Got an idea for an App?
The steps to success with your idea…
With the proliferation of Custom Software and Mobile App Development and ease of access, there has been a steady stream of creative ideas flowing in the marketplace. And certainly as technology advances, we don’t see any slowing of this creativity. Learning to become a computer programmer is more and more the norm for the younger generation starting their college careers and many mid-career professionals but don’t kid yourself, it’s quite a commitment. Learning to write code in multiple languages may be the easy part, it’s the years of experience to perfect those skills that is where the real challenge is.
Short of changing your career direction to something you may not even be sure if you would enjoy, head to the internet for a Google search where you can find hundreds of service companies that can build your vision. But get ready, you’ll need a few things to make it real most importantly capital. What you won’t find are custom developers lining up to listen to your idea and build it for you for free so they can claim a share of the profits. It just isn’t a good business model. But don’t let that discourage you. Dream, Dream, Dream, and take action to achieve your results.
This document is intended to help folks with great ideas to get started with making those a reality.
Let’s take the first steps and apply a process of user testing. This is a simple matter of talking to your friends and colleagues about the idea. Ask questions like, “would you use this if it did that in this way?” The concept here is rudimentary testing that your idea would be useful and impactful to others. You’ll never know what is on others minds unless you ask. It is not surprising in custom app building process that we receive user input that makes us scratch our heads and say, “we never thought about it that way.” Be prepared for what you don’t know.
Once you have proven to yourself that your idea has merit, start thinking about funding. Yes, funding! You won’t find anyone in the commercial marketplace that will build your app for free just because you’ve got a good idea. There are simply too many good ideas and if service companies started jumping at them, they would all eventually go out of business. This is just a matter of doing the math. Good ideas are equivalent to starting your own restaurant. The statistics don’t lie and roughly 95% of restaurants fail in their first 2 years. It is no different in the “good idea” business.
I’ll touch on the steps to raising capital from a high level but will not get into how to approach venture capitalists in this write up and that would be very extensive and better left to the expert journalists that focus on only that. First and foremost, if you have a great idea, check your bank accounts, available equity in your mortgage, etc. It is most common for folks to self-fund their ideas to get them off the ground. Just don’t get a divorce in the process as a result. It’s not worth it. Make sure everyone is on board before taking any action with personal finances as you must be prepared to face the reality that you may be a part of the 95% that fail. This is also true when soliciting funding from friends and family. Be upfront, honest and prepare them that you may fail. It is not intended to be negative in any fashion, only to add a dose of reality. Most ideas don’t make it.
If you believe your idea can be battle tested and should stand up to the scrutiny of outside investors, prepare yourself a pitch deck and have at it. I would suggest checking out local investment groups. For example, here in Texas we have an organization called the Capital Factory that assists entrepreneurs seeking funding in all areas. You can also check into your local Meetups that are on topic for your investment idea. Once you’ve taken that first step, be prepared to absorb knowledge like a sponge. Most importantly, don’t let yourself get easily discouraged, you’ve come this far so let’s take it all the way!
If you have secured enough funding to get started, buckle in, this is where it may get tricky. But before we leave the funding topic, let me touch on a couple of points regarding “having enough funding” as that can be viewed in two different mirrors. The first is that if you have spoken to a custom software or mobile app development sales rep from some other country such as India, Pakistan, Ukraine, etc. and they have promised they can build your app for some ridiculously low price, you should be looking at tons of red flags. It is likely that is all you are going to buy with your upfront payment of $5,000 to $15,000 are promises from a sales rep. They are quite good at this as well. Labor overseas is cheap and apps cost less but when they don’t work as expected because you could never communicate with the developers effectively, what have you done with your cash then…
To touch quickly on how to find the right development partner, meet them in person, meet the developers, project managers, as many folks as you can. Check them out on Linkedin and if most of their employees are abroad, well, be careful. We get a lot of calls from business visionaries in all industries with wild stories about trying to go cheap and build their vision abroad. Yes you will pay more for US Development but if you could see some of the softwares that folks have brought to us as what they paid for, you would know that it’s not a good idea unless you are a developer yourself and can micromanage the foreign development company effectively..
Once you’ve gotten yourself past all of those challenges, let’s talk about how to prepare to engage with a software developer. It’s not much unlike anything you buy for yourselves be that a new car, lawn mower, or paint for your house. You have to do your research, learn a little about the process, deliverables, timing, etc. The more prepared you walk in, the better you will fare. A good litmus test to finding the right partner are how well will they in fact partner with you? If they are only present to write down the requirements that you want so they can build them and charge you for them, then how much value do they really bring? I would want a partner in any business that I venture to offer opinions, advice, direction or at least some level of banter at a minimum.
All said and done, if you have a great idea that you’ve market tested to some degree, find the money and get started. Be prepared for a loss but shoot for the stars. Find the right partner which will be someone who believes in your vision and wants to grow with you. Once you are there, learn, learn, learn. And then be ready to fail and pick yourself up and do it again. If you haven’t mastered failure, how much of a success can you really be? Don’t give up but don’t resort to saving a buck by buying cheap with some developer abroad that does nothing but make promises even if you are down to your last nickels.
The next steps are where the fun begins but it is very important that you be open to having your expectations set. If you are new to custom software development, it may come as a shock to you that it can be very tedious and painstaking process. What you are use to in the apps that you use on a daily basis typically are the result of hundreds if not thousands of hours of development time. It’s not as easy as saying, “just have it do this when you click the button, everyone else’s app does.” The complexity comes into play with what is going on behind the scenes. Breaking this down into the exact details of what happens on every screen, every click, every button is a necessary evil to getting it right.
We refer to this as requirements mapping. It is an important exercise in the development process but at the same time, so is flexibility. The need for flexibility is critical because we are human. As you begin to see things evolve, so will your thinking. This means that your initial vision will change as you start going through the process. If you are looking at a detailed scope of work that was created before the process started, you might be in for a more expensive ride than you had planned. Keep in mind that when creating a scope of work, you should discuss with the dev company that you’ve hired the need for flexibility. You should be able to get a pulse for how they handle these very common situations.
Back to expectations for a last point, custom development doesn’t happen overnight. It is a somewhat slow process. The amount of detail required to align all the moving parts and keep them working in a synchronized manner, takes time.
With almost all new product development efforts, the intended result is what is called an MVP. This stands for Minimally Viable Product. The MVP will be version 1. This is a loosely held definition in that MVP does not have to mean a stripped down version of your vision that is barely held together. The term minimum should be decided upon upfront by you as the client and also your developer. The question of what constitutes the minimum for you should be the standard. But don’t forget cost is a factor. Knowing that, we advise our clients that if it is not necessary, let’s hold off on that functionality until a later time more preferably when a revenue stream has been created. The point being lets get you to market for the lowest possible cost and as quickly as possible so that you can start to generate returns.
Once version 1 is out the door, it’s time to plan for marketing. New products are not much unlike websites, if you can’t drive customers to them, nobody will buy. Just getting your app in the app store with 1000’s of others, won’t be enough. Going into this venture, don’t spend all of your capital to build the product as you will need 30% to 50% of your capital to get the word out with marketing.
The good news is that if you’re ready to take the market by storm, now that you have a working version 1 in the market, you will get much better reception from potential venture capitalists. It’s time to dust off the pitch deck and get back out there to local meetups and other noteworthy events that may create an opportunity to mingle with potential investors.
We wish everyone well on their journey to success and hope that we’ve been able to help guide you through the challenges in the market. Don’t hesitate to call upon us should you need a valued and customer focused partner to help drive your custom software, web, or mobile application solutions in the right direction. Your success is our success and we take that very seriously.