Launching Caura – App Store Angst, Embargo Breaks, And Major Brand Love

BY Kai Nicol-SchwarzOctober 26, 2020

Releasing a game-changing product into the world is never straightforward – especially with Covid-19 ripping up best-laid plans. This is the story of PUBLIC Hall members Caura, and their challenges and triumphs launching their vehicle-owning simplification platform. 

Caura was born out of frustration at how difficult it has become to own and run a car in the UK in the 21st Century,” Bhavin, Chief of Staff and Finance Director, tells me. The premise is simple: it’s a massive pain to keep tabs on tax, MOT, fines and all of the other bits and pieces that are crucial to running a vehicle. Caura is making it simple, by collating all of those details and requirements into one, easy to manage app. 

They’ve been building in stealth mode for the past 2 years, and after a hugely successful private beta in February, they’d planned to launch to the world on 23 March. Yes, the day Boris Johnson told us all that we *must* stay at home. Lockdown launch day wasn’t exactly ideal to launch an app that makes it easy for people to get out of the homes and travel about in their cars (unless it’s an app specifically designed for Dominic Cummings.)  

But Caura are nothing if not resourceful. After preparing for the worst, biding their time, and building in a load of cool features, they soft launched on 12 June. Well, when they say soft launch… Marketing Manager Alex announced it to his 30k+ Instagram followers, and Caura accidentally-on-purpose found themselves with thousands of downloads. 

Three months on, the team unleashed Caura into the world with a PR launch. Over to Bhavin for an insider view of how it unrolled – App Store angst, embargo breaks and major brand love.

2 Weeks Out: Getting Ready To Hit The Ground Running

“Working with our external PR team, we established the messages we wanted to share in our press release, to tell the story of this launch without revealing too much about what is coming next. 

“The press team starts to sell the story to media outlets in the automotive, lifestyle, red-tops, technology, and business sectors.

“We plan to have a 00:01 embargo (a time before which the news cannot be released – an informal agreement between the news source and the journalists) on 23 September so that we can make a big splash on that day. It will also coincide with Caura being announced as having been awarded a place on TechNation’s FinTech 3.0 Programme.”

24 Hours Out – Cue Crisis Management

“The press release is signed off for distribution. It’s been shared under embargo with hundreds of journalists and uploaded to a newswire service. The embargo lifts at 00:01 tomorrow, so naturally everyone is nervous, and not much work is getting done.

“Our first panic comes at 8:30AM when a rogue business journalist accidentally breaks the embargo and posts our entire press release (including TechNation’s FinTech 3.0 announcement which isn’t ours to break!) online. Cue a frantic set of phone calls between Caura’s management, the PR team, and the journalist. The crisis is averted in 30 minutes when the article is taken down by 9am, when most people would be settling down to work.

“This was a sign of what was to come over the next 24 hours. 

“Halfway through the day our Founder and CEO, Sai, was called into a last minute interview with one of the large business publications who wanted to interview him for an exclusive angle with which to cover the Caura launch. Naturally we were happy to oblige.”

Launch Day – Expect The Unexpected

“On the dot at one minute past midnight, Steve O’Hear’s article in TechCrunch goes live and there is a frenzy on Slack as everyone rushes to read it and share it with the team. This is closely followed by various automotive media outlets. 

“The team is up until about 2am chatting excitedly about what’s coming!

“First thing in the morning everyone is up and scouring the net for “Caura” anywhere they can find it. Pistonheads, Autocar, and Business Insider have started sharing our stories and the downloads/LinkedIn views/inbound Whatsapp messages begin to roll in.

“The team arrives bright and early at PUBLIC Hall to spend some time together and get started on a long day of testing (new product feature on its way… watch this space!) but that’s not how it panned out.

“At 9am as we all sit down together and start to discuss the media features. Our Marketing Manager Alex is frantically replying to DMs, WhatsApps, Tweets and LinkedIn comments. One message starts to come up again and again: “Why can’t I find Caura on the App Store?”

“When the team started to search for Caura in the App Store, only one member of the team was able to find it – the rest arrived at the search page for another app.

“Everyone panics as we realise that the iOS 14 update has made changes to the App Store which are treating “Caura” as a fake search term! Luckily, Sai spent three years at at Apple so we make some rapid phone calls to old colleagues who tell us they will try to help us get to the right people to sort this out. As a pincer movement we start a call with Apple Customer Services in Dublin – who offer no help, and tell us that this might be a ‘feature of the new App Store’…

“We decide very quickly to run Search Ads against our own name, and that of the app which the App Store is correcting to, only to find that Apple’s Search Ads system is not working for any of the team, either. All the while we’re getting dozens of messages from people on all our social media channels asking what’s going on! Months of work wasted due to a total black swan event that none of us foresaw. It’s a catastrophe! 

“An hour or so later and Google Ads is back up. Sai and I begin bidding for ads and start to see downloads tick back up. Meanwhile the rest of the team is hard at work running through a test script.

“The day levels out and by 5pm we’re ready to celebrate. We booked a table at our local, The Sherlock Holmes, for us all to toast getting through an exciting and challenging day!

“By the time pint-time rolled around, Business Insider, Auto Car, What Car?, Piston Heads, Express, Motors.co.uk, Yahoo News, Business Cloud and many others had gone live with articles about the app. The next day, the Scottish Sun would publish Caura in print as part of their motors section. Great coverage to help dispel the myth that it’s only for motorists in London!

“We wrapped up the day with over 20 original articles, nine tweets, two LinkedIn updates, two Instagram posts, 10 Instagram stories and countless comments. Our social efforts brought us an additional 40,000 impressions over and above the coverage.”

On Lessons Learned

  • “Don’t DIY PR – work with outside consultants who have the relationships and who can help tell you which parts of your business are interesting to the media.”
  • “Start early – we needed to nail our messaging (how we talk about the company), draft our press release and FAQ, media train execs and make sure we had the right images.”
  • “Images – these can make or break the story. Make sure you have professional headshots and really clear product/screenshots. Provide a range journalists can choose from.”
  • “Clear your calendars – things come up on launch day that you can’t prepare for. From last minute interviews to glitches like our App Store mess, make sure you don’t have scheduling conflicts to deal with!”

Fancy simplifying your car-owning experience? Right this way for Caura’s streamlining solution.

AUTHOR

Kai Nicol-Schwarz