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Closing Maxout

/Rathes Sachchithananthan

Even though I knew that chance was high that I would have to do it, writing this blog post is really difficult. But after many discussions, sleepless nights and numerous thoughts, we decided that it is best to shut down Maxout already, just after a little longer than one year since we kicked off this project.

With this post, I want to recap what we did so far, what we achieved, and the mistakes we made. There is also a plan for the future that we want to share with you.

When we started out with Maxout, we knew that we would make many mistakes, and learning was one primary goal. We told ourselves that we would stop this project if we didn't reach our target by the end of 2021 or if the project didn't spark any joy anymore.

Latter is the reason at this moment.

The story

When I started Maxout in April 2020, I wanted to create an app that fitted my needs. I couldn't find anything that wasn't either flexible enough, not too complicated to use or, in many cases, not too ugly that I could use to schedule and plan my workouts with.

I have a macro and micro schedule in my mind for my workouts, and based on that, I design the perfect unique set of exercises for myself every single day. It's inspired mainly by CrossFit and the idea we developed at Kernwerk.

I wanted to build a minimalistic and beautiful app and would allow me to design my workouts the way I wanted. Sometimes I would do heavy shoulder presses for 5 reps, but I would do the same exercise on other days but for a fixed amount of seconds.

So I went ahead and created that app. And the app is excellent. Since launch, I've scheduled more than 250 workouts, and I still use the app every day. The app works perfectly fine for me.

Curiosity is no demand

That's actually straight my first mistake. When I was developing the first versions, I started to post screenshots of them in my Instagram stories (@tamizhographer). I used to post handwritten pictures of my WODs before, so people noticed the change and asked what I was using and where they could download the app for themselves.

It was the false assumption to think there was a demand that made me build the app further to allow more than myself to use the app. I know — and definitely also knew back then — that people asking these questions is not a sign of demand. If there was, they would already be using an app, but they weren't.

I was in the flow of building something incredible, and with me enjoying working together with my brother, I ignored all the knowledge I had. I just wanted to create and therefore lied to myself that there was demand.

Data never lies, your heart does

When the app was somewhat stable enough, I then started collecting first interested people. I had a really cool landing page, and the email collecting form even had a smart question that aimed to filter out people who actually weren't a fit for the app's current state.

By asking everyone what they wanted the app to do, I hoped to have a primary filter. While the question isn't probably the best to ask, I got decent answers. You could already tell who was seriously interested and who just joined out of curiosity.

This was when I made my second mistake. Maybe because at this point, I desperately wanted this project to succeed, or perhaps I just wanted to keep building. But at some point, I started ignoring the filter and invited everyone who signed up.

If I had taken it seriously — I'm looking at the answers now — only 2 out of 100+ sign-ups actually fit into the profile of users I was looking for:

People who are dedicated to fitness and educated enough to create their schedule themselves.

My list consists of two other profiles:

  1. People who know that they need to be more active but don't know how to do so
  2. People who look for motivation to be more active

Both target groups won't find anything in Maxout that solves their problems. When I realized it for the first time, my thought was Ok, let's pivot!

Pivot to something boring

At that time, Burpril 2021 came. And thanks to the help of amazing people (looking at you @Caneco), my brother and I implemented a feature that would make it possible for users to fill their calendar with workouts in April just in one single click. Either 100x burpees as an activity repeated 30 times or the customized workouts I had done for Burpril in 2020.

That worked. In April 2021, Maxout had the most active month with the highest engagement rate within the app.

That was a clear sign: People using Maxout needed inspiration and motivation, but Maxout didn't offer that. So my brother and I developed a plan to implement this. We had clever ideas, and I even designed the best piece of user interface in my entire career.

But it will never be released. Because I lost motivation to work on the app. And the reason is simple: Maxout is turning into an app that looks and works too similar to other apps that solve the problem way better than Maxout will probably ever do.

I never had those problems, and Maxout wasn't intended to solve these problems. So I can't see the point in building yet another fitness app that looks and works like everything else on the market. You could just use Apple Fitness+ or FIIT, or if you need to track workouts go for GymHero or Strong.

The biggest mistake that makes Maxout a failure so far is that I attracted the wrong audience. I don't even know if the audience I'm looking for exists and has the problem that I solved with Maxout. Maybe the size of the audience is just 1 — me.

So instead of continuing on false assumptions and thoughts, it's time to stop early. We are going to stop operating as we are now.

Closing Maxout

In the upcoming days and weeks, I'll send out an email to every user and allow them to get an export of their data. After a notice period, those accounts will be deleted, and access to the app will be restricted to me only. After all, I'm still using the app as it is.

From there, I'll take a big step back to think about what I want to do with Maxout. I know that I want to keep the app for myself, but I wouldn't need a brand and all the assets. It's only £50 per month, but that's money that I could use elsewhere.

However, there is also the option that I search for the right audience. Let me see if I find a community that matches what I thought already existed. You should start with your audience first and figure out if there is a market. I failed on that, but maybe I can repair things still. Maybe.

Maxout taught us a lot

It's not all negatives, though. We learned a lot. We faced tech challenges that we usually wouldn't have, so both of us are taking experience from this project back into our regular jobs, and it helped us already.

I personally also got a good understanding of how hard work outside of tech is. UI and UX design, including research and product management, is something that I really enjoyed — probably even more than the tech part — but things like marketing or customer success are aspects that I totally underestimated. Big shoutout to everyone who deals with this on a larger scale every day!

The most important learning for me is about async work. It's fucking hard! It works, and in my opinion, it is going to be the future. But it requires a lot of attention and effort, and there aren't enough tools that help you overcome these challenges async work comes with.

Just using Notion as the only tool definitely wasn't enough. I have a few thoughts on this and even a couple of ideas. But that's for a separate post.

For now: We are closing Maxout.