This is a great story of entrepreneurial persistence and smart focus that has led to over 9 million active users of their flagship mobile app.
The conversation is very open and brings out the amazing approach to product development that Guru and his team have gone through to build the company. There are some big lessons for app developers here but none resonated more with me than the approach to finding the right product/market fit. Pay close attention to the way they looked for outside influences to bring into their apps – including sanskrit which led to an algorithm for image optimization.
There is incredible depth to the way the entire company solves problems in the market and they just keep doing it. For example, they focused on unique offerings at the right time like offering a soft flash for iOS when there wasn’t one built in or adding video recording when it wasn’t available on the device or even offering real-time filter previews on the images as the photos are being taken. Simple but effective innovations that have kept this app at or near the top for 4 years.
Lessons. Lessons. Lessons. Easily one of the most insightful episodes on UNTETHER.tv
Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
Rob: Hello everybody, and welcome to Untether.tv. I am your host and your founder. This is your single source for deciphering the mobile experience. Here today, we’re going to be talking to an entrepreneur who has actually worked with a company that has currently 9 million active users plus, of its mobile application called Camera Plus, with over 25 million downloads. This is a 4-year-old application that has not subsided in popularity, has not actually succumbed to the new entrants over the last 4 years; got some great lessons to be learned, going to understand how this company built this product and actually been able to stand the test of times where other applications have come and disappeared during that period of time. Joining me from Udupi, India … did I get that right?
Guru: Yes, absolutely, Rob.
Rob: I have Guru Kamath, who is the director of marketing for a company called Global Delight, and they are the makers of Camera Plus. Guru, thank you for coming onto untethered.tv and spending some time.
Guru: Thank you very much, Rob, for your time and thank you for inviting me.
Rob: I have to thank also Art Dougtab, from Combo App, who initiated this. Art, if you’re listening to this, this is because of you, man. I really appreciate the fact that you’ve done this. If you guys out there have a referral, if you want somebody on this show, boy, all you have to do is reach out to me at [email protected] Guru, how’s the weather there? I’m kidding. I got to know. It’s warm, isn’t it?
Guru: Yeah, it’s a little warm because this is summer out here, absolutely. Unlike you who is just in probably in 6 foot of snowfall there.
Rob: There’s no difference between … I guess you guys are almost southern India. Is that around where you are? Is that considered southern India, where you are?
Guru: Yes, absolutely. It’s the southern part of India but on the west coast.
Rob: On the west coast. I was explaining to Guru that the furthest I’ve ever made it down on the west coast was Goa. Then I hit Goa and immediately stopped. I thought, ‘That’s it. I’ve found heaven.’
Guru: Most of the visitors stop there. That’s the place to go and then have fun; beautiful beach. Then of course, not many things else there.
Rob: No. I actually made it all the way down, but I was on my way to Sri Lanka so I didn’t actually stop anywhere along the way. I’ve got to tell you that India for me is … aside from Canada, the country that I live in; my favorite country. I absolutely love India. My mother lived in Bangladesh for 4 years, and then she spent 5 years in Islamabad, in Pakistan. We have spent many years crossing into India, and back into India from Pakistan or Bangladesh. I’ve been to the Taj Mahal 5 times because it is just an amazingly emotional piece of architecture.
Anyway, I love the country and I’m thrilled that you could actually connect. We’re not talking about India, although we could. Forget everything else we were going to talk about, just India. How’s that?
Guru: Yeah, because we could probably talk about Global Delight, because we belong to India [inaudible: 00:03:27].
Rob: I’m very interested in the company. How long has Global Delight been around?
Guru: We just completed 6 years. We began in Feb. 2008, and then we just completed our sixth anniversary this Feb. 2014. It’s been a fantastic journey.
Rob: Did you guys start in building in mobile applications or … because I know that you guys do mobile and you do desktop softwares.
Guru: Right. We did not start the company with our mobile applications. If you look at it that way, back in 2007, there was no App Store asset. The App Store happened only in July 2008 onward. Apple took about a year, year and a half to come out with the iTunes App Store. However, as you said rightly, we began with the desktop applications, precisely for the Mac applications, for Mac platform. Our first application was called Web to Delight, and that was there for about a year. IT’s an aggregator for all the online video viewing and photo collection sites, so that’s the kind of application we were running. We were trying to bring a web 2.0 experience from the browsers to the desktop. That’s the first application that we began with.
Rob: When did you … the app that we’re going to be talking about quite extensively and the lessons you learned was Camera Plus, which is obviously a camera application. You built that in 2009. Is that when you started, when you launched that?
Guru: Yes. Actually, the mobile applications effort began sometime in the late 2008 when the App Store was first announced sometime in Jan. 2008, by Steve Jobs. It took about another 6 months for it to actually go live. We were actually looking at the kind of applications that we should do, so we were exploring a lot of ideas. We did a couple of … probably 3 different applications. Every time we released an app, we thought, ‘This is going to be our $1 billion app,’ just like anyone else. It didn’t work well. It didn’t go well.
Rob: Do you remember what those apps were?
Guru: Yeah, absolutely. We actually started with an application … a dictionary app called Word Digest. It’s a dictionary and a thesaurus application; that’s the first one. It was giving us about 70+ downloads a day, but nothing close to a million downloads, so it didn’t go well however. Then we did another application called Charm; it was actually based on a mathematical puzzle. You just think of a number, and then it will give you which was the number that you guessed. There was a little bit of math behind it, and then that’s the kind of a thing. We thought that’s going to be taking us one million downloads; that didn’t happen.
The next one was an application called Wisen Up. It was a story for ourselves; that we had to wisen up and then do something really different. The application was around medical or health tips, was mostly to with … it had a lot of questions and answers with the respect to the way that you can maintain your health. It was a quiz application because that was the kind of apps that were doing really well at that point. We thought, ‘We will be really unique with the respect to the quiz … awareness that we can build amongst the users with respect to their health. We thought that’s going to bring us a million downloads. That didn’t happen.
Rob: That didn’t either.
