It’ll be great!
Hello you! Little intro paragraph to warm us up: I’m a Mom; fort builder, reigning pillow fight champion. Expert binge chocolate eater. Rhythmically inspired dancer of ballet/modern/shuffle dance fusion. I work with words, for money- all about the hustle and flow, baby. Tech writing involves a lot of detached yet active formality, it will be missing from this blog. I’m being straight up here. I want to offer a resource for people, but I’d like to just write like I talk.
If you’re here looking for a how-to guide, not to worry, I made a title for that:
How to start an app startup: a Guide for the Inspired but out of their Depth Entrepreneur.
The other day I had an idea.
Warning! Self-aggrandising/neurotic tangent follows.
I like to think of myself as a trend forecaster, an idea incubator, a clever daughter of Athena; with legs for days. Anyway, forever I’ve come up with “things” and waited for them to appear in reality. And they usually did! Yay me, I had a lot of “knew it!” moments in the most passive possible way. Sometimes I worry about a lot, like the present, and meditation, and the amount of time I spend thinking thoughts.
I worry that I spend more time thinking than doing. Not this time.
I came up with an idea involving a group of people that could use help, and a simple way to help them: the Co-parent Contact App. Parenting is a phase of life where help and support makes a huge difference to the parent’s happiness. And thus the child’s happiness. When parents separate/divorce they have a whole new set of unique circumstances that deserve attention. So I thought, “I am going to create a positive tech tool set for these parents by creating software which is secure, encourages responsibility, thoughtful communication, and accountability.” I have no idea if this is a good idea, or not. I don’t know exactly what components will comprise the app. The more I think about it the bigger the idea gets as I include more and more features and details. Brainstorming is fun. I thinks it’s important to stress how different an idea is from a product. I didn’t think about this. I didn’t even know to ask if it was a seemingly successful idea.
I think it’s important to stress how different an idea is from a product. I didn’t think about this. I didn’t even know to ask if it was a seemingly successful idea.
The next day I saw the sign. I opened up my eyes and as I’m scrolling through Facebook I come across a post of a friend asking for this very idea in an app. So I looked in the app store, and Omg. Omg?! So much open space to get up in there. And that’s when my dormant conqueror rose. “That space is for me!” I internally declare. Rarr. And then I got back to the meaning of the idea: this will help people in difficult circumstances care for their children. Now I had an idea, and a sense of urgency to move on it, and a reason to try.
I’ve never developed an app before. I don’t have the applicable technical background. I would have to learn to code to make it by myself. This was disheartening. But I have spirit, so I called the two smartest, busiest people I could and asked them to catch me up. Ya know, with everything I might need to know.
Many hard realizations were had, but Im happy to report that dreams were not dashed. The advice I got boiled down to: do your due diligence with market research, pick the top three features and ditch the rest (precision), get a great illustrator and get branding, create wireframes for the user interface, get interviews with potential users, get LOI’s if they’re into it. And make a Lean Canvas. All of this before it can be made.
Right out of the gate, I started researching and preparing a proof as to why my app would be successful. The truth is, most apps don’t recover their costs. A lot don’t even make enough to cover the nominal hosting fee of the app store. There is over 2 million apps available with the average number downloaded on a phone is 15. Competition is high, so the product/service has to be of high value and it has to be able to reach its audience. “An idea needed to be successful before a line of its code was written,” my tech guy stated. With a little bit of a know it all tone. I didn’t like being told this, but it made sense. I also wanted the tech guy to come on as the Technical Founder. So, I was listening.Why build an app no one uses? I’m very lucky this was made clear to me so early, take heed.
Warning! Strange beat poetry tangent follows.
If you choose to: protect your idea, explore your idea, disprove your idea, map it out, share it, build it, whatever… you’ll keep doing it and many more actions as long as you’re working on the project.So make mistakes and ask a lot of questions. Look for a lot of answers. This is going to be a lot. Building something from nothing happens with a lot of ‘anything’ thinking. Like, I’ll learn anything, create anything, critique anything, until this nothing has the form of a something.
Here’s what I read/did to start filling in my many blanks.
- Create a slack channel to house the Project.
- Make a Marketing Plan by doing your App market research – Look up current Top Apps, check your Competitor stats, research Keywords, learn from the User Reviews for the alternatives. In a way, it’s starting at the end in that Im looking for who will by my phantom app and how it will reach them. I think this is good initial insight. Though, the marketing work is ongoing and deserves its own post.
- Create a broad survey to define ‘the problem’ the app is solving – I used Google forms to share on social media and parenting forums. Your idea may be a lot more fluid, ambiguous than your initial impression. I found some useful demographic info and narrowed the areas I wanted the app to focus on.
- Start gathering interview subjects for a frank talk of the proposed app solution. Listen to them, and if possible (i.e. they consent) record them. Look for patterns. Be scientific and critical. Yes, it’s your brain baby but try and pay more attention to things that disprove the usability of the app. If interviewed participants are enthusiastic about your idea, you can ask them to sign a Letter of Intent, which is a non-binding statement that they would purchase the app. Proving your market is important.
- Put together the Lean Canvas, which is a beautifully quick, and dirty one-page business plan for a startup. Read a whole lot from the creator, Ash Maurya.
That is the beginning. Please join me on this journey in real time. We’ll dive into the world of startup entrepreneurs, learn to talk tech with confidence (instead of relying on charm, ha) and make/market an app that changes the world for the better. Will I get rich? Probably, but I won’t let it go to my head, and I WILL be confessional-level-transparent about the process. This should be fun.
So, in this discovery process, you’ll be you and I’ll be I. Maybe you’ll find this, and read something that helps you while I’m writing and sharing what’s helped me. Easy peasy.
Next post I hope to tackle will be…
Will I get a snappy team together? I sincerely hope I do. I’ll share what I’m learning about co-Founders. Although there are many different options in getting an app made. We’ll talk about them.