The Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup is an excellent community in the Lehigh Valley that meets monthly at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners incubator within the Lehigh University Mountaintop campus. The community around the meetup is excellent and the building is amazing*.
While the tail-end of my presentation walked through my experience building my first iOS app Summit, the majority of my presentation was focused on helping early stage companies think about their go to market strategies.
I’m currently advising several companies, a few of which are businesses built around mobile apps, and have heard about 11 other start-up pitches this year so far. And during that time I’ve noticed a trend. Entrepreneurs that are attempting to build a business around an app sometimes underestimate the amount of thought that should go into the marketing and sales strategy for the app. It is as if some feel that apps are less thought and work than products that you can touch. So during my presentation at LVTech I hoped to convey that the same “boring” (yet, tried and true) business practices that apply to products also apply to software.
A few questions I urged those thinking about building a business around an app were:
- Does your idea service a large enough segment of the market? We hear the “scratch your own itch” mantra a lot. However, it won’t always lead to finding hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of customers.
- How will you reach those customers?
- Are there ways to expand your idea into other products or services that can be sold to the same segment?
- How will you sell or package your idea?
- What will the price be? (free, one-time payment, subscription, service contracts)
- What channels can you leverage to sell your idea? (App Store, retail, online, conferences, distributorships, via a sales force)
By considering these, and may other questions, you can determine if your idea has enough layers to support an entire business or if you just have an app idea**.
I also briefly discussed three misconceptions I’ve been seeing over the last year dealing with very early stage start-ups. These misconceptions were:
- Press-based launch strategies: some thing that by being covered by press will be enough to get them to profitability. They have no other strategy. On the contrary, getting press coverage early on will give you very muddy analytics which will make decision marking very difficult. Very seldom are the tech audience your real customers.
- How long until profitablilty: More and more entrepreneurs begin with the plan of losing money for 3 or more years. I believe this stems from press coverage of other companies getting large rounds of funding. Most businesses should strive for profitability within the first quarter or year of business.
- ”I’m not technical, I need a technical co-founder”: Don’t be this person. Anyone can learn to code. Geeks are not smarter than you. They’re just interested and relentless. Be the same.
We then did about 10 minutes or so of questions and answers. The questions I got were really great and I appreciate all those in attendance helping me with the answers to the questions I didn’t have much experience in.
Thanks to Tim Lytle for the invitation to speak and to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for the continued support.
* I worked in this same building for years while at Viddler. But when I worked there the back half of the building didn’t exist. In fact, Viddler started in Jordan Hall - the building just beside the new building. And now, they are extending it even further. The building is an amazing place to work and have a meetup of this kind. I’m jealous that our incubator in Scranton feels so dated when compared to this building. Especially comparing the meeting spaces.
** It it totally fine to “just have an app idea”. I do. And I’m loving working on it. But it is also good to have the proper perspective about your app idea.