The truth hurts: most apps fail to become a sustainable business. Imagine what it would take for you to build an app that becomes one of those four to 10 apps that a customer uses on a weekly or monthly basis.
While building a successful mobile startup is hard, there are these four types that will unfortunately never make it. Are you building one of them?
1. Apps that don’t solve a problem.
Every successful business ever built, let alone mobile apps, provides a solution to a problem that customers are willing to pay for. Some of the most successful businesses were built out of problems that the founders experienced and solved for themselves, and then went out and got product/market fit.
For example, Instacart (which recently received $44 million) was built out of a personal frustration that its founder experienced in buying groceries. The founder himself was the first customer of the app and then brought on his friends. The product/market fit was achieved when all of his friends and network continued to use the app regularly.
It’s not just about solving a problem, though. It is about whether your customers would be willing to pay to use your solution or shift from their existing solutions because you solved an intrinsic problem that no other app could do until now.
Apps that don’t solve a problem will never see the light of the day, let alone survive.
2. Apps with single founders.
You can find contradictory advice on this one, but I strongly believe in the power of two (or more, if you must). If you pull out all the successful mobile app startups or businesses, you will find that there are hardly any that have a single founder.
This is not by chance, but by design. Single founders are often at a disadvantage. Starting a startup is extremely hard. You could try and build an app out of your knowledge, but you need support, often from a co-founder who has skills complementary to yours. If you’re an engineer, you need sales and marketing support or vice versa.
You also need someone with an interest in your product to brainstorm ideas and strategies with. You just cannot do that with friends and other people who have nothing at stake from the success or failure of your venture.
Paul Graham of Y Combinator considers "single founders" the number-one reason (among 18) that kill startups.
“The low points in a startup are so low that few could bear them alone," he says. "When you have multiple founders, esprit de corps binds them together in a way that seems to violate conservation laws. Each thinks 'I can't let my friends down.' This is one of the most powerful forces in human nature, and it's missing when there's just one founder.”
3. Apps that are only incrementally better than competitors.
Did you face a problem while using a certain app and thought to yourself, “if only I could add this one feature, it would make the app a great success?”
People use certain apps out of habits, and the more they use them, the more they are part of an ecosystem. It’s not easy for them to get out of that and reestablish it on another one. Why should they then use your app just because it’s got an additional or two features? They would rather write to the current app developer with a request to add the features.
Google wasn’t incrementally better than the 13 other search engines. It completely changed the way search was executed.
4. Apps that fail to communicate value proposition.
Assuming that you’ve built something that users want, there are many apps that just fail to convey their value to the user.
Can you, in just seven to 10 words, describe what your product is all about? If you cannot describe your app to your grandma, chances are, your customers will not get it. Not only do you need to communicate effectively, but also connect with your potential users at an emotional level, generating excitement and curiosity.
Work on crafting a compelling story about your app that can convey the value proposition in the simplest words to your user. Instagram’s proposition is: "Capture and share the world’s moments." It can’t get simpler and more straightforward than that. It also emotionally connects with the user.
Make sure you don’t fall into any of these types. Keep focused on the path to building a successful and sustainable business.