Guru: That didn’t either.
Rob: I’m sensing a pattern here.
Rob: The hope, and then … those were the apps. Do they exist today or did you kill them all?
Guru: No it doesn’t, because the reason is we have just pulled them off, because those are the applications that were not doing good. We just thought we should focus … those were the kinds of applications we were experimenting, that wouldn’t have survived today because the market was expecting something different. We weren’t quite right there at that point in time.
Rob: How did you land on something like Camera Plus?
Guru: That’s actually an interesting story. What happened was we had one desktop application called [inaudible: 00:08:20] prior to that. It was a Mac screen capture and screen recording tool that’s still there as of today. It completed 5years. That was one application which was driving revenues for us; it’s a paid application. As far as our mobile applications are concerned, we were, as I told you, that we test fired so many things but then they didn’t actually succeeded. We had a challenge wherein we had to really do something different. We learned the lessons that these are the kind of applications that we tried seeing the patterns that someone else will do. Probably if we do something unique or different [inaudible: 00:09:04], probably we would stand out. That’s not what exactly the market was looking for, so we had to be really, really unique. We had to be really different.
We started thinking, ‘What does it that different that we can do?’ because we had a fantastic technical team with us. We started looking at our device. At that point in time it was iPhone 3G. If you remember the earlier versions of the iPhones did not have a great camera; it did not have a LED flash. It did not have video recording. Basically, the camera was very … all for basic standard I would say. Though the phone was great, but the camera wasn’t that great. The hardware wasn’t that great. We thought there is some [inaudible: 00:009:52] here. It wasn’t the time wherein a whole lot of … mobile photography wasn’t very [inaudible: 10:01]. We thought, ‘Why not let’s make something like this, wherein we would just go out and …’ zoom was missing. Basically, everywhere you were, you …
Rob: Everything was missing.
Guru: Yeah, everything was missing. The thing, it was … trend was changing; people had slowly started getting onto the mobile photography. It was just the beginning of it. Everyone was using, prior to that point, point-and-shoot cameras. It had zoom, the basic functionality, and then you had flash. What we did was it was missing. We thought, ‘Why not let’s do something like this, a zoom?’ With our technology, or that technical background of the people that we have had, the programmers, so we could a fantastic zoom. We call it a smooth zoom. The other applications which were there, 1 or 2 probably were there. They were coming up with that step zoom; you tap on the screen, and then it would jump from 1x, to 2x, to 3. It wasn’t giving you a smooth experience.
Rob: Like a camera. That’s typical from a point-and-shoot camera, which is, zoom, bing, zoom, bing.
Guru: Absolutely. It wasn’t giving you that beautiful, smooth, zoom-in, zoom-out experience. We were the first ones to come out with that experience. The other one is that, as I told you, that the iPhone did not have the hardware flash so we wanted to do a little bit of magic out there with the software, and then we did a simulated flash, we called it a soft flash.
The interesting thing is, we have had no idea that this would bring us 1 million downloads, because we had actually had 3 applications, and then there was nothing that was working. We did not have any hopes. And 2, an interesting thing is we did a little bit of, I would say, a hack. When I say ‘hack’, it’s like … you might be knowing about APIs, application programming interface, and Apple provides that SDK. We did not go with the … the API that we used, the programming that we used, wasn’t approved by Apple, so we were using a private API, and then we submitted it to Apple after doing all these things. The best thing is, the day that we submitted, there was a keynote by Steve Jobs; that was the announcement of iPhone 3GS and some of the improvements on the App Stores.
The first thing that happens is Apple makes the new set of features; they release an official API for doing some of these photography stuffs, so our application gets rejected. Back at that point in time, you submit an application, you wouldn’t know for about a week, 10 days, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or a month, what is happening to your application. They rejected. The day that they rejected, we knew that there’s something new that has come up in the new SD cam. Then we just made a change in one line of the code, and then we resubmitted. When we submitted, man, it was fantastic.
Rob: Was that timing?
Guru: Yeah, it was perfect timing. It was really perfect timing.
Rob: Could you have architected that any better, or is this just … because I believe in serendipity, which is a lot of luck coming together with a lot of hard work, and some people miss by a minute, 2 minutes, or a year. It seems like you guys, submitting at that time, the announcement from Steve Jobs, the opening at … the 3GS was really their first phone, their first Smartphone. Their mass adoption; it had everything that we needed at that time. It’s when I moved to an iPhone from a Palm device and a Blackberry. I think there’s a lot of converts. Could you have had any better timing?
Guru: If you believe in destiny, maybe, yeah. That may be the first step to [inaudible: 00:14:00]. Who knows [inaudible: 00:14:01].
Rob: You see right over there? I have Ganesh, right over there; the remover of obstacles. That’s ultimately … you guys went through this process of hoping for 1 million downloads with all of the other apps that you were putting up there. Then you thought, ‘We’ll just do this because there’s a need, and then boom, it’s like mana from heaven. The sky opens up, blesses this application because you were there at the right time.
Guru: The thing is, we did not expect just like the way you said. We did not expect because we have had 3 previous tries. We just submitted the application, it went live, then we went home, and then we have had no idea. The first day when we looked at it, we had some 60 downloads. We were like, “This is going to be the fourth one in our history.”
Rob: What’s next?
Guru: All of a sudden, the next few days we see that the number of downloads increasing. It, all of a sudden, jumped from somewhere around 60, to, 2000, to … within a week, we saw it’s going to be … it’s going up towards 12,000, 14,000. Then we thought, ‘Hey, man. There’s something great about this.’
Rob: This is it.
Guru: There’s something great happening. Then we were like, “I think we have a hit here.” All the team members were curious. Every day we were waiting for the reports to come up, and then we want to see the number of downloads, and it was fantastic. It went from 40,000, 20,000 to 30,000 downloads a day. Then we saw at that point in time, it was about 60 countries when the App Store was live.
