“I have an idea”

So does everyone else. What’s the next step?

Application development is seen as the “get rich quick” scheme of the 21st century. Just develop an app, sell it for a buck per download and wait till 200 million people make you rich.

“It’s an app that aggregates my favorite videos online”

“It’s an app that’s OpenTables for clubs”

“It’s an app for cats”

These days, everyone has an idea, but few people have vision. I’m reminded of Karl from Garden State.

I’d like to talk to you about an exciting opportunity that people are talking about…

“Hey Mark, quit being an asshole. My idea is really good.”

True. That cat app isn’t a terribly bad idea. I can see cat owners all over the world buying that damn thing. But let’s start with the Video Aggregator app for sanity’s sake.

“Ok, you develop it for me then. I only want half the equity.”

No. If you want this app to happen, welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. If you really believe in your idea, let’s begin with a list of ways to get your application off the ground. And don’t listen to quotes like the one below, it’s condescending BS.

“Entrepreneurship has probably gotten a little too fashionable.” This Week In Startups

Start with research

In our example, see if The Video App idea already exists. First Google search and boom, it does. This happens 90% of the time. Don’t be discouraged, there’s almost always room to enter a space and make some good money. Start some gap analysis and see what your application does that the competition doesn’t or does poorly.

Determine the heart of your application

Ask yourself: “what is the one thing that this app must do and do well to be successful”. That’s your phase 1. That’s your MVP: Minimum Viable Product. Everything else comes later. The idea here is to release and release often. You can always add more functionality later, but you want to test the “heart of your application” first to make sure it’s viable.

Barriers to entry

Is there any sort of legal situation impeding anything? Do you need to get access to data sets that are difficult or expensive to acquire? Are there API call limits? Is it technologically possible with current smartphones? With the Video Aggregator app, you may need to look into the copyright implications of sharing videos from another site.

Understand that quality applications are expensive

Be wary of anyone who charges less than $100/hr. I’m not kidding. That’s not to say all developers who charge more are worth it, but the vast majority of those that charge less aren’t worth your time unless you’re able to cut a nice equity deal in your favor. And expect every developer to ask for equity right at the start; most of them will these days.

Finding the right talent

Most entrepreneurs fail to get their venture started because they are unable to find a quality developer or designer. Sometimes I think we as nerds hide ourselves from the casual entrepreneur on purpose… Either way the best way to find talent is to start attending local Meetups and conferences. Start attending and meeting everyone you can.

Beyond that, you want to make as certain as possible that these individuals have had plenty of past experience and communicate effectively. Ask anyone who’s independently developed an app, communication is the #1 key to finishing the product.

Set realistic goals and schedules

Once you find a reliable team to work with, you need to set a schedule that makes sense with a scope of work that makes sense. The crux here is to identify your points of friction: points that require a lot of moving pieces or are difficult to figure out. Some examples include API integration, design -> dev implementation, or more simply payment schedules with your team. Identifying these points early is important to ensuring your app is finished in a reasonable amount of time.


You are the CEO of this little venture. Your communication is essential. Your team should be able to tell a 10-year-old what your application is and why it’s worth their parents’ hard earned dollar. Your team should also know everything you expect out of them. Communication doesn’t mean banging on the keyboard and hitting enter, it means accurate transfer of thoughts and ideas.

Just remember, no one will get this done for you; you have to make it happen. Your first app will inevitably be delayed, will go over budget, and will cause you to grow a lot of grey hairs. BUT, I guarantee you’ll learn more in those few months than you thought possible and it will enable you to be that much more successful and efficient the next time you have an idea, which was likely 45 seconds ago.

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