How we grew product revenue to $50M+ per year for our customer? [004.0]

My stint at bigger brand company lasted only a year because they started selling all their mobile assets AND my previous startup wanted me back in a Director role. Since I enjoyed working with the people I joined them back in their humble Mountain View, CA office on Villa St. in June 2008. Their office was just 10 minutes walk from the legendary gastronomic Castro St. in Mountain View downtown. Check out the incredible food options on Castro St. at Yelp … yum.

It was my privilege to be associated with a fantastic team at the startup and working with the Tier 1 Carrier customer team in growing the product revenue to $50M+ per year for the customer over 6 years period. More than 15M Android device users still use the product on a daily basis.

Product growth is all about “We” and never “I”. Product management is all about 3 things… people, vision, and differentiation. But the value of product management is in taking the small decisions on a day-to-day basis to move the product in the right direction, which is 50+ decisions per month and 600+ decisions per year (Just take a minute to ponder over this.)There were so many new things we had to learn as a team and innovate because we were the FIRST TO MARKET so we had very few data points to lean on for our decision making.

The product is Visual Voicemail delivered as an app on Android device with backend service running on a SaaS platform hosted in a data center integrated with:

  • Multiple voicemail systems throughout the country
  • Payment systems
    • Carrier billing systems
    • External credit card payment system
    • Google play in-app purchases
    • iOS App store in-app purchases
  • Notification systems such as SMS-C, GCM, and iMessage
  • Voicemail to text service
  • Ad network
  • CDN for delivering upgrades and Avatar experience

Yes it was quite an interesting 6 years journey for the team and I have broken it down into multiple blog posts for my readers to understand the key challenges we encountered and addressed as a team.

  1. Product growth: Scaling the SaaS platform [004.1]
    • Forecast from our Carrier customer was 400k users in 6 months… well we got 200k in 2 weeks, 400k in 6 weeks and 800k in 6 months
    • Business model was cost per subscriber per month since the voicemail app was offered free to subscribers
  2. Product growth: Impact of acquisition [004.2]
    • Startup got acquired by small public company, who had built device client apps only and had zero experience with SaaS platform
    • Product vision scared the new management instead of exciting them
  3. Product growth: Launch premium service with rev share biz model [004.3]
    • Hit 2M+ subscribers in 18 months so cost per subscriber per month business model threw red flags with the customer
    • Build the voicemail to text premium service working with partners and sell the idea internally & to the customer
    • Support new service and additional network integrations
  4. Product growth: Data analytics, client upgrades & server based client configuration [004.4]
    • Freemium business model management for expected growth to 15M+ users
    • “What next” analysis
  5. Product growth: Increase adoption with new opt-in, UxD, and price plans [004.5]
    • Premium service adoption flattened
    • Support prepaid subscribers
  6. Product growth: Launch Ad support [004.6]
    • Cost of supporting 91% free users (approx. 15M users) was very high
  7. Product growth: Increase price of premium service [004.7]
    • Competition was charging higher price for lower quality service
  8. Product growth: Make product cool with avatars [004.8]
    • Voicemail usage was reducing

Next I will share how we scaled the SaaS platform to support millions of subscribers in the Carrier network.

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