This is one of the toughest things I’ve ever written, and I’ve been putting off doing it for entirely too long now.
While watching college football out of the corner of my eye this evening, I began the process of winding down Montabe, a side business that I had been working on for close to three years now.
At this point, the app is entirely read-only. I turned off the billing for the one paying customer the app had remaining (who hadn’t logged in for close to a year). The only traffic the site still gets at this point is largely search engine traffic to a specific gallery and a few gallery embeds that are still live on a handful of newspaper test sites.
Which gets to the core of what ultimately brought me here.
In all that time, Montabe made a grand total of $1,617.00 in revenue. It cost me a little less than $300 per month in costs. I could have made those costs lower - since I built this in the days before Stripe I was paying around $90 just for the privilege for taking credit card payments (PayPal and Spreedly combo) - but it would have taken a significant effort to get there and my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. And I had no indication that more revenue was coming.
I still believe in the core idea, and I’m still in awe of some of the things the app can (and especially used to) do, but I ultimately could not find enough buyers or even use cases.
I started off thinking the thing would sell itself (Ha!), then moved on to talking to conference organizers (too short-term of a need and an unwillingness to pay … but great for marketing), corporate meeting planners (paid really well, but again: short-term use cases and tough to find), wedding photographers (same), and social media monitoring services (ignored) before I gave up and shifted to selling to the one market I knew - and knew wouldn’t pay for it - newspaper media.
I learned everything I know about photo handling, photography workflows, and the like from developing photo and gallery systems at large newspapers. I know the pain points, the workflows and needs.
I also know, first-hand, how unwilling to part with money they can be.
But I shifted anyway, because I was out of options. I “knew” they needed something like what I’d built.
I ultimately got nowhere - one relationship got fairly far before falling apart - and I got to a point where I was avoiding the code base entirely. I was discouraged, down and had the app weighing on me.
So, I’m starting to pull the plug.
I don’t know tonight if it failed me, or if I failed it.
I suspect the latter.