It began in Europe, actually; in UK, Germany, and the other countries prior to US. US didn’t see the number of downloads going higher at that point in time within the first 10 days. Then we saw this rankings going up. Back then, it wasn’t like this … the rankings were decided entirely by the number of downloads. You just get one download, it was counted and App Store wasn’t …
Rob: As sophisticated.
Guru: As intelligent, probably as today. It’s more complicated today. It was back then, it was pretty simple. It went to the top, and then we see … it was about in of all the 60 store, about 58 stores at one point in time, it was the Number 1 for the app. It was a free application, however, at that point in time. It was topping in each and every country, in the … with the first rank in the photography section, which meant somewhere within Top 20 in all the countries in the Free section. That was fantastic.
We have … we were thrilled. It was amazing. We have had our first 1 million happening within 40 days of releasing the application, and we were like, “Man, yes.”
Rob: This is it.
Guru: “This is something. This is it.” This is it, really. It happened.
Rob: I think that that’s … a lot of this … timing; I keep coming back, but timing has a lot to do with this, but also that the fact that you identified the challenge, identified the problem. I’ve seen a lot of companies build a product and submit it only to have Apple or even Blackberry during the day, during its heyday, release natively that same functionality and kill the company. I’ve been in meetings back when I ran a company called Rove, and we would have partner meetings with RIM back then. They would say … they would pull in all of these high-valued partners into a room and they would say, “Here’s our roadmap about what’s coming down the road;” and they were very open about it with their high-value partners. I could see heads like going down, shoulders slumping as they were announcing features, like “This is going to be in the next release. That company over there is now bankrupt because you just put that in there.”
You have these moments. It says something that despite the advancements in the iPhone moving from 3G to 3Gs and the improvements in the camera, the improvements and everything, that you guys still managed to do 1 million downloads in 40 days. That’s incredible.
Guru: That’s because one of things that we were closely watching the App Store comments, because users, they would put the reviews up there, they would put their comments and everything. We realized that we … actually, the problem that we felt and that we were trying to solve [inaudible: 00:18:32]. Then they precisely put that problem out there, like, “This is the application. This has the smooth zoom I’ve been waiting for it.” Then someone said like, “I went for the …some sort of [inaudible: 00:18:46] there, and then I could get it.”
One other thing is the video recording wasn’t there properly, so that was one of the feature. Even if you’re going to take a photo in a dark area; we used to have this soft flash, and then used to get … and it used to beautifully simulate the flash out there, of course through the software. It used to look beautiful as if there was a flash. People, they liked whatever that we did, and that’s how.
Once it hit 1 million, it was all about getting to the next million. You didn’t see any in between intermediate milestones actually. It was fantastic.
Rob: What happened to things like support? As you’re getting these downloads and people are downloading this all around the world, and you hit 1 million in 40 days; it’s like a high-five moment for the team. You’ve hit your million, and then was there … what happened with support? I always think you got to be careful what you wish for. You escalate quickly, and then it’s people emailing you with support, bug fixes, challenges, or failures on older devices. What was that like? Did it have an impact on you guys?
Guru: At Global Delight, we take support very, very … we would say, even though we did not have much of the downloads for our earlier applications, we took support very seriously. We mean that.
Rob: It’s important.
Guru: It’s important, whether it’s a free app or a paid app; you make money, you don’t make money. That doesn’t matter. You release an application to the market and then you have to stand by it. That’s the kind of a thing. Luckily for us, we have had only 2 devices, then: iPhone 3G and 3Gs. That’s one thing. The second thing is …
Rob: Same screen size.
Guru: Yeah, same screen size. The other thing is since we have, as I said, we have a good team out here. Technically, they’re strong, and then we have a good quality assurance team. We haven’t had much of quality issues. Even though we were getting loads of emails, they were mostly with respect to appreciation: ‘Thank you so much’ kind of a thing. We had even within the application itself; we had given one option where users can actually reach out us, either telling … we were open for all kinds of critics, whether it is good, bad, or whatever it is. We wanted to hear from them.
App Store is still a black box because you would never get who is this user who’s writing about you. We wouldn’t know who that person is. We would get to know who is this person by mailing. We were [inaudible: 00:21:36] very much that it’s somebody who’s a teen, who has gone for a kissing concert, and then the person comes and tells, ‘Thank you so much for doing this. I had a fantastic time taking great photographs out here.’ We kept adding some new features based on their requests. Someone said … someone who’s a real estate executive who would go and take beautiful photos. He was able to take it on his iPhone, and then with the soft flash, he was able to enhance it, all that stuff.
It all happened, and then we were getting a lot of these customer feedback. At the same time, we had also ran a feedback form within the application. We wanted to know what it is that users are feeling about this application. Also, we wanted to know what it is that more that they’re liking. We kept it out there for about a week’s time. Then within a week, we got more than probably 20,000 to 30,000 feedback telling us, ‘I want this feature. I want that feature. I want everything that is possible.’ It was really amazing and it’s thrilling to read all those things. [inaudible: 00:22:48] so many features. Some of the features are [inaudible: 00:22:52] from a high-end DSLR and they wanted to incorporate out here, which impossible.
Rob: At that moment, yes.
Guru: Yes, it was difficult, but then we were really, really thrilled to know that. One thing that I just wanted to say is we released this application in October 2009. Why we came out with the name Camera Plus; the reason is that we were figuring out what name we should give. We thought there’s this basic camera on the iPhone and we are adding something more to it. We thought if it gives … we thought of various name of that. Then we thought what is equal and to adding? We thought, ‘What should be the name?’ We went with some different names. Ultimately, we thought since we’re adding a lot of values to the basic camera, we should make it as plus; we’re adding a lot of things. Our logo had a 2-lens icon with a plus mark in it, and then we thought that’s the way we are trying to tell them; we are offering more than the basic camera, on top of the camera thing that you have already.
Rob: What about … so Tap Tap has camera with the plus sign. They came after you guys.
Guru: They came sometime in June 2010.
Rob: How does that play into you guys, because you’re both Camera Pluses?
