From the very beginning, our goal for Brili has been to help children be successful in their daily routines so their stressed-out families could find relief from chaos and yelling. We set out to design and build the best solution in the world for helping kids with daily routines and we have achieved that goal.
Speaking personally, I know what it's like to feel like a pile of dirt because I lost my cool with my learning-disabled child when he couldn't stay on task or acted out. This is why I want everyone to experience the success that we have had with the consistent, structured daily routines that Brili provides.
When we launched Brili back in June, we did so using a "freemium" subscription model, letting families download a limited version of the app at no charge and then offering subscription-based upgrades as in-app purchases. We chose this model in the hope that a free app would gain rapid adoption by a lot of families and that the success they experienced would result in plenty of word-of-mouth referrals and enough subscription sales to make Brili a viable full-time pursuit for us.
I should mention at this point that Brili actually has been a full-time pursuit for me, without pay, for a year and a half. In fact, I've sunken an ungodly amount of my life savings into developing and marketing Brili thus far. Kyle Li joined me as a partner back in May and has been working full-time without a salary since then as well. We don't have any outside investors, other than my amazing dad and the Brightlane co-working space.
Unfortunately, revenues from sales of Brili subscriptions are not nearly what we had projected. We barely take in enough to cover the cost of hosting and the software licenses we use to create Brili.
How can this be? We can think of a few reasons:
- "Onboarding" new users is really, really hard. Apps that require people to do any amount of setup work before they're useful face an uphill battle in actually getting used. Of course, no two kids are the same so even Brili's many template routines need to be customized to some extent. On average, we're seeing a bit over 50% of parents actually setting up a routine and then only half of them actually use it with their child. So that's almost 75% of people who download Brili never actually using it!
- Our intended users are particularly susceptible to abandoning the setup process. Compounding the onboarding problem is the strong heritability of ADHD: there's a 25% chance that one of the parents of an ADHD child has the condition as well. So while Brili is spectacularly helpful for parents with attention challenges, they're also the ones who struggle the most to complete the routine planning and setup.
- Brili works even better than expected. The 25% of families who do get to using Brili with their kids are wildly successful. In as little as a week, many kids learn their routines well enough to not need the app, at least for a while. One parent said after using the app for a few days, "My son has been so successful he is remembering more and more so the app is only every now and then." This is truly great news, but not exactly conducive to recurring subscription sales.
- While many parents willingly paid to unlock additional kids and routines, many more were put off by the idea that these charges would recur. We had thought that parents would try Brili with one kid and one routine, but it turns out that if they couldn't set up all their kids and all their routines, they weren't interested anymore. When we responded by making the free version less restrictive, allowing 2 kids and 4 routines, onboarding improved but subscription sales plummeted.
We stopped putting a lot of resources into marketing Brili, except for meeting with child behavior experts and demonstrating it for them, because we realized we've been trying to "fill a leaky bucket" - basically burning money and time acquiring customers, three quarters of whom won't let us help them with the problem they want to solve, experience any success to share, provide us with any feedback or otherwise do anything to help us defray our costs.
No good, right?
We're not discouraged by this, and we certainly don't blame our customers for what's happening. Heck, this is par for the course with software startups, as efforts are made to achieve product/market fit. But it's an indicator that what we've been doing so far isn't sustainable and it's time to try something else.
With our original goal of helping kids in mind, we need a business model that:
- Allows us to provide parents with high quality support in the up-front process of planning their family's daily routines – if kids aren't ultimately benefitting from workable routines, what's the point?
- Incentivizes parents to take the 10-15 minutes needed to arrive at a point where Brili is actually able to take over and dramatically improve their everyday lives on a go-forward basis.
- Helps parents feel entitled to ask for help if they need it, and to criticize us if we can improve;
- Attracts the parents who are most committed making a positive difference for their kids;
- Allows us to keep working full-time on supporting Brili and making it even more amazing without driving ourselves into personal bankruptcy.
So here's what we're going to do:
- Effective Monday December 7th, the iOS version of Brili will cost USD$14.99 to download from iTunes and the Android version will cost USD$6.99 to download from Google Play. (The difference is to account for Google's lack of the "family sharing" feature that lets iOS users buy the app once and install it for all family members.)
- The browser-based version of Brili will remain free and we will also provide the Brili app at no cost to low-income families.
- The purchase price will include:
- 3 children and 3 routines, which can be mixed and matched as parents need
- 30 minutes of phone- or live chat-based routine planning support with a qualified expert
- Brili Concierge: If you know what you want your child's routines to look like but don't have time to set it up in Brili, we'll take care of it with just an email from you, with a 24 hour turnaround time.
- Families will still be able to upgrade to the Brili Extra plan for $49.99 per year. This will include:
- Unlimited kids and routines
- Monitor kids' progress in real-time from Parent Mode.
- Voice prompts
- Activity time graphs to help you fine-tune your kids' routines (coming later this month)
- Pass code lock to prevent children from entering Parent Mode
- Brili Concierge support extended to updating existing routines
Of course, as simple as we've tried to make this, nothing's ever really that simple in the software business. Because of the way that the Android app store works, we are forced to remove the current free versions of Brili for both Android and iOS and replace them with a paid version (instead of just setting a price on the same app). So while the current free version will continue to function for those who have already installed it, it will no longer receive updates as we release them. Customers with active subscriptions as of the price change will be eligible to join our beta program or receive an no-charge promo code (iOS only) to download the paid version of the app, which will continue being updated on a go-forward basis.
So there you have it: our plan to keep helping kids with daily routines without going broke. We love your feedback, so please feel to send us a note or leave a comment if you want to share your thoughts.