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How to Create An App Empire: The Complete Interview with Chad Mureta
Following is the complete transcript of Tony Robbins interviewing app developer Chad Mureta. A summary version and video of the conversation is here.
TR: It was 2009 if I remember right. Is that right? When this all kind of started for you? The accident?
TR: Okay, that’s cool. Okay, well you sent me some questions which really make my job easy. Thank you for that. That’s kind of you. That will kind of guide me along the way here and we’ll rip through this. Set to go?
CM: Yeah, let’s do it.
TR: Great! So hello everybody. This morning I really wanted to bring to you some live examples of people that have prospered during the tough times of this economy. You know, so many people today, if you’re not in the tech business and a lot of other businesses, are in really tough shape and one of the things I’ve tried to get people to do is to think about adapting. Instead of continuing to do what doesn’t work, find something new that can really give you some new opportunities. The man we’re privileged to have this morning is Chad Mureta and Chad is a guy that’s written a new book. It’s called ‘App Empire: Make Money, Have a Life and Let Technology Work For You’
CM: I was in the real estate business and my whole goal was to get into a business that could work for me and I thought at the time that real estate was that game and so I opened up a company in 2006, as you know was the worst, absolute worst time to start a real estate company. So I went at it and the market obviously dropped and all the money that I had just worked about five years of my life to save, that I put into the business, I watched go right down the tubes.
CM: I was struggling and I wasn’t going to just let myself pretty much die. I was going to fight to make it happen.
CM: So it was about three years of just working eighteen hour days, miserable, not really having a life, watching all the friends and family members just kind of fade away because I wasn’t connecting with them.
CM: I remember going to a basketball game with a friend and it was my first little vacation day in about two-and-a-half years and I remember looking around seeing all the people and seeing how happy they were enjoying this moment and connecting with each other, and I was thinking ‘something is wrong, I have to push the pause button and assess my life because something is definitely wrong and I have to change it up’ It was about 11 o’clock at night and I was driving home on the interstate and just thinking about ‘how can I change my life? How can I change things and get it back to where I want it?’ and this was actually before I knew your material was out there and the universe has an interesting way to show up on you when you ask for it and I ended up hitting a deer on the interstate.
CM: I hit the deer going about 70 miles an hour, hit the median and my truck flipped over four times on the interstate and my whole life turned upside down.
TR: Quite literally.
TR: You were in the hospital for quite a period of time then?
CM: I was. Yes, the doctors basically said, ‘We’re going to amputate your arm. You’re never going to use your arm ever again.’ I am in there scared out of my mind having this near death experience and also just not knowing where I was in life at all. I thought life was bad before the accident. Now, how about after the accident? So I basically decided to go with this ground-breaking surgery that put titanium from my elbow all the way up into my shoulder. So it’s all titanium and it gave me an opportunity in the hospital to say ‘I am not going back to that life any more. I survived this accident. This is my second chance and whatever it takes to get back on my feet and to figure out a way to actually create my life the way that I want it.’
TR: How did you keep your psychology together? Did you read? Did you listen to audios? What did you do?
CM: Yeah, great question! Well that’s actually when I started – I actually read your book and then I got your audio. I got ‘Get the Edge’…
CM: That completely, completely changed my life and rocked my world. That’s what got me to thinking outside of my own psychology in my head at that moment.
TR: Wow! I am thrilled to hear that.
CM: I thank you for that because I think that was definitely one of the biggest things that helped change everything for me.
TR: Wow! I am thrilled to hear that. Well tell me, while you were there how did this lead to you becoming an app – appreneur, I guess is how we say it these days, an app entrepreneur. I mean you didn’t really have any technical skills as I understand it. Did you?
TR: Tell me, how did you – how did this come about? If I understand you correctly I’ve read that you’ve had 50 apps that have 45 million downloads. You’ve built three companies, app companies, and sold them off for a nice profit. Is that true?
CM: That is true. Yeah, so for me at that time it was a must. You know?
