So, You Have an Idea for an App…

Software always starts with an idea. Before you spend a penny designing and building software based on your idea, you need to battle test that idea. Your time and money are valuable to be wasted chasing a bad idea. This is like playing poker, you should be discarding hands you cannot win and only betting on the best hands. We’ll explain the process for choosing that winning idea to turn into your unicorn company.

Describe Your Idea…Briefly

You should be able to describe the problem in one sentence and the solution in the following sentence. Use language that anyone can understand. Then test it on yourself and others to see whether people recognize the problem and agree with the solution. If it is too complex, requiring an explanation, rewrite it. Think of these two sentences as your website header. The visitor has five seconds to decide if they want to learn more or click off to the next website.

Example: “Hotels offer a sterile experience with nothing but a bedroom, while nearby second homes sit idle. AirBNB enables owners to rent their second homes at lower costs and a better experience than hotels.”

What Do People with The Problem Think of Your Solution?

You have encapsulated your problem and your solution in two sentences. You’ve tested those sentences on friends and family and they get it. They may not have the problem you solve, but they understand it. And those simple two sentences can be read and understood in five seconds. You have your message, so let’s see if it works on people who actually have the problem.

At this point, avoid Your friends helped Avoid friends who will encourage you because they are friends, you want friendly people who will challenge you.

Two Caveats:

  1. Your audience will assume you are just as good as the other software available AND you solve their problem. In reality, you’ll initially be WORSE than existing software BUT you WILL solve their problem. Is that enough for them to buy?
  2. Your friends will encourage you, that’s what friends do; find people with the problem who are ready to spend money to solve it.

A good way to describe it to test prospects is to say, “It will have about 50% of the functionality of [insert leading competitor], but it will solve [insert key pain point]. Is that enough to get you to buy?”

If they are interested you can then go on to explain: “We won’t have frequent stay programs, airline mileage programs, identical inventory, onsite services, shared amenities like pools and weight rooms, BUT you’ll get the experience of actually living in a place like a local at a reasonable price.”

Your Idea Resonates…Now What?

Do you know the problem and how to solve it? Only by personally experiencing the problem and the pain it causes can you speak from authority. If you see a problem someone else is experiencing you don’t know how severe the pain is. You haven’t searched for a problem at every tradeshow, vendor meeting, and website. You haven’t tried to hack together a stop-gap solution in generic tools like Excel. When you have personally felt the pain and anguish at being unable to find a decent solution, then you’re almost ready to build a software-based solution to that pain.

How Many People, Like You, Have This Problem & How Do You Find Them?

If the answer is everyone, then the odds are quite good that someone else has already solved the problem, dig deeper. If the answer is maybe 1,000 people, then you have an unserved or underserved niche where you can target this small group of prospects without spending millions of marketing dollars. You can actually call them, repeatedly, and sell them your solution to their pain.

Call five of these prospects and explain that you know their pain and you are thinking about building an app to solve it. Explain that it will be very limited in what it does, or doesn’t do, BUT here is how it solves your big problem. They may encourage you, but ask them: “Will you sign a purchase order for the solution if I can deliver it in 6-9 months?”

If your building a consumer solution that has a lower price point but a larger base of customers, create a test site, one that talks about your solution as if it is available now. Take them to the payment page and have them enter name and email first. Then explain that the product is in development but you would like to have them try it for free for a period of time when it’s complete and you’ll be in touch. People willing to pay for the solution now is a great indication of pain that you solve…there is a market for your product!

Don’t worry too much about the size of the market, most ideas can expand to adjacent underserved markets: this is known as going wider. Once you have a customer base, they will tell you what other pain points they have and you can solve those: this is known as going deeper. If you can solve a very specific problem for a small group of prospects that you can identify and reach, that’s a great start. If solving that problem can pay your costs, great. You’ll have no problem figuring out how to go wider or deeper to build a more valuable company, if you can assemble a loyal base of users whose problems you solve uniquely.

You may have a good idea for an app, but don’t pull the trigger yet. There’s more…

Add more about identifying customer pain points and unmet needs. This is about pain points, the next will be unmet needs. 

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Mike Hogan

Mike Hogan

My team and I build amazing web & mobile apps for our companies and for our clients. With over $2B in value built among our various companies including an IPO and 3 acquisitions, we've turned company building into a science.

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