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Jan 20, 2021
Darius Mora, Reflectly - Building a Lean Growth Machine for the World’s Largest Journaling App
Play • 55 min
Darius Mora is the Chief Marketing Officer at Reflectly, the world’s largest journaling app. Reflectly is consistently in the top 5 Health & Fitness iPhone apps in the US, competing with companies 10X its size. Over the past 6 months, Reflectly has broadened its scope, acquiring 8 new apps in the mental fitness space.
Darius has been in the app space for almost a decade and founded 4 app startups prior to joining Reflectly in 2018. He’s been focused on ASO, free marketing, paid user acquisition, and retention for both Android and iOS apps.
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
  • Why you don’t need a large dev team to build a great app
  • How to keep a strong product focus and find product-market fit
  • Building an app growth machine on Instagram and TikTok

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Here’s the Outline of Our Interview with Darius:

[0:55] Darius’s background in app development: startup wins and misses.
[2:58] How Darius joined Reflectly.
[3:58] Reflectly team size; the switch from free to paid app.
[4:26] Reflectly gained half a million subscribers organically with almost no ad spend.
[4:48] How Reflectly added subscriptions and grew to 12 million users.
[5:09] Reflectly built a successful app business with only 2.5 engineers; Flutter.
[6:33] What is the team structure like at Reflectly?
[8:15] Reflectly’s recent app acquisitions and the journey to $100M; user acquisition and onboarding.
[9:53] The “mental fitness” app space.
[13:20] Why app growth gets more difficult after the $10-15M mark; Eric Seufert.
[13:40] 3 solutions for getting past the growth “glass ceiling;” second product-market fit.
[15:38] Expanding revenue with your existing user base; Headspace; Calm.
[17:22] Is $10M ARR really a ceiling?
[18:57] User retention and churn; the “leaky bucket;” Apple’s 85/15 revenue split.
[20:56] Maintaining user-centered design and product focus.
[22:42] What’s the “magic number” for retention?
[24:52] A quick and easy hack for boosting retention: add paid subscriptions.
[27:09] Finding product-market fit; letting the market speak for itself.
[29:28] Split-testing strategies; Amplitude; Mixpanel; RevenueCat.
[39:29] A/B testing is not an exact science — don’t overthink it.
[40:08] Reflectly’s price experimentation; monthly vs. annual vs. lifetime subscriptions.
[44:43] Advertising on TikTok vs. Instagram.
[46:50] How Darius went viral on TikTok.
[49:18] Leveraging TikTok microinfluencers for mobile advertising.
[53:30] Building a lean growth machine; Upwork; Zapier.
[54:54] Reflectly is hiring Flutter devs! Connect with Darius for more information.
[55:22] Connect with Darius on his blog.


“I’ve had 25 apps on the App Store, and I feel like I’ve learned more from the failures than the successes.” - David
“[With my first app] we made all the usual mistakes… we spent half a year building it without talking to a single user, released it — crickets.” - Darius
11:30 “I think in SaaS, but also in consumer apps, the need for capital is going down… infrastructure can be rented, things can be experimented with and scaled very cheaply. It really doesn’t take what it used to to get something off the ground. And I think, strategically, it’s really smart because the leaner you are, the more options you have — and options are leverage.” - Jacob
“It does feel like we’re in the middle of a gold rush. There’s just huge opportunities and shiny objects every day, all around. So the hard thing is staying focused — and are you willing to wait out 5 years until you start generating that recurring annual revenue?” - Darius
“Most of the things that vendors are selling at conferences [solve] problems that are fixed by a better product.” - Darius
“Unless you have really good retention, you shouldn’t be doing anything else — none of the other stuff will matter.” - Darius
“You can’t fix bad retention with better growth strategies.” - Darius
“Retention is a metric that measures product-market fit; it’s not a goal in itself. If you don’t have retention, it’s not a retention problem — it’s a product-market fit problem.” - Jacob
“The truth is, a lot of times monetization is easier than retention. If you can figure out how to build an amazing product that works, monetization is not really difficult.” - Darius
“It’s nice to get annual subscriptions because you get all the money up front, but a lot of times companies will get more money from doing the monthly because you can price it higher compared to the annual. And you get a higher LTV down the line, but it comes after a couple of months instead of all the money up front. So depending on what stage you’re in and how much pressure you [have for] scaling, you can decide which one you’re going to push more.” - Darius
“When you’re running ads on any platform, it’s quantity over quality. Don’t show the market what you think is good. Show them everything you’ve got, and they’ll tell you what’s good.” - Darius
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