This entry is longer than expected. Feel free to read it if you want some insider's information about Apollo, the people behind it, and what goes on behind the scenes.
The short story:
- We are here to make great software. Really great software
- We are not here to sell out and make millions.
- Apollo works thanks to Apollo's mastermind, Andrea.
- We are pushing Apollo on our own (competitors, read this)
To know the long story, read on!
We are here to make great software. Really great software.
Apollo is a relatively new project. People who use it for the first time tend to think that we have been around for the last 5 years. The reason for that is that we have been developing Apollo for quite a long time. Before coming out in Beta, in July 2010, we had already spent incredible amounts of time designing, developing, polishing, developing more, etc. We don't know if this was the right choice to make from a marketing point of view -- most people say "release little, release often, release soon" and they are probably right. However, we -- as developers -- felt the need to do things right; to offer, from day one, a great product. Important features are indeed coming up (project templates, reply by mail, internationalisation, iCal, RSS feeds, and so on); but what's there is already plenty to make people's lives better. That's why we are here.
We are not here to sell out and make millions.
Applicom was doing well before Apollo. And it's still profitable while developing Apollo. Asking for funding, getting a dozen engineers with very cool desks and fancy offices in the right spot in town would have been the easy way: if you don't believe us, see how much money has been given in the last year or so to project management startups; look at how much it was paid for (the now defunct) Bantam live, or for Manymoon; look at how many new, VC-funded ones have come out. And then, there is us: we self-funded Apollo, and worked amazing hours (especially Andrea) to make it happen. We didn't get millions in advance -- we decided to maximise the chances of us succeeding without stressing about the next round of financing not coming, or without spending energy to make ourselves look good to possible buyers who would make our users miserable, and our VC fund very happy. Our main assets are our independence, and how much we love our jobs.
Apollo works thanks to Apollo's mastermind, Andrea.
We are pushing Apollo on our own.
Unlike some of our competitors, who got their break on important web sites and gained thousands of users and huge visibility overnight, we had to do a lot of hard work to emerge. You can be the best project management and CRM software out there. If nobody knows who you are, you end up going from being the best on the Internet, to being the best kept secret on the Internet. I, Tony Mobily, am the person behind Apollo's visibility. I don't call it marketing, because I hate the term and because that's not really what I do. What I do, is simple: I spread the word about Apollo every day.
Every day, I read a huge number of tweets out there, and look for people who might possibly be interested in Apollo. Maybe somebody who tweets about looking for project management; maybe somebody who is unhappy with his or her product and is complaining about the lack of a feature that Apollo covers; maybe somebody complaining about price. I contact each person by hand and let them know, politely, about Apollo. This take an enormous amount of time and energy. It's a lot of hard work. I do make mistakes: sometimes I write to somebody who would clearly not be interested in Apollo. At least once, I proposed Apollo to a competitor (and it ended up with mutual smiles). However, most people read my message, try out Apollo, and then they might like it or not. I don't run automatic programs to scan for keywords, or use spamming tricks. I do everything by hand, and I send each message one by one (using Twitter's own interface, although I do use Hootsuite to keep an eye on the big picture!). Every 300 tweets, we receive one complaint -- we always respond to them, unless it's a disgruntled competitor asking us to stop marketing Apollo. Out of the other 299, some of them must simply ignore our tweet (or miss it altogether), and some others thank us, in private or publicly, for letting them know.
Every day, I look on the Internet for reviews of other products, and leave comments at the bottom. I do so without pretending to be a "random user" -- I do so with my own name. 99% of my comments are moderated, and then approved, because they are fully genuine and they are clearly a way to provide more information without pretending to be somebody else. At one point, a user who adored Apollo started doing the same thing -- and I ended up asking him not to do it too much, because I was afraid people might possibly think I was using Avatars. I do much more than that -- and I do it every day. It's tiring: waking up in the morning, with a few thousands tweet to read, gets a little tiring after one year, but I can swear, it never gets any less fun. The satisfaction of seeing a user from twitter to respond, sign up, and start using Apollo, is just incredible. (And mind you, again this is not about money: until Monday Apollo was free to all.
This is us. This is what we do. This is what we will keep on doing for a long time. I will personally consider Apollo finished when Apollo doesn't have any feature request tickets open. And yes, I know that's going to be "never".
We are one of a kind, and we are proud of it. If you have a problem with a small, self-funded startup creating something as incredible as Apollo, and if you are not happy with the way we promote Apollo, then that's great. We will keep on going, pushing even harder, because we are obviously doing something very much right.
We will keep up the good work.
Thank you everybody,