Looking deep into how an android app can help in growth and survival of early-stage startups.

About 2 weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk on Technical Entrepreneurship at PAF-KIET University, Karachi to their students. Usually my talks are about either Android development or open source. But this one was different. Organizers asked me to talk something about entrepreneurship. And after doing some research and thinking, I decided to focus on Android as the growth tool in startups’ early days. Checkout my slides for the talk on “Why Startups Need Android App?”.

For my two failed startups, and numerous others experiments, I believe if I wasn’t an Android developer, then maybe I would have 0 startups count. No matter if that zero is about failure or success. Maybe I couldn’t have dared to think of any idea to build. Or maybe I couldn’t have build it to see whether it flies or not. This skill of Android development helped me experiment with our product, validate the market and bridge the gap between customer needs and product functionality. In this article, I am going to explain this thinking and focus on how Android helped my startups in early days and how Android can help other startups.


It all starts from the… IDEA!

They say ideas are dime a dozin. And I totally agree with it. Most of the startups today are almost solving same problems with different approaches. Rarely there’s any different kind of innovative idea. Unfortunately, most of these startups fail within first 2 years because they have a big gap in product-market fit. The problem they think they are solving is not actually the problem their customer is facing. These customers face different kind of problems and the startup products are providing solution to a different problem.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

So, here comes the Lean Startups’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. Startup founders need to rapidly and quickly iterate over their products and customers and reduce the product-market fit gap. But these quick iterations require many skills which startup team must possess. These skills can vary from idea to idea and nature of the startup, but it could be any video, a simple prototype, any mobile app, website, landing page, or anything of that sort.


Does your startup really need an Android app?

Once you have figured out your idea and are ready to tackle the world with your product. The question comes in is “Does your startup really need an Android app?”. Or more generally, does your startup need any mobile app at all. I am not asking this in the context of app-based businesses like Uber. Rather my question is for those startups who think they need a mobile app to validate their product and customers’ needs. So, let me ask again: “Does your startup really need an Android/iOS app to validate your product?”.

Obviously, answer to this question depends on the startup idea and founders. The purpose of this question is to emphasize the observation that many startups develop apps at early days only because they think that this is the era of smartphones and they need an app to make a dent in the universe. Not every startup or product need mobile app. So, you need to think really hard about this. Because until you’re a VC funded startup, you have really limited resources and time to make that dent in the universe you are planning. And you need to utilize those resources very carefully and wisely. So, why waste it on any app which is not related directly to the customer and revenue and is merely a companion app.


How app can benefit your startup?

Once you’ve figured out that an app is important for your startup, let’s discuss what other advantages that app can provide you along with your product.

Creating a brand is very important and crucial requirement for any startup at the early stage. The more better the brand it builds, the greater the chances of customer acquisition, and more the revenue it gets. The mobile app can tap this area and help your startup expand its brand awareness. This can be achieved using the good old way of sending regular push notifications to notify about the product updates. And even if you don’t want to annoy your users with regular push notifications, you can track their activity and analyze what is working in your product and what area needs improvement.

Image Credits: https://yourstory.com/mystory/why-every-startup-need-a-mobile-app-y2gzziew7b Image Credits: https://yourstory.com/mystory/why-every-startup-need-a-mobile-app-y2gzziew7b

Once your app is in users’ hands, you can innovate and add experimental features to see how your users respond to it. This will allow you to understand the market, and fill the gap between customer and product. No matter, what advantage provides you more value in your startup, having an app is considered to be a plus point.

As per the title of this article, you might be wondering why even Android app? Why not an iOS app? Let’s discuss it now.


Why even Android app?

In my slide, I have talked about three reasons to justify an Android app. * Low entry barrier * Hugo market * Easy customization

Compared to other platforms like iOS, Android app will allow you to rapidly experiment with your product features and get faster feedback. Not only app approval timing is quick, the entry barrier is very low. You will have to only pay $25 for the lifetime access to Google Play Publisher Console. On top of that, you get this huge market audience as Android covers about 70% market share of smartphones industry. And you won’t need fancy expensive laptops to explore Android app development, you can easily get started on normal desktop or laptop to develop your product.

Photo by LOLIONI on Unsplash Photo by LOLIONI on Unsplash

But you need to think about the question I asked earlier. What role your app plays in your startup? Is your startup similar to any other established business? If yes, your market is already validated then. So, what is your startup’s x-factor? Is it better service than the existing ones? Is it the pricing model which you tweaked? Or is it the better user-experience? Or is it anything else you startup varies from other products? And maybe your x-factor solely relies on either the customers who prefers iOS devices or the feature which is only available in iOS devices. For that case, you will have to opt-in for iOS devices instead of Android then.


How much does it cost to develop an Android app?

Now as you have figured out that your startup needs Android app, you have to think about cost to develop it. Being in startup is all about surviving on limited resources while maintaining the quality standard. So. Android can help you a lot with this as development of Android apps is rather cheaper than other platforms.

Whether you want to outsource it or develop it in-house, that is dependent on the nature of your product. If you startup is majorly based on the app, then in-house is the choice to go. You may choose outsourcing thinking to reduce the cost of development, but at some point you will have to move to in-house and that will become expensive for you in that time. So, you need to think hard about why outsourcing is decision for your startup.

The cost not only financial. You are also spending your time on it as well. Normally, an Android app takes 4-6 months if its not too fancy or game-changing-never-seen-before-innovative-feature. But, emphasizing on Minimal Viable Product (MVP) approach, it should take you no more than 4-6 weeks to develop the prototype of your app and ship it to your potential customers.


Wrap-up & Special Thanks

Wrapping up the piece, we can conclude that Android app is easier, cheaper, iterative, and faster to play around your startup idea to bridge the gap between customers and the product. You can check the talk slides on my SpeakerDeck profile here.

In the end, I would like to thank Talha Farooqui and PAF-KIET University - North Nazimabad campus to invite me to interact with their students and discuss all the things about technology, and entrepreneurship.

Me giving the talk Me giving the talk

Me with the organizing team of event Me with the organizing team of event


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Wajahat Karim is a graduate from NUST, Islamabad, an experienced mobile developer, an active open source contributor, and co-author of two books Learning Android Intents and Mastering Android Game Development with Unity. In his spare time, he likes to spend time with his family, do experiments on coding, loves to write about lots of things (mostly on blog and medium) and is passionate contributor to open source. In June 2018, one of his library became #1 on Github Trending. His libraries have about 2000 stars on Github and are being used in various apps by the developers all around the globe. Follow him on Twitter and Medium to get more updates about his work in Writing, Android and Open Source.

Also, if you have any questions you’d like him to answer, contact him through his website at wajahatkarim.com with DEAR WAJAHAT in the subject line.