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How to Survive Your First 100 Days of App Development

October 30, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229652

Putting out an app is like releasing a music single. You never know which song will be your next big hit -- or flop. There are two million apps on the app store, yet only a fraction of those make any money.

This means it's particularly important for you to keep your head above water while you wait for that one hit single to make it. Here are five ways to survive your first 100 days:

1. Don’t quit your job just yet. If you’ve got an idea, start working on it while you’re still in a job. You need to keep paying those bills. Keep in mind what Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advises: “People tend to think it's employee or entrepreneur, but there's a broad spectrum and you can very slowly and methodically move from one end to the other.” 

So get rolling and build a working prototype. Test the waters and validate whether there is enough demand for your app in the market. Get your first few paying customers, even if your app is free and has in-app purchases.

Getting some traction only validates the demand for your product and gives you the confidence to replicate your marketing efforts on a much larger scale. If you
are in the market for investors, having some traction when you take your working prototype to them will be a huge benefit in your favor.

2. Outsource the development of your product. When building your prototype or the first instance of your product, outsource the development to keep the costs at a minimum. Critics may jump in their seats at this advice and warn you against outsourcing. But some of the most famous products today were outsourced in their initial days -- Alibaba, Fab.com, Digg, Skype. And these are only a drop in the bucket of such examples.

Your focus as a startup in your first 100 days should be to get your core product ready for customers. If outsourcing to the right partners helps you build your Beta, then so be it. Once you gain traction from the market, you can afford to build an in-house team. At this point, you may even be able to hire the developer who worked on your product (like Digg did) or buyout the company that developed for you (like Fab.com did).

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3. Take up short-term projects. This is potentially the best route to building a mobile app product business and staying afloat at the same time.

While you’re on the path to building your own product, look for short-term projects that can fund you till you launch your product and you begin to gain traction in terms of revenue.

You can find these short-term projects through numerous platforms such as Elance, Guru, Freelancer and AppTank. Spread the word among your friends and network that you’re taking in app development projects so anyone with a requirement can get in touch with you. That’s how Mikael and Niklas Hed built Rovio, the makers of the popular Angry Birds mobile game.

4. Get seed funding to see you through. “Financially, a startup is like a pass/fail course. The way to get rich from a startup is to maximize the company's chances of succeeding, not to maximize the amount of stock you retain,” says Paul Graham in one of his essays.

You need the money to develop a prototype of your app and validate your product idea with actual customers. The entire process should take you an average of about 100 days from idea to feedback. If you can give up equity for something that helps you launch your product, you definitely should. Getting funding from angel investors is relatively easy and you do not need an elaborate business plan or a working prototype.

5. Get a part-time job. Even if you’ve quit your job in the heat of the moment and started working on your project, sometimes things don’t always go in the direction we intend.

It may take much longer to get to market for whatever reason and you need to survive. Get a part-time job. You need to survive to see your product through to its launch.

You have to invent the future you want. With that said, you’ve got to do all that it takes to keep your head above the water and these tactics should give you that starting point.