Swipewipe’s Rise: An exclusive chat with its creator Adam O’Kane
Swipewipe began as a solution to an everyday problem: helping users to declutter their photo albums. This straightforward concept resonated with many, propelling it to become a top 10 utility app around the world. Let’s dive into this backstory with us, as Adam O'Kane, one of creators behind Swipewipe shares his journey and the collaborative spark with MWM that helped shape its path.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your background in app development?
My name is Adam O’Kane, and I live in a small town on the seacoast of New Hampshire with my wife and our 2-year-old daughter. I've been tinkering with apps and software startups since I was 17. I conceived and designed Swipewipe, while my partner Tuan developed it. We started working on it a couple of years ago.
How did you come up with the idea for Swipewipe?
My camera roll was a mess. I tried cleaning it up manually, just going through the Photos app in iOS, but it quickly became clear that this wasn't a great solution. Then, I searched for apps that help with the process, and I tried a few of them. They helped a bit, but most were more about finding duplicates, blurry photos, etc. I wanted a fast, easy solution that gave me full control, and showed my progress as I worked through tens of thousands of photos... I imagined it almost like a to-do list. My goal wasn't just to free up storage space, but to declutter and make room for my favorite images, which otherwise would get lost in an endless grid of photos. Our lives are locked up in our camera rolls, and I thought that the practice of reviewing all those images should be handled thoughtfully.
How was the process of creating Swipewipe?
So, I had the idea kicking around in my head for a while before I began any work on it. This was a different approach for me — usually, if I have an idea, I quickly get into it...but with Swipewipe, it was a slower process. So when it came time to actually design it, I knew exactly how it should look and work. It was also a more narrow, modest idea than most of the things I had worked on in the past, which I think helped.
How has your app evolved since its beginning? Are there any updates in the pipeline that users can look forward to?
We're still so early, but originally, the app simply showed a list of months from your camera roll, and allowed users to jump in, month-by-month, to clean it up. Breaking up this giant task into month-sized bits made a lot of sense to me, and I think it's resonated with users. But we introduced a new feature called On This Day in July that has really changed how I use the app. Now, it's a habit for me — in On This Day, photos I took on this date from past years are displayed, and I can organize my camera roll, 1/365th at a time, as I look back nostalgically each day. We also added Bookmarks (to set aside photos you want to see again later) and have some more cool things coming, including a feature for reviewing and managing recently captured images.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in developing your app, and how did you overcome it?
We built the app for ourselves. Rather than wonder, "Will people like this?" or "Is this enough?" we just built the thing that we wanted. There were times, early on, when we were almost embarrassed to charge for it, because it was so simple. But then friends, and friends-of-friends, started paying for it and talking about it, and it became clear that by making something that we wanted, we had made something other people wanted, too.
Which factors do you believe led to your app's rapid rise to the top of the charts?
I remember hearing a phrase about writing — advising that you should be able to "draw a line through a story," like it's so clean, there's nothing wasted...that's what we wanted to achieve with Swipewipe, and I think the way the app looks and works just makes sense to people. But I'm not sure we've quite achieved product-market fit yet. The app doesn't have enough virality to allow it to grow on its own, without any additional efforts.
That's where MWM comes in. They helped us test and think about areas like monetization and advertising in a way that we just wouldn't have on our own, and funded the ad campaigns that have really propelled Swipewipe to its success.
Why did you decide to partner with a publisher, and what led you specifically to choose MWM?
I can't say that I was looking at other publishing options, at least until MWM approached us. What I appreciated about MWM is that they saw something in our app at a very, very early stage, when I could practically count on two hands how many people had paid us for the app. Their vetting process was thorough, they answered my questions honestly, and they made me feel like the app was going to be taken care of, while still allowing our small team practically total control over the product. I just had a good feeling about the arrangement.
What is your experience collaborating with our team during the launch and subsequent updates of your app?
The team at MWM gives us energy, and matches our own energy. They "get" the app, they're always eager and interested in discussing the little details that we get caught up in, and their expertise runs the gamut — from optimizing ad campaigns, working with creators, getting the App Store listing just right, re-working mechanics in our product, etc...it goes on and on. Tuan and I have worked on apps before this, but the team at MWM are the partners that we've always needed.
Are there aspects that exceeded your expectations or made you happy since working with us?
MWM has a bunch of apps — both their own, and ones they're publishing for third-party studios — so they've done this before and can share wisdom that you only achieve with multiple successes. I'm willing to trust them because of that experience, and so often, it has paid off. But there have also been times that I've felt very strongly about something, and they let us try it our way. There's little to no ego involved, and it always feels like we share the same objective. It's such a refreshing way to work.
What advice would you give to other app developers who are just starting out?
This will be a little scattered, but here are a few things: Find the right partners. (This is everything.) Get really good at listening. Notice problems in your world, or at least things that bother you. Even if it's something small, other people may struggle with the same thing. Figure out the smallest and most elegant solution possible. Write down your ideas. Be obvious in your design. See what happens when you give one project your whole attention.
Through Adam's interview, we've explored the heart of Swipewipe's creation, witnessing the passion, challenges, and collaborations that propelled it forward. It's clear that the blend of genuine user needs, the right partnerships, and a touch of creativity can elevate an app from a simple idea to a recognized top-performing app.
At MWM, we're looking for stories and visions like that of Swipewipe - apps that might be just starting out but show real promise.
If you believe your app shares a similar spark, reach out to the MWM publishing team.