Success in the app business takes effort. In the ten years since Sleep Cycle’s founding, we’ve been on a constant growth path – but, in addition to great success and pride in our longstanding position as one of the top apps in health and fitness, we’ve learned a few things. We’re still having a great time, and, as entrepreneurs, we thought it would be useful to share some principles that have helped us grow each year.
Relentlessly Focusing on Product
A key to our success is an intense focus on user needs. People want and need better quality sleep, and some 80 percent of people report difficulty sleeping. Our goal is to wake users naturally – and at the right time – in order to make sleep more effective and restful. We want to deliver better sleep. Just focusing on those areas– every day – without switching focus or pivoting, is critical to our success. We seek to remove obstacles for customers who use our product by being close to them and having open conversations about where their product experience might fall short. We maintain a “healthy obsession” with our product, and that focus is why Sleep Cycle has done very little marketing. Our growth is organic because people love Sleep Cycle and the results it delivers. Put simply, it always does what it’s expected to do.
Not Giving Up on Technical Challenges
Technology product development means that there are occasional roadblocks. When that happens, successful firms attack the problem with thoughtful effort and lots of resources. For example, Sleep Cycle encountered issues with sleep analysis features that rely on handset microphones – specifically, the varying quality of hardware on Android devices, which gave inconsistent results. To keep Sleep Cycle hardware-agnostic, we allocated significant resources – including all of our engineers, for six months – into dealing with this issue. In the end, we solved it and built a better product. Today, whatever phone you use or whatever microphone is in your phone, Sleep Cycle analyzes your sleep in the same way. This gives better results for our customers and, ultimately, for our company.
Building the Best Team and Staying Committed
Startups begin with a founder and a vision. These are people who are used to doing everything alone. However, that approach doesn’t scale, and hiring the right people is critically important. Not only are there more people to do the work, but there are also more of the right people to generate constructive ideas. In addition, entrepreneurs must stay committed. It takes time to build a company, and there is no such thing as overnight success. Don’t give up too early!
Finally, Staying Sane
Working very long hours and putting a lot of pressure on one’s self can lead to burnout. Maintaining reasonable work hours and separating work and private life can help one to stay sane and build a company and a career for the long term.