Guru: We didn’t expect that for the reason that they intelligently used … because the downloads were going really good, and at that point in time, it was still a free application. They used this plus symbol. Even though it looks a different name … but when you say it, there’s no way that you can say it that it’s something, it has to be a plus thing. Then it happened; we thought we will stand by the quality part of it, whatever that we are giving it. That’s how it has been going on.
Rob: I always think that that’s a challenge, because you got 2 products the same and they shot through the roof. I think they’ve done $5, $6, $7 million in revenue from that product. I don’t want to open wounds, and maybe they’re still open, but it’s got to burn your ass. It’s like, ‘This is my name and you’re leveraging my name and maybe half of those downloads should be mine.’ I’d be very frustrated with that, and I don’t want this to be about that, but it’s a real risk when you’re talking about a global marketplace where there’s going to be … and if you do a search for any other company or any other app, there is another one, unless it’s a trademarked name like Angry Birds; there’s not going to be another Angry Birds, but you see it: Scanner Pro, Scanner Plus, Scanner Plus Plus, Scanner Pro Pro. You see that combination, and it dilutes the industry and it makes it harder for you as Camera Plus, the original, to be found. Is that fair to say?
Guru: Yeah, definitely, but the thing is, ultimately, the users who would definitely know which is the actual original application and we are happy about it, that a lot of users are with us and they know they appreciate it, and the kind of applications that we have build. They also are with us with our other desktop applications and other mobile applications. Yes, it hurts, however, the only way that, as you said, there are so many copy cats that come up; they rip your applications, features, and everything. It happens. It’s just that if I try to go behind them, it’s not going to serve my purpose. If you look at the recent thing that … if you look at, it’s this Flappy Bird. If you search for Flappy, you would see thousands of Flappy things coming out there.
Rob: They definitely take advantage, don’t they?
Guru: Yeah, definitely. [inaudible: 00:26:54].
Rob: You were talking about this; you got 20,000 or 30,000 people. To get feedback, especially to get a roadmap, 20,000 to 30,000 people sending you what they like and what they would love to see in the product; it becomes a roadmap. Do you distill that and highlight the one that has 5000 requests, and you think, ‘That’s our next product?’ How did you go about determining … now that you’ve got this base-free product in the marketplace, how do you then decide, what features are next for this?
Guru: It’s a good question, actually. The thing is, as I said, at that point in time in 2009, October when we released this application; within the next 3 months, that’s October, November, December. We were getting a good number of downloads; however, we have had one desktop application. Obviously, we have had a team which was expanding, and we do have families. Obviously, there was a need to monetize.
Rob: You had to make money.
Guru: Yeah, obviously.
Rob: That’s OK.
Guru: There was a need for it. Then we thought the other way to do is, as you said, we had to list out all the feature requests and then see which were the ones that had highest number of requests, and also, weather it was technically feasible or not, whether the hardware would … whether the software would allow us to do that SDK [inaudible: 00:28]; whether the hardware is capable of handling those things. We had to do that.
What happened was … and of course the monetization part. We looked at it, and then we thought it’s a huge effort to do some of the things that were there. That’s when we thought we should monetize also. Some of the features, I’ll tell you some of the features that we have done out there. Our Senior VP of Programming, he used a sutra, which is nothing but an algorithm written by [inaudible: 00:28:54]; he is an ancient mathematician and he has written it in terms of algorithm, in a Sanskrit language which we used, converted that into a programming language to do some of the optimization and to process some of the imaging stuff. It’s a complex thing.
Rob: How does he think like that? Where does he get the inspiration to do something like that? How does he know that it would … where does that come from, man?
Guru: Basically, it’s like a … the thing is his father [inaudible: 00:29:35], who’s the Senior VP. His father is actually a person who was into the learnings and then holds in to this Sanskrit. He’s actually I would say, they are into that background. Because of that, he also learned about all this Sanskrit thing, and then he has touch about all these [inaudible: 00:29:56] and all those stuff. He knew there is something like this that could be used. It just occurred. Then it just … he was thinking a lot about how to do image optimization processing and all those stuff. Then he figured, ‘Why not make use of this and see if it works? Yes, it works.’ He did it. That was fantastic.
Rob: Oh, my god. What was the impact of that on the product?
Guru: What we did is it was something called Camera Plus Pro we came out with. Camera Plus was a free application, then we had a lot of feature requests, and then we had to do something more than the basic version. We made a Camera Plus Pro. The impact of that was we were the first ones to come onto the App Store with some of the things that no one was able to do at that point in time. One was video recording on an iPhone 3G, and the other one full-resolution image editing.
What I meant with the full-resolution image editing means, you would take a photo on your iPhone, but what you see on the display is so small, but actually the photo is really big; it’s of size which is much bigger than that. Maybe 1024 across, 968, or whatever thing. In order to process everything out there, you just do some brightness adjustments, you just do some sharpness changes, you apply some filters to it and everything. It has to take place immediately. What others were doing at that point in time was crop the image to the size of the display and then apply them. It used to be that way. The Camera Plus and Camera Plus Pro, it was like we were doing it on the entire image. It wasn’t giving you a small 480 across, 360 image, but it would be actually applied on the 1024 across 968 thing. That’s the impact. We were able to do that.
There’s a nice story behind that also, how exactly it impacted it. We released Camera Plus Pro; It’s a paid application, $1.99. We released it in December 2009. What happened was …
Rob: A couple of months after you launch the first version, the free version; 3 months later, basically, 2 months later, you launch a paid version of it with these new features.
Guru: Yes, 3 months. October, November, December; 2 1/2 months, because we released it on the 18th of December. Released the Pro version with the paid model in that.
Rob: Was this a separate product that you put out? It wasn’t like the same free with an in-app … because they didn’t have in-app purchasing back then. Never mind.
Rob: It was a second product.
Guru: It wasn’t there, in-app wasn’t there. What we used to do was we had kept a channel open from the free application to the paid application.
Rob: Also, you had 20,000 to 30,000 email addresses that had reached out to you, contacted you, and asked for features. You had built an email mailing list at that point as well?
