So, you’ve had an idea for an app and you don’t know where to start. Well, you’re in luck! The fun is just beginning. They say that once you have an idea, the hard part is over. While that’s true to a certain extent (after all, not everyone has great app ideas), the reality is that building a successful app is a lot of work.
Taking your app from an idea to a viable app business is a process that entails several steps and a fair amount of legwork. But, where should you begin? That’s what we’re here to help you with in this step-by-step guide to kickstarting your app.
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” - Mary Poppins
The apps market: an overview of your playing field
You’re entering a very full and very competitive market landscape. It isn’t enough anymore to have a great idea for a new app with good content, even better code, and a solid business plan. You’ll be competing against app development powerhouses with all the teams, expertise, and resources they’ll ever need to ensure that theirs is the best app out there. It’s a hard truth to hear, but it’s important for you to have a realistic picture of the journey you’re embarking on.
All that said, new apps are published every day. Just because the mobile app market is tricky doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make it or that you shouldn’t try. About 2,796 apps are published on the Google Play Store every day, while the Apple App Store releases 1,263 new apps daily, too. So, no, it’s not impossible. You can do it.
What to do once you’ve had a mobile app idea: 5 steps to get started
1. Take an entrepreneur’s approach & do your research
As with any startup, the first thing you need to do is understand your market inside out. That stems down to 2 key areas you need to know better than the back of your hand:
a. Your competition
Are you planning on developing the next big thing in yoga apps, for example? Do the market research to figure out who your direct competitors are - namely, other yoga apps like Glo, Asana Rebel, Alo Moves, or Down Dog, to name a few. Then consider the broader scope of your indirect competitors. That could include stretching apps like Bend (this is one of ours!) or StretchIt; or even to a certain extent more general fitness apps like Nike Fitness Club or WeBurn (another one of our babies).
By seeing what your competitors are doing, you’ll understand several things - (i) where there’s a gap for you to stand out, (ii) what’s been working or not, (iii) the size of the mountain you need to climb to reach #1, (iv) what your version of success will look like.
b. Your user base
Who are you making this app for? What value are they going to extract from it? Let’s go back to our yoga app example. The chances are that your target audience will be predominantly female, millennials, living in cities around the world, and probably working jobs that don’t allow them to attend full-length classes at yoga studios during the week. They’ll be health-conscious, wellness-orientated, and informed on their areas of interest.
Yes, you’ll always have outliers, but your core will be focused on a specific persona. This is a key step in moving forward. By knowing who your target persona actually is, you’ll be able to make a tonne of informed and impactful decisions based on their wants and needs. This will drive everything from your app name to its visuals to how and where you promote it.
2. Create a minimum viable product (or, MVP)
Chances are, you’ll start looking for a little bit of funding fairly early on in your app development process. To do that, you’ll usually need a minimum viable product to present to potential investors. Whether that’s for an accelerator program, a pitch to a VC, or just a presentation to your friends and family who might want to help you out, you normally need to have something more than a slide deck to show them.
Start building a framework of how your app is going to work and what makes it different. Essentially, you’ll need to take the value proposition you developed and apply it to your mobile application. This can be something as simple as a mock-up with wireframes or even something a bit more advanced like a functioning, coded app.
It’s at this stage where you’ll need to start making development decisions, like if you want to create your app in a no-code platform or build it from scratch yourself. There are several options for mobile app development - and the timelines and budgets you’ll work with to create your app or MVP will vary depending on the choice you make here.
3. Think about your options in terms of raising money
Every new business needs some seed money to get the ball rolling. Today’s tech landscape offers a number of options for early-phase businesses, and picking from among the throng will depend greatly on the business model you’re creating.
Got an idea but not much else? Try these investment options: Incubator programs: for those of you who aren’t too much further along than just having a business idea, this might be the right path for you. Incubator programs help you build your business from the ground up, lending their expertise and guidance. Typically, these programs will be fee-based.
Venture capital investors: every venture capital investor will likely have a different set of criteria for what they look for in an app, but they won’t all require you to have an MVP. What they will need to see is your product-market fit analysis, so make sure you work on that and get it right.
Crowdfunding platforms: from Indiegogo to SpeedInvest Technology to GoFundMe, there are so many options for crowdfunding out there. Crowdfunding is where you raise money from a large pool of people who invest small amounts because they believe in your idea.
