In the movie Baby Mama, Dax Shepard plays Carl, a quirky man who calls himself an "inventor-slash-entrepreneur." When Carl meets Tina Fey's character, he laments that he hasn't yet hit a business home run, "I mean, when I saw the iPod the first time... I could have kicked myself."
The world is full of Carls. They think that billion-dollar ideas come from strokes of genius. But true entrepreneurs understand that the real value of an idea comes from its execution.
When a great idea strikes, your first impulse is to leap into action. But if you're thinking of building an app, you need to make sure your concept is sound and that you have the necessary resources to outsource its development or hire an in-house developer.
Here are six questions you must ask before giving a project the green light:
What Is Your Vision?
Before hiring developers, make sure you have a specific vision for your business and concrete goals for the app. According to Richard Branson, experts advised the Virgin Group against expanding into other industries. The behemoth did it anyway, and has since started more than 400 companies. Branson himself is now worth $4.9 billion. How did he succeed? By developing a clear vision that enhanced people's lives.
I've met founders who want to make the next big something, but they don't know what or why. That's a huge red flag. Remember: a development team can bring your idea to life, but the vision must come from you.
Do You Have the Funding?
Whether you keep the work internal or outsource, app development is expensive. Developers' salaries can range from $107,500 to $161,500, and hiring a development firm can be even more costly.
TechCrunch found that the average iOS app costs $6,453 to build, but more complex or noteworthy apps can cost thousands more. Make sure you have the necessary capital upfront so you don't run out of funds mid-project. Your funding must match your ambition. If you're targeting a significant market, you need significant funds. If you don't have them, focus your ambition on something achievable. Showcase an MVP that solves a real need for a small group. Then, use that to raise the funds for the next level of ambition.
Who Is Your User Base, and Will They Be Interested?
It's critical to know everything about your target demographic before bringing in a development team. You need to understand the user's journey and where and when he will engage with your app. Most of all, your app needs to enrich lives by solving a problem.
What Does the Competition Look Like?
Does your app fill a void, or are you diving into a saturated market? Will you be competing with a host of mediocre apps or dethroning a successful incumbent? Either way, you need to spend time with your competitors' apps to determine how to differentiate your offering.
The to-do list app Clear probably would have failed if it had taken the standard approach to design. But by building an innovative user interface, the $4.99 app has displaced the preloaded iPhone Reminders app for more than 2.5 million people.
What Makes Your App Unique?
An estimated 80 to 90 percent of apps are used once and deleted. To maintain its precious home screen real estate, your app needs to provide a compelling benefit that will make people return again and again.
Take Evernote, for instance. People use the note-taking app as a repository for, well, everything. The more people use it, the more dependent they become upon it. This makes the app essential to their lives, motivating them to return.
Do You Have the Talent to See This Project Through to the End?
If your staff members don't have the skills needed to execute your vision, you'll have to hire an in-house developer or a development firm. As you weigh your options, factor in more than just the hard costs. Full-time employees require time, training and education. This can be especially stressful for a nontechnical founder. You'll need to conduct interviews, onboard the developer, educate him on your company's mission, and monitor his work to ensure it's done to your liking.
Whether you decide to hire developers or outsource the work, ask developers' former clients about the quality of their work, as well as their communication skills, punctuality and ability to understand the business.
When launching a successful app, execution is everything. Before you delve into development, ask yourself whether you're truly ready to guide developers as they bring your idea to life. It's your vision -- and your business -- on the line. You have to know where you're headed to keep your team from getting lost in the woods.
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