Guru: Absolutely. We had done that. Of course, it was based on whether they were interested to receive email communication back from us or not, based on that, yes. If they had expressed their interest, yes, we would come back to them and then we would say, “We have come out with … we implemented this feature [inaudible: 00:33:32] as in Camera Plus Pro.” That was one thing.
The second thing also was, as I said, we had kept a channel open in the pre-application. Basically if you launch Camera Plus, there’s a cross-marketing page we had kept wherein people could … obviously, it wasn’t an on the face kind of a thing; of course, not going to obstruct you in any way with your photography stuff. Back on it, they would see this Camera Plus Pro, and then we used to tell them it’s a small marketing thing that we did there. When they tap on that, it would launch the Camera Plus Pro on the App Store, and then if they like it, you buy it. That’s the setup we had.
Rob: Did it convert?
Guru: Yes, of course. At that point in time, we had less budget, or spending on the marketing.
Rob: Guru, you are so diplomatic: ‘At some point, our families needed to eat so we had to make money.’ It’s OK. You sound Canadian here; it’s like almost apologetic, like, ‘I’m sorry. We have to actually make some money with this.’ It’s like, ‘I’m sorry. We actually have to generate income and we have to do something here that benefits the company so that we can actually build the next product. It’s OK. You can brag about it, man. We need to make money.
Guru: [inaudible: 00:34:51] We need to make money, absolutely. We kept the channel open. The thing with Camera Plus Pro was we wanted some big break for that because we had hit the market with something which is very unique; we came out with that concept of saving your photos and videos in a separate folder. When we release Camera Plus Pro, many users came and then and they said … until then, the concept was you click any photo, you click any video, everything would go and save in the camera roll. People were used to it, so they were not used to this approach wherein your photos that you clicked, your videos that you shot, are recorded there, residing in the application, because they were finding it difficult that they had to go through the whole list of photos of videos and then choose which of them that they want to get into the camera roll, all those stuff. That was a problem that we had.
The plus point of it, we knew definitely that it’s going to add … it’s going to be definitely a plus point. The reason is, when you use a phone, you want to take a photo; you just keep taking a lot of photos out there. You wouldn’t see how many photos that you’re going to take, because if there is a moment to be captured, it has to be captured immediately. You wouldn’t wait there to adjust the focus, adjust the brightness, exposure, which wasn’t there at that point in time, so do lot, many things out there. You just want to capture as many photos, because you would just want to go back and then see, ‘Which is the one which is right for me?’ That at first really helped users because they started getting the point: Even if I take so many photos, it doesn’t matter, I just have to choose one photo which is right and then save this to camera roll; the rest of them I can safely discard. That’s the easy step that they found and they like; that’s one other thing.
For Camera Plus Pro, we wanted … it wasn’t enough at that point in time to … the visibility wasn’t that great. We thought, ‘We will go to Mac World Expo.’ It was Mac World Expo back then, in 2010, unlike Mac World [inaudible: 00:37:12] today. Mac World Expo; we went there and we submitted this application for Best of Mac World Expo. We couldn’t get into that; we were a little late. However one thing that happened was me and my colleague, his name is [inaudible: 00:37:31]; he’s the VP of Products now. We had flown from India, [inaudible: 00:37:39] to San Francisco. Obviously, it was a 14 to 16-hour journey out there. You might be knowing, because as you said, you had travel from Bangladesh to …
Rob: From Ottawa to there. It’s a distance.
Guru: Yeah, it’s a distance. There’s this … your geographical change and all those stuff. We were actually fascinated with one thing; we got seats next to the wings. We had shot a few videos out there on our iPhone. We wanted to collect some material that we can actually show during the expo, so we wanted to show them what it is it. We didn’t know that it was a great idea at that point in time. Basically anything that we showed; if you look at something and we just go out and we shoot something.
We landed in San Francisco and we knew that our application wasn’t there in the final [inaudible: 00:38:34] of Mac World Best of Show. However, Phillip Mike Kelso, at that point in time, was a reporter for Mac World at that point in time. He talked to [inaudible: 00:38:48] and said, “I would like to check this application, but I won’t give you more than 5 minutes.” We said, “OK. Wow.”
Rob: We’ll take it.
Guru: We’ll take it. Mac World is talking about us maybe, we don’t know. We just start. We went there and we went, and then we went to the show floor because we had a booth there. He met and then he asked us, “What’s your story?” We have had no story to say because we did not know what to pitch at that point in time. The best thing was we just pulled out our phone and we just showed him a video. That video had this … for the plane’s wing with the … it was there. He said, “It’s a video. What’s the big deal about it?” We just turned the phone backwards, on the other side, and it had written, ‘iPhone 3G.’ He was like, “Wow. It’s an iPhone 3G. It’s video recording. How did you do that?” We said, “Yes, we were able to do video recording on an iPhone 3G,” which wasn’t possible at that point in time. He said, “Come on. Let me give you some more time. Let’s go to the press room and then we will talk more about it.” We were like, “Oh, my God. This is the story.
We went there, and then he gave us about 15 minutes and we could pitch whatever that we could tell about the application. We were not sure what would happen after that. He said, “OK. Thank you. Let’s see.”
Rob: Carry on.
Guru: If I like it, let’s see. Carry on. We were not sure, and then we were all excited before that. Just at that last minute we thought maybe that he got the story, he wanted to know about it. The next morning, we went to the booth, and all of a sudden, we see our application has been talked about. Then there was a story on Mac World, so we were like, ‘Wow.’ He had taken a clip … he somehow found a clip we had uploaded to YouTube of that, and he had linked it to the article. That really went great.
Rob: What did that do for you guys? All of a sudden when you got that mass in San Francisco and someone like what Mac World covering; was that your turning point for revenue generation? Did you guys starting making money after that?
Guru: Absolutely, because that’s the time … we saw the downloads started increasing. The best part is, once it gets picked by, or rather when it is being written highly above by Mac World, then obviously, others would come and they would be curious to know about it. We saw Gizmodo writing about us; we never thought Gizmodo would ever write. There are a lot, many articles and publications they wrote about Camera Plus that approached us. That was one of the fantastic things.
