Interview with Steven Chan, Founding father of GoodNotes: How He Turned an Thought of ​​Software right into a Worthwhile Enterprise

In his final semester of faculty, Steven Chan went on to enrolled in as many chook preparation lessons as doable and put all his effort into a brand new app. Since then, he has built-in his GoodNotes product with an award-winning app introduced on the Apple App Retailer repeatedly. Reasonably than observe a enterprise mannequin primarily based on enterprise capital, Steven's dedication to product improvement and income-driven progress has additionally given him time to expertise different significant life experiences, resembling touring and change into a digital nomad. After his early years as a solopreneur, Steven began to construct a group to develop GoodNotes right into a software that may notice the potential of digital observe taking for each work state of affairs. Learn the way and why GoodNotes has achieved success by specializing in profitability fairly than fundraising.

When no path is drawn, construct one thing to seek out it.

Steven put his profession on GoodNotes. He had a final semester to complete and no particular profession in sight. Steven enrolled within the best choices to graduate and duplicated an software thought he had been fascinated by for months. His thought for the GoodNotes app was born from his want as a scholar to take notes straightforward to again up and that didn’t take up area. Not one of the purposes out there in 2010 met his wants completely, so he determined to create his personal.

Fortuitously, GoodNotes was not Steven's first try to create a product. He had began studying programming for the reason that age of 10, earlier than the discharge of the primary iPhone. Certainly one of his first merchandise was constructed on Macromedia Flash. It was additionally a documentation software for builders. This app has had a slight success, however the classes realized have been invaluable. By the point Steven enrolled in faculty, he already had a tough time creating options, attracting customers, and being obsessive about a product. This direct expertise of product improvement, mixed together with his curiosity and self-learning in startup methodology, ready him higher for his new enterprise.

Creating an unprecedented UX with discreet particulars

From the primary day, GoodNotes had a particular goal consumer: arithmetic college students like Steven. Not like majors within the humanities, who may kind notes on laptops, writing was one of the best ways to generate notes with numbers and calculations. However having tried different handwriting apps out there on the primary iPad, Steven knew that the delicate particulars had been the crux of the consumer expertise for taking notes. When Steven did his market analysis with different note-taking apps, he discovered they didn’t miss the precise mixture of options he needed. As well as, the sensation of writing was simply not pretty much as good and it prevented him from persevering with to make use of them.

He undertook to create the applying that he may use with pleasure daily, however targeted on growing options round his observations from different purposes. As a solopreneur, Steven labored organically on the options of his software, however they targeted on these two themes UX:

Recreate the sensation of writing
Enhance the note-taking expertise

Recreate the sensation of writing

Whereas purposes, as viable minimal merchandise (MVPs), initially give attention to perform fairly than type to validate performance, in some circumstances type is a part of the perform. For GoodNotes, the aesthetics of recreating reasonable ink was essential for a compelling writing expertise. The creation of a compelling writing aesthetic allowed customers to give attention to their writing. Steven states, "The consumer expertise is crucial. How can ink bleeding work higher? How can the feel be extra reasonable, to the purpose that folks overlook that it's an iPad? "

Enhancing the note-taking expertise

Nevertheless, recreating the writing expertise was not essentially sufficient to retain customers or appeal to hardcore analog writers. The second a part of GoodNotes' product improvement was to take advantage of the potential of a digital pill as a multifunctional software that surpasses paper. This meant that GoodNotes wanted to create options to resolve different issues associated to taking notes on paper. For Steven, the applying needed to create an expertise "in a position to anticipate what a consumer needs to do, in order that he by no means has to return to pen and paper."

Nevertheless, these options could not at all times be apparent. As a substitute, Steven noticed, "Many small options have created a compound impact for customers." Reasonably than counting on main options that may be shortly duplicated by opponents, resembling creating totally different notebooks, GoodNotes has Can also be differentiated due to an obsession on the micro degree of UX particulars, for instance, the applying robotically returns to writing mode after erasing notes. Nevertheless, seemingly small facilities require an unbelievable funding, resembling the usage of machine studying mixed with international search capabilities to consolidate related info to supply extra customized assist for software customers fairly than merely returning actual phrases. . Including this function and offering the identical high quality of expertise to different languages, resembling Chinese language, additionally requires appreciable funding within the background. Nevertheless, the result’s a fluid and seamless expertise for quite a lot of customers in a mess of eventualities, which reinforces the enduring reputation of the applying.

Evolution of product improvement by means of the expansion of the group

As a devoted consumer of his personal software, Steven prioritizes options primarily based on the variety of requests he has obtained from customers and his personal issues. As a solo developer, who did all the things from buyer assist to function improvement, there was no particular course of for prioritizing options. Now that Steven has shaped a group, GoodNotes has a product improvement course of and may carry out extra in-depth planning of the consumer expertise, resembling trying to find consumer info. With this extra funding, the group can now perceive the important thing points that information future product improvement, resembling:

How and why do customers truly use GoodNotes?
How does GoodNotes combine into the lives and workflow of customers?

