How I Outsourced Product Development to Customers


The past couple of months have been very interesting. Since launching Keynotopia, I’ve witnessed many serendipitous events that made me believe that the simple act of starting up something without knowing how to finish it ends up attracting those who can help finish it.

This is one of those events:

One of the most frequent requests from Keynotopia customers had been a mobile app to help preview clickable PDF files without accidentally popping up toolbars and breaking the illusion of the prototype (especially during user testing). Obviously, no PDF reader on the iPhone or iPad was ideal for that scenario, and I knew it was time to create a viewer app for Keynotopia.

The problem was that I had no experience with iOS development, and didn’t have the time to learn it and create the apps. I also knew that finding a good iOS developer who wasn’t working on his own app was like finding a needle in a haystack. At that time, I was doing some updates to the templates, and decided I’d revisit the idea after I finish.

Before the updates were done, I received the following email from a customer:

Dear Amir,

Since we last exchanged emails I have created many prototypes using your libraries. Your method has been taken up by many companies after they saw what I can achieve with it in so little time.

The only issue I could see is that there wasn’t any decent PDF reader for the iPhone that did a good job displaying the clickable PDFs I exported from Keynote. They allowed slide-to-slide navigation, had controls that block the view, allow zooming or didn’t even support internal links. Since I wasn’t happy with this situation and being an iPhone developer I could actually do something about it I have created a PDF reader app just for this purpose.

My plan is to release it for the smallest possible price allowed on the App Store and would be happy to share a portion of it with you if you feature the app on your site. If the app has any success, I will have it released for other platforms as well in no time.



A happy customer (who later became a good friend) saw something that needed to be fixed, fixed it, was offering his solution to other customers, and offering me a share of the profits.

Does it get any better?

Actually it does!

Not only did Márton create and publish the iPhone and iPad apps within a few weeks, he also convinced Adrian, a friend of his, to create the Android version of the app.

In the first month, Keynotopia iOS apps sold over 500 copies at $1.99 and $3.99, just through word of mouth. But most importantly, I’ve received dozens of thank you emails from happy customers who tried the apps and loved them.

Sometimes, putting half the solution out there is an invitation for someone else to come in and help with the other half, and that someone may be one of your customers.

Related Posts:

I highly recommend Keynotopia for designing interface mockups for web and mobile apps

Keynotopia is a user interface design toolkit that enables you to use Apple Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint to prototype, test and demo your application ideas quickly and cheaply, without doing any design work or writing a single line of code.

It includes thousands of wireframe and high fidelity vector user interface components and royalty free icons for mobile, web and desktop apps, all designed from scratch in Keynote and PowerPoint, and can be edited and customized without needing any design tools.

Keynotopia is used by 40,000 entrepreneurs, designers, and developers in more than 80 countries.


  1. Kudos for sharing your valuable experiences!

    Please write more about your startup adventures and insights.

  2. Congrats Amir

    Your lean ways are very inspiring and has made me rethink how I approach problems.

  3. Very cool. This is consistent with Eric von Hippel’s book, Democratizing Innovation,. Lead users take it upon themselves to develop a product further for their own needs. Often, these users are early adopters of something the general market will want.

    Great case in point here.

  4. What an awesome story! I love the idea that when you put something good out there, more good things come back to you.

    This reminds me of a great quote by Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux:

    “Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large. If you do, you’ll just overdesign and generally think it is more important than it likely is at that stage. Or worse, you might be scared away by the sheer size of the work you envision.

    So start small, and think about the details. Don’t think about some big picture and fancy design. If it doesn’t solve some fairly immediate need, it’s almost certainly over-designed.

    And don’t expect people to jump in and help you. That’s not how these things work. You need to get something half-way useful first, and then others will say “hey, that almost works for me”, and they’ll get involved in the project. “


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