Discover Boring Businesses that Quietly Rake in the Cash

Interview with the founder of Secrets

Paulo Andrade
Founder, Secrets


Ever wondered how a simple idea turned into a successful business? Meet the founder of "Secrets," the password manager that started as a side project during university days.

Imagine balancing studies, a part-time IT job, and game development – that's the founder's journey. It took five years of spare-time dedication to bring Secrets to life. No big team, just one person with a love for solo work.

The founder opens up about the quiet launch, growing from a paid to a free app, and the slow but steady climb.

This is a story of a simple app making about 3000€ a month.

How did you come up with the idea for the business?

While getting my degree at university, I took on a part-time job at the IT department. Among various responsibilities, such as providing technical support for students and faculty members, I also assisted in managing various services provided by the department: faculty email, LDAP service, shell/web hosting services, etc. This is where I first started using a password manager to keep track of credentials for each of these services.

At this point, I had already developed a Mac app in my spare time just for fun (I was really into playing Quake 3, and I built a game server browser called iFrag). After trying a few different password managers on the Mac, I felt I could build one myself as my next project.

I didn't actually start working on it until a few years later, though. I was busy finishing my degree, starting a company with some colleagues, and professionally developing for the iPhone when the SDK came out.

How did you build the product?

I worked on the first version in my free time whenever I could, and it took me 5 years to launch 😅.

How big was your team when you started?

I started alone and it's still just me. I actually enjoy working by myself, and I hire freelance designers or studios for website, app icons and so one when needed.

How did you launch the business?

I launched Secrets as a paid app on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store. I consciously opted for a "soft launch." At that time, there was no TestFlight, and only a few friends were using the app. Launching as a paid app allowed me to slowly accumulate users and address any issues that my friends and I hadn't encountered yet. Shortly after the launch, I switched from paid to free with in-app purchases.

At this point, I primarily experimented with sponsorships on Mac and iOS-related websites. At one point, I even sponsored Daring Fireball (well-known in the Mac community). I must have spent around 6000€ at the time on various sponsorships. While that did increase my user base, I wouldn't consider any of those sponsorships successful. Note that I still had a full-time job at this point, and Secrets was still a hobby.

How have you grown the business since its launch?

I continued working on Secrets, and with time, it started growing organically. I worked for Apple as a contractor for a few years and eventually had to make a decision between continuing to work on Secrets or being hired by Apple*. Secrets wasn't making much money, probably less than 1000€/month, but I decided it was now or never. So, I finally started working on it full-time.

I started a personal blog, became more active on Twitter, and made sure to contact various bloggers and Apple-related websites whenever I launched anything. Most of these contacts were ignored, but some weren't, and the results were certainly better than my previous paid marketing attempts. I also distinctly remember that whenever there was some negative news about my competitors, I would clearly see a bump in downloads and purchases.

Secrets ended up appearing on various websites, including some print magazines, and eventually even got featured by Apple on both the Mac and iOS App Stores.

*Apple employees are not allowed to work on apps outside their job for any of Apple's platforms.

What are the main marketing channels that work out for you?

With time I’ve developed a couple of relationships with Apple-centric websites that will usually cover updates to Secrets. I also try to use Product Hunt, Reddit and Twitter to announce any major updates.

Paid advertisement hasn’t been very fruitful in the past. I’m currently giving it another shot with Apple Search Ads, and although I’m just starting there seems to be some potential in using it for App Stores other than the US where the price for tap is just too much for me to compete.

But mainly growth comes organically.

Which tools do you use most often to help grow your business?

I use AppFigures to keep track of revenue and ratings/reviews, and CloudFlare analytics to check for any referrals driving traffic to my site.

What is the business model?

Secrets has been a freemium app for most of its life. In contrast to many of its competitors, Secrets has always had one-time purchase options. This has always been a selling point for many users who simply dislike subscriptions.

Recently, I launched a major update, Secrets 4, that's now a universal app (all purchases are valid on both macOS and iOS), continues to offer one-time purchases but also introduces subscription options if you're so inclined.

One-Time Purchases:

  • Editing for 59.99$: Allows editing of items
  • Sharing for 39.99$: Allows sharing vaults
  • Editing + Sharing at 89.99$: Discounted pack of both the previous purchases


  • Monthly for 2.99$
  • Yearly for 29.99$

What do your finances look like?

I average around 3000€/month in revenue and 5€/month in expenses for supporting services (excluding the 99€/year for the Apple Developer Program).