As trends go, many startups and entrepreneurs think about how to start an app business? The answer is: There is no one way to do it. Despite that fact, you need to have a basic understanding of the process before you begin.
The mobile app development is a relatively new industry. Thanks to the Play Store and App Store appearance, this industry kicked off its own route. It is full of changing trends and often reminds of an arena, where small startups battle with giants. Either way, mobile apps keep on booming. Two simple proofs:
- 204 billion worldwide app downloads in 2019
- an average user spends 3.7 hours during a day in mobile applications
If you are gearing towards building a digital product in this industry, here you will
- in general: figure out how to turn your idea into a startup
- in details: evaluate your idea, decide on technical implementation, and get a few tips on promotion
This article is meant to be a practical go-to guide. And following the Yoda’s words: ‘There is no try, there is only do.’ Let’s start.
1. What Is a Good Startup Business Idea?
In the midst of all the uncertainty surrounding startup ideas, one thing is clear: great app ideas won’t come out of thin air. They come from real-life situations that vary in complexity. The question is how to create a great product. It’s not always easy, but you can consider these things:
- Look closer to the industry you are working in. What challenges have you dealt with? What could be improved? How could these challenges be fixed? These are the guiding lights for finding the problem and its fix (aka a business idea) within your surroundings. If you oversee any options, that would be equal to shooting yourself in a foot.
- Look at other industries and businesses. Don’t be stern with yourself, and take time to examine the well-developed apps and discover how they solve customers’ problems. Once you understand their strong sides, you may come up with your idea for the app. Or reveal some fusion with a solution within your industry.
- Look for a market gap. Have you noticed a problem that can be solved? Do you have an idea of how to handle this challenge? Here is your app idea. Yet make no mistake about it: this is a high-risk option out of the enlisted three. If you are hesitating, seek for another idea - just to avoid a frustrating experience.
Each business wants to be more successful than others. How about thinking out-of-the-box? Check out this chart by Comscore. It depicts how much mobile time was spent by users in different categories. That way you can find the mobile app category that matches your intent. And it also paves your app idea(s).
What’s special about the business idea? Well, you should neither overestimate and underestimate its importance for setting up a startup. The unique and outstanding idea isn’t the secret sauce. The success of your mobile app will depend on the idea and its execution in equal parts. Once you’ve pictured your idea in your mind, put it down on the paper. Make it tangible. Describe the concept, aim, and features your future app should have. Then go to step 2.
2. How to Turn Your Idea into a Startup? Research!
Here you arrived at the next stop - research. This step will help you to evaluate the mobile app ideas and prove (or dispel) their viability. This research should be twofold:
1) Analyze your competitors
The revolutionary ideas happen here and there. Check up the current offers on the market. Often, the apps that serve (exactly or close enough) like your idea are already in the market. That is actually a good point. Why? You can learn from their success and omit the wrong tactics and steps. The competitor analysis may look like this:
- Install apps to check how they work. Highlight the strong and weak aspects.
- Track the store charts to see the tendencies.
- Check the customer reviews and feedback. That way you will distill what the target audience wants to have in the app.
- Define what parts of their product and marketing strategies performed well. And what tactics don’t worth time and resources.
Collecting all this data, you can build up your own strategy. A real advantage of which is omitted gaps and missteps in going to market, user onboarding, promotion, and so on.
2) Find your target audience
Customers are always on the lookout for smarter or cheaper apps. Don’t think that your app will woo all users. Times have changed and customers become really picky and savvy. The point is to find the audience that will actually use your app or service. Sort out the following questions:
- Who is my customer?
- What is my target market?
- How my app will improve a customer’s life?
- How does it differ from the current market offers?
Market research adds more than just the details. From the point: how to start an app business, it helps to validate your assumptions and potential customer needs. This insight will help (a) set your app apart from the competitors, and (b) lead the way to get downloads and paying clients.
3. How to Build a Software Product?
The software product development process includes the all-important steps: planning, analysis, requirements, development, testing, (app launch,) and maintenance.
Either you want to set a startup company or already run a business, opt for hiring a tech agency for the development part. Why is this good?
- For a startup, the outsource vendor will be cheaper and more qualified. In the early stage, you don’t need to burn out money on the full-time developer team. They would stand around without much of a role to play, like too many players on a ball field. With contractors, you’ll get your app done fast at a moderate cost.
- For a small business, the reasoning is the same as for the startup. Even if you got a tech team, dividing them into two separate teams may bottleneck the running service and delay the launch of the new app.
The natural question that comes out at this point is how to choose a reliable tech agency? It takes three steps to get off to the flying start:
- You may find the agencies by a simple Google search or go for a more targeted search at Upwork or Clutch.
- The next must-take step is checking the portfolio, tech stack, industries the agency works in, and customer testimonials.
- Schedule a call to the tech vendor and define: project duration, required budget, tech stack, number of developers in a team, branding options, and so on.
With that in mind, you will see which tech agency looks like your partner in building a mobile app.
4. Choosing Tech Stack for Your App
You already know how to start an app business, the next step is to shape your product idea. The tech stack you select will impact
- the budget and time frames (that are dependant on the programming language)
- the functionality of the app (that depends on the access to device APIs)
- the distribution via Play Store (Android apps) or App Store (iOS apps), or both (cross-platform apps)
- further maintenance and updates
The fancy new framework sounds interesting, but it brings significant risks. So it is better to gravitate to simple, boring frameworks and programming languages.