CM: It was a must-do to get out of the life that I was leading and I started saying ‘I have no other choice. Like this is it. I am pushed up against the wall’ and I had a buddy of mine that came to the hospital and he gave me an article and he said ‘I know that you’re this achiever guy. I know your real estate business is going down the tubes and here’s another option that you should get into and it’s about apps’ and it was interesting because I had just gotten my iPhone that day…
CM: I had purchased an iPhone. I had no apps on it. No contacts. No nothing! And you know he gave me this article. I read about two guys that had no tech experience at all and they made all this money on this silly app and I am thinking there, lying in the hospital, I am on morphine, I am on all these different drugs and I start getting really creative…
TR: [TR laughing] Morphine will help that.
CM: My left arm was the one that was crushed and I am left-handed so I am sketching out with my opposite arm ideas for apps not knowing anything about the industry at all but just knowing that I have to find a way to get myself together and I remember the – all the ER doctors and the emergency – ambulance workers were going through my phone and I was thinking ‘Security might be a good way to protect things on my phone’ and so the next thing I know I am somehow calling India and somehow negotiating on having them develop outsourcing an app for me…
CM: Not knowing what I am doing and I don’t even know how I actually wired money over there, but somehow I wired money over there and started my app journey just on faith, putting faith out there.
TR: Wow! I understand you borrowed the – a little bit of money to get started too. You borrowed it from your father? What was the amount you started with to build your first app?
CM: Yeah, I started my – it was actually my stepdad. It was $1800.
TR: Wow! And what did you end up earning on that app? That was your fingerprint app, is that right?
CM: Yeah that app in total it was right around $620,000.
TR: Wow! Not a bad return. That’s amazing!
TR: Amazing what musts will do and creativity and some commitment and I always tell people that you look at the world and there’s so many jobs right now where people are – have been on unemployment for 99 weeks and my biggest challenge when I was actually meeting with the President recently and I said ‘You know, I care immensely. I want people to be taken care of but 99 weeks without any new set of skills just makes a human being lose confidence in themselves and feel like there’s no sense of contribution in their life or meaning. You lose that edge and it’s like when you look at this country a century ago 40% of the people were farmers and now it’s 2% and we feed the whole world. It’s – we’re freed up to do new things’ and you’ve really been a model of that. Tell me what – what do you attribute your success to on the app store? What do you think has really made you successful there? [No response] Uh oh! Have you lost me? Can you hear me now?
CM: Yeah I lost you a little bit. So what was that again? What did you say?
TR: I was saying that one of the biggest challenges, that I think for people is, you were at a must point and you used your creativity to enter a new world. You know rather than still trying to fight something that wasn’t working in the real estate side and so many people today – I was meeting with the President of the United States, President Obama, and I was saying ‘It’s wonderful that we’re taking care of people for 99 weeks unemployment but if you don’t give them any skills, new talents or abilities they lose confidence. There’s no future for them. So the secret is you look back 100 years ago and we were a country where 40% of the people were farmers. Today it’s 2% and we feed the whole world. So you’re a model of how to make that kind of change. I am curious, you’ve done incredibly well. What do you think made you – what do you attribute your success to on the app store? Because there’s almost 800,000 apps today. Is it too crowded? Can you still do well? Why have you done well?
CM: Great question! And yeah I think you come – it’s a moment where you decide there has to be a major change and you’re willing to let go of things that you’ve held on to for so long. For me lying in that hospital bed it was survival. It was – there wasn’t any other choice. I was going to make this work one way or another and it was – it was reinventing myself and figuring out different strategies where I could actually succeed knowing that the strategies before were not serving my life, were not serving my business, not serving anything and so for me, when I made that decision, I said ‘Okay, well what is the fastest way that I can actually go from knowing nothing to learning about this business and succeeding?’ And it was fortunate for me because I was stuck in the hospital for months and I was stuck to a La-Z-Boy after I got out of the hospital for six months…
CM: I just stayed and I stared at this phone and I looked at all these apps and I just started understanding why they were successful.
CM: I started reverse engineering their success, their marketing, the way they were doing things, the way – why would I download them and I got big presence with that.
