5 Secrets to Building a Successful Consumer App
The founder of the dating app S'More breaks down funding, marketing and launching your app idea.
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S'More is a new relationship app that aims to redefine the online dating industry in the US. Recently, Entrepeneur.com Editorial Director Dan Bova and I sat down for a conversation about how my team and I developed S'More and how the company broke into the top 200 in the Apple App Store in just six months. (You can watch the video here.)
Here, I have broken down the key things app creators need to know to find success of their own, from raising capital to product design to marketing and building a team.
Guiding principals for achieving success on your own app
1. Establishing credibility
Everyone has that great idea that could be a billion-dollar startup. While a founder doesn't need to know every aspect of building an app, (coding, product, etc.) he or she needs to be able to instill confidence in both investors and talent to take a chance on them. In my case, I had worked in the dating and social discovery industry for ten years with some of the biggest names. I knew what it would take to find success in this space and I could speak about it with credibility.
2. Testing concepts
Having an idea is great, but you need to have a plan. Talk to as many people as you can whether they're friends, family or industry experts. It's cheap and easy to set up online surveys to get feedback from strangers about your concept (try Google surveys) who will be even more honest. Figure out whether the idea that you think is great could be useful for others and determine if it is businessworthy. Try using a white-label app to test your concept, approach, and brand.
3. Building and positioning
Build a brand, not a utility app. Decide what makes your company different and special from a product and marketing standpoint and ensure that no one else in the market occupies that space. S'More for example, is the anti-superficial relationship app, and we have features in the app that support that concept. We get you into conversations faster (no swiping), matches are not based on a selfie, 100% of profiles are verified (combatting cat-fishers), users' behavior is rated (to weed out bad actors). These features support an environment of people looking for something more than a casual encounter. Make sure that your audience cares about your positioning and that it is enduring. S'More is not about a non-superficial dating, but about non-superficial relationships at-large (friends, romance, chats) so as long as being authentic and non-superficial resonates with you, you should be a consumer of the brand for the long-haul. It also means that the brand has the ability to extend into other areas.
You have to hustle. When I was fundraising to build and launch S'More, I must have reached out to 200 VCs. Some were connections of friends of friends of friends; some were names I found through LinkedIn and research. I was told no a lot. Sometimes in a nice way, sometimes less so. But I believed in what I was doing and I didn't let the negative reactions or the dead-ends slow me down. Never stop! Think about what makes you and your company different. Write down those traits and then find investors who invest in those areas (i.e. country of origin, ethnic groups, fields of interest, college alum). Upgrade your LinkedIn subscription. It will be the best investment you ever made!
5. Hiring the right team
When we started S'More, it was critical that each person on the team was different from the next. S'More is made up of straight, gay, married, and single individuals. And we come from countries across the world from South Africa to India, Canada, and the U.S. If you're building your company to serve a wide and global audience, you have to consider the needs, perspectives and experiences of all different types of people. It's so much more than a responsible business practice — it's just smart business. We are building a global product, so it's vital that our team reflects the people using our app. We also hired a team of All-Stars who are specialists in their fields from some of the top companies in the country including Luminary, Gilt Group, Advantage Media, Diageo, Deloitte and more. Personality matters! Make sure you hire people that you enjoy spending hours upon hours with because that's the reality! Network as much as you can to meet as many as many all-stars as possible. Attend industry conferences and Meet-Ups (virtual versions work too!).
The best advice I could ever give to a would-be entrepreneur is to never stop. People will be questioning you until the cows come home and will often have you second guess your decisions. Stay focused and surround yourself with the smartest and most talented people you can, and if there is something you don't know, be resourceful. There are great free resources you and use and conference you can attend. The world needs constant disruption and there is no time like the present. So, go out and get to it!