Once again, March Madness is upon us, which has prompted many to ask if Simple Bracket will be making a triumphant return. The answer, in short, is no. The reason, however, is a bit more nuanced.
We launched Simple Bracket on Kickstarter two years ago. We set a funding goal of $10,000, which honestly didn’t even begin to cover the work we had already put into the app (assuming a modest salary for the two of us). We ended up raising about $12k. Even with some additional great press from Daring Fireball, Uncrate, and a few other places, the first year had about 6000 users.
It became clear almost immediately that this wasn’t going to be sustainable. Assuming a similarly sized user base the following year, 6000 users multiplied by $0.99 per app sold minus Apple’s 30% cut did not come close to covering the amount of work that needs to be put into the app, even just to run it during the tournament with minimal updates. We considered various alternatives, such as raising the price, or making it free with ads or sponsorships, but nothing seemed like the answer. The introduction of iOS 7 complicated things further, demanding a more intense visual refresh if it were to keep with the times. So, this time last year, we decided to put Simple Bracket on hiatus and reevaluate the next year.
And here we are, another year later. Design is about making choices. As much fun as we had making Simple Bracket, and seeing people use and enjoy it, we have to accept the reality that it doesn’t make sense for our business. By intentionally keeping our business small and nimble, we sometimes have to make brutal choices about how best to spend our time. Simple Bracket, unfortunately, fell on the chopping block. It should also be said that running Simple Bracket during the tournament was incredibly stressful. Live events tied to a constantly updated backend are not for a faint of heart, even with the relatively modest amount of users we had.
There is also something that has been weighing on me ever since we came up with the idea for Simple Bracket. The elephant in the room, as it were. The NCAA, to put it kindly, is not great. There is something incongruent about a billion dollar industry profiting (and thriving) off unpaid labor. But don’t take my word for it; John Oliver had an excellent segment about it in the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight. It wouldn’t be correct to say this is the reason we have abandoned Simple Bracket, but it certainly makes the decision less painful.
All that said, we are still extraordinarily proud of what we created. The UI for navigating the bracket was indeed innovative, as evidenced by ESPN and Yahoo both imitating it fairly liberally in their current bracket apps. Not as solid as our implementation, though, if you’ll permit me to say.
Since we’ve decided to effectively abandon the app, we are putting a call out to interested parties. If you are a developer that is interested in carrying the Simple Bracket torch, please do get in touch.