Options at the moment are developed in accordance with finest practices in product improvement, resembling wired procedures, prototyping, and consumer testing. Nevertheless, Steven provides solopreneurs recommendation: you’ll be able to nonetheless do key UX workout routines with restricted assets. He says that within the early years, he would make the most of WWDC and ask for volunteer consumer testers through Twitter and a publication to make testers in San Jose in the course of the convention. Followers loyal to the applying wouldn’t solely give him priceless details about his merchandise, however they might evangelize for GoodNotes.

Editor's Notice : The image above is courtesy of a GoodNotes consumer. Yow will discover out extra about Instagram from GoodNotes.

Tracing the trail of revenue-driven progress

As a founder and solo product proprietor, Steven spends most of his time growing merchandise, fairly than "hacking progress". Reasonably than utilizing the preliminary strategy of buying a big consumer base for an software to draw buyers, Steven seen his software as his direct income generator. Which means that Steven has billed his app since launch. The appliance revenues have justified its continued funding within the repetition of the product in an effort to improve the expertise of its customers, who’ve change into its evangelists. Then again, venture-backed corporations should meet the wants of buyers, who could need to spotlight sure options that aren’t in the most effective curiosity of customers.

Steven estimates he spent six hours every day coding, when he was growing the applying for the primary time, with out figuring out the place it could go and if it could be effectively obtained. Steven laughs as he recollects, "One of many worst issues is to ship a message to the consumer that one thing has not labored. They weren’t in a position to open one thing. Though it has usually been trapped in fight, this product-based strategy has fueled the natural, usually verbal, progress of the applying. Steven says that he has not invested in advertising and marketing.

Selecting the best particulars to launch it

For the launch of his app, Steven has dedicated assets that originally appear to be in opposition to MVP approaches. Steven has invested in particulars such because the design of the emblem in order that the product appears skilled and personally writes integration messages. When the applying was launched, it was out there in English and French and was shortly situated in Japanese. On this case, the handwritten messages had been aligned with the fundamental note-taking supply of the applying. As well as, the app works the identical approach for individuals who take notes in any language. The interpretation of the primary integration messages allowed him to shortly develop into new markets. Japanese localization has featured GoodNotes on the Japanese App Retailer just a few months after the launch of this app.

Solopreneur as product proprietor

"Constructing GoodNotes has by no means been a problem. Suggestions and encouragement from customers had been one of many foremost motivations for me in my early days. "

– Steven Chan

As a solopreneur, Steven has by no means been distracted from the event of his product by fundraising. Because the proprietor of the product, he fairly responded to consumer requests and appealed to followers who would advocate phrase of mouth, which is a extra fascinating type of advertising and marketing than paid promoting for buyer acquisition. . Steven's give attention to product enhancement has created a neighborhood that has helped amplify the scope of his software.

Deliver GoodNotes to the extent the place solely groups can ship

Requested about his first main targets in our interview, Steven paused. He then replied, "Within the early years … I suppose it was primarily about beating the opponents. I didn’t have particular progress targets in thoughts. Excluding the underside line, the app generated income that he was happy with and continued to develop regularly, however Steven was not decided to pursue optimistic progress targets. Nevertheless, as soon as he determined to take a broader view of the product, he needed to type a group, which additionally includes increasing the enterprise mannequin of GoodNotes.

After engaged on GoodNotes for four years, Steven needed to realize his most formidable options for GoodNotes. To run, he needed to type a group, which was a brand new problem that he was keen to fulfill. Nevertheless, as a revenue-driven firm that didn’t search funding, Steven continued to construct a product-focused group. Which means that the GoodNotes group is at all times made up of individuals engaged on the product: builders, UX / UI designers, and product managers.

With a group to assist, GoodNotes additionally needed to transfer from a B2C (client) market to a B2B market with colleges and workplaces. That is Steven's imaginative and prescient of GoodNotes as a software to extend observe taking, facilitating key human interactions resembling conferences, collaborations, studying and communication. Steven says the applying goals to scale back the handbook work of getting into notes after conferences and to create a set of digital notes that everybody can contribute to, work on and preserve.

After all, enterprise improvement additionally contains enhancing the placement and serving of strategic geographic markets. For instance, GoodNotes has a member of the group in Germany, probably the most in style markets of the app, to develop its buyer base. As well as, the corporate has invested in additional channels of participation, resembling Instagram, which is shortly catching up on their engagement through electronic mail. As a group, GoodNotes can no longer solely commit assets to supporting customers by means of function improvement, but in addition to customer support and neighborhood engagement.

Profitability Earlier than Fundraising

At this level, it might sound that the pure approach is fundraising. For this, Steven responds clearly: "Fundraising is a full-time job and, for now, we should not have time to do it."

Steven says that buyers have made contact with the corporate, however he has not taken any funding as a result of it requires a special strategy. As a substitute, the corporate continues to give attention to profit-driven progress. As we end the interview, Steven shared his perspective on how the period of digital handwriting would assist folks work higher and be taught higher, and the options on which GoodNotes was already working to assist make this doable.

Message to entrepreneurs

We requested Steven what message he would share with builders and novice entrepreneurs. He stated, "Research what you don’t already know." Steven stated that in highschool, he learn HackerNews discussions since his inception and browse books about entrepreneurship. Regardless that he was keen on pc science, he determined to review arithmetic to be taught one thing new on the college.

For entrepreneurs searching for their first product to construct, Steven gave the next recommendation: "Work on one thing you actually need to know, one thing that’s necessary to you."