Everyone with an entrepreneurial spirit knows that technology is the path to building wealth.

Everyone wants to make a killer app that they hire someone else to develop and then reap rewards for years to come, but many of the people with fantastic ideas aren’t in the field of development or the field that they are trying to solve a problem. They could also be a customer who would like their needs met better and take it upon themselves to attempt the solution.

It isn’t necessarily an easy path to developing and monetising an app so we’ve created a suggested process for the entrepreneur who wants to create an app. The process goes through seven steps:

  1. Create a List of Functions Desired.
  2. Build a Prototype.
  3. Present the Prototype to Clients/Users/Investors
  4. Develop the App. Start Small.
  5. Get Approved In App Stores.
  6. Market the App to gain Revenue.
  7. Routinely Updating App

We’ll examine each part of the process to help you understand what it takes to launch an app.

Create a List of Desired Functions

In this step you are just specifying what you are trying to accomplish. It’s important to have clearly defined objectives so that you can approach a development team to develop a prototype. In this phase you should answer the following questions:

  1. What Problem am I trying to solve?
  2. What is my target audience?
  3. How do I plan on monetising the app? In app purchases? Selling Advertising space? Monthly Subscriptions? One time Download Price? or a combination of strategies? The way you plan on making revenue impacts what features you will need.
  4. What features do you need? What features are necessarily immediately and which can wait?
  5. What look do you desire? Do you already have a logo? What color schemes do you want to use?

The answers to these questions form the basis for the rest of your experience. They’ll impact the prototype, the pitch deck for investors, the development, approval in the app store, marketing, and updating the app. Make sure to focus on this before approaching development teams. If you are an existing business, thee development team can make judgements based on your current tech assets, but if you are a startup that just has a great idea, this step will drive the entirety of the process.

Build a Prototype

The next step in the process is building a prototype. This can be done in several ways, but all of them involve giving information to other people. If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, you know the importance of protecting your ideas. In the movie, two brothers present Mark Zuckerberg with the idea for Facebook, but don’t have him sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and Non-Compete Agreement (NCA). He then takes the idea and becomes one of the wealthiest and powerful people on the planet. Make sure you protect yourself by having everyone involved sign an NDA and NCA. If you use one of the companies that let you build your own app using their software make sure to read all their legal jargon. This protects you from having your idea stolen by unscrupulous characters.

Once you have the NDA and NCA created, then it’s time to shop around for an app developer. There’s two main ways of developing apps, hire a app development team or use build it yourself options. Hiring an app development team is better with more complex apps, but costs more because you are paying for labor. Using build it yourself tools tend to be less expensive, but more limited in functionality. A quick google search finds some build it yourself sites that let you prototype for free, but will charge a monthly fee once released. because we are a development company, we will continue by focusing on the app developer side of things.

When you contact us, we will sign an NDA and NCA, have a discussion about what you are trying to accomplish, then provide an estimate for a prototype (normally under $1,000). The prototype will be a semi-functional simulation to give you an idea of what the final product would be like. The first round will normally include 2-3 of the most meaningful functions. Other functions will be added in during development phase or during upgrades. We will also provide an estimate for the development costs of the app so that you can present them to stakeholders. It can also be used in the next step to present to clients, users, and investors.

Present to Clients, Investors, and Users

During this stage you are trying to accomplish several objectives including:

  • Establishing if there is a demand for the app.
  • Establishing if the design is appealing to people who would use the app.
  • Establishing how to finance the app.

You’ll be doing this by showing the prototype to a variety of people who you think might be interested. Don’t forget to have them sign NDA’s. One of the best ways to present is using a Pitch Deck, which is similar to what you see in Shark Tank. It’s a presentation that involves the back story, the problem it is solving, the market potential, where you are in the progress, marketing strategy you intend to use, what resources you need, and what kind of investments you are looking for. The prototype should be included in this presentation to help people get a feel for what the end product will be.

As you go through the entire process, the Pitch Deck should be updated to reflect the most up-to-date information. Updating it will help when it is time to find people for beta testing, marketing, and getting more investors if you need more funding during the monetisation stage.

