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Where Can I Find Apps For Sale? [Apple Turnover #2]

Where Can I Find Apps For Sale? [Apple Turnover #2]
By Alexander Greene • Issue #2 • View online
Welcome to the second issue of Apple Turnover! In the first issue, I highlighted Trip Planner for Caltrain, a fantastic opportunity to take over a project with a dedicated audience. In this issue, I’ll…
  • 🔍 Discuss where I find apps that are for sale
  • ☀️ Highlight an important acquisition that was announced last week
  • 📝 Analyze another acquisition opportunity

First, a few notes:
  1. Please, read whatever topics interest you, and skip over the rest. Not every opportunity/topic is going to be interesting to every reader. My favorite newsletters are those whose information is well organized and easy to scan through, rather than requiring the reader to devote 15 minutes of reading for a miniscule nugget of information hidden inside.
  2. I’d love to learn more about you! Are you looking to acquire apps, or sell some you’re no longer interested in maintaining? Are you interested in learning more about acquisition landscape, or reading my analysis of existing opportunities? Do you have any thoughts/feedback about what I’ve written? You can email me or find me on Twitter
Alright, now for the good stuff…
Where Can I Find Apps For Sale?
Most of the deals I find are on public marketplaces. I spend a lot of time looking for new sources, but the reality is that most of what I look through is available to everyone. In the first issue, I mentioned there are two marketplaces I check every day. That was only partially true. There are two where I find 80% of the listings, but I’m on these 4 every day:
MicroAcquire is really taking off right now. It’s a curated marketplace, so you can’t just list your startup/app there without the owner, Andrew, approving it first. But once it’s there, it’s likely to get a lot of interest. There’s a lot of money watching what happens there, everyone from hopeful owner-operators to big name venture capitalists. To learn more about a listing, you’ll have to be a premium member, which is several hundred dollars per year. It’s worth it if you identify something that you’re interested in, but some listings have enough details to piece together the domain/name without forking over the cash.
I have a love/hate relationship with Flippa, and you probably will too. To quote what I wrote in the first issue:
It’s full of terrible deals and vaporware, but it is still the biggest marketplace for online businesses, and that means it’s also the path of least resistance for someone who needs to let go of their project. And when that happens, it’s possible to find a high quality app.
FEInternational is a step above MicroAcquire. It’s a brokerage, so whereas MicroAcquire just connects buyers/sellers, FEInternational manages that relationship and facilitates the entire transaction. So the deals are vetted, and more expensive. The cheapest listing I’ve ever seen was around $20k, but on average iOS/Mac apps listed there are priced in the $150k - $1mm range.
Twitter isn’t a marketplace for buying/selling apps, but it can be whatever you make of it. I’m constantly looking for opportunities on there, trying different search terms, and following other developers. The signal/noise on those searches is close to zero, but I’m continuing to invest time there. The Mac app I recently acquired was a deal started on Twitter, and I expect I will find more in the future.
Beside these four is a long tail of less-frequently updated directories that are also less likely to have iOS/Mac apps, as well as a long list of brokers who specialize in software transactions but don’t often have iOS/Mac apps either. I check them weekly at most. I plan on making a more comprehensive list of all sources in a future issue, but I wanted to cover the bases ASAP.
⚠️ I want to also note that even though I am not doing cold outreach yet, I am constantly identifying apps in the App Store that I think would make good acquisitions, and brainstorming what I would do to improve them. I think it’s a great practice that helps prepare you for future acquisitions, develops your investment criteria, and exercises product/design thinking skills. It’s also a lot of fun :)
Recent Acquisition
☀️ This past week, Weatherline, a very well designed weather app, was acquired by an unnamed company. One of the owners/creators of Weatherline, Ryan Jones, is definitely worth a follow on Twitter. He’s constantly sharing insights on app design, monetization, the app store landscape, and participating in conversations with other developers. This week he shared the big news about the acquisition, as well as some insight into what happens behind the scenes. I’m not going to regurgitate the entire thing, but I recommend you read it.
Ryan Jones
Well… this certainly wasn’t ever the plan or goal, but the stars aligned.