The best thing that happened was that we came back after Mac World Expo, back to India, and then one day, we just see a mail from Bob Tedeschi. It just had … the email was @nytimes.com. I was surprised. I was like, “What? New York Times is … they are going to … they want to have a word with us.” We were not sure whether it is … we double verified, yes, it is from NYTimes.com. We setup a call, and then we have had a call with Bob Tedeschi; he learned about this application. He used it, and then eventually the story came out there on ‘New York Times’, both in the online and print edition.
Obviously, great things happened. We never imagined that a company like Global Delight which was in a small town in some corner of India, it would reach to ‘New York Times’. That was an amazing feeling. It was great. Obviously, the downloads increased and we saw all of a sudden $60,000 to $80,000 coming in that month and over a period of time. It really encouraged us.
Rob: $60,000 to $80,000; tell me what that feels like as a software developer, as a company like you guys who’ve gone through this with 3 other applications that haven’t done this, and all the effort that’s gone into it, in what it seems like a very shoestring budget, and then to have this land where it’s $60,000 to $80,000 at a $1.99 a pop. What is that like for you guys as software developers to have that?
Guru: Just one correction is that it was not a daily revenue, but it was for that month.
Rob: I didn’t … $60,000 to $80,000, you’d be retired by now if you were [inaudible: 00:43:27].
Guru: It was fantastic because we hadn’t seen that kind of revenue at that point in time. It was, we would say, the beginning of a small success story. I would put it that way. We had got that confidence. We were not blown over by the money because we have had a big team with us, we were growing up and we were learning; we had more people joining us. We have had … of course, we are a bootstraped company. Obviously, we had a lot of things to take care of, but what gave us the confidence is that if you really try to solve a problem in a unique way, and you put it right there, and once it gets picked up by the right … talked by the media or even users when they talk about it. With Camera Plus, it didn’t happen with the media, it happened with users. As I said, it started with … in European market, it started catching up. UK, we saw highest number of downloads, Germany started a good number of downloads, and then people started communicating about it.
That’s when we figured that you create something different, solve a problem, users will talk about it. Then once users start talking about it, the media will get attention towards that and they will talk about it. It was amazing, and that gave us very good confidence that, at last, we know how to build a mobile application. That was really something amazing and then great for us.
Rob: I love what you said there. I think that I try to hammer this into everybody who listens and watches, or sees me speak about these things, is that you can lead with technology but it will die very quickly. If you lead with satisfying a need and apply technology to that need, you will actually do what you guys have done, which is a product that’s 4 years later, that is still relevant, still driving activity, still driving downloads. At the crucial point where you needed revenue, it’s not because the technology solved the problem, it was that you solved a need and you just applied the technology to that need. As I said, that Mac World reporter said, “My God. You can do video on a 3GS?” That’s solving a need. It’s not applying technology for technology’s sake. That is so amazing, such a valuable lesson I think. You can spin your wheels just trying to push technology, but if you don’t solve a problem …
During those 4 years, I think for photography, for mobile photography; those 4 years, the last 4 years, have been shall we say unpredictable. So many people who’ve gotten into this space, like big guys from Facebook, Instagram that were bought by Facebook. Camera Plus, the other Camera Plus came in. The sophistication of the device; these devices now are incredible, they’re powerful, they’re more powerful than any computer that I had probably until I was 28 or 29-years-old in my palm of my hand. They’ve destroyed many smaller and mid-size cameras, portable cameras; maybe not the high-end cameras yet, but they’ve got high-end features; sophisticated devices now. Yet you guys over those 4 years have still maintained a great user base, reinvented yourself, added complexity. What have those been … how have you guys stayed alive over these 4 years where other camera applications have come and gone?
Guru: One of the things that happened with Camera Plus and Camera Plus Pro is that when we [inaudible: 00:47:28] 0:02:33] was happening, we focused more towards Camera Plus Pro because with respect to the Camera Plus, we did not give much features into that. We did not do that for the reason that the basic camera on the iPhone itself … because in 2010, in August, you saw iPhone 4 happening. Then the next year you saw iPhone 4 was coming in 2011/’12. You saw again 4S, and in ’13, 5. The camera itself had all those basic features already covered, so there’s nothing much that you could do with the Camera Plus out there. What we did at that point in time was we kept updating Camera Plus with minimum things. However, we focused more towards Camera Plus Pro because it had actually catered more needs.
As you said, with more advanced hardware on the camera that were there on the iPhone, users had started becoming more pros at that. They started using more of the iPhones. They started, as you said, going beyond the basic photography stuff. They knew already about the photography 1.0 was over. It was all about the time wherein people were taking photos, and then they wanted to beautify; that’s when Instagram happened. People were moving beyond basic point-and-shoot, basic zoom and other things, so they wanted something more than that. We were not able to focus simultaneously on Camera Plus and Camera Plus Pro, but then we focused more towards Camera Plus Pro because that was the one which was catering more towards generating revenue for us. At the same time, that was the [inaudible: 00:49:20] wherein it was giving us decent returns for the efforts that we were putting, because there was a lot of things technologically we had to do; a lot of research out there because we had to stay ahead of the market, or rather we had to solve unique problems.
It’s not only the end user with that advancement of the phones and the technology that [inaudible: 00:49:41] something new, and we kept giving newer things. Sometimes we were with the trend; that’s when you see every other photo application [inaudible: 00:49:51], but we did it with a twist. When everyone was talking about filters, we went with something called Light Filters. No one … everyone was taking a photo and then slapping some filter on that part of it. We thought something differently wherein ‘Why not let’s waste somebody’s time? Why not we make it in a way wherein people can be more creative?’ People are more creative than what we think. We thought, ‘Why not give these filters in a real-time, wherein the moment you … before you shoot a photo. If you them, how your photos would be with these filters, for example, a black and white, a sepia, or any other type of thing. How would it would be?’ That will give them that much more power. It’s going to be giving you that much more thrill. This is going to be this, and then when you take that photo, it’s going to come out with the way as it is, what you’re looking out there.
