When you start to build an app, you may receive a plethora of advice from your friends and network. While much of it can be great advice, some of it will be so misleading that it could put you and your app dreams in jeopardy.
I have mentored a few hundred app entrepreneurs and it pains me to listen to them talk about their experience living through some of the advice they received over the years. I do not want you to go through similar challenges, so I’m putting down a list of some of the worst advice that those entrepreneurs received that put them off the course of building an app that their users wanted.
1. Patent your app
If I had to single out the worst advice, it would be this. As an entrepreneur that is starting to build their company or product, your focus should be on getting product/market fit and traction, rather than filing for a patent.
There are so many issues with this advice, but let’s focus on a couple of key ones. Many people pursue patent protection because they fear their ideas will be stolen. My response to that fear is that you can either build a company or you can hold a patent, you have to make a choice.
Ideas don’t make for successful products. It is the execution that makes all the difference. Google didn't have a different idea from the 23 other search engines. It was the execution that differentiated it. So drop the fear of someone else running with your idea.
Only look at patent protection if you’ve built something unique and if it is successful. If your app doesn’t get traction, there’s no point in a patent.
Remember, getting a patent issued is an expensive proposition and could take years.
2. Best practices
Take in all the business and product advice you can but ultimately do what your gut says. Do what your customers want. Best practices can take a hike.
If every successful app today emulated the best practices of the earlier generation, we wouldn’t see much innovation, would we?
Your customers are unique, your app is different from idea to execution and your situation and market may be different. How can you then adopt best practices of other apps in the market where there are no similarities? Even if some conditions are similar, why would you want to do the same thing?
3. Market research
The traditional way of conducting market research for building a mobile startup just doesn’t work. I don’t even know if it works in other industries, but that’s a separate discussion.
If you ask your friends or focus groups whether they would identify with your idea or product even before it is developed, you will be misled. People often don’t know what they want. They know the problem they have, but it is up to you to find the most efficient way to solve it for them. That’s the mark of a great entrepreneur.
Often, that doesn’t come instantly. You do need customer feedback in terms of whether your solution or execution resonates with them. The way to get market feedback is through developing the first version of your app and observing the behavior of your customers while they use it.
4. Build a business plan.
A startup often never goes according to plan. Chances are, even your first version will not work with the customers and you may have to completely pivot to stay in the game. How then will a business plan help?
Invest your energy into understanding what customers want and building an efficient solution. What you need for your startup is a business model. It will help bring a whole lot of clarity about your product and your startup’s roadmap in the near term.
5. Build for two platforms at once
While it’s tempting to reach out to every single potential customer on day one, the reality is that it’s just not possible. If you’ve got a few million people as your target audience, do you think you will be able to reach out to them at the same time early on?
Marketing or distribution is the biggest challenge that you will face in your startup’s journey. Build your app on one platform (either iOS or Android) and go after the users that are present there. Once you’ve built something that those people want, you can always replicate your success on the other platform. Instagram was launched initially on iOS. The Android version came two years later.
Building an app that no one wants on both platforms would just waste a lot of time and money.