Tip Yourself app gets boost after landing on front page of App Store

Tip Yourself, a Chicago-based mobile app that helps users reward themselves, got a big boost recently when it was featured as one of Apple’s “Best New Apps.”

By that afternoon, the app was getting about 30 times the views it gets on a normal day, said co-founder Mike Lenz. He said that recent media coverage had given the app a bump, but that the App Store promotion sent it to a new level.

“Apple has really shown us what traffic can be,” Lenz said.

He founded the free-to-use app about a year ago to encourage people to save small amounts. Lenz said users find it helpful to build new habits, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Lenz and co-founder Lukas Carvajal raised less than $100,000 from friends and family to get started. Tip Yourself launched in Apple’s App Store on Jan. 29; the founders also say they’re planning an Android version.

When users choose to tip themselves — from $1 to $250 — the money is moved from their checking accounts to their virtual Tip Jars. Tip Yourself holds that money in a custodial account with Wintrust Bank, where it earns interest. Users can get that money any time through a direct deposit back to their personal bank accounts. Tip Yourself keeps the interest.

Lenz said that he noticed traffic rising, but that he couldn’t identify the source. He later heard from an Apple representative who asked for art, in case the app was featured in the App Store’s top spot — which he hasn’t seen yet.

Within days, it seemed that Apple had “ripped the Band-Aid off” and the traffic flow surged, he said.

Lenz said he found out that the App Store increasingly showed Tip Yourself to more users as a recommended app over the past few days.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Lenz said, explaining he spent much of the time that first day dealing with the influx of users. “Are all the servers staying up? Is everything working?”

By the end of the week, Tip Yourself had attracted about 1,000 users since its launch, Lenz said. He said that he was expecting a report from Apple with download numbers, but that he didn’t want to run additional reports on his end, to prevent adding to the load on his already-strained servers.

Mike Kelly, CEO and founder of Chicago mobile app development firm Ora Interactive, said increased exposure is the biggest benefit to being featured in the App Store. And compared with paying to promote app downloads through Facebook, for example, an App Store feature can result in significant savings for its creators.

“There’s a sense of authenticity and also of quality that you’ve kind of made it that far,” Kelly said. “Apps that have been featured have seen a lot of success while there.”

Reports indicate Apple adds or removes apps from its featured listings on a weekly basis, though some apps can stay at the top of the store longer. Once apps move out of prominent positions, some can see a relative drop in downloads or interest, Kelly said.

Tip Yourself was ranked 37th among finance apps on the App Store, a 91-spot jump, according to app analytics site App Annie.

Lenz said he’s grateful for the spotlight, and hopes new users will tell him what they want from the app.

“The biggest thing it does is it helps us to validate our product,” Lenz said. “Now thousands of users will see our product and we’ll be able to see who finds value in it.”