At this point I think it is good to advise you that when building your own app based business, you can expect costs of at least $250,000 of which only a portion will go to the mobile app. This is the minimum amount I would recommend looking for when seeking investors. You should be seeking enough for salaries of your employees (accountants/lawyers/yourself), the development stage, approval stage, and the beginning of the marketing phase. Depending on the industry you could need much more though. Some industries have high barriers of entry, for instance banks are required to have reserves equal to a portion of the deposits or account balances depending on the regulatory agency requirements.

Develop the App. Start Small.

I can’t emphasize this enough….

Start Small

The Development process should normally focus on 2-3 most important features. These features should be the ones that the users currently NEED. Focusing on creating something unique and easy to use is essential because you need to bring it to market and monetization as quickly as possible. The more features that are part of the app in the initial release the longer the build will take and the more it will cost, slowing your path to profitability.

In general, mobile apps can take a while to develop. One we recently designed a prototype and provided an estimate for one 2,000 man hours which is the the equivalent of a single person working on it for a year. With a development team the time can be cut down because many can work on it, but most development companies have more than one client so they have scheduling conflicts that may occur. I point this out because some might assume that if a team has 50 developers, that the team can do it in a week or a month, when it is more likely to be 3-6 months. Expect it to take a while, but not years. Years renders the development obsolete due to the continuous upgrades that the mobile operating systems perform.

Once the development team has the app where it is functional, there are ways to test it on people’s phones before going live to the app stores. The tech industry considers this beta testing. This should be done in the development phase before applying for the app store approval. I’d recommend 2 weeks-1month of testing. Once people have used it and everyone is sure it works as intended, then we proceed to the next step.

App Store Approval

The app has to be submitted and approved by the app stores before you can start monetizing it. There are two primary mobile app stores that grant approval : Google and Apple. We’ll discuss the process of each.

Google Play charges a one time $25 registration fee for the first app. After that it is free. Google Recommends allowing 7 days for approval of an app. If they reject the app, they will send an email notifying why. Google provides more information about Google Play.

It costs $99/year to submit apps to Apple and normally takes Apple 24 to 48 hours to review an app. Once they’ve reviewed it they will either approve your app or give a list of fixes required. You can find more information from Apple about how their app requirements, payment terms, and other aspects governing the use of the app store.

Apple has a a tendency to be more stringent so you can expect that the android version will typically be released first. If the app stores require changes, then the changes will be implemented. If no changes are necessary, then you can start marketing.

Marketing the App to Create Revenue

The marketing planning should start in parallel with the development, but advertisement, influencer endorsements, and other marketing tools should be ready to roll out upon release. There’s no point in marketing most apps until they are approved in the app stores because it can harm the customer experience if they go to the app store and can’t find the app. Since I don’t run a marketing agency, I won’t spend a lot of time discussing this. We do have a person who has a decent understanding of marketing and research on our team to assist some clients with their marketing. Should you wish to get marketing input while working on a project we are happy to add that as part of our service. I will say that the quickness of your marketing is essential. The higher your app ranks against competitors, the easier it is to get more users and theoretically drive more revenue.

Routinely Updating the App

Once you release the app, you will need to continue planning and development of updates. There are a variety of reasons that you will have to perform routine updates including:

  • Security Updates Required by Apple and Google.
  • Customers requesting new features.
  • Compatibility with new operating system rollouts. Major changes are annual, with minor changes throughout the year.
  • Utilise new features offered in operating systems.

As you can see, there are a variety or reasons why you will need future work on your app. Keeping an ongoing relationship with a development team will help your app stay secure, fresh, and hopefully improve monetization over the long term.

Flying Donkey is happy to help entrepreneurs with their mobile app ideas throughout the full process. Our Project Scoping services help you develop the requirements of the project and will lead to a prototype and estimate that can be used in the pitch deck, which we can have one of our graphic designers work with you to create a presentations. Once you have secured funding, we can develop both iOS and Android apps. Then we will provide access to Beta testers to make sure kinks are worked out before submitting the app for approval. Once your app is approved, we will provide routine maintenance for it to make sure it stays up to app store requirements and new features are added based on discussions for future development.

While being an entrepreneur is challenging and exciting, the first time developing a mobile app can be quite a challenge. Let us help you pursue your next endeavor.