Skip to main content

So you want to start a mobile app business...

I wrote this letter to a friend of mine who was looking for a technical co-founder for a mobile-first
startup.  I figured it might be a good idea to share this with my readers (after a bit of cleaning up).

Letter to Chris:

Hey man!  I am glad you got your entrepreneurial juices flowing.  So here is what I can tell you about exploring your idea further.

First of all there are a lot of ideas floating around and a bunch of people are building apps, however there are very few *good* ideas.  I trust that you have a good idea because I know you are a smart guy.

How do you prove to people that it's a good idea?  Actually building stuff is just a part of the equation.  Getting it connected to customers is the bigger part.  Think about it as if you were looking for oil.  Imagine you approach an engineer and say, "I need to drill for oil!" Drilling for oil is useful but where and how much oil is there is the bigger question.

How does this relate to your business?  First thing first - get in touch with people who would use it and buy it.  If you can't find those people, guess what - there ain't no oil there!

When you find those people the next question is: what's your plan for monetization?  Is it ad-supported, is it supported by people paying for a premium version or something else?

I don't know much about ad-supported things.  Those generally compete for your attention and there is a fair amount of psychology that goes into that, however, let's go with the app that people actually want to pay for.  In this case it's a little simpler to figure out if there is oil and how much oil there is.  Again get back to your potential customers and see what they think.  If you can't find 5-10 people who will spend time talking to you about it and then at the end won't say: "yeah I'd give you some cash for that," again, “the oil field” isn't that big and it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

Pro tip: when you talk to your potential customers you can grab software online that will sketch the app for you.  It's not going to do anything functionally; it will just be screens with outlines.  You can use http://proto.io/ or FluidUI for almost no money to just create a few screens.  Run them by the your potential customers, you will be surprised how much additional feedback you will get from just giving them something to look at.

So now you are thinking - "WTH!  I need to spend all this time to just get a basic app running, and I don't even have an app.  That's too long and boring!"  Actually what you did do there is some really good market research.  At the end of the exercise you will have (a) a few people to beta test the app, (b) maybe even a couple that will help you fund the development and (c) a sketch of what you want that's been vetted by your early adopters.  This is a well-defined idea and at that point you are actually an entrepreneur with a definite plan.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Quality of Code is Quality of Life

About 20 years ago when I started working in technology companies I remember “the best” engineers had similar patterns:
-They worked crazy hours
-They knew the systems no one else knew
-They could react and deliver something faster than anyone else
You could always hear other employees say: “Bob is really smart, no one knows how to get anything done in system X besides him!”

This reinforced optimization around being the only person who knew how to do something in some part of the code.  That in turn reinforced job security and bargaining for those engineers, but also chained them to a particular system.  We had big code bases of C++ or Java code where some “Bob” hacked up features as soon as he possibly could.  “Bob” would have occasional nuclear disasters where he’d sleep in the office or through the weekend and then everyone would thank him for how he “saved the day.”  “Bob” sacrificed his quality of life to get praise when he hacked stuff up quickly and then the second time when n…

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Why you should take the software job in San Francisco (or not).

Silicon Valley is an iconic place for technology.  Many people say this is the place for the “best and the brightest.”. Apple, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter and other top companies draw a lot of talent form all over the world and the largest chunk of VC capital goes to companies in the Bay Area, so it seems like moving here is a no brainer!

The real situation is actually not that simple, I believe there are three scenarios where it makes sense, but in many cases living in the Bay yields disappointing results.  The cost of living, housing situation, homeless catastrophe make places like San Francisco a lot less appealing to a lot of people.  So in what situations does it make sense to move to SF?

Startup founder raising millions There are many places to be a startup founder, but if you are looking to raise capital the largest pool of VC money is in the Bay Area.  There is an established network, events and conferences which give founders an opportunity to pitch more people th…