The How To: Launching An App In The MENA Region
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There’s no doubt about it: first impressions in the tech and digital world matter a great deal. On average, almost 80% of apps are never used again 72 hours after they are downloaded. So, what is the key to success, particularly in the MENA region, where smartphone usage is topping the charts?
First and foremost, assess the opportunity and where it’s at its greatest. For example, whilst there is a global shift in how fans are consuming sports content, we identified the MENA region as the best market to launch a social sports app. The MENA region has a higher smartphone penetration than anywhere else in the world, more time spent on social media than anywhere else in the world, and most importantly (to us!), sport, social and photo/video apps make up three of the top six app download categories in the region. So, before you go about actually launching something, spend the time to do your research, think carefully about your target audience, and the problem you’re solving.
Furthermore, ask yourself if it is scalable. If your business is successful in Dubai, for example, will it be successful in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the rest of the region? Of course, the MENA region is certainly a great place to launch a new tech product or service; the cost per acquisition compared to the value per user, coupled with the uptake of new technology, makes the MENA very attractive. Should you then identify an opportunity to exploit, it’s important to ensure that your product offering caters to the users’ wants and needs.
Spend time designing and building prototypes, and testing them with your target audience. User testing can be performed on as little as five people (any more in a specific test session can be counterproductive) to get a true understanding of what does and does not work. You’re not necessarily going to get it right the first time, and as much as research and user testing will help you, your product will evolve once it is live, based on technological advances and shifting consumer behavior. Don’t become disheartened; remain persistent, yet agile.
Along with identifying what your platform, product or service will offer, you must also establish what your business model will be. Whether your strategy will allow you to bootstrap and grow, or if you believe investment will be needed, understanding the way in which your idea will make money is imperative. Either way, relationships are key to make this happen, so take the time to network with potential customers, clients, partners and investors. I believe this is especially important in the MENA. Whilst the region offers huge potential, it is a “small town,” so build relationships and grow to understand who is looking for what. Ask direct questions and push for answers; fairly often, manners and respect can make it difficult for people to tell you that what you’re offering is not actually for them.
The danger here is wasting time focusing on a lead -be it a potential customer, client, partner or investor– because they haven’t said yes, but they still haven’t said no! Whilst having such conversations you may have concerns over confidentiality. I’m often asked whether NDAs should be signed before speaking to anyone about your world-changing (or even region-changing) plans. The reality is, if there isn’t any competition now, there probably will be soon enough. Approach each conversation at your own discretion, but don’t forget that the key to overcoming the challenge of someone replicating your idea is to be as agile, focused and competitive as you can be so that you win!
Once you have recognized the opportunity, established your product offering, developed a business model, defined your target audience, and designed a smooth user experience, it’s time to focus on your brand identity. Make sure your target audience resonates with both your brand and product in equal measure. For us, as sport is enjoyed by all nationalities and as the region is a melting pot of such, we selected “10” and trademarked our logo, as it’s a number that is synonymous with sport, but also universal, unlike many words or names. At this point, consider also what name, tone, languages and color schemes will appeal to your target audience. You should perform this exercise before you start building your product, as identity and brand guidelines should be consistent across your marketing efforts and product.
Whilst it isn’t fun, if you haven’t done it yet, then now is certainly the time to complete your administrative tasks. When setting up a business, you’ll need to be well positioned to hire additional staff, raise investment, generate revenue or whatever it is that your strategy demands. Now, it’s time to start building! From experience, when possible and should financial resources permit, don’t cut corners. Having grown my previous business to over three million users, the biggest challenge we faced was ensuring our product could scale, having cut corners when we initially built our app- it was an important lesson we learned!
Consumers aren’t very forgiving; if an app is slow, or they come across glitches and bugs then they’re probably not going to come back. In fact, over 60% of apps are deleted after being used once because of technical issues such as crashing or error messages. That said, if financial resources do not permit you to build your dream team from day one, then build yourself a minimum viable product, and take it to market or a beta group of users. This will allow you to validate your offering, proving the concept to either monetize and grow, or raise investment to build your business.
There are several key stages to launching and building a tech startup in the MENA region, and whilst all of the above are essential to get your business up and running, one of the most important components is cash! Some may argue that your budget should dictate your strategy; however, one can also argue that the strategy that will lead your business to success should dictate your budget. If you can proceed with the latter, then this approach will give you a better chance of succeeding.
With 10, we’re very fortunate to have the support and belief from institutional and individual investors in the region, who share our vision for changing the way that fans will consume sports content, not just here, but globally. While all of the above may seem like an exhausting list or a tedious approach to launching your tech startup in the region, I’d highly recommend going through the motions anyway. You’re going to be spending a lot of hours building this business, and hopefully, for many years to come, so before you set off on the journey, make sure you’ve planned well before you start executing. Yes, it may feel like it’s a race to produce and launch your tech idea before someone else does, and it often is; however, to avoid that infamous 80% bucket, the most important thing is to get it done right!