I’m a (serious) Business student with a (great) App Idea. What do I do next?

As the CEO and founder of an app startup and having minimal coding experience, I’m constantly approached by people with app ideas or inquiries of how to recruit engineers.

Most enter the discussion severely ignorant of the entire startup game. The following are some reflections and insights from someone who has successfully recruited some very talented and committed developers to join the team.

1. You can’t afford to pay upfront.

Many business people approach developing an app like a IT company might approach buying servers. You buy some, use it for awhile, then upgrade when it becomes obsolete. First, realize the product is a constant work in progress. It’s never finished. You’re going to need developers on your team working on the product on a consistent basis. That takes a lot of time (20 hours a week to make respectable progress), and if your developers have any experience, you should be valuing that time at roughly 30 dollars an hour. Just take a look at any app that you currently use, even something excruciatingly simple like snapchat or groupme changes every few months.

2. Do your due diligence

If your idea is really that good, why hasn’t it been done before?  There usually is some problem that others whom traveled down your path has encountered. What problem was that? And what makes you different, what do you know that no one else knows about this issue (ie what makes you particularly qualified to solve this problem)?

if you haven’t done atleast a hundred hours of research into the app idea and competing ideas, don’t even try recruiting a developer. why? it’s pretty unreasonable to ask a developer to spend several hundred hours developing your idea when you havent invested in an equal amount of time. i’ve had someone come up to me and say, “i dont know anything about apps, but i have a great app idea.” Take a moment to realize how crazy that statement is. If you dont know anything about apps, how do you know its a great app idea???

3. Have qualifications

If you’re going to make a consumer bar app, you want to have some knowledge of the pain points from the consumer side. But knowledge alone is not a qualification. Qualifications are based on skillsets not domain expertise. What experience do you have building a company, selling a product, or successfully executing on an idea? I would invest in a CEO with previous experience running a company thats never been to a bar in their life over a team of bargoers or bar managers who have no entrepreneurial experience.

The reason?

Domain expertise can be easily acquired. You can use google or take someone in that industry out for lunch. There’s no reason to even give up a substantial portion of equity for that. Skillsets are a lot more difficult to acquire. If you have no relevant skillsets and no past successes, think long and hard about why a team of developers should spend several hundred hours working for you.

4. Ideas are worthless,

I’m going to skip past the whole “no one cares about your idea and it’s all about execution” point that most people make. Almost no startup ever becomes profitable or successfully exits with their original idea. Your initial idea is just a starting point. You’re most likely going to pivot and figure out something that works along the way, so justifying equity for rough draft #1 is just silly.

One angel investor recently told me there is no place for “idea people” or “strategists” on a founding team. In a startup, you are either building or selling.


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