TR: Can you share with us – give us – I am sure in your book you give it in greater detail and I want everybody to pick it up and get it. It’s ‘App Empire: Make Money, Have A Life and Let Technology Work For You’. What are a couple of insights that you’d give us that maybe some of the biggest challenges that you had and what you learned from them that could help other people to be able to be more successful?
CM: Yeah, so one of the biggest challenges that I think I had was – and I think a lot of people have this – is that they immediately think ‘well because I don’t know this new industry, because, you know, I am not – I haven’t gone to school or read about it I can’t do it’ and immediately me not being a tech person at all I had those same barriers. I was very apprehensive. Even though I knew it was a must I was still, ‘Okay, I don’t know how to code and I don’t know how to do design work and, what do I really do’? I started to realize that I don’t have to do that. I can be the business owner and I actually delegated that work and outsourced that work to a programmer that’s really good. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and teach myself all these new skills. I kept on coming up with new barriers and I kept smashing through them. Again it helped that I was listening to your programs where I was basically creating my new beliefs because anything that came at me I was just like a ninja and smacking it aside like ‘Nope! I am going to make money. I am an app billionaire and I am not going to let anything stand in my way’ and that gave me that fuel. That gave me that strength to push through it.
TR: That’s awesome! Well when you own that identity it’s everything. I mean even traditional business owners, I always tell people, whenever somebody is stressed about their business they’re a business operator and we all tend to get so caught up in it and the fact that you couldn’t move and you didn’t know anything about the industry and you’re putting your psychology together you really were operating as a business owner not an operator and the business owner is a very different thing. You were being strategic. You were being intelligent. You were figuring out what to do. I always tell people 80% of the choke hold on any business is the psychology of the business owner and 20% is the skillset. You can get the skillsets if you can change the psychology. Tell me what are the biggest lessons that you learned from doing this that you might be able to pass on? In other words, maybe some ideas around marketing. You said you saw some patterns. How does someone begin to educate themselves as to what works and what doesn’t work on the app store? Because otherwise you can spend a lot of time and have an idea that really, you know, doesn’t have any value. One of the things I believe personally is you can do the right thing at the wrong time and you get screwed. There’s no reward for that. Everything is really timing and understanding needs. How do you help to understand the needs and the timing and when to deliver a type of app?
CM: I think immediately the thing that really gave me that competitive edge was I was looking at the marketplace. I think a lot of people what they do is they – I hear this every day. They come up to me and say ‘Oh my gosh! I had this amazing idea. You know, you have to do it.’ I am like ‘all kinds of money. It’s a great thing’ and I ask them ‘well how did you come up with that idea?’ and they were like ‘Well I was in the shower and I was thinking about it and…’ and I was like ‘Well, that’s great but the market dictates the idea and something that would have worked two years ago is not going to work now.’ And so the best skill that someone can have is just being present in the marketplace. Every day I – to this day I still wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is I look at the marketplace. I lay in bed because that’s what I was doing during my accident and for an hour I go through the marketplace. What is working right now? What are the trends? I look at ‘Okay’ – and I’ll download maybe the top ten or twenty apps and I’ll just get really present with them because apps are expanding. Business is changing. Consumer behavior is changing what they want, what they need, and that’s very obvious on the app store present there every day because you see the shifts.
CM: You see the shifts from how people are getting into some utility apps because an older generation is getting apps and they don’t just want to zone out on games. So it’s very interesting to just be present with that and understand what’s going on at that time and taking it to the next level is actually writing it down, putting it in a spreadsheet so it’s not just all in your head so you can look back at it and say ‘Okay, I see this happened here, this happened there. This is an app that I should do based on the market. The market is telling me what’s hot.’
TR: Give us an example. What are two things that are hot right now that you see as patterns?
CM: Well, one of the apps I think is hot is just games and getting it into a social component. So this might sound obvious to some people but there’s a fine line between succeeding at giving a type of game, or even a fitness app where it’s exciting. Nike has done a good job of this where you get out and you can actually be active and it tracks what you’re doing…
CM: Then it creates a community around that because now I can share my results with somebody else and that motivates that person and he might share his results with me, or she might share her results and you’re getting this compounding effect. Where before maybe you wouldn’t do anything at all, you might sit at home and think about going for a run or going for a walk.
