How to Build a Successful App — 5 Big Lessons From 28 Interviews.
I asked people who have built and launched apps what their biggest lessons were. I talked to 28 entrepreneurs. Here’s what they wish they had known earlier:
1. Test Your Idea.
Erik didn’t spend any money for a year — just created landing pages and drove people to them to test conversion. “I killed 5 ideas this way.” Idea number 6 was promising and this is the one he’s working on right now — Cloverpop.
Vikas’s startup Sverve pivoted 3 times before it found its feet. “When we launched the 1st product, we thought — This is it, this is what the world needs, but it wasn’t — it was what we thought the world needed.”
Key highlight: to make sure you build the right thing, create mockups and show them to your target customers. If you are getting fist-bumps and high fives, you are on the right track, if not — back to the drawing board.
2. Share Your Idea.
Melissa (School Harmony) thought she had to be secretive: “I was afraid that someone would steal my idea and run with it. Then I realized that I didn’t have to be so secretive — there are lots of ideas out there, but few people who are putting them into action.”
Evelyn (Glanse) was worried that someone else is working on the same idea and is succeeding at it. “Then, as I got more and more into the startup world, I realized that there are many people working on the same concept. It’s really the execution that makes the whole difference.”
Key highlight: don’t be afraid to share your idea — you can get valuable feedback, find potential customers and talented people who will want to join you.
3. Embrace Negative Feedback
Vikas (Sverve): “It is very hard to see negative things about your product. We were so involved with the concept and when someone questioned it, we got on the defensive. Now I know — negative feedback is worth even more than supportive feedback.”
Key highlight: negative feedback is hard to hear, but it might contain a nugget of wisdom that can save you from failure.
4. Stay Focused.
Evelyn (Glanse): “I wanted to do everything. Time taught me to focus on the main important feature people would need. If I take everything else away, they will survive.”
Rathan from West Agile Labs said: “We see it all the time — people trying to do too much. It is very easy get caught up in the feature set.”
Salar (Only Sky): “Boiling the idea down is tough to do. There is fear — “If I take this out, is the product going to be viable without it?”
Pramod (West Agile Labs) kept building the product even though it wasn’t getting traction with the users. “Our thinking was — if we build this feature, people will use it. But building more stuff didn’t solve the problem.”
Key highlight: Don’t try to build all the features at once. Build just the core functionality first. If it helps customers do something faster, smarter or cheaper, it will sell.
5. Build Your Team.
Elena (Xmetryx): “When I was working on Xmetryx by myself, it felt like I was running in circles — no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to give me ideas.”
David (Screenplay School) shared his biggest lesson: “You shouldn’t try to do things by yourself. You might save money in the short-term, but in the long-term you are going to lose more.”
Cole (Protohack) recommended to choose wisely: “The first people you hire are the people who are able to make or break your company.”
Vivek (CommentBubble, Surgus) found that it was important to share his vision: “People want their time well-spent. Get the team excited about the big vision — talk about who you are helping and why it is important.”
Nic (BitWall) agreed: “You have to communicate the big picture vision, then convert it into tangible, actionable steps for the team to follow.”
Salar (OnlySky) and Mo (Savvy) strongly recommended to invest in the culture: “Nothing matters without people. I wish I had known that earlier… Build a culture that people want to be a part of.” (Salar)
Mo: “Technology is secondary, culture is the first thing. I want to build a culture of empowerment and transparency.”
Key highlight: don’t try to do it all yourself, find people to help you. Choose people who are competent and excited about what you are doing.
These lessons cost these guys thousands of dollars and years of their lives. I feel so lucky I can learn them for free!