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How to start an app business in 10 steps

During the past years, we all observed dozens of histories about huge success in the world of mobile apps. Angry Birds, Instagram, Pokemon GO and many others brought their owners millions of dollars. But at the same time statistics prove that only 25% of developers earn over $5,000 per month.

Well, like in any other business there are giants and in the app business, these are mainly games. However, it doesn’t mean that the market is full. You can still earn enough in less complex novelty and productivity apps. Also, smart watches and smart TVs can be regarded as an interesting perspective.

Just a few random facts about possibilities of app business:

  • Enterprise demand for app development was rising through the past few years: from 23% in 2014 to 32% in 2016.
  • In 2016 60% of app owners had revenue goals for their app businesses.
  • People spend over 4 hours a day on their mobile phones in 2017.

Impressive enough, huh? So, you want to know how to start an app business. We’ll name 10 most important steps to achieve success in this. At the same time, we think that like in any other business you should concentrate on the marketing process and leave tech details to professional partners.

But still, you need to understand the basics of app development. You can read How to make an App in 10 steps in our article.

how to start an app business

Step 1. Idea.

Like any other successful entrepreneurship app business starts with an idea. Many developers claim that it is just 5% of the success. Well, we can say it in another way: even the best idea can’t work without enough efforts and good partners.

You can dream about one special app or try to work with many apps from the beginning. In any case, your main idea or maybe even the main wish must be getting into the app business. Only having enough will and energy you can break into the top of app stores. And our next steps will lead you that way.


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Step 2. Market research.

Sometimes we don’t have brilliant ideas. But this is only due to the lack of experience or understanding of certain topics. So if your main goal is working with mobile apps start exploring the market.

An app is a key to everything. Even Google Play is an app. Also, you can find dozens of apps that will help you to estimate the cost of your application, development code tutorials, market research tools, and many others.

You should start with understanding the field you’re going to work in. It is not the easiest part, by the way. For the beginning, you may get acquainted with greatest success stories and the biggest failures in the app business. Then you can download those apps and try them by yourself. This will give you a possibility to point out some interesting and useful tricks. Also, you’ll understand which methods don’t work at all.

Don’t forget about your auditory as well. You must always stay in the last trends and clearly see what your potential clients want right now. Of course, with a good idea, you can become the one who gives a trend too.

At Rovio we have always been innovative and forward-looking, and to succeed we need to be the best at adapting to change.

Mikael Hed , Rovio chief executive

Here we’d like to point 5 main features of the successful app. They’ll show you where to pay bigger attention when studying your competitors.

  • Appealing Design. Your app design usually consists of two parts: user experience UX and user interface UI. They are about the way your application works and the way it looks like. However, don’t be confused. Good design means not only the fancy look. Its more about the way users interact with your app.
    If all crucial functions are easily accessible and your visual design appeals to targeted auditory your app can become successful.
  • Scalability. Our world is constantly changing and your users follow that processes. New apps appear constantly and you competitors try to do their best. In these conditions, you must make your app as flexible and adaptable as possible. For this purpose, developers must choose a platform that allows changes and modifications based on users’ feedback.
  • Good marketing. Pay attention to the methods big players used to promote their apps. Regarding a number of mobile apps that appear every day, you’ll have to invest a lot of time and money into the advertisement. Your aim is to reach the widest auditory from all over the world.
  • Additional Value. Here we get back to the idea. You’ll be able to sell your app or motivate users to download it only if it proposes some unique value or helps them to deal with their life challenges.
  • Partners. Great software products that are highly efficient and bug-free come from partners, not providers. Find out the technologies your competitors used and know more about companies or people they worked with.

Step 3. Platform choice.

In earlier years developers had to choose between Blackberry, Symbian, Windows Phone, iOS, Android. Now things got easier and you should seriously regard only the last three.

In some way, even the last two, cause Windows Phone and apps for it couldn’t gain much popularity during the past few years. For instance, nowadays tens of millions of smartphones run Windows, compared to hundreds of millions on iOS and Android. And it doesn’t seem that things are getting better as lately, Windows was more concentrated on mixed reality.

So we have Android and iOS devices left. There is a great difference between their app stores.

If we look at statistics the image is quite clear. During the last years, Google Play remains a leader in annual downloads with 63 billion downloads in 2016. Third-party Android stores follow with 45 billion. At the same time, Apple App Store had only 29 billion annual downloads.

