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Cover image for Day 12: Swift macOS password manager for people who hate the cloud
Sean Walker
Sean Walker

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Day 12: Swift macOS password manager for people who hate the cloud

<- For Day 11 go here

πŸ“… 01/12/2019
πŸš€ 18 days until launch
πŸ”₯ 11 day streak
πŸ’° $4.99 price
πŸ€‘ $0 revenue
πŸ“ˆ 0 customers
⌚️ 8.5 hours spent
πŸ’» 19 files changed, 1068 insertions(+), 170 deletions(-)
🏁 Today's goals: Generate strong passwords; UI improvements

9:14 AM
Alright, I've got my coffee, laptop and xcode ready to roll, let's get it started in here. The first thing I do is open up the app to get my bearings and see where the thing needs improvement. I could do this forever; see things that need improvement and never launch, that's why it's nice to have a launch date and to keep myself honest about hours worked and revenue made. Always good to look back at the daily updates and see what happened.

9:21 AM
I took a departure from coding and decided to type in "password manager" on the mac app store. It's a crazy place in terms of pricing. The most expensive one is $14.99 and it appears to do nothing more than the others and isn't any better in terms of design either. The least expensive ones are free, which while technically correct, most of them have "In-App purchases" in a hilariously tiny font underneath the "Get" button

Declining prices are mostly fake

So this phenomena of declining prices for something that's marginally useful, is kind of sad to see. This shift to freemium and most recently freemium + monthly subscriptions/in-app purchases is kind of a hack on a free trial situation. I should have probably done this kind of research sooner, but I'm glad I've done it now so I can adjust my strategy and try to not wind up like most of these other ones on here.

If I look at what sets the household names apart from the also-rans, it's marketing and a "mission" maybe a "story". These things are manufactured of course to move more product, and it definitely works at least for a while.

  • 1password the most famous of the password managers is famous for their content marketing, and recently collaboration with troy hunt/haveibeenpwned, choice of sync mode and an easy to remember name
  • Lastpass is famous for having a horrible UX, getting hacked and not giving you the option of how to sync your passwords, seeing as it started as a website and not an app
  • Dashlane seems to be better overall but appears to have even less market presence
  • Bitwarden is also a contender although I don't know if anyone outside of the HN sphere knows about this, the main difference is that it's open source

One thing they all have in common is this focus on cloud syncing and subscription pricing, both of which I am not a fan of.

Separating myself from the herd

So, assuming I can get the design in order in 18 days, what can I do to separate myself from these other ones and stand out from the crowd? I've already done some things quite a bit differently than these other guys/gals:

  • Swift/Native macOS app to start, iOS app coming next
  • No electron or javascript
  • Open source
  • Transparent revenue numbers + origin story (I love a good origin story)
  • No subscription pricing
  • One time price
  • No cloud syncing, just automatic syncing between the macOS app and the forthcoming iOS app
  • No browser extensions
  • High upfront price to make people think wow this better be amazing

I'm also taking a page out of the basecamp playbook and aiming to underdo the competition, so that's a good start. I also know my target market pretty well, even though we're a bunch of grumpy old guys and girls that mostly hate software and hate paying for software. It may work in my favor though since they can easily compile the code from the open source repo and anyone less tech savvy that likes the message or gets referred by one of their hacker friends can download it for $$.

"Word of mouth" is probably the worst strategy for marketing, as is "product quality" but that's where I am in my marketing journey. I don't like ads, so I don't want to pay to put ads in people's faces. I want to believe that quality apps sell themselves, but I'm not as naive as I was before, so I have to come up with a better plan to beat the likes of 1password. I like how pinboard has effectively outlasted its biggest competitor delicious with a totally different value proposition: social bookmarking for introverts. There were some fortuitous events in that guy's favor, but still he just had to keep going when delicious was faltering, something most VC fueled businesses seem to do well. Similar to pinboard, I'm not really interesting in

The official marketing strategy for AllYourPasswords (tm)

So to sum up my strategy for getting this into people's hands:

  • Honest, upfront one-time pricing
  • Exclusively made for Apple devices: the mac and the iPhone
  • Open source so you can be sure it's not sending all of your passwords directly to the NSA
  • Offline by default
  • Local area network syncing, there are no servers
  • Every purchase goes straight to me, my wife and my dog, no investors, no evil corporations (except Apple, of course)
  • The iOS app is going to be open source as well, it'll probably also be free

Well, it turns out I didn't write any code today, but it's still pretty early so that might change.

Top comments (6)

roustem profile image
Roustem Karimov • Edited

Hi Sean,

It was great to read your post. I can relate to it because I also started a new app from scratch. It was supposed to be a one-month project but (13 years later) we still working on it. Talk about how bad developers are with estimates :)

I would disagree with you about "word of mouth", this is the best and probably the only strategy that works. Paul Graham wrote about doing things that do not scale and you might find it useful:

Best of luck! ❀

Founder of 1Password
Toronto, Canada

swlkr profile image
Sean Walker

Ha! I love this! Thanks for the encouragement!

afzal profile image
Afzal Najam

This is great and I'm looking forward to this but:

Exclusively made for Apple devices: the mac and the iPhone

Many of us have more than just Apple devices. This exclusivity makes it difficult to migrate.

swlkr profile image
Sean Walker

Hmm, it does. Here's where I'm coming from.

There are so many cross platform password managers, even open source ones like keepass and bitwarden.

I have to carve a niche out for myself here or no one will care. What's that saying? "If you build something for everyone, it works for no one."

I decided to make this for people like me

  • people who are not interested in syncing their passwords over the cloud
  • people who are interested in having a password manager written in platform-specific SDKs, not electron
  • people who don't want to pay a subscription


afzal profile image
Afzal Najam

That's totally fair and I agree with that :)