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How to Launch an Indispensible App

To launch a top app, keep it simple and be the expert.
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Think about how many software products you use in a given day. How about just the apps on your iPhone or Android device. Not many, right? You're not alone.

Of the more than 1.5 million apps available for public consumption, we use just about eight apps each day, according to data from Flurry Analytics.

Naturally, you must be thinking: How the heck do you compete in a world like this? How do you become unique and break through to one of those magic eight?

Less Is More

To most startups the answer is "more features." The idea is that more is better. We will give our customers so many tidbits of value across the many features that they just can't not use our product. Or, we will have so many features that a large number of customers will each find value in a small handful of those features. The absurdity of this approach is further exacerbated by the innate psychology of builders (in this case software development founders). Coders want to code. More features equals more coding.

If there is one thing I know to be true in software applications, especially at the startup phase, it's that less is more. Always. But launching a minimalist product is much easier said than done. Outside pressures inevitably encourage you to do more. Resist the urge. Focus.

The question may then become which feature or set of features should you focus on?

Know Thy Customer

Startup companies are told to find product/market fit by utilizing a variety of tools and methodologies. For instance, Steve Blank's Customer Development methodology and Eric Ries's Lean Startup are excellent guideposts. The notion here is to follow your customers' activities to uncover the features that they use and discard the ones they don't. With time and effort you should iterate to a great exchange of features and value.

But I believe there is another dimension that is equally if not more critical to early success: Give customers what they entrust in you to deliver to them.

Use Your Expertise

Most product managers think that arming users with choice, or a variety of ways to interact with your app, creates an environment where many different users can get value. Wrong! I posit that most of us users want to be told what to do and how they should consume the solution. You see, when we download your app, we're making an assumption that you know more about what's best for us. We're taking a leap of faith that you and your team have spent considerably more time researching, testing and implementing this solution. Tell us how this should be done. Don't give us choice. Just make sure you're right.

Last updated: Jan 29, 2014

CHRIS HEIVLY | Managing Director

Chris Heivly was a co-founder of MapQuest (which sold to AOL for $1.2 billion), sole managing director of 77 Capital (a $25 million venture fund), and an executive at five software companies. Currently, he is one of two managing directors of The Startup Factory, a seed investment fund making 10 to 14 new investments per year. A national writer and speaker about startups and startup communities, Heivly is also the founder of the Big Top Job Fair.




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