Polarr CEO Borui Wang thinks everyone is smart enough to master advanced photo editing software, and his new iOS app aims to eradicate the biggest barrier most people face: price. He and his team of seven had never built an app before, but saw an opening in the “pro amateur” market that Adobe excludes.
After working for just two months to get the app ready, Wang was elated when the app was featured in the app store, and saw 250,000 downloads in the first 36 hours.
How did they do it?
Wang tells Business Insider there was no magic bullet, but that there are several things app makers can do to increase their chances of getting featured, and the insane download bump that comes with it.
- Use the latest operating system and target the most recent features (Wang used Webkit, introduced in iOS8).
- Read through marketing guidelines very carefully, and prepare very good screenshots and preview videos, and network with Apple to let them know your app exists.
- Figure out the timing. Apple does selection for features every Thursday, so launch just before then.
- But the final and most important one is to build a product with massive value to consumers and focus on great design
This last point is where the real focus was for Wang, and he started by identifying a problem.
“So many of my friends ask me to teach them how to use Adobe Photoshop,” Wang says. “Before that process, they feel like a total amateur. They think they have to have a good camera and know how to use it to deserve Photoshop.”
This is because at Adobe’s price point of $US20 dollars per month, his friends assume you have to be an expert to use it, Wang says.
“But when I actually show them how it works, it’s simple. People are smart enough,” he finishes.
Wang, who graduated from Stanford’s computer science master’s program last June, drew inspiration from memories of his high school friends playing around on cracked versions of Photoshop. They all figured it out and loved it, but there was no way they (or their parents) would have wanted to pay for the legitimate version. “It’s not doable,” Wang says.
So after graduation, he set out to create a program that could compete with many of Photoshop’s features for a fraction of the price. A $US4.99 in-app purchase gets you access to Polarr’s full capabilities.
With Polarr’s web application, which launched last September, and its new mobile app, Wang wants to put sophisticated and high-quality editing tools into the hands of amateurs. But it wasn’t simple to bring a functional pro editor to a phone.
Wang faced many challenges adapting the web app for mobile, but a major one was memory. His team had to figure out how to prevent Polarr from completely crashing if someone ran it on an iPhone 4S.
This is especially important because mobile is a crucial market for Wang’s app. He thinks eventually the market for Polarr’s web app will shrink, and most users will access it from phones or tablets.
Wang says people are used to doing minimal edits on their phones now, with applications like Instagram. Polarr wants to capture the market that is ready to graduate from Instagram onto something a little more advanced. (Instagram was also co-founded by a Stanford graduate, Kevin Systrom).
Wang is not content with just providing people with the tools. He wants to learn from how they use them. Wang’s background is in artificial intelligence, and says the bigger picture for his company is learning how people like to edit their photos.
The company’s next project is a fully automated photo editing service, though the extent of that automation isn’t clear yet.