How to Launch a Mobile App Startup – 7 Tips from Industry Veterans | Hacker Noon

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Launching a product is always challenging. If you want to know how to start an app business, follow the advice of those who’ve done it.

As a technology researcher, I want to help you with this. So I asked several mobile business owners how to launch an app startup, and they’ve shared their experiences. Many emphasized research and planning, while others unveiled some surprising secrets – even an unusual way to raise money.

1) Be Your Own Worst Critic

Mobile app development continues to grow. Research shows that in 2020, users installed 218 billion apps. Out of this huge number, only 0.01% of all the apps gain commercial success. This is because 90% of them are abandoned after being used only one time. Among the most common reasons for failure are:

  • poor market research (42%),
  • irrelevant business model (17%),
  • wrong market strategy (14%),
  • weak product (19%),
  • bad timing for launch (13%).
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Source: Business of apps

Before diving into creating an app, you must spend time thinking everything over. Brainstorm how to start a mobile app business and check it for viability. These components are vital when creating a mobile app business plan:

Evaluate Your Ideas

“Evaluating your idea is a crucial move before going forward. A creative idea doesn’t necessarily mean it will become a hit in the industry. Ask yourself if your idea solves an existing problem. With this, you will know if there are people who need your app. There is no point in creating an app if you do not have a specific target market.” – says Sam Dolbel, Co-founder & CEO of SINC Workforce.

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Co-Founder and CMO of DoorLoop David Bitton suggest: 

“Clearly define your objectives on what your mobile app intends to do: Is it intended to solve a problem? Reach more customers? Raise brand awareness?” 

He adds that every app serves a purpose, but each mobile app also must satisfy 2 goals: “1) the goal of your ideal user, and 2) your own business goal”. 

To further help you define your objectives, David Bitton insists you ask yourself the following questions:

  • What service do you want to provide in your mobile app?
  • How will your mobile app solve a problem?
  • What results do you expect from your app?

Make Sure There is a Need that Competitors Don’t Already Address

Before putting effort into this project, you must be sure that your product is unique and needed. If the market is oversaturated, your product may be lost in the quagmire of other options. Are you ready to compete with established brands?  

Brendan Martin who co-created the dictionary and language learning app Cardinal says they built a startup by “focusing on a known problem or a problem that we personally had.”

Prepare to produce a product with a solid competitive advantage. This will help attract both clients and investors at the funding stage to see the profit potential.

“Due to such a high volume of app developers, app development would need to serve a customized need that angel investors can easily see a possibility of high return because it services a recognizable need differently than another app.” – says Roy Morejon, President & Co-Founder of Enventys Partners.

2) Find a Cheap Way to Validate Your Idea

Don’t play double or nothing. Before focusing all your resources on building a perfect product, try to get immediate feedback from the market after presenting your idea. There’s no point in creating a fully featured product if no one wants it. Validate your idea with the help of a Minimum Viable Product. 

In Farmmee, Becky McCrea, Cindy Rockwell, and Molly Woodruff explain that “it is important to review the most important features of your app”, and be certain they are useful to the consumer. You may have grand plans for your app, but at first, the main idea is to get the minimum viable product (MVP) on the market quickly, and then improve it. 

Did you know that there are as many as 5 types of MVPs? They vary depending on the product availability, from no product to minimal one. Each is effective at a different stage of your startup. Here are some details to give you a clearer idea: 

  • Smoke Tests. You can test your idea about a product or service with just a description. Create a landing page and run an AdWords campaign to see if people will sign up for your product before you build it.

“Validate your idea by using the Google Keyword Planner tool to look for the number of people seeking out what you’re trying to do.” – adds Miranda, Founder of VinPit.

  • Sell Before You Build. You can raise money for your potential product with crowdfunding platforms. Be sure that your offer is appealing enough to attract attention even though it’s just an idea.
  • Concierge. You must manually perform all functions of the future app. In other words, you will work with every customer providing everything yourself – communication, procurement, production, delivery, and so on. If your idea succeeds, then you can run with it. 
  • Wizard of Oz. Create a simulation of the app for customers, while every step is still made manually by you. That way, you will learn which features are vital and which are ineffective before building them.
  • Single Feature Product. Find a function that solves a specific problem.  Once this stripped-down version of your product takes off, you can add more features.  
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Source: Greenice

While thinking about how to launch an app, use an MVP to save money and get realistic feedback about your product from actual clients. Then develop the most effective parts for your business.

3) Use Creative Funding

How much does it cost to launch an app? Quite a lot. But this won’t stop you, right?  

The most common ways to fund your app are:

  • Raising funds from angel investors
  • Launching crowdfunding campaigns
  • Bootstrapping

However, this isn’t all you can do to cover your app startup costs. There are other ways to generate cash flow. For example, you can collect donations for your app using your current audience like Heinrich Long, Privacy Expert at Restore, did:

“Before building my app, I put together a website that detailed all of my cybersecurity knowledge and shared it with my audience. The website took off faster than I ever could have imagined and I continue to grow my audience with it. 