TR: Right, what do you think – I know there are some strict regulations and guidelines in the app store. What is your advice for people about how to deal with those and how to consider those? And then what advice do you have on marketing today? Because obviously just putting it on the app store is not enough, how do you market and still have that be cost effective?
CM: My advice with Apple –yeah, a lot of people get I think it’s a scarcity mindset – immediately they go to ‘Okay, this isn’t going to work because Apple is going to slap my hands’ and yes, Apple is definitely taking precautions because like anything they want to add more value. They don’t want to expand the store and completely ruin the consumer experience. So most developers get scared about that like ‘Oh my gosh! I can’t do these apps anymore. I am spending all this money and get rejected.’ And really what they have to say is ‘you know, I have to step up the game. You have to raise to new standards and you have to give consumers what they want and what they value and you can’t just throw any piece of crap in the app store and expect it to make money because it isn’t [Unintelligible] but eventually people won’t keep using it. And so my advice to people is read the guidelines that Apple sent to you and just look at apps that they specifically say to stay away from and don’t go into the app store trying to do something that’s cheap and that you’re just going to spam it and scam it. Add value to people constantly and be confident. Be proud of your app. You know, I’ve done a lot of different apps and I’ve known the difference of when I want to be proud and show someone an app that I’ve done or if I don’t even want to talk about it. I think that’s the fire that makes you, the passion that being proud of something keeps you going in that direction and you want to show it off. That really is what you’re looking for, something you’re proud of that you can show off and that keeps you going into it at a new level.
TR: You know you sound like everything I believe and teach when you’re talking about the adding value and it’s the only way to succeed in any business obviously and anybody who’s trying to scam it even if they make money in the short term it’s not can you succeed. It’s can you sustain success, right? Can you – not can you obtain wealth. Can you stay wealthy, right? And the only way to do that is to keep adding the value. Tell me, what do you think in this world right now what’s the best way to go to market your apps? Right, let’s say you picked the right timing, let’s say you picked something the market really needs – how do you really market your apps so that you’re not just sitting in the app store but you’re stimulating and yet still be cost effective?
CM: Yeah, great question! The best way to market your apps and what I tell people is there’s a bunch of free ways first of all that you can market your apps. You don’t need to spend money. The beautiful thing about the app store is that you can print things like the title of your app or you can do a different icon. You can look at different screenshots and how do you figure out which screen shots and icons? Again, it’s looking at what’s successful and then emulating, making it better, figuring out what people like and what converts to a sale, making it better and a lot of those are free changes for marketing but most people ignore those. They think it’s solely the idea that’s going to sell it and how’s anyone going to actually play with your app unless they actually see it?
TR: Right, right!
CM: So that’s, I think, the biggest thing is do what’s free first. Get really clear with the demographic that you’re marketing to. I think a lot of people just want to market to everybody but there’s a certain demographic that’s going to grab that Nike app, that fitness app but I think understanding that person, the more you understand them the better you can market to them with your description, the language you’re using and with the screen shots, making it as easy as possible for them to click that little button so they can download the app.
TR: Now a lot of the trends in apps – it appears – again I am an amateur in this process, appear to me as an outsider, getting kind of land and expand. Get a foothold of something, get some traffic and then monetize your app usually by having a system. Tell me, what do you think the future of apps are? Is that really the future or am I mischaracterizing it, do you think?
