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31 Dec 2015

The New YNAB Business Model

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by Jesse Mecham

A popular question we’re getting is around the switch of our business model from a one-time-fee-then-hopefully-buy-upgrades to a subscription model. Here’s why!

Holding back features is wrong. Something that has always bothered me about our buy-once-then-maybe-buy-an-upgrade-two-years-later-model is that we are incentivized to hold back as many features as possible in order to make a “big splash.” Instead of delivering new features when they are ready, we have to hold onto them for months, a year, two years even, before letting you know about the new awesomeness. I’ve always felt it was lame to have you wait so long to start getting benefit from the new stuff.

We aren’t politicians. Related to the big splash problem is the “we can’t commit to anything publicly” problem. You ask a perfectly reasonable question like, “Will there be goals in the new software?” If we’re two weeks from shipping, we can unequivocally say “Yes! You’ll love it!” But we’re only two weeks from shipping 1.5 percent of the time (yes, I did the math). For the other 98.5 percent of the time, we have to be coy. “You’ll love it!” “But WHEN?!” You ask. “We’re hard at work! It’s a top priority!” We respond. We can’t predict years into the future, so we don’t. Our new model allows us to release all. the. time. We can tell you what’s coming down the pipeline in the near-term, and that feels so much better.

Lousy software is lousy. The “big splash” creates more pressure to convince you to try the shiny new thing, which means we start reworking UI that doesn’t need reworking. Or adding eye candy for the sake of eye candy. Well, that just makes for lousy software. Tight, frequent release cycles with a subscription model allow us to gather feedback and usage data in order to zero in on features that will actually be meaningful to your budgeting. Eye candy is not meaningful. A desktop client for the new YNAB? Meaningful!

We have so much yet to do. We are passionate about reducing people’s financial stress. We want to be doing that for many, many years. In order to do that, we have to keep up with the cost of support, education, and many more features to come. More predictable revenue will allow for more hiring, more aggressive marketing and more aggressive innovation. This all translates to more people reducing their financial stress.

I’m confident this new business model will allow us to find, teach, empower, and support many more happy customers, far into the future. We’re excited.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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