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WEB/DIGITAL You can't just will an app idea into success, yall

Rcaraway1989

Rob C
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I get a lot of questions, since I'm in the mobile app space, where people think if you can come up with some idea where the keywords are easy to compete on, throw up compelling app icon and marketing and "game" the system, you can make any idea work.

Almost 100% false.

Paul Graham touches on the idea and calls these ideas "sitcom ideas":

"Imagine one of the characters on a TV show was starting a startup. The writers would have to invent something for it to do. But coming up with good startup ideas is hard. It's not something you can do for the asking. So (unless they got amazingly lucky) the writers would come up with an idea that sounded plausible, but was actually bad."

Not only will you struggle to find success on ideas you percieve to be problems, you'll probably have way more trouble than you think on ideas that are already "successes" and you think you can bite off a chunk of the market.

You're still doing the same thing: you're making assumptions that people WANT a different solution, and that people will want the different solution you are making up in your head.

What's the solution to this? How the f*ck do we actually find ideas worth building?

The solution is easy to understand and hard to do: we immerse ourselves in other peoples problems.

In the app space, their's two major strategies and just about every app company is somewhere on the spectrum between these two strategies:

1. Kill it big with one app. Think Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder.
2. Build a whole bunch of smaller apps. Most people do this (my app portfolio I recently sold was somewhere inbetween these two strategies).

I have a friend who operated mostly on the Google Play store who before selling his company had built over 200(!) apps.

He wasn't just making up ideas however, he was immersing himself daily in trends. He'd pick up on the latest buzzwords. He kept up to date with everything going on in the news. He'd learn the specific language people were using to describe their problems.

And when his team built his apps, they would commit as little effort as possible. They knew YOU CAN'T WILL AN IDEA INTO EXISTENCE. So if it didn't work, they were already building another app (The google play store is way better at this strategy than iOS but it can work on both).

This strategy complimented his personality, and it worked. At one point he was doing like 1M downloads a month.

The other strategy (one big winner) is my preferred method (and I started my app portfolio with GifShare which was a big winner).

Big ideas are NOT easy to stumble upon, so the best strategy here is to increase your exposure to opportunity.

Work at a startup and meet everyone worth knowing in your industry and in your city. Ask people about their problems. Get people to tell you their app ideas. Run ideas by your friends. See what ideas & problems your friends are passionate about. Establish yourself as an expert. Build relationships with investors and other experts.

If you get your network involved, then you might not even have to come up with the idea yourself. With GifShare for example, I had someone I'd become friends with on the internet tell me the idea after running into the problem himself.

And think about if the next big idea like Tinder comes along. If you are well connected, your network will reach out to you to be part of the project. Exposure to opportunities at its best.

Stop building made up ideas and instead become sensitive to what the worlds problems are and put yourself in a position to be there when a solution is needed.
 

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lowtek

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This is golden advice, and I think is probably the biggest missing puzzle piece for aspiring app developers.

Do you think that hiring outside developers can compromise the velocity required to quickly iterate on ideas to find a winning app? I see that tossed around here a lot - one doesn't need to code to do a killer app / web application. Simply hire some inexpensive third world labor and git'er done.

The problem I see with that, with interfacing with even regular web developers, is that devs don't tend to value urgency and are notoriously cagey and difficult to work with. I understand that the alternative, learning to code from scratch, is a slow process that takes a year or two to really get a solid foundation in, but I have to wonder if that isn't an acceptable trade off if one really wants to succeed in the software development entrepreneurship game.
 

beatgoezon

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100% agree with the statement "sitcom ideas".

From what I know, these days even mediocre ideas can be incredibly successful if you have even a small demographic who loves the app.

It's funny I was just reading The Appreneur Playbook and was reading about how you took Gifshare from an MVP stage and turned it into a business within 6 days, I think it does come down to the fact that having 1000 people who love your app is better than having 10,000 people who think your app is OK.

Do you think the app market space still has the opportunity where you can build a huge portfolio like your friend was building of not-so-perfect apps/games and have it perform successfully? 1M downloads a month is incredible, I was just curious whether even a fraction of that is still something achievable with large portfolios and little to no marketing budget; there is a lot of talk about ASO being dead, but I'm not certain what to think of that just yet.
 

Rcaraway1989

Rob C
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Mar 16, 2011
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Austin, TX
Do you think that hiring outside developers can compromise the velocity required to quickly iterate on ideas to find a winning app? I see that tossed around here a lot - one doesn't need to code to do a killer app / web application. Simply hire some inexpensive third world labor and git'er done.

The problem I see with that, with interfacing with even regular web developers, is that devs don't tend to value urgency and are notoriously cagey and difficult to work with. I understand that the alternative, learning to code from scratch, is a slow process that takes a year or two to really get a solid foundation in, but I have to wonder if that isn't an acceptable trade off if one really wants to succeed in the software development entrepreneurship game.

Both hiring developers & developing apps yourself are a skillset. Hiring requires more financial resources, developing yourself requires more time. I don't think one is better than the other and I think the conversation for which is better than the other is useless. Bill Gates was an engineer. Steve Jobs was a marketer. The thing they had in common is they both kicked a$$ at what they did and didn't try to be someone they are not.
 

Rcaraway1989

Rob C
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I think it does come down to the fact that having 1000 people who love your app is better than having 10,000 people who think your app is OK.

Words to live by. Again, easy advice to comprehend, actually getting over the mindset hurdles of "OMG ARE MARKET IS TOO SMALL" is very hard but worth it.

Do you think the app market space still has the opportunity where you can build a huge portfolio like your friend was building of not-so-perfect apps/games and have it perform successfully? 1M downloads a month is incredible, I was just curious whether even a fraction of that is still something achievable with large portfolios and little to no marketing budget; there is a lot of talk about ASO being dead, but I'm not certain what to think of that just yet.

I can't know without testing, but I'd imagine there's still plenty of space for this type of portfolio.

This strategy feels very similar to being a stock trader. You have to exploit trends, data, resources & knowledge that other people are not seeing. Its listenting to people's macro problems & needs in ways that other people are not seeing.

The problem with this type of strategy is once someone gets really good at it and eats the market, then sharing the strategy with others makes it immediately less valuable. The more people that know about it, the less effective it is. Reskinning apps is a prime example.
 

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