CM: No it’s a good interpretation. Yeah! I mean monetizing apps what’s kind of changed is in the beginning of the apps store you could throw in a lot stuff because there was so much demand people were downloading things. I think a lot of developers went on this model and I think going forward that’s going to go away because again it comes back to adding value. If you help that customer and you treat them well, like any business they’re going to continue to spend money inside of your app and so that’s basically my motto – I want to make sure that I grab the right person. I want to make sure that when they play it I retain them. I retain them and I give them what they want. So I’ll have a lot of different apps maybe inside of my app and then I keep going back to the fitness app. Let’s say that you watched a couple of videos or a couple of programs with fitness and you’re like ‘I want more’. Well you can have more it’s just 99 cents, click here and you get a whole other plan or maybe it’s a nutrition plan or maybe it’s new exercises that you didn’t do before. So it’s giving them what they want at the right time and not spending your effort or your money in doing these crazy, scammy adds that are just going to make the person put down the phone or close out and not use it again.
TR: : If you were starting from scratch today and were talking to people that this might be their first kind of venue or first approach to this, I should say, what would be your advice to them? What would you do differently? Probably not a lot since you’ve been so damned successful but is there anything that you know today that you didn’t know then that you’d want to share with somebody just beginning the journey?
CM: I’d want to share – so in the beginning I kind of was – it was all on me and again I had that manifestation, that power, that must. I made it happen. I think a lot of people will – they have to get clear again with the reason why they’re doing it. I had quotes on it. I had pictures of things that I wanted to do and I just made this environment where everywhere I looked I felt and breeded success. The one thing that I would do differently is I didn’t realize that there’s more people out there like me. I didn’t realize that there’s non-techie people. I didn’t reach out and form a mastermind group until about a year-and-a-half into the process and that mastermind group it put everything on steroids and just elevated my game because I had new people I could talk to and again it helped me to get to new standards. So I think the advice that I would give to somebody starting out, [is] get educated because now there’s so much information out there. You can understand the game and what to do, and the next thing I would do is reach out to like-minded people that are in the same position and form bonds with them. Work on it together. It’s like a work out partner. You want to make sure that you’re getting up and going to the gym every day, you’re getting out and working on apps every day and people, as you know it’s the closest to the point to where you want to get to is from somebody else versus from just trying to read a newspaper or something else. That’s the best way to translate your game.
TR: So Chad you started this in 2009. Three years later here you are an app multi-millionaire. How has it changed your lifestyle? And how’s it changed the way you look at your life today to have built this kind of success and to have done it in such a leveraged way?
CM: It’s been an amazing journey. I have rediscovered myself. I have done all the things that I’ve always wanted to do growing up as a kid not vacationing. I finally understood what it meant to really get out there and see the world, meet new people, and I think before I was so caught up in making money and it was really all about me.
CM: Now this has allowed me to be myself and contribute, to give to others and to make that my main focus and that has just opened up me in a whole other way. I look at things a lot differently now and my family, my friends, everything has transformed because they feel it from me and I think back then I was like ‘we should do this. We should do that’ and people were looking at me like I had five heads. They didn’t understand. They said ‘Well, okay this guy he has results. I am going to follow him’ because I can finally be a leader because I can back up what I am saying. That’s – that’s a pleasure to be able to shape and help people out.
TR: Well you have a great presence about you. It’s one thing to succeed. It’s another to have grown personally and I love hearing your focus of added value and I really believe that’s why you’re successful and I am thrilled to hear my work touched you. So I know you’re going to come speak at Business Mastery here in January with us in 2013 in Las Vegas. I look forward to seeing you in person there and I look forward to having you come to one of the events and maybe when you’re on a break there come to Fiji, we’ve got Namale Resort and Spa. We’re number one in the country and top ten in the South Pacific. So you can come be my guest and get a chance to take some time and relax with those you love. : Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us today.
CM: Thank you so much, Tony. I really appreciate it.
TR: Oh you know what I didn’t get? Let’s just put it back on here. I didn’t ask you how people can reach you. Let me throw that back on if I may.
CM: and now what?
TR: How people can reach your website. So the whole purpose of this is to market you for yourself. One more question I almost forgot. I had to grab you there. How can people reach out to you? How can they access some of your work and books?
CM: Yeah, they can go to appempire.com so it’s A-P-P Empire.com that’s usually the best way to check out some of the stuff I’ve done.
TR: Okay great. I didn’t want to leave without that. Thanks so much Chad. Take great care of yourself.