My strategy to survive the generative AI era as an indie developer

My strategy to survive the generative AI era as an indie developer

Hi, this is Takuya. What's up?

I've been considering a change in the pricing of my app, Inkdrop, and have decided to proceed with it. The new pricing will be increased from $4.9/month ($49.9/year) to $9.8 ($99.8/year), effective February 5th. In 2016, I launched Inkdrop with a price point that I felt was fair. However, a lot has changed since then, and it's time to update the pricing to reflect the app's value.

▶️ Watch my vlog here

For those interested in the reasons behind this change, I've explained them in an announcement on the Inkdrop user forum. Please check it out if you're a customer. In this article, I want to delve deeper into my journey as a content creator and app developer and the challenges I've faced in branding.

Inkdrop Price Change
Hey Inkdroppers, I’m writing to let you know that, effective February 5th, I will be increasing the price of Inkdrop from $4.9/month ($49.9/year) to $9.8/month ($99.8/year). This will be the first price change in 7 years. Let me explain why I’m making this change. TL;DR I don’t want to chase numbers but I do want to follow my heart and create what I want to use, read, and watch. This approach works best with a smaller scale of supporters, not with tens of thousands of paying customers. So,…

An indie developer brand? Are you serious?


As you may know, I started a YouTube channel called devaslife to market my app. I'm so thrilled that it got around 200k subscribers. I've noticed that people watch my videos not just for the content, but because they find motivation and inspiration in them. Their feedback indicates that they appreciate the vibe I bring.
It was an eye-opening experience for me.

Learning, coding, and creating can often be solitary pursuits. We all need something to motivate and encourage us through the loneliness and lethargy, to start and continue working. I hope my content serves that purpose for some.

As an indie developer of a tech note-taking app, I see this as an opportunity to add value to my product. While it may seem vague, I want to infuse my app with the same vibes that inspire my content. My goal is to make users feel motivated simply by using Inkdrop.

Emotions are more important in surviving the AI era

But, why do I need to build a brand for Inkdrop in the first place? I would like to keep my business sustainable. You can’t ignore the recently emerging generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT and midjourney, and where they’re headed/heading in the next 5 years. They will surely replace large parts of our jobs and our apps. I already can't live without ChatGPT for my work. Then, how come you should still use apps written by humans? The answer, I think, could be – emotions.

For instance, fashion is a strange business. Despite all items essentially serving basic functions like ‘protecting from cold’ or ‘facilitating walking’, there’s an incredible number of brands, and the market is vast. For example, LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) has a market capitalization surpassing that of Toyota. The demand in this sector is driven by emotional elements. High-end brands excel in handling aspects of human sociability and self-esteem, beyond just external functionality. If clothing was sought merely for functional aspects like 'comfort', the market wouldn't be this large.

While AI is becoming increasingly proficient in handling functional aspects, dealing with emotional aspects is still a long way off, given their complexity, which even humans struggle to manage. The approach of high-end brands, adept in handling both functional and emotional aspects, can be very informative for app developers moving forward.

Learning from fashion brands

"服を作る (Making Clothing)" by Yohji Yamamoto

So, I've been studying fashion brands to clarify my idea. In my videos, you may have noticed that I often wear clothes by Yohji Yamamoto. His style combines traditional Japanese elements without being overly traditional. Wearing his designs, I feel motivated and encouraged. Yamamoto's philosophy includes messages like:

Be yourself, you are okay. Let's do something bad together. Let’s step a little outside the morals of society.

He incorporates the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi into his fashion.

I always make sure to subtly incorporate air between the body and the clothing. In other words, there is a 'space' in my clothes. It's like the space you find 'between the lines' in a written text. Unfortunately, this aesthetic of space is unique to Japan. It might be an aesthetic we should take pride in.

I am deeply inspired by his philosophy and beliefs. Wearing his clothing feels like adopting his ideology, which motivates me. This concept of 'brand' is what I want to emulate in software. In an era where AI can infinitely generate content, the importance of conveying human touch and appealing to emotions becomes crucial. This is the challenge I would like to tackle this year.

Incorporating my productive vibes into my app

Video: How I take tech notes

So, how can I 'implement' emotions into my app?

I've been successful in dealing with emotions by sharing my story on my indie development journey on my blog. That's one of the key reasons why my app could keep going over the past 7 years. Because people like to join someone else's story. I think I can take it a step further by using video content.

I believe that my videos will 'motivate' you, while Inkdrop will help you 'take action'. By posting content where I learn and create things using Inkdrop, I hope to inspire and ignite your creativity. This synergy of inspiration and action would be the core value I could offer through both my app and content. So, the emotion that my app wants to deal with is motivation. In other words, I would like to make you feel motivated when using Inkdrop.

Again – learning, coding, and creating can often be solitary pursuits. By incorporating my productive vibes into my app, it should be able to help you navigate and overcome these challenges. That's what AI can't do.

Yes, yes, this is going to be hard! Because I don't know any other indie developers taking this approach (yet). But, at the same time, it is going to be an exciting journey.

So, that's one of the reasons I decided to increate the pricing of Inkdrop, since I have to focus more on the narrow niche for my fans. I understand some people might stop subscribing, but I'd rather lose them than regretting not pursuing what I love.

Edutainment: Education + Entertainment

Video: Learning SvelteJS and taking notes about it

Now, what exactly am I planning to do for branding my app? Well, currently, Inkdrop doesn't have any onboarding video tutorials. So, I'm planning to make some videos for new users, but, in a slightly different way.

Have you heard of the term 'Edutainment'? I recently came across it. It means 'educational entertainment', which helps to make learning fun. This is exactly the style of video content I've been publishing on my channel. You can learn how to code while enjoying the vibes.

Learning how to use apps is basically boring. But, by making edutainment videos, you can enjoy learning how to use my app. To accomplish that, I've been seeking a new video style for making tutorials. And, here is a sneak peek of the style: