Part 3.. How to become an App creating entrepreneur.. in 700 days or less.
GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW.
- Figure out the path of your business and start to create the necessary items that are needed for this venture. Find and buy your domain names. Create your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. Make sure you take the time to sync up the links between these web pages. Get a logo, it helps to keep you inspired and looks good on your business cards. Create a couple of t-shirts with the logo to wear to events.
- Figure out your market and find others who are willing to share their experiences with you. You’d be amazed at the number of app creators that are just people who did it on their own. They are very open about their experiences and are a great source of advice.
- Make a list of all the App reviewing services and technology news sites. Many of the review services want $30-200 to review your app. I’ve found many Mommy Blogsites that are creating their own source of revenue. There are a few review sites that are free. These reviews need to be posted to your websites, and your app description page on the stores, immediately. Use the momentum of the reviews to gain more followers on Twitter or Facebook.
- Make a list of all Apps that are similar to yours. List their Pros and Cons. Keep a spreadsheet of other important data about each app, including release date, number of revisions, etc.
- Make sure you update the app, and release a press release, at least once every 2 months. People will not buy your App if the stores show that your latest update was over 2 months ago. They might think that you’ve given up on your idea or they will not be able to look forward to new features.
It was after the failure of my Kickstarter campaign that I took my, very much, unfinished business plan and emailed it to the Angel that I spoke about earlier, and another client who is a VC in San Francisco. I was hoping that they would see the future in my ideas, with the small amount of information that I had put on to paper already. I never even received a reply from either of them. I assume that they thought it was a joke, and definitely a waste of their time.
I was ready to take the app out of demo stage and create a version to sell on the app stores. I felt uncomfortable about having the Texas team continue on, as they seemed to have spent too much time figuring out how to program the accelerometer. At one point they were concerned about its accuracy, so I did some research on the Internet and found what others had come up with for formulas to track steps, like a pedometer. I emailed them this information and and they finished the demo, but not without my loss of faith in their experience.
I had subscribed to many websites, where customers were getting bids on having their apps built. I wanted to make sure I would see any apps that were similar to mine, being thought of by others. One of these sites was a group of many developers who were looking for exposure for their new business’. One particular development group was asking for help in choosing their logo for the new company, and was offering 5 free hours of programming in return. I voted on one of their logo concepts, and then approached one of the partners about my app. The company had a group of 20 & 30 somethings that had just graduated from tech schools, and I like their portfolio.
I was very lucky that the partner was a father, and had the same concerns about children and indoor video gaming that I had. I explained my ideas, my background, and my connections, and my small budget. Because he liked the idea, he accepted my offer of building the first paid version of the app for only $4,000. It took a long time to get the app built, but I was patient, as I understood the fantastic deal they were giving me. He mentioned that they would typically charge over $15,000 for this amount of work. I was lucky that I had the graphics files from the Texas team.
The Android version was ready many weeks before the iOS version, so it went live on Google Play. We had a ‘lite’ version and a $2.99 paid version. The free version started downloading like crazy, from countries all over the world. I’m not sure how the word got out, but I assumed because it was a new FREE app, and those apps usually appeared first, when people were browsing Google Play. (Learn how to use analytics). I had 2,000 downloads of the free version in the first month, and only about 5 of the paid version. The reviews were disappointing as it was a new style of app and I didn’t have detailed instructions. The customers didn’t realize that you had to actually run to get the app to work. Many customers were upset because the screen turned black. The screen turned black, as I didn’t want the children looking at the screen, and tripping over something. I learned the lesson and we added a ‘Race in Progress’ text to the black screen.
I haven’t said much about my wife during this whole process, but she has been somewhat patient, but also very upset that things have not been progressing faster. I told her over and over, “one more month, one more month, let the app get to the stores and we will start raking in the money”. The iTunes version was a huge disappointment. I figured since we had so many downloads of the free Android version, and because app statistics said that iPhone users were most likely to pay for new technology, the iOS version would sell at least at 20-30% of what the free Android version had done. I had 30 iOS downloads the first day. Mainly friends and family. 20 the next day, and then its been 0-5 downloads per day of the paid iOS version, ever since. Failure….., or not. I learned.
Its been 7 months since the first release to the stores, and I’ve had 6,000 downloads of the free version on Android. I’ve had 200 downloads of the paid iOS version, and when I offered it for free a few times, I’ve manged to rack up 1000 iOS downloads from the free-loaders… How come people wont pay for my hard work? Another reality of this world.
I started to look for partners in my network of previous co-workers and friends. Finding partners can be exhausting if they don’t believe in you, or they think they can do it better. I lost my lifelong best friend in this pursuit as I go to that phrase, “I’m not delusional, I’m an entrepreneur”. He was vital at the beginning of my process, as he helped to form some of the major ideas in my head. His mother passed away, and he was looking for a way to invest his inheritance, and I suggested that we become 50/50 partners with GenZPlay. I needed money for the last payment of the Big Cat Race app. In hindsight, a business plan might have been helpful for him to feel secure about the future of the company. I pushed too hard for the money, and he felt that I was taking advantage of his mother’s passing. If you are reading this Jason, I sincerely wanted you as my business partner and nothing more. I pray that my company will become successful soon, so that you will realize I wasn’t delusional, and we can start to repair our friendship.
I only have the money to cover my bills, because of Technical Visionaries, so my developers won’t release the latest version of the App. I owe them for the last upgrade. My next step was time to focus on marketing to further the brand of GenZPlay and let people know how passionate I was about this industry. I’ve since started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma, where I’m teaching the kids to build their own app. One that will keep the parents informed of coming events, and happenings that are going on within the club. The kids have also been invaluable to my inspiration and understanding of what technology will work. Its been over 2 years since the night I took my wife out to dinner, and excitedly announced, we were going to make some great money. About once a month I would focus on the business plan and 2 years had rolled around with only about 20 pages done. I’m now finally and absolutely passionate about writing my business plan, as all the failure, and all the minor successes have given me the confidence to realize what needs to be done. I’m also giving my mentors advice these days.
I was incredibly busy, for many months, with Technical Visionaries and realized how much effort it would take to get GenZPlay off of the ground, if i didn’t work on it full time. I was granted more free time by the way of normal, cyclical swings in business. I haven’t had any large projects lately, just many smaller bill-paying jobs, but I’m excited to have plenty of time to work on the business plan now. Its been a long, hard, educational process, but I’m glad its gone the way it has. I’ve failed, I’ve learned, I’ve set new goals and created new focuses. I’m now finishing the plan because I feel that my journey is now entering the next stage, funding. Think of your goals as a walking trip across the United States. You start your journey in California and you are walking to Maine. It will be a long trek, but of course, you will get there!! You will have many sidetracks and obstacles along your way. The 1st year of GenZPlay, was trying to find a path through the Sierra’s and then the Rocky Mountains. I’m now standing on the edge of the Mississippi and looking for a barge full of money to carry me across.
Why am I so confident that I’ll find funding? Because I’ve learned that if you try hard enough, dream big enough, those dreams do come true. Every small success is a further reminder of working smarter, not harder, and will allow you to accomplish your goals. My focus is so laser small, and I’m so devoted to this project, that failing is not an option. I’m very lucky to have worked for the rich (see personal post here), for most of my life. I saw how they have created their business’ and realized that they are no different than most working Joe’s. They had a vision, and they pursued it with all of their being. Yes, quite a few of them were trust fund babies as well. If I keep pursuing my list of past and current connections, the right one will make itself known.
Failing is part of the process. I just read a quote today, that said “I’m not delusional, I’m an entrepreneur”. That statement couldn’t be any closer to the truth as your ideas are visions in YOUR mind and getting them on to paper in such a way that others will fall for your idea, is one of the toughest challenges of creating an app. Being able to take your visions from thoughts to fruition is what makes an entrepreneur.
Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate wrote this blog post on January 31, 2013. Her favorite quote is “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” By J. K. Rowling. ” ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination; is the most famous Commencement Speech by one of the outstanding and exceptionally talented writers of our times, Ms. J. K. Rowling. It was delivered at Harvard College, at the 2008 Graduation Ceremony. I have selected this except where Ms. Rowling eloquently illuminates how even the failure can become the primary precursor to solid success, exemplifying with her personal experiences in life. Undoubtedly the failure can be frustrating, and there is surely nothing to be either glorified or romanticized about failure; and yet the failure can lead one to the sweetest success – if confronted with courage, strong determination, undivided focus and unsurpassing hard work. It’s not how many times one falls, but how often one gets up makes the big difference in reality.” I consider this speech, by Ms. J. K. Rowling, as highly inspirational and thought-provoking; and hence would like to share the following excerpt with the readers of my blog.’
I’m finally working hard on the plan and I’m almost finished. I wanted to finish this blog post first, as it seems like reading the story to myself will help me to finalize my thoughts. I did have another epiphany last night, and it was that I’ve spent too much time in my head, analyzing every last detail down to the atomic level. There comes a point when you’ve tried to get your business to succeed for so long, that you’ve tried many ways, you’ve failed, and you just have to face the fact that all of this hard work WILL pay off. I’ve put so much pressure on myself, that I was trying to put too much into the business plan. I was so worried that this last step of using the plan, to get funded, would fail unless the plan was perfect. The plan is 60 pages long (without financials), and my newest recommendations from other entrepreneurs is to compact it down to about 5-10 pages of the most important information. I plan to do that, but have the full plan attached to the end so they can read the full details if they wish. This compact plan is sort of a Cliff Notes, and investors are tired of reading lengthy plans with tons of details. They just want the specifics.