Usually, startups choose between the native app and the cross-platform apps. The contrast between them is unavoidable.
- Native apps are expensive - you need two teams to build an Android version (based on Java, Kotlin) and iOS version (based on Objective-C, Swift). They handle the heavy tasks that need access to device's abilities. Often the built apps rely on the device’s camera, processor, or memory.
- Cross-platform apps use the same code for both Android and iOS platforms. That speeds up the development and reduces the expenses. They can access some device features and perform heavy tasks, too. Quite often these apps are built with the help of React Native, Flutter, or NativeScript.
After deciding on the technology stack for your app, you’ll see how to divide your budget and plan what functionality to release in the MVP and what features add later.
5. MVP Development: What Is It? And Why Does It Matter?
How many startups fail? Well, 90% of startups. The number is quite impressive. Most startups share the same mistakes: incompetence, no experience of goods and industry, inexperienced team, and investment problems.
But, those who succeed have analyzed and defined their market, came up with a worthy business idea. They also turned out to be a really persistent team. Seems like the successful startups know a thing or two, but most of them took their app for a test drive with the MVP.
What is the MVP? A minimum viable product is (in our case) an app with a balanced feature set to arouse the customer’s curiosity to download and see how it works. It is testing your idea in the early product development lifecycle.
Why does the MVP matter? This simple version of your app helps to test the idea and its functionality in a real environment. The app test drive shows if
- the unique selling point resonates with the targeted audience
- there any performance and design bottlenecks
- there are any features to add/remove from the customer’s point of view
That’s why the MVP is a kind of a crucial part of starting an app business. You validate your idea, prove or disprove your assumptions on how it works, and how the customers actually use it. In the end, you see whether this startup is worth moving forward or not.
Source: Apiko Portfolio
6. Monetize Your Tech Startup Idea
Leaving behind all the noble reasons, digital product development is kicked off to earn money. Let’s talk about the monetization strategies you can apply to your app. Here are five popular models:
- Free & paid. The point is that you offer both versions, but the free one has limited access to some features. This strategy is a win-win. You can encourage your customers to upgrade to a paid version and monetize with the in-app ads.
- Free & subscriptions. You make your app free for download but offer limited functionality. To get access, the customer should choose a subscription plan. The benefit of this model is that more customers can discover your app.
- Free & in-app purchases. Some features are available at no cost, premium functionality can be bought. For instance, a customer can buy extra lives in a game. Some apps unlock premium features or give limited access in exchange for the customer watches in-app ads.
- Paid apps. As a rule, the apps of this category suggest functionality or service that can’t be’/hard to find elsewhere. If you want to use this model, ensure that your app actually offers unique features. Otherwise, it would take a long time to build up your userbase.
- Partnership/Sponsorship. If your app became popular in a specific niche, companies from that niche may reach you out. Mostly that sponsorship requests to get the brand promoted to your customer base. The large user base becomes the additional monetization option due to partnership and sponsorship.
The choice of the monetization strategy isn’t a strict one, you always can change it. Which one to select? The answer is pretty straightforward: adopt the most suitable one to your business model and app category.
7. Few Tips for Launching a New Product
The new product launch is both: exiting and tricky. No wonder that there are dozens of guides covering this topic. However, launching an app isn’t such an easy task, as it turns out. Here’s a quick refresher of what aspects you should pay attention to:
- Don’t use every channel. You can try all the options to see what sticks with your app. And then work only with those that actually give results.
- Invest instead of spending. Here come such options as app store listings, software directories, and similar marketplaces. The investment isn’t the listing out there, but asking your customers to leave there a review on your app.
- Pre-launch seeding. That activity may influence your success. Sowing a small seed of curiosity in the related communities and forums will help you to get the first users for your MVP.
- Work on your branding. That goes a bit farther than getting a name, logo, and colors. Think about the tone of your promo text, paid ads, and content shared via social media accounts.
- Influencer outreach. Every industry has a handful of experts and influencers. Try to reach those people in your niche personally and present your app. Offer cooperation or partnership. This way your app can reach the target audience faster what means a lot in the competitive mobile app market.
How to start an app business? It goes from idea through evaluation and right away to development. On that road, you need
- come out with a good problem-fix concept
- run a market research
- find the tech agency to shape your idea into an app
- decide on the tech stack
- define must-have and nice-to-have features for your MVP
- create a marketing roadmap and run promotional campaigns
The truth is: anyone who waits for the perfect conditions to start the app business won’t ever actually build much of anything. Said another way: give your idea a try and schedule a call with our expert.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long until a startup is profitable?
The software product development is quite expensive, so many startups need up to three years to become profitable. But it isn’t a rule. Some teams become profitable before that time frame. It all depends on the idea, unique offer, quality of application or service, marketing campaign efficiency, and the targeted audience.
What is a growth-stage startup?
The business has four stages: startup, growth, maturity, and decline. At the growth-stage, your business is already profitable and passes the break-even point. The sales are higher than the profits, but the cash flow increases sufficiently.
How much time does it take to develop an app?
The time frame depends on many factors: functionality, complexity, design, integration with the third-party services, and the like. It may take from 1 to 9 (or more) months.