Rob: How do you … Guru, I don’t like interrupting, but how do you start to think that way? How do you condition your team to look at what’s out there on the landscape and say, “No, we’re not going to follow that. We’re not going to just apply filters; we’re going to do these live filters”? How do you shape your team? How do you come up with those ideas and these concepts?
Guru: One of the things that I feel that … this is one of the other lesson, is that if you don’t use your own product, you can’t sell your product. It’s as simple as that. The thing is, if you use your product and then if you start using it day in, day out, that’s when you encounter problems, that’s when you encounter new ideas. That’s how we made every team member who was there to use it. This is where, typically, we try to be a little different. We say … we do test, but testing is only in terms of doing, ‘Is A=A? Is B=B? Is C=C?’ When you go out there and then give it to somebody like Rob; he may not be using it like A=A. He may be using it with A/B=C and D he might be using it. That’s when the whole equation changes. That’s when you can actually improve the quantity. That’s what we did.
When you start using … we had team members who were … who had interest in the photography, wild photography specifically. When you start using it, that’s when you figure out, ‘How can I simplify this problem? How can I solve this problem?’ That’s when these ideas start coming, and then we tried to do with the prototype and then see if it works. You can imagine lot of things, but whether the technology allows you, whether the hardware allows you, those are the things that has to be thought of. Then ones those things are being cleared, that’s when we think we’ll go to the next step of designing it, putting the complex technology behind a beautiful interface, and then making it as simple and effortless for the end user.
Rob: It’s a great process, and I love that. Do you ever look at what you have done with Camera Plus and Camera Plus Pro, and think, ‘What’s our next mobile product?’ You got the confidence, you’ve done it before, or are you guys just putting all your effort in the mobile side on the Camera Plus Pro?
Guru: It’s like when we started the Global Delight, we have had no idea the products that we had to build. The goal was at that point in time to get 1 million downloads. We had to do a product. We had to do a mobile product and we had to get that [inaudible: 00:53:26]. Once you cross that, what’s the next thing? These are some of the questions. We call it here, everyday you face a wall. Once you break one wall, and then immediately next that you’ll see another wall. We definitely did not want to stay only at the mobile photography, Camera Plus, or Camera Plus Pro, we wanted to go beyond that. One of the things that we also saw is … the interesting is when we were doing this Camera Plus Pro, we quite often … some of our team members used to stay late at office, and sometimes we used to have calls with people in other geography. One of the problems that we used to have is usually with these laptops, if you have a Skype call like the way I am having it with you right now; if there are more people in the room, these speakers are tiny. They’re good, but then the audibility of this is limited. Everyone cannot have a group conversation out there, and everybody has to stick closer to the laptop and then keep your ear towards the speaker and angle it that way, and then do all those things. We thought there has to be something that we have to do about it.
We knew that Mac laptops are great; we knew that iMacs are great and everything. One other thing is that this quality hardware lacks a little bit of great volume output. One of the team members was given the chance to see to see, ‘What is it that we can do to increase the volume output so that we can have a great Skype call? We can have a Skype call which can be heard by people sitting in the whole room; 3 or 4 people comfortably sitting at their place, and then still, you can have a conversation.’ We figured that there’s a way that we can improve the sound output. Once that happened, then we thought, ‘If this is happening with Skype, why not this is happening with YouTube. Let’s try with YouTube.’ Then we tried looking at on some solutions out there on the net if someone has done that. No one has done it. Over a period of time, we figured that we wanted to watch some of the sitcoms, and even that can also be improved. The sound of a book can be improved.
Then we figured there is no such solution like the one which we are trying to solve, or rather, the problem that we were facing; there’s no solution for that. We just went and we searched volume booster for Mac. We did not come across it. Then we saw hundreds and thousands of people like us facing the same problem. They were figuring, and then we thought, ‘We got to solve this problem.’ We know that we have a kind of solution, and then we just worked on it. We worked hard on it, and then we got a solution for this. Then that’s when we had a system- wide volume booster and equalizer. That was built from Mac moving beyond mobile photography.
We had … our team had grown. We were focused on … some people would do on the Mac and some people would do iOS for the mobile part. When we saw that, we knew that it was a good application. It’s called Boom for Mac; it happened in 2011 so we were all ready. You want me to continue with the whole story or do you have any questions?
Rob: I’m interested. Is there … when you take something like Boom, do you bring that over into the mobile world? Is that what you start to think about? The same challenges that you’re having on a laptop and a computer when it comes to audio is the same challenges you have when they introduced the speaker on the bottom of the phone. It has definitely gotten better since the very first speaker; I think that was the 3GS, when they came out with the speaker. Even on a 5S, the speaker is good but it doesn’t fill a room; you still need some extension. This is a problem. You cannot put this on when you’re in the shower and hear the music. I want that solution. Is that where you guys moved towards?
Guru: We wanted to actually do that but there are certain technical barriers. Mac has an open system out there and you can explore a lot of things out there, whereas iOS is a closed system. As a closed system in the sense you wouldn’t get access to certain things. Maybe that is being done for the security reasons. Apple doesn’t want it’s mobile products to be tampered by anyone else so that’s the reason they give you only limited access and you could do only this many things. As far as Boom is concerned, we would love to have it. At this point in time I’m not, but we are hopeful in the future when Apple opens some a window for us, then probably we can bring it out there.
Rob: The lesson here is that you’ve got to be at the exact same moment you were at with Camera Plus when, actually, Apple does allow this to happen with the audio enhancements. That’s where you guys are heading. You’ve found this little nerve, a challenge people are having, like me, probably like many listeners or viewers; I just want the music a little bit louder without having to buy something that I have to plug my phone into. It sounds to me like you guys are right on the cusp. I’m going to some back to you guys when that happens so we can talk about Boom on iOS. Hopefully, the same thing happens to you guys there.
