Why I Believe in AppSumo (Again)

Rediscover AppSumo with me: a journey of change, insights, and an unexpected Austin encounter.

Why I Believe in AppSumo (Again)

I used to love AppSumo…

Back in 2016, I would wake up like a kid on Christmas morning, frantically reloading the AppSumo homepage to see what the new deal would be.

AppSumo used to be like many people think of Costco today. Amazing return policy, only high quality stuff. Just buy it.

I landed a lot of lifetime deals that I’ve used to provide income for my family.

Then things changed. AppSumo started listing thousands of deals.

It reminded me of what Amazon has become, a flood of “marketplace” products.

These days, I find Amazon to be filled with junk, where no one really knows what is real, what works, and what has value. If it’s not “Fulfilled By Amazon”, I won’t buy. I still shop at Amazon, but it's not a great experience.

When AppSumo went the same marketplace route, I lost interest completely.

But that lead me down other paths. I invested more into monthly subscriptions from big name tools. I dove deeper into open source.

I’m glad I did those things. Now I know I don’t want to run my business on Notion (but I understand people who do).

I also know how powerful open source tools can be (beyond WordPress). I use FOSS as the foundation for everything I build for our clients.

I would not have gone so deep into open source if my AppSumo experience had not been what it was.

But then something changed at AppSumo, again. This time for the better.

I started seeing more buzz about AppSumo products. One was called Moxie. My daughter is named Moxie, so I had an obvious curiosity to check out the product. It was a cool product.

I made a video of me trying it out Moxie the first time. AppSumo noticed, and reached out.

They liked what I was doing and wanted me to do more. I don’t think I even replied at first. Meh.

"These guys don’t care about me or their customers. They’re just trying to maximize revenue," I thought.

Looking back, I realize how easy it is to dehumanize a company when they try new things you don’t like.

Not unlike myself, AppSumo is on a journey as well. Trying to figure stuff out. They are a company after all. They want to find the way to maximize their upside.

Part of their experimentation, was to try and be “the Amazon for software”. I can image they wanted to be the first place you thought of when you needed business software.

But thankfully, AppSumo realized this move caused them to lose a bit of their cachet.

When I realized they had moved past that idea, I started visiting their site again. It wasn't as frequent as before – but honestly the software world will never be like it was in 2016.

Back then, there were probably a few thousand SaaS apps in total, and now we live in the age of AI – there are probably a thousand new SaaS tools created every week.

Software is more of a commodity than ever before and that is only going to accelerate.

One fear that I, and many other LTD addicts, started to have is that all of these LTDs were going to fail.

We’d be stuck trying to rebuild important parts of our business with little or no notice. Heck, I don't really care about getting my $59 back. I don't want to spend a weekend redoing the systems that run the ship.

To be honest, I still have that fear, which is why I’m particular about what tools I invest in for my business.

I use lifetime deals that:

  1. Can save me time & make life easier. My Guide Jar video was a recent example of this.
  2. Can be used for testing new ideas. A great example of this is an AI landing page builder that lets you throw up a page in a minute. I don't need this to last forever.

I also have a preference for self hosted tools and open source tools with cloud hosted LTDs, because even if the company goes away, I can keep using it until I find a suitable replacement.

The idea is, if I need to make a change to our systems and stack, I want it to be on my timeline – not the whim of a serial entrepreneur who has moved on to the next thing. 

But, I digress... here is what really turned me bullish towards AppSumo.

At the end of January I traveled to Austin with my wife and kids. We’re hoping to relocate there after we sell our home in Minnesota. Austin is home to many of the software and tech companies that I work with, and I want to be closer to where things are happening. Getting away from Minnesota winters is also a perk.

While in Austin, I connected with someone at AppSumo for lunch. It was the first time, in all of my years buying and promoting AppSumo, that I’d ever met anyone from the company.

They were late.

When they arrived, they told me they were alternating sauna and cold plunge at Noah’s house ...and that’s why they were late.

I’ll admit I thought that was both cool (I love cold/heat exposure as much as any nerd) and incredibly predictable and lame.

"So this is what an AppSumo employee is like", I thought to myself. It wasn’t a big deal, I'm pretty easy going in real life... but still. It did set a certain first impression.

We sat down, got our food and started talking. About everything.

“Wow, this guy is really nice and genuine”, I thought to myself.

He didn’t seem like he wanted anything from me. That's not typical. Sponsors always want something. That's the ecosystem.

Then, he started talking about how AppSumo is going back to their roots and being more selective.

My eyes lit up.

I interjected/interrupted. I probably dumped all of my lifetime deal frustration on this guy for 15 minutes straight without interruption... and he just agreed and echoed my sentiments.

Everything I complained about was this guys job to fix and deal with. Not an easy job.

The software business is hard. That's why developers come to AppSumo. AppSumo is their marketing department.

He didn't say so directly, but it was obvious to me that AppSumo really does want what is best for their software partners. But of course, they also want what is best for AppSumo. Just like the rest of us.

He really seemed to understand, it can't just be AppSumo winning if that means developers fail. It breaks the ecosystem for everyone. If devs fail, it hurts customers, which in the end hurts AppSumo.

Again, he didn't say any of this – but it was clear to me there was awareness. Which, back 2020ish era... well, I didn't really get that vibe.

Wow, AppSumo is human. Ok, it's not. It's a company. But the people that work there are. I could see having a beer and watching a baseball game with this guy.

We were like minded.

Before we left, I even got a taco recommendation from him. Yep, I asked an AppSumo employee for a place to eat tacos. Bucket list item checked.

I'm burying the lead here... during the lunch, something else happened.

Now keep in mind, I went into this meeting with zero expectations and zero intention of pitching any sort of collaboration... but I ended up mentioning my old show, The Taco Truck Roundup.

He hadn’t heard of it, but instantly thought it was a great idea.

He wants to test doing it again.

What? Ok, that wasn't really what I meant...

Then, I mentioned the Dave Portnoy style scores I would give LTDs – he said "do it".

I was surprised by this, because most sponsored content doesn't really want you to ...ya know, be honest. Permission to rate deals? That gained a lot of trust from me.

Make a new episode, he said. And there we had it.

The deal was, AppSumo gives me early access to the upcoming deals and I make a video.

This was big to me. Obviously it's a great opportunity for my YouTube channel but it's also important to me to be helpful to my subscribers. I think this content is one of the most helpful things I can make on a weekly basis.

It’s a lot of work and investment of time and money from both sides, so neither of us wanted to commit long term until we knew how it would play out.

When I got back to Minnesota, I got access to the following week's deals. I tested them all thoroughly and made a new episode of the Taco Truck Roundup – a video where I showcase everything new at AppSumo.

I was honest and direct in the video. I don't love everything they put out this week, but there are definitely some cool tools I would have overlooked otherwise.

The video was a ton of fun to put together, and I think it can really help people looking to start or grow their online business.

Instead of dumping $360/year into a $30/month tool, you can buy it outright for $59. Like I remember as a kid, shopping at Best Buy. Not all software needs to be a subscription.

It’s a lot like what the folks at 37signals are doing with Once.... but AppSumo has been doing it since 2010. OG.

Now, this is where you come in.

Help me decide if this is a show worth doing every week.

Checkout the episode right now on YouTube, leave a comment and let me know what you think.