The most valuable business lesson I learned


The revolutionary Bible app

One day in 2017, I came up with a genius app idea. I wanted to build a Bible app where people can read Bible verses to grow a flower.

There are millions of downloads in Bible apps and 2.38 billion Christians. The market must be huge, I thought. In addition, human beings tend to be lazy, so they must be struggling to develop the habit of reading the Bible even they want to. Now that is a huge pain point. Read Bible verses to your phone to grow flowers? What an innovative and inspiring idea!

I was so excited about the idea. Despite the not-so-positive feedback I received from friends (eye-rolling, giggle, awkward silence…you get the idea) I started the development immediately.

I drew the illustrations with Sketch, built the animation with GameKit, and implemented the voice recognition with Apple’s Speech framework. it was not easy, but I enjoyed every second of doing it.

After a month of sweats and tears, the first version was done and uploaded to AppStore.

bibleGarden app
BibleGarden app

Everything looked great until it did not. After struggling to get traction for a while, I decided to give up the project because people seemed not interested in the app, and I lost my motivation.

I was in a trap of affirmation bias, but I did not know it. Before AppStore removed the app, it generated $28 in total revenue.

The 3-hour app

In the same year, 2017, I went to Vancouver B.C to visit my sister’s family during the summer. I noticed a weird toy called EasyButton, which my niece bought In the same year, 2017, I went to Vancouver to visit my sister’s family during the summer. I noticed a weird toy called EasyButton, which my niece bought from Staple. It was just a big red button that speaks “That’s easy” when pushed. According to the description, it is for releasing stress and anxiety. My niece liked it a lot and played it very often.

Easy Button
Easy Button from Staple

I decided to build an app version of the toy because people seem to like it (the sales number is pretty good from its website). The app was easy to build, and I spent only about 1.5 hours finishing the first version. However, the AppStore team rejected it because the app was too simple. Then I spent another 1.5 hours adding multiple languages as an extra feature and got approved.

easy button app
EasyButton app

It turned out, the app got sales in the first week without any promotion. At the time of writing, it generated $1,800 in revenue, and it is still generating sales.

An invaluable business lesson

Assuming the development cost of BibleGrarden is 100 hours (5 hours x 20 days), the ROIs would be:

  • ROI of BibleGarden = $28 / 100 hours = $0.28 per hour spent
  • ROI of EasyButton = $1800 / 3 hours = $600 per hour spent

What’s the takeaway? What do these numbers tell us?

A product won’t sell if it is not something people want. It doesn’t matter how much time you spent, how passionate you were, or how advanced your programming skill is.

On the other hand, if people want the thing you build and the price is right, they will pay for it. It doesn’t matter whether the idea is original or how many lines of code you wrote. They will whip out their wallets and buy the product.

It seems counterintuitive because we were often told what you gain is correlated It is counterintuitive because the common belief is that our gain correlates to the effort we make. It might apply to some aspects of life, such as self-improvement, but probably not to business. In business, “Doing the right things” is more important than “Doing the things right.”


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