The year is coming to a close. I probably am doing this too late. But hanging on to things is in our nature I guess.
Our app launched in October 2013, and we were in development for over a year before that. So it will be about 6 years for the whole adventure from begging to end.
There may not be life changing gold nuggets here, but this is my journey and I felt it was necessary to put a neat end by at least having a list of the things I learned from it.
Needless to say, we didn’t go viral, we did not secure any funding, we didn’t break any ‘paradigms’ and we obviously didn’t make a gazzillion of cash.
So, in no particular order (and some of them overlapping):
1. Know your tech. We sub contracted the first development of the mobile app to a third party coding firm. It was easy as we only handled ‘the big idea’ but there is nothing like knowing your technology. If the solution involves computers, then learn to code, like pronto. Stop reading this and go and get a ‘code for dummies’ book. You will arguably get more out of that.
2. Don’t start with Apple. I should have started with Android first, so much faster, easier to modify and upgrade and much more transparent. Apple as the first launch platform was a mistake.
3. Forget about marketing. It is about the solution, no amount of cash burned in marketing will be able to go and make it float in this sea of apps, all trying to break through. It doesn’t matter what the marketing gurus tell you, nobody knows what is going on. Unless you are the GOOG or something like that, then stick to your guns and focus on the product.
4. Related to No.3: Apps will never go viral. I say it again, they WILL NEVER go viral in future sense. All apps can do is GO VIRAL as in ‘That app WENT VIRAL’. It is always, invariably and indubitably in the past. An app has the capacity of ‘that went viral and nobody knows why’, but it does not have, and we can’t infuse it with ‘virality’ as in ‘I can make this app go viral three days from now’… never, ever. So this is another way to say ‘Forget about Marketing’… again.
5. Be transparent with your partners. This is probably the only thing we did right. Always report back to your financing people, always keep them in the loop, always inform inform inform. They still talk to me and this start up is bust. That’s gotta mean something… right?
6. Stick to one platform. We got distracted with Apple and Android and even toyed with the idea of Microsoft mobile OS. Stick to ONE and do it amazingly.
7. You don’t need accelerators, incubators and any other new name for it. That is just slavery. If the product is awesome then it will get there. Otherwise is not like you are doing it wrong, it is that you need to find a better problem to solve.
8. Again get the tech in-house. I was very lucky (and very very late) that in the end I got my brother in with us. He re-coded everything on a different language -Python- and it works beautifully, and it opened up tons of possibilities and for a fleeting moment we thought we were catching a second wind. But alas we didn’t. It was way too late for that.
9. If you rely on third party APIs, know the back and front of them and know what to do if they go nite nite. We thought very naively that the Yahoo interface that was publishing financial info key for our solution will stay there. Well it didn’t and the alternatives way way too pricey, so that was that.
10. You don’t need a swanky awesome business plan. There is nothing awesome about business plans. Forget about that slide deck of emptiness. It will only distract you and suck uncontrollable amounts of time. And don’t even think on sub-contracting that. Do it but I advice not to spend one second more than absolute necessity.
11. Don’t get too cocky when you have good investor calls. All (most) investors will treat you nicely because they just don’t know if the idiot at the other end of the line may turn out to be the next Zuckerberg. Good reviews mean nothing, revenue means everything. One of those guys actually told me “You know… your product looks great, why don’t you call us when you are clocking 1 million downloads?”… I replied that at 1 million downloads I probably wont need any help. He thought about it for a second and finally said “Yeah, you may be right!”
12. Never pay for a review of your product.
13. You may or may not need a blog. You need a website, that is a given. But the blog is a bit undecided for me. It is easy to get content at the start, and then it gets harder and harder. And the amount of admin just to keep bots at bay!!! Wow!
14. Know when to nip it. I would say that the sooner the better but I really don’t know. End of year feels OK to do it though.
15. Call a failure a failure. Everybody loves the winning underdog or the established franchise. But there will be blood. This one was mine.
16. Know the tax law. Apply to be the one that is preparing things for your accountant so that things are clear.
17. Related to 16, know the Trademark laws applicable and also Patent. Trademark is a nasty environment and expect surprises.
16. Try to stay positive and think of the next one.
All for now
A.S. from Oz