However, the picture changes if we look at annual revenue. Here Apple remains the leader with 34 billion dollars in 2016. Google Play alone got 17 billion and third-party stores – only 10. Due to the experts in 2021, Apple will still remain the leader, although the combination of Google Store and third-party stores will exceed iOS even this year.

how to start an app business

Also, Apple App Store tends to have higher prices. So here you should think about your monetization strategy. If you’re going to sell your apps iOS will be a better decision, while Android apps can work better with an advertisement.

By the way, we must also remind you about web applications. Those are quite universal and cheaper to develop. But they can’t fully compete with native apps and therefore we wouldn’t recommend them for starting your app business.

Step 4. Development.

After choosing a type of the app you can look for reliable partners to work with. Actually, this stage is more about team building. Depending on your goals youll need various coders, designers, copywriters or even photographers. The key thing here is to find people for long-lasting cooperation.

You have few possibilities to find needed developers:

  • Get an offshore freelancer.

On services like Upwork or Guru, you can find the needed person. Competition between independent programmers is quite high, so rates there tend to be lower. However, their work usually takes more time and there is a risk that your app will not be ended or will have bugs.

Also developing an app requires at least two people: one developer and one designer. If you hire freelancers there is a chance they wouldn’t be able to make a good team. Besides, remember that apps will also need support in future.

  • Hire a developer on the permanent basis.

In this case, you’ll save money by working with one person.However, apps usually require knowledge of few programming languages, not talking about design. So even if you find such specialist he probably will cost you quite much.

Also if you live, for instance, in USA or UK hiring an outsource developers on constant base with the same experience will be much cheaper.

  • Look for a dev team or a partner.

If you are aimed at creating serious app business working with developer company would be the best decision. It offers you some benefits like a good team, long-time support, experienced programmers etc. Also if you’re planning to create a really big app, you’ll require some guarantee and big companies can give you those.

By the way, development companies may become your partners so that you’ll get not only your apps but also a helping hand in your business. As was mentioned above outsource companies, for instance, in Eastern Europe have very reasonable prices.

Also don’t forget that your app will require more expenses and more work in future for updating, bug fixing or development. So that getting a reliable business partner for the long term is preferable at this point.

how to start an app business

Step 5. Business plan.

Once you got an insight of the app market it is time to make more specific plans. A business plan is a good beginning. It will help you to prevent unneeded expenses or even save your money.

Your business plan may contain both tactic and strategy. But from our experience, it is quite hard to make a strategy at once. So start with short-term plans and after some time youll be skilled enough to plan for longer periods.

The main thing here is not to forget about strategy at all. Remember, that app business is very competitive and dynamic so the good long-term plan will help you to maintain one course and not to waste time on accidental decisions.

Almost 56% of app developers believe that prices on app development will remain the same in 2017.

A business plan for short time period doesn’t have to be very complex and detailed. At the same time, it must be simple enough to describe your main idea and include the most important steps to its achievement. Also, it must contain information about your expenses and possible ways to earn money.

A good business plan will come in need at the next stage when you’ll try to collect money for your startup.

Step 6. Investment.

After developing your idea and diving into the world of mobile apps you can go to the level where real work starts. And your business plan already showed that you need a big amount of money. The good project may require $100,000 and more.

There are a few ways to get that money for starting your app business:

  • On you own. If you are rіch enough to invest your own money into the app business.
  • Take a loan. One of the first external sources that come to mind is taking a loan from a bank or other financial institutions. However, in this case, you’ll have to make an ideal business plan as a bank will pay attention to all details. Also, remember that credits usually are quite expensive
  • Crowdfunding. There are various crowdfunding resources like Kickstarter, GoFundMe or Patreon where anyone can gather money on his or her idea. This method nevertheless is good if you have one clear idea people would understand and want to maintain. Also, you can try getting government grants or taking money from business incubators.
  • Find a partner. You can try launching your app business on Equity funding. AngelList and Crunchbase are good resources to start looking for potential investors. Or you can contact directly some outsource companies.

These are just a few most used methods of fundraising and you can obviously combine them or try some new approaches.

Our example: 360 camera app

360 camera app from Giroptic. The camera with original design allows capturing photos and videos in 3D and 360-degree. With the help of the desktop and mobile applications, the users are able to view and share their 360-degree media files. The content can be also played in VR.