Already have something in the works? For more advanced businesses, look into these options:
Angel investors: normally private high-net-worth individuals who will invest in your business in exchange for partial ownership or equity in your company. You’ll usually need to have something fairly advanced to show them, as well as your business plan and your product-market fit analysis, at least.
Startup accelerators: aimed at entrepreneurs with an MVP, you can think of accelerators sort of like mentorship programs. They offer knowledge-sharing, investment, and connections to future business partners (co-founders, investors, consultants etc.). To enter an accelerator program, you’ll likely need to meet a series of requirements which often include having your app concept validated in some way, whether that’s through a small group of paying customers, free users, or proof of a market fit.
App publishers: this is very much our ball game at Kovalee. With an app publisher, you enter into a partnership where you focus on creating killer content and great code, while the publisher takes care of everything else. From optimizing your onboarding processes to helping with creative design to boosting user acquisition, your app publisher partner turns your app into a sustainable, long-term business. The best part? They pay for everything... Well, at least we do at Kovalee (please excuse the shameless plug here).
4. Start preparing your monetization strategy
Put simply, a monetization strategy determines how your app is going to make money. Now, if the word “advertising” instantly passed through your brain, you’re not alone - but you are wrong. Advertising is just one revenue stream, and not the most reliable one. You need to think of something more sustainable. What are some of the options you have?
The free & paid model: offering both a free and a paid version of your app, you’ll limit some of the features available to paying users only. This encourages free users to upgrade to the paid version of your app and access the full range of features.
The in-app purchases model: you keep your app free, however, if the user wants extra functionalities, they pay for them inside the app itself. Dating apps, for instance, rely on this model where users can unlock certain special features, like browsing more profiles or accessing more information.
The subscription or membership model: while the app is free to download, users need to opt-in to a recurring subscription or membership in order to access the content. This is a popular model among fitness apps, for example, whereby users sign up for a sort of “virtual gym membership”.
The paid app model: it’s pretty simple, really. A user downloads the app, pays for it, and uses it. These apps normally have to offer something that can’t be attained elsewhere for free.
The partnership model: where apps approach developers within a certain space and engage in sponsorship opportunities to get their app in front of other app users.
5. Think about how to acquire users
User acquisition (UA) is about driving app growth by getting more people to download and use your app, while paying the right price per user. Here’s a quick overview of the basic steps you should take to kickstart your marketing strategy to attract users:
Don’t forget app store optimization. This is the process of improving your app’s visibility in an app store through the use of searchable keywords, powerful screenshots, and captivating icons. It’s really important to have an appealing app store page if you want users who find your app (thanks to the keywords we just talked about) to actually download it.
Consider which social media channels you should be on. We always recommend starting with Facebook ads, ads on Google, and app store advertising. Then you can consider diversifying through things like engaging with influencers or expanding to other social networks like TikTok or Instagram.
Measurement matters! Be data-driven and start collecting as much information as you can about how your users interact with the app. You can start by using Amplitude or Mixpanel to track how users interact with your app. All this will enable you to optimize various aspects of the customer journey. Then, if you want to go deeper, you can look at attribution tools like Adjust or Appsflyer to get you started, which will tell you where users are coming from (i.e. from a specific campaign, a particular ad, or even organic traffic).
Read our beginner’s guide to user acquisition here.
Could Kovalee help you take your app to the next level?
In short - yes! We are an app publisher, so what we do is take apps that are already on app stores with great potential but that aren’t quite making as much noise as they should, and help them reach #1! How do we do that? It’s simple. By freeing you up to focus on content and code while we take care of everything else, from monetization to UI/UX development, to ASO, to UA. Oh, and just another small thing... We pay for everything.
If you meet the following criteria, we would love to hear from you!
You have an app that’s already been released on Google Play or the App Store
You’re a small team of about 2-15 people
Your app has an average store rating of 4.5
You’re real subject-matter experts in the field your app is in
Sound like you? Just fill in this short form and we’ll get back to you soon!
Did you find this article useful?
If you did, don't forget to follow us on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on the latest information about Kovalee, apps, and more!
No spam. Just the latest news, interesting articles, and helpful information in your inbox every month.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.