Got A Great Idea For An App? Have Someone Else Bring It To Market

Despite all the great ideas for mobile apps floating around, the failure rate for such products is eye-poppingly high. Which is why your first step should be finding the right partner to bring your idea to market.

Many entrepreneurs with great ideas for mobile applications have no experience or expertise developing them. They face a conundrum:

  • Should they recruit, hire, and attempt to manage a technical team, or,
  • Seek outside technical assistance? If they seek outside assistance, how do they decide who to work with?
One entrepreneur I interviewed said early on, he thought he needed to find “a guy” (though I'm certain gender was not actually important) to help him bring his idea to life. But, as he thought about it more, he realized he needed a team, as he felt it was unlikely he could find “a guy” with sufficient expertise to help with ideation, incubation, development, testing, and deployment.

Years of experience developing and/or helping companies deploy business applications has taught me that (a) business people rarely know how to communicate effectively and efficiently with application developers, and, (b) the vast majority of application developers aren't particularly adept at communicating with business people. Google Translate is of no assistance here.

If you are an entrepreneur with no experience defining the requirements for and leading the effort to build a new application, you are at a tremendous disadvantage trying to connect the dots between your dream and your application. And, of course, the entrepreneur's valuable time and money is consumed on the road to what will ultimately mean marketplace success or failure. Mind you, the failure rate is on the order of 95% or more.

Some entrepreneurs are bootstrapping their companies with very limited capital while others have deeper pockets. The bootstrappers may have no contacts when they begin the process of finding assistance whereas companies that have angel or venture capital funding are more likely to be connected to trusted resources.

I've noticed a trend: Companies supporting entrepreneurs with developing applications are branching out to develop their own mobile and web applications, deepening their experience and expertise and positioning them to act, not just as application developers, but more as strategic development partners. As my mentor Dr. Alan Weiss says: “I’ve often used a ski instructor analogy to support my philosophy that someone you ask for advice should have a successful history of doing what you want to do. The instructor should be a few yards ahead of you on the slopes, demonstrating the moves as you follow, not in the chalet sipping brandy telling you what to do when you get off the lift.”

Two such companies engaged in this trend are Mokriya and Reliable Coders. Both firms help entrepreneurs with ideation, incubation, development, testing and deployment across the full software development lifecycle. Both companies also have released innovative applications.

Mokriya recently released a mobile application to allow users to access Craigslist. When I compare this application with the web-based version of Craigslist, I can't help but be impressed with the simple elegance and pragmatism. Apparently, Apple agrees, as it was listed under the “New & Noteworthy” section in the iTunes store.


Meanwhile, Reliable Coders established a different brand for its own applications called Dobango. Their first application, play2Win, capitalizes on the convergence of four market factors: mobile, social, games, and deals. The second application is the Dobango Pinterest Social Marketing Platform that enables business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers to build and foster relationships via Pinterest, the very first Pinterest application of its kind.

I interviewed the entrepreneurs from two different ventures, Danny Joe and Claudia Dietrich with Hapi Momi, a soon-to-be-released social networking application for families supported by Reliable Coders, and Brian York of Enthuse, a venture-funded firm that TechCrunch described as giving “fans the ability to connect with their favorite sports teams via their mobile devices and get rewards for checking into games, snapping photos and sharing the love.” Mokriya supports the mobile development for Enthuse.

I've distilled some of the key points that arose during my interviews:

  • While the firms had a strong vision for what they wanted to bring to the marketplace, both had no experience developing applications
  • Both companies are pleased with the results they are getting from their development partners and expressed no desire to bring the development activities supported by their develop partners in-house
  • Both firms enjoy a very close relationship with their development partners
  • Rapid prototyping allows for new functionality to be developed cheaper, better, faster
  • Both firms are adamant about the need to adhere to schedules; both firms have been delighted with the execution
  • Both firms felt it was very important that Mokriya and Reliable Coders are based in Silicon Valley and felt it would be really difficult to work with teams based overseas and achieve the same results in the same time frames with the same quality
  • Brian York did not feel it was important that these firms are developing their own applications—he stressed that meeting milestone commitments was his big issue
  • Great execution is just expected including clean, tested code
Entrepreneurs should focus on what they do best, avoid areas where they are weak, and find development partners with a comprehensive capability to help them develop commercially viable applications. And, I advise your development partner has been on the path you need to travel.

— Dave Gardner can be reached on Twitter and via his website at Gardner & Associates Consulting. Check out his video describing why he's in business.

[Image: Flickr user Alessandro Chilovi]

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4 Comments

  • Bill Styles

    You're very correct with everything here! In my experience, it's hard to find overseas partners who are really able to connect the dots on their own; in order to make the user experience at least somewhat do-able, you need to micromanage the heck out of said developers and have them do plenty of iterations until it's just so. Oftentimes, this adds up in itself as eating up the cost you thought you'd save by outsourcing in the first place.

    I know when it comes to apps for me, instead of making them myself now (especially seeing as the failure rate is so high), I've been submitting them to platforms to either have them make the app themselves and just give me a cut of profits (like http://applits.com) or am just doing so in order to get idea validation and feedback that hey, maybe I'm on the right track with my app idea...maybe some folks out there actually want it, thus somewhat mitigating the risk of making an app blind. Some food for thought!

  • Chad Halvorson

    This makes a great case for hiring development firms, but what we're talking about is outsourcing product development. When you think about it, that doesn't really make sense. It's like saying, 'Hey, I'm going to start a tech company, but I'm going to hire another tech company to build it." What?!

    I would always opt for bringing on a technical cofounder or hiring a technical team before partnering with a firm. I've been on both sides of the table on this. I've been the firm and I've been the startup. I've even been an outside technical director managing a firm's development team.

    I believe you will end up with a better product, a higher likelihood for success and more control if you bring on a technical cofounder or hire the appropriate technical team. You'll sleep better too.

  • E. Patino, (NY)

    The issue (at least that I see) is that finding a technical co-founder is not always easy for an early stage startup; this is especially so if you are blazing the trail for the first time. I think the value presented above is that firms like Reliable Coders and Mokriya make the creation of your idea more accessible and lower the barrier to entry.

    That said, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about seeking a technical partner. For instance, when looking to add a technical co-founder to your team what steps would you recommend taking and where would you recommend looking? (i.e Meetups, Shared workspaces, etc.)