I have one last question, though, around Camera Plus, and then we’re going to wrap it up. I’m going to have you back on, Guru, because it’s so fascinating. The story is just … when you do what you guys have done over the past 4 years; it’s just a great rolling story. I appreciate you taking the time do this. I’m very interested in the things that make people impact your thinking. Was there a book? Was there a person? Was there a company, was there something; was there an app that you use that inspires you, that has changed the way you think, that has made you love mobile or embrace mobile more? Is there something out there that has influenced you? I’m not talking about Sanskrit because that’s interesting, that’s fascinating to me, how you can apply that to what you guys are doing. Was there something out there that you think, ‘Wow. I wish I had invented that? I wish I had done that,’ or something that’s inspired you?
Guru: Yes. We always had a … later, we had a vision wherein we wanted to always solve some problem and it has to be solved in a way wherein it is unique, simple, and it is effortless. Our users are our biggest strength, though, we would read a lot of articles, and we have had a lot of stories out there on the net. Users are the ones who … they are the ones who would make us to keep thinking about new things, keep coming back to the product. They are the ones who are going to make your product a hit or a fail, or whatever it is. You got to listen to them.
I feel that the biggest book, or the biggest inspiration, or anything, your users; those that have downloaded your app. They are the biggest users. Just to add a small fact, or rather, one of the things that I would say is solving a problem with a Camera Plus. As I said, Camera Plus wasn’t being … as I said, it wasn’t updated to the latest version of the OS, and we wanted to see something new that has to be given to our users because we had it on 9 million users of Camera Plus until about 2013, October. We wanted to see, we wanted to do something different because mobile photography has evolved in a different way, as I said, some time ago. How is it that we have to keep them happy or we have to solve a problem with respect to that is that we thought when you have advanced camera like the ones you showed me just now, 5S; how is it that you can solve another problem wherein now every day, everybody has used the iPhone or iCamera for any photography. We thought, ‘We [inaudible: 01:02:31] one more … we should solve a problem. We were using it and we thought, whenever … we have grown from over a dozen engineers to about 3 dozen members out here; 36 [inaudible: 01:02:43] last 3 years, 4 years.
When we celebrate a lot of things out here, the person who’s taking a photo is always left out in the group. The thing is, if you have to take a group photo, what happens is we started using this panorama feature out there on the iPhone. The thing is, the person who started that and who start using the camera and then he would just move here; when the phone has crossed half of it, the person who’s standing at the left, who would come and hold the phone, and then the other person would go and join the photo. That’s the thing we used to do. That’s a solution. This is a problem because we want everyone in the shot. Timer is not the solution for every occasion and that’s when we thought, ‘How can we have …’ because there are so many iPhones out there. How can we [inaudible: 01:03:38] users using Camera Plus, and how do we solve this? That’s when we created [inaudible: 01:03:47] Aid Snap. We introduced that feature, Aid Snap, in Camera Plus and we released it in this Feb. 2014, within this application.
What it does is if you have Camera Plus, you just have to turn on the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If there is another person having an iPhone with [inaudible: 01:04:12], it would just pair up; the one in your hand acts as a lens, the other one acts as a trigger, so remote shutter. What you do is keep the phone at one place, and then you just go stand at the next place, and then you start taking the photos. You don’t have to run to the camera, so you just see the preview out here, you didn’t like it? Delete, get the next one. This is the …
Guru: Yeah, this is the solution we have caught. This has been loved by Apple. The feature is worldwide. This has been loved by users too. This is where we feel when users come back and now they are demanding something else, and then that [inaudible: 01:04:53] inspires us to do something new, and then solve a new problem. I don’t have anything … other magic words to say.
Rob: It’s a great way to end, because I just love that approach. You solve these problems that people are having, real life problems without the selfie arm …
Rob: … which is ultimately what people are doing. I just … that kind of thinking, Guru, inspires me, and I’m sure that it inspires folks that are listening or watching this, because that’s the thinking that you need to be able to do. There’s two paths that you can take with mobile, and you’ve gone down both of them, which is you’ve built a … you’ve satisfied a requirement, a need in the marketplace early on in 2009 when you launched Camera Plus. You found a user base. Now what you’ve been doing over those 4 years is growing that user base by satisfying your existing users. Then you’re adding features that are in demand from those users; that they are going to actually … that they’ve wanted, that they’ve identified. I love that. You built a business, you found a user base, you’ve built a business, now you’re satisfying those existing users, and because of that, you’re getting pull from them to bring others into your customer base. It’s the perfect approach. I can’t wait to see what you do with Boom on mobile.
As soon as I hear that Apple has opened up the audio controls and the ability to do that, I’m going to get you back on because I think that you’re going to be right at that moment. You’re going to be ffirst app out as a result of this. I can’t wait.
Rob: Where can we send people? Do we just send them to GlobalDelight.com to get more information about you guys?
Guru: Yes, absolutely. They can actually come to GlobalDelight.com, and then they can get all of the applications to see there, and then they can price some of them.
Rob: Link up to other stores. Camera Plus Pro is available in the App Store right now. You guys are not on Android are you?
Guru: No, we are Apple OS so far.
Rob: That’s alright. That’s OK. As long as you can make a living, and I think you can because there’s lots of those, lots of those Apple users. Guru, I can’t thank you enough for doing this. This has been so open, so honest. I love this story. I can’t wait to have you back on in a short time. Thank you for doing this.
Guru: Thank you very much, Rob, for your time. Thank you again.
Rob: My pleasure. We’ve been speaking to Guru; he is in India. The company is called Global Delight. Go to GlobalDelight.com. Go and download Camera Plus Pro; you will not be disappointed. It’s $1.99, support these guys. You’ve just heard some great innovation as a result of the years that they’ve been doing this; staving off all of these competitors, and people with the same name, pushing them away so that they can create these great products. Go to globaldelight.com for more information.
You guys out there, listening, watching, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, thank you for making it this far into the episode. I really appreciate that. We will see you next time on Untether.tv. Thank you, Guru.
Guru: Thank you.