You want to start on the right foot. I understand. We all want to put our best foot forward, especially when it comes to starting a startup.
The real challenge is, however, knowing what are the best steps or points in your journey to be aware of that will help you through building a product that customers want and a business that is sustainable and growing.
These are some of the essentials that will ensure you launch your mobile app startup with the right foot.
#1 Success is by design
The fundamentals of building an app or a business are the same. In fact, an app is a business. If you treat it like one, you will go far and wide and make money along the way. On the other hand, if you just treat it like a hobby, which in my estimates is about 90% of the apps out there, your app will be among one of those many that don't make any money or any difference to your customers' lives.
Don't fall prey to the Noah's Ark syndrome. You must assume that when you build your app, no one will download it. That's the worse that can happen. And you build your business from there on.
Apps are successful when the entrepreneurs behind them are determined to make them successful. Not by leaving it to chance or luck.
#2 Starting small helps build a better app
When building an app, don't go tapping the entire customer base. The cost would be extremely high and your competitors will take advantage of your mistakes with the first instance of your product.
Instead, start small and build an app for a very narrow audience. Most often, you don't know whether your app will fly or die and the best validation is when the customers use it.
When you build for a small number of users, you get the opportunity to make your mistakes with only that select audience. You get the chance to enhance your mobile app to cater to your customers' demands by observing their behavior through analytics and putting those lessons into product enhancement.
#3 Incrementally better features will not make a successful app
This is especially true if a large number of users are already using a competing app. A paper by John Gourville, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, specifies that products fail because entrepreneurs irrationally overvalue their innovation, compared to consumers who overvalue what they've been already using.
He states that for new apps (products) to stand a chance, they have to be 10 times better than the existing ones, "making the innovation's relative benefits so great that they overcome any overweighting of potential losses."
If your idea is similar to your competitor (with marginal feature differentiation) that already has traction in the market, you must be nave to assume that your competitor will not react.
#4 The right time to raise money
"The best way to convince investors is to start a startup that is actually growing fast, and then simply tell investors so," tweeted Y Combinator's Paul Graham recently.
Get traction before you seek funding. The reason being is at the idea stage, you really don't have any validation from your customer whether they want your app or not and merely asking potential customers seldom helps.
Instead, you have to give them something they can use and take their feedback to understand if it works for them. That's the base expectation of any investor. They surely do not want to invest in a product that no one wants.
Look to your friends and family, save a sum each month from your paycheck and use your credit card to get your mobile app off the ground.
#5 A pivot can save your app from failing
Pivot, a term coined by The Lean Startup author Eric Ries that means "a change in strategy without a change in vision," could be the answer to building a successful mobile app.
Paul Graham once said, "The startups in the tech incubator Y Combinator, whose acceptance rate is less than 3%, change products and markets so frequently that the idea they applied with is often irrelevant to the final product."
Ries gives an analogy to explain the concept better: "You don't ask your car's GPS where you want to go, you tell it where you want to go and it helps you get there. Vision is where we want to go; strategy is our GPS for figuring out how to get there. That structure of experimentation, rapid iteration, and pivoting, I think that's at the foundation of modern innovation."