offered people the opportunity to try out DJing without committing to a major purchase.
2 . Offer a simple and intuitive experience. DJing equipment can be extremely intimidating to a beginner, so we prioritized making edjing Mix as easily digestible and informative as possible. We wanted users to stay on the app to learn and see their progress in real time, so they keep coming back to get better and better.
3 . Continuously gather and act on user feedback. Creating an app that users will love now and in the future is a process that never really ends. Developers should keep an open mind and be willing to try new approaches that they might not have considered while they were designing their product for the first time. It’s also possible that an innovation could completely upend your solution to a problem. Developers need to stay nimble and accept the ever-changing nature of the tech industry.
4 . Stay relevant by updating your app to include the latest technology. MWM recently updated its popular coloring app, Color Pop with AI-generated stencils. This allows users to type in a prompt of what they want to color instead of having to browse through a list of pre-made canvases. Incorporating stable diffusion into a simple app like this gives users another layer of creative freedom to add in canvases that may have never made it to the app in the first place and it lets them interact with tech that is shaping the future of our industry.
5 . Finally, promote your app effectively through different channels, including social media and paid ads. This can often be the most challenging part of the process for new startups that are so focused on their product, but it’s a crucial step in building a community that you can use to get feedback from. Developers should actively engage with their users on social media and forums and give interested users early access to their app from the very beginning. Taking the time to bake promotion into the development process can yield fantastic results for new developers.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m passionate about promoting and supporting digital literacy and education to help people gain tech skills and give them access to careers in that field within six to twelve months. MWM is currently funding Education for Madagascar, an association that teaches young women in the country how to code. The ability to effectively use technology is becoming increasingly important in today's world, and everyone must have access to the resources and skills they need to succeed in this digital age.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can read about MWM’s latest offerings on mwm.io and I’ll be regularly publishing industry-focused articles on Forbes.
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