All that to create an app?

Just last week I was playing soccer  — you know the sort of get together for gentlemen of  a certain age whose brains know exactly what to do with the ball and where to be on the field but the legs are no longer willing  — when one of the guys suddenly said to me “Do you know Steve Kaylor?” “Yes”, I replied wondering why this question had been posed at this particular point in the game. It turned out that I had come up in conversation a few days beforehand and my acquaintance, Steve, had said I worked in “something to do with mobile apps”.

As it turned out my opponent on the soccer field had been dreaming up a great idea for an app and was desperate to find out what to do next. After the final whistle and a bit of a stretch and sit down he continued the conversation. It was question after question  — should I tell anyone about it? Should I get it patented? How do I make $1,000,000 from it? After a few minutes he paused for breath and the questions ceased, albeit, as it turned out temporarily. “So what do you do and can you help me?” and then silence, it was my turn to speak. First things first; I explained that I work for a product development business which specializes in research, design and software development for mobile devices. “Is that an app then?” was his retort. I went on to explain that while what we create are apps, they should be thought as no different to any other product; a new model of car, a new plastic drinks bottle, a new design of soccer jersey. Each of these products, and hopefully any product in history which stands a chance of success, will have been tested, tested and tested a bit more until the manufacturer knows they've probably got it right. It was tough to get him to understand to start with but finally the penny dropped. Within a few minutes he knew that to have the best chance success in the app market he needed a well thought out plan, actually a well thought out and structured business plan. And this was a turning point in his whole idea’s life to date.

Not only for my soccer opponent, but for each and every person with an idea we speak to, before we can really help them some homework needs to be done. For anyone who’s spent time with me talking about how we work and how your idea could come to life you will have heard our mantra — if you under research, under design and /or under invest you will fail. I must point out at this stage, we do not want to work with anyone whose idea we know stands no chance of success nor do we want to take their money. What we want to do, is work with folks who have got an idea, a vision, a passion about the subject and we will make sure they have done their homework.

So, in a go back to school kind of way, what would we expect to see in this homework list? We’ve already mentioned research; you need to know all your competition. Any competition you find is not necessarily a bad thing, to a certain extent it validates your market for you. But to be successful you need to be clear in what way your app will be better than theirs. Download as many as you can cope with, use them, abuse them, make notes but above all remember the world doesn’t want a load of me-too products the world wants products which can improve on the current offering. Now briefly back to my soccer friend... “Do you know what lean startup is?”  I asked. A sort of blank look came over his face; initially I thought it might be because of the recently completed 90 minute run around, but after a few seconds he admitted he no idea what I was talking about. I explained lean startup is the sensible way to research new ideas to see if they are worth pursuing without ploughing in loads and loads of cash. If you make those  aforementioned plastic bottles, go out and ask those who are your potential customers if they like the idea, if they need a better bottle, oh, and, if all is looking good at this stage, how much they'd pay for it. In the old days it would be done secretly and in a worst case scenario the manufacturer would be left with warehouse full of unwanted bottles which they had paid to make and are now paying to keep in storage and nobody actually wants to buy them — he liked that idea. After you have established there is a market for your product, you need to decide what it will do for the customers. Is it new and groundbreaking or is it improving on something which already exists? Remember, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel but we could make them stronger and lighter to improve fuel efficiency or we could use better tires...

Right now I could see my soccer friend’s mind ticking away - he had a “I’m not sure where to start” look on his face. He finally said, “I have to do all that to get myself an app?”. Yes, my friend, you do because as I‘ve already said this maybe an app but it is actually a product which users will need to download and fall in love with and use as much as is practicably possible.

Undeterred, he continued his crash course in how to go about creating an app. There are more than enough stats flying around telling how much you can make or lose in the app game but unless you do your groundwork and have that business plan, which must include the financials, the good end of those stats will always elude you.

In short; get your idea, know your market, know your competition, get passionate about the idea, get a real vision for what you want to achieve, turn it into a business plan, sort your funding out and spend good quality time with a team who can help you bring your idea to life, or (as mentioned earlier) tell you it really isn’t worth pursuing and put your money back in your pocket.

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