📣 Weather Line is being acquired 📣

✓ All active subs are extended until shutdown for free
✓ No personal data was sold
✓ Service will stay on for 13 months (Apr 1, 2022)

https://t.co/cnUgRl3Knp
What I will share is what stood out to me about the acquisition:
  • It’s a big player buyout. The acquirer is not keeping the app, the customers, or the talent. So this is a company that has money to spend just to remove competition and/or acquire the IP / tech that Weatherline has built. I’d expect this is another company that owns a weather app in the App Store. Perhaps Apple themselves.
  • I think Weatherline is a best-in-class app. For an acquirer, this is very attractive. Best-in-class apps are extremely well designed, have all the kinks worked out, and a dedicated set of customers who appreciate all of the little things that make the app better than second-class alternatives. Because the acquirer is not keeping the app, this is going to create an opportunity for another best-in-class weather app to rise to the occasion.
  • Ryan Jones is a former Apple engineer. If you spend enought time in the indie iOS dev community, you’ll notice a significant number of former Apple employees who’ve ventured out on their own to build apps. If any of them are ever selling an app, you should take a look.
  • 8 years of work. Building app isn’t easy. Marketing an app isn’t easy. Growing an app isn’t easy. All of it takes time or money. Weatherline is an 8 year old app, so Ryan spent his time. The buyer is spending their money. When you look at an opportunity to buy or sell an app, think about that tradeoff…
If you’re selling, how much is worth for a buyer to not have to spend the time building what you built?
If you’re buying, how much is it worth for you to not have to spend the time building what the buyer has?
  • Privacy was not compromised. Working with the buyer, Ryan was able to make sure no user data was transferred/sold as part of the acquisition. This is awesome, and should be the model standard for app acquisitions.
Acquisition Opportunity: Noted for Mac
Now we’re going to be taking a look at an app for sale, called Noted.
What is it?
Noted is a Mac menu bar app that lets you quickly write down a note/thought. It’s very simple.
Why is it being turned over?
The seller uses the app every day and is still improving it, but would like the money for something important to them.
Overview
Listed on: https://buymysideproject.com/startups/noted (BuyMySideProject is a new source that popped up this week on ProductHunt. These ProductHunt-launched marketplaces often fizzle out quickly, but I’ll be scanning it until it does.)
Asking Price: $2500 (negotiable)
Recurring Expenses: None, besides Apple Developer Program membership.
What I like about this app:
It’s simple. It’s a lightweight app that would be very easy to maintain.
Ranks well in searches.
  • There’s another app called “Noted”, with a much larger audience. Anyone searching for that will see this Noted in the search results (position #3)
  • “Quick notes” (position #3)
  • “Toolbar notes” (only result)
  • “Menu bar notes” (position #4)
  • “Menu notes” (position #3)
  • “Menu bar” (position #15)
Competition. There are a handful of competitors in the App Store, which shows there is a demand for this type of note-taking app. You’ll know customers are searching for this need to be met, and you’ll know who you’re competing with for their attention.
You might be able to charge more. It was free for a while, and as of mid-February it’s been priced at $1. I think there’s potential to increase the price to $2-4 without sacrifiing many sales. There will be some work involved in demonstrating to the user the superiority over competition, but it’s possible. [Since I started writing this issue, the developer took my suggestion and increased the price to $3, but I’m leaving this point here as an example of something that’s potentially an easy win.]
Nice icon. The App Store icon doesn’t particularly pop/stand out amongst others, but it is clean. The quill looks even better in the toolbar/menu when the app is launched/running. It’s small, but I think that’s a standout differentiator over competitors, especially for an app that is always running.
Saves your text. I used to use a free alternative called Tyke, and every time I closed the app/restarted my computer, my note would be erased. Noted saves it, and I love that.
There’s not much downside. I’m confident that there’s a non-zero lower bound to the value of an app that (1) has positive reviews, and (2) serves a legitimate purpose well. Games and sketchy low quality apps can be worth close to zero, but I think there’s more room to make money than lose money on this deal. The bigger question is time investment, but if this app were to lose all revenue generating potential at some point in the future, I still think you could probably find a buyer at $750.
What I don’t like about this app:
Competition. There are a handful of competitors in the App Store, which means that if you don’t put in the effort to be better, you might fall behind. It’s primary category is Productivity, which is maybe the most competitive Mac App Store category to rank for. Rankings don’t drive as many sales as searches, but it’s something to consider.
It wouldn’t be hard to rebuild. It’s a lightweight app. When evaluating this deal, you need to think about how much time/money you’d spend building a replica, submitting it to the App Store, and positioning yourself for the keywords above.
Not enough revenue data. I touched based with Rohan, the developer of the app. This app has only been monetized for several weeks. I won’t publish numbers here but you’re free to reach out to him. I’m curious to see how many sales his keyword rankings drive, but there’s not enough monetization history for me to project revenue even for the short term.
Who should acquire this?
  • Someone who currently uses a toolbar notes app and knows why this one is better/what would make this one better.
  • Someone who will see value in having another app in their portfolio that is easy to maintain. It adds exposure to your brand/other apps.
  • Someone who has an audience, is good at marketing, or wants to test their marketing/outreach skills. Almost everyone uses a notes app and this is priced low enough that you wouldn’t have to target a niche audience to find customers.
  • Someone who can identify why users are buying this app over the competition, and then double down on what they find.
You can see the theme here is experimentation. You won’t get rich off this app, but you might learn a lot and make some money too.
My Recommendations
I’m a potential buyer for this app. I could build a replica, heck I already own another toolbar app, but this one is already built and generating revenue. I’ve addressed some of my concerns with Rohan and we’re going to touch base in a couple months if he hasn’t found a buyer.
If I were to buy it today, here’s what I’d do:
1. Talk to current customers
The fact that customers are purchasing this app over competing apps, many of which are free, is awesome. I know why I purchased it, but I’m only one person. I want to figure out any common threads amongst customers. This would dictate what I spend time improving upon, or changing.
I think it would be a mistake here to start by figuring out why people are NOT buying this app and building for them. You are never going to build a notes app that everyone loves.
2. Build a feature matrix
There are a lot of competitors. I want to build a feature matrix that shows what competitors offer which features/advantages. This is not a contradiction of #1, but it will help me notice who my true competitors are. The apps that my current customers almost decided to go with, because we compete on features & design. I want to outshine those apps, not every note taking toolbar app.
3. Improve the App Store assets
This is not a weakness of the app, but there is room for improvement. I might add a video, or make the screenshots pop a bit more. I would highlight in the description why this app is better than the competitors I found as a result of my research in step #2.
4. Minimalize
It’s a very simple app already, but the toolbar within the app doesn’t need to be there all the time. I would either add keyboard shortcuts or a less visible way to hide/show the in-app toolbar. I have a hunch that people who like menu-bar notes apps appreciate minimalism, so simplifying it even more probably wouldn’t hurt.
5. Encourage reviews
The app currently has great reviews. But based on the number of downloads it has (again, reach out to Rohan if you’re interested in the numbers), there could be a lot more. I’d ask users to leave a review/rating once they’ve typed a certain # of words, or copied/downloaded their notes a certain number of times.
Once I’ve done all those, and not a moment sooner, I’d consider building a small roadmap of feature ideas. This is a small app, it should never be the next Microsoft Word, but the more value you can add, the more you can charge.
  • How about Markdown support. That would be awesome, and wouldn’t add anything extra to the interface.
  • Let the customer customize the color scheme of the app itself.
  • Make the note window resize-able.
Was this helpful? Was it interesting? What do you think about this acquisition opportunity? Please reach out and let me know, and thank you for reading!
Alex
Did you enjoy this issue?
Alexander Greene

Hello Readers, thanks for tuning into Apple Turnover. Are you an iOS/Mac app developer or entrepreneur interested in acquiring apps?
Each issue, I'll be reviewing a selection of app investment opportunities sourced from public marketplaces, and private conversations. I won't just be analyzing financials. As a developer & designer myself, I'll review strengths and weaknesses of each opportunity from technical and design perspectives.

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