Giroptic is the young French startup producing 360-degree cameras, that connect to the user’s 360 camera app. Its first Kickstarter campaign showed huge interest in the product and the startup raised around $1,5 million for the development of the product.

Giroptic decided to outsource the whole development process to one company. And this is how ThinkMobiles joined the game. Our partner delegated us the iOS, Android and Windows Phone mobile app development, the desktop 360 player and their website.

how to start an app business

Step 7. Prototype and feedback

Don’t dive into the app market with 100% ready apps. There is a great risk they will need some improvements or users will not like your app. After all generally, you need at least 2 months to create an app. And even more: half a year may be not enough to get a fully developed product. Now imagine that all time and money you put into the app were a total waste…

To avoid this trap the best decision is creating an interactive prototype. In our case, this is a simulator that includes main features of your idea and fully designed visual framework.

The interactive prototype works like a test-drive for your app. It can be tested by both users and investors. The first will give you feedback enough to estimate and improve your idea. If users are ready to pay and use your prototype go on with its development. You can even get new unexpected ideas while testing a prototype.

Interactive prototype works like a test-drive for your app.

And for investors prototype is the best way to see your idea with their own eyes. Simple but yet clear prototype persuades better than tons of wireframes or your words.

After all remember that it is cheaper to create and test prototype than redesign an app in the end. It is a good way to save your money especially if you have a low budget.

Step 8. Pricing.

Counting your expenses before launching an app is just half of the process. Very important is to know how to bring that money back and here we get to the app monetization.

First of all, think, what kind of application you want to make: paid or free. You could already notice that many popular apps don’t have obligatory payments. For example, Facebook or Snapchat is on TOP on both Android and iOS. So that people expect to get a high-quality app for free. But what do you get?

Here are few main ways to monetize your app:

  • Advertisement. You can get different types of advertising in your app. It will vary in sizes, position and even form. For example, yo can have static banners or video ads. The last tend to bring you more revenue by the way. Also, your income from advertising will vary due to the type of users, country, a reaction to ads etc.
    You can get ads by connecting with huge advertising networks like Google’s AdMob, Unity Ads, Chartboost, and others. Their role is not only to connect you with advertisers but also make that advertisement effective for both sides.
  • In-app purchases. While advertisement can work differently, depending on the number of clicks or impressions, there is a more stable way of getting revenue from your app – additional or paid features. The best way to describe it is with games, where one can pay for getting additional time, energy or any other paid items. Your clients can get those options forever or just for limited period of time.
  • Direct selling. Of course, your app can sell products or services directly and bring you money that way.
  • Pro-version. You can have two versions of your app: free and paid. Users who decided to pay for the app can get additional features or get rid of ads.

Also, you can think about combining these methods.

Still, don’t forget about paid applications. As was mentioned above those work better on iOS platform. But remember that users nowadays have access to dozens of free apps so you must propose something really valuable to pay for.

Step 9. App marketing.

After your apps are ready don’t forget about the advertisement. Now your business needs promotion. We’ve already mentioned harsh competition between different apps. To beat it you must invest some costs into advertising and PR.

Start with social media. Get official pages on Facebоok, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube or any other popular resources that suit your product and your auditory. Constantly stay in touch with your subscribers and bring them the latest news about your apps. After all, you can even organize live meetings with potential customers.

Create a website. Social media are not enough to access all your potential clients. So creating at least simple website will give you an opportunity to expand your auditory. Besides apps must appear on other resources like blogs, reviews, TOP lists etc.

This all requires a lot of money so you can even make a separate business plan for app marketing or hire a specialist to help you with this step.

Step 10. Improvement

Expenses don’t end with downloading or selling your app. In all cases, clients will wait for getting updates. Did you know that most of the apps are used intensively just for a few days and only some of them last for months or longer?

They do actually. So to gain that lasting success you must always work on your product and constantly impress your auditory. Even if your business is reselling apps people will still wait to get updates from you or at least it can be your positive feature.

Also be ready to pay for a server, adding new features or any other maintenance and improvement issues you’ll face in the future. That is why we recommended you choosing a partner instead of freelancer earlier.


As you see even not being a developer you must put a lot of efforts into creating and maintaining your app business. At the same time, there are plenty of developers who would like to work on the apps and have nothing with their promotion. Find that people, cooperate and together you’ll gain success.


Let's Build Your App

Provide us with your contact details and we will contact you today

Thank you for your request.

Specialists will contact you ASAP.

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