The big startup news story of 2014 so far has been the acquisition of WhatsApp - for an astonishing $19 billion.
One Silicon Valley source said he believed WhatsApp employed fewer than 100 people. "Probably five people are going to be rich beyond belief, the rest are going to be rich and there's an admin assistant who right now is picking out the colour of her Lamborghini," he said.
The question on the lips of every startup founder in the world since then is: how can I reproduce that kind of success? It would be good to be able to give a definitive answer but, sadly, nothing is that simple!
DabApps have designed and built applications for all sorts of entrepreneurs, blue chip companies, SMEs and almost everything in between. Over the years, we've learned that big ideas are great, but before parting with your cash it's important to tease out all the details.
So here's 10 things to consider before jumping in with both feet.
1. Be very clear on the purpose of your app
It seems like a basic point, but you should be able to define the app's purpose in two sentences or less. Some people call this the "elevator pitch". If you can't, it's probably confusing and possibly not targeted enough to find its own market.
2. Understand your target user
Will the app effectively provide a solution for your customers' problems or needs within a set amount of time to make it worthwhile to them? By looking at your customers' needs and behaviour, as well as consumer patterns in general, you will be able to fill in the gaps and maximise potential revenue.
3. Do I need an app?
All too often entrepreneurs are seduced by the idea of a native mobile app that's available from the app store (sometimes for a small payment). But a web-based application is often cheaper to develop, can still look good and work brilliantly on a mobile phone, and can offer good returns without any money going into Apple's pocket.
4. Identify the simplest and most cost effective solution first
Resist trying to find every solution at once. Instead look at a minimally viable solution first and proceed from there. If you can look at getting a basic but functional app as a great place to start you can always upgrade aspects of it at a later date.
5. How is the app going to self-finance or make you money?
Are your customers willing to pay for the solution your app will be providing? This is a crucial part of validating the app idea.
Pricing models that access revenue range from "freemium" (a free app with paid feature upgrades), one-off paid-for apps, paid apps with added paid features, and free apps with an advertising-based revenue model. All offer associated pros and cons. Make sure you have a finance plan that will show how and when you will pay back the often not inconsiderable development costs.
6. Pick your developer
Make sure the design and build partner you pick has experience in the market place you wish to enter. It can be a technical challenge to fit your company's backend business processes to a digital solution that works on a broad range of devices. Also delivery, API management, security, scalability, content aggregation, device optimisation and several other aspects need to be considered.
7. Decide on the technology
An important decision to make is which operating system to develop your application for – Apple's iOS or Google's Android. These two combined own more than 90% market share in the smartphone category making them the preferred platforms.
What you choose will really be determined by what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to reach as many users as possible across all platforms, you will probably go down the HTML framework route, with little hardware integration. But if you need to provide deep hardware integration (for example, for a high-performance game) then you will probably choose a native application. Your decision here can directly affect your app's functionality. A good development partner should be able to advise you on this.
Once your app is launched that's not the end of the project. Remember there will be hosting costs, maintenance, management and updates to the platforms occasionally. There will also be refinements required as people start to leave feedback. If you launch an app showcasing products or case studies and you get lots of negative feedback (eg "don't buy this app, it's worthless!") what are you going to do?
You've released your dream product, but how are people going to find out about it? Again, there is no surefire way to do this, but one thing is for sure: hundreds of apps are released per day, and you need to ensure yours doesn't just get lost in the noise. Make sure you have a solid marketing plan in place before you even think about launching your product.
10. Have a conversation
If you want an objective assessment on the viability of your app idea, DabApps is happy to answer your queries. As a company specialising in software development and the design and build of all applications (from simple fun apps to complex decision-making platforms), we have a good idea of what works and what doesn't.
If you have an idea for an app that you'd like to discuss with us - we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch.