In this second installment of OPP, I'm looking at a product that blew up out of nowhere about 2 weeks ago on product hunt (selfless self plug warning - actually on my birthday). Yes, that's right, I'm looking at you fman!
I had a short exchange with the developer/genius behind fman, Michael Herrmann, about where it came from, where he feels it is going, and why he has closed off access to the product on an invite-only basis.
1) Why did you decide to build fman? Was it a personal need, or just something fun?
Personal need: When I switched to Mac after 20 years on Windows, I missed Total Commander. There simply wasn't a good alternative to it on Mac. But also TC is showing its age when it comes to user interface or plugin system. That's why (after some more thorough market research) I decided to build fman.
2) Did you model the UI off of anything? I noticed it looks like a lot of file transfer utilities.
In terms of colours, fman uses a theme called Monokai. It was originally created for TextMate, but was later made popular by Sublime Text.
The dual-pane layout is pretty standard for such file managers. Other than that, I try to just keep the UI as clean and bloat-free as possible.
3) You have AMASSED a large cult following of techies pretty quickly, was this your intended target audience?
Yes, techies (more generally power users / programmers) are absolutely my target audience. I too was surprised by how fman's user base has exploded. You never know in advance when you spend a year building something before you launch it. I'm glad it turned out that way.
4) How did you settle on a pricing model? The private paid, invite-only artificial demand structure for your launch seemed to work out very well.
Actually, the invite-only part is not a general feature of fman's pricing model. It's just a temporary solution to let me cope with demand. I want licensed users to have an awesome experience, so I really go the extra mile to make them happy. But I can only do that for so many people. That's why licenses are (currently) invite-only. I'm actually very glad I chose that route, because I'm still finding it hard to keep up with demand.
5) Where do you see fman in 6 months? A year?
I see fman having many thousands more users and hundreds of plugins. I'm hoping to build a community, which will help make fman more well-known.
6) Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
No, I'm working on fman full-time. I do have previous projects that provide me with some (mostly) passive income.
7) Are there any clear competitors (side-by-side folder/file view), and why would people use your file manager instead?
Sure, a thorough market research I conducted turned up 97 competing products. People use fman instead because it brings recent innovations from the text editor niche to file managers, is cross-platform and has a vibrant plugin ecosystem.
8) How many users do you currently have? Free? Paid?
fman was downloaded a little over 10,000 times in the last 10 days. The first 100 licenses were made available two weeks ago and sold out within two days. I've been gradually making extra licenses available and am currently at 168 paying users. 257 more people are on the waiting list to get a license.
9) Are you currently tracking your conversions? Are you doing or plan on doing any type of marketing?
I'm not tracking conversions. This here is marketing, isn't it? ;-)
10) Now that you have been live for a little bit, what is your most requested new feature?
(S)FTP support. It has been for a while.
Bottom line is that fman brings file management into the modern age. It is beautiful, fast, and has a plugin architecture that will keep it relevant for many more years.
I look forward to my invite, and hope all the best for Michael and fman.