The purpose of the website was to collect donations for the app I was building (that has many of the same educational tools the website has), and because the website became so popular, I was able to get the funding I needed.”

4) Start Thinking About Monetization as Early as Possible

We are misled by the cheesy success stories of Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube that managed to live for years without monetization. Needless to say,  this doesn’t work for everyone. You can dream that Google will buy your project soon after launching. But most likely, magic will not happen, and good samaritans will not drop out of the sky.  Don’t ditch the rational idea of getting money from your app. Find a way to make your app profitable from the beginning. 

Here is advice from Dave Herman, President of EZ Security Bonds:

“When building a mobile app startup, make sure you create a business model before actually developing the app to recoup the cost. This will be your guide that will help turn your app ideas into action. 

Start with visualizing the project and formulating the key concepts that will provide the basis for your startup. From the budget, monetization option, marketing strategy, and a lot more, you must have a business model ready to build your mobile app startup and make it successful.”

5) Use Wireframes 

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you think about how to sell an app idea. Wireframes can add clarity and excitement to your explanations and presentations for the team, investors, and other stakeholders. The text might give all the details but barely grab anyone’s attention. Images provide clear, visual information about your product’s features, interface, and design. They can be produced with good old pencil and paper or modern tools like Figma, Adobe XD, or UXPin.

“Design your wireframes which are the visual guide of your app’s layout and flow from different screens. You can do this offline using blank papers and pen or printable templates from SneakPeekIt. You can also do it online via wireframing tools. Later, you can test your wireframes with the use of Invision, which is what I use.” – says David Bitton, the Co-Founder and CMO of DoorLoop. 

6) Use as Little Coding as Possible 

Here, we come to: “How to build an app.” 

In mobile app development, you have three options: native, cross-platform, and low-code. 

Native mobile development is the most resource-intensive as you must create two fully-featured apps – one for iOS and another for Android. For this, you will need two different teams of specialists to design, build, and market your solutions. This is time-consuming and expensive.

If you cannot afford native development, there are other alternatives:

  • Low code platforms are great for building systemsapps that use intuitive interfaces while not demanding in-depth programming skills. Such platforms include Visual LANSA, GeneXus, Zoho Creator.

Becky McCrea from Farmmee advises: 

“Decide if you choose a low-code route to prove user adoption and viability with an accelerated delivery, or whether you have a technical team code the mobile app on a native friendly framework.”

  • Cross-platform apps have one code-base and can be developed to function on several platforms. This approach can significantly reduce your development time and costs. Here are some examples of cross-platform apps:
  1. Progressive Web Applications are apps delivered through the web. They are available for all platforms.
  2. React Native is a development framework for app creation using JavaScript. 
  3. Hybrid apps can be installed as native ones but use web technologies to display content. Examples of such apps are Apache Cordova and Xamarin.
  4. Flutter is another useful toolkit for building applications running on different platforms.

Neil Parker, the CTO of Lovecast, who is also  a software engineer at Uber and Amazon, insists that “using Flutter is the way to build a mobile app startup. 

When you’re starting a company, you don’t have the resources to build and maintain mobile apps across multiple platforms while also rolling out new and innovative features. 

If you don’t have mobile experience, you certainly don’t have the time to learn everything. You need a way to move fast while delivering quality content. And that’s exactly what Flutter allows.

The web support, for example, enabled us to easily roll out a version of our app directly to the web. And on mobile, it’s almost indistinguishable from our native apps. We’re able to maintain a single code base while moving at lightning speed with new features.”

If you are still not confident which way to go, think about this

  • native apps work faster and have direct access to all device features but are expensive to develop and maintain 
  • hybrids are quicker and cheaper to develop but have limited performance and functionality

7) Let Each Team Member Own Their Work

Sharing is caring but also a way to achieve goals faster and more effectively. Create a solid team working together where everyone is responsible for their individual part. From decision making to task completion, every team member will be accountable for one piece of the puzzle. This system is especially compelling if every participant has equity in the company.

Brendan Martin from Cardinal liked “dividing the work equally among co-founders.” He says: “We were able to create a fast, stable, and beautiful app that solved core problems language learners had by essentially decoupling backend from frontend and having complete ownership of our own sides.”  

How to Apply This to Your Business 

Creating a mobile app startup is not easy. You can’t just let things go their course. Obviously, it is super important to analyze the market and have a strategy, but there is much more. You must come up with a decent idea for an app, consider finances, create a gripping presentation, develop solid coding,  and share responsibilities among team members. Hopefully, now you have a picture of how to launch a mobile app startup. 

I’d like to finish with a quote from Farmmee founders Becky McCrea, Cindy Rockwell, and Molly Woodruff: 

“Most of all, enjoy the excitement of launching your startup even when it gets tough. There will be hurdles, roadblocks, setbacks, and it is incredibly important to keep your focus on getting across the finish line no matter what.”

Good luck with your startup, and may the force be with you.

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