How to Start an App Business

How to Make an App

How to start an app business.  In this Episode of the App Business Podcast – David and Chris weigh in on one of the most common questions we get from friends, colleagues and other entrepreneurs interested in the mobile space.

Listen to the entire podcast to learn what David suggests as your 1st iPhone app and much more.

  • How to get started with “Mobile”
  • David shares his experience of getting started in mobile, and where that has taken him to today.
  • Chris takes a different route – yet both agree that just getting started with publishing an app is the very best way to learn.
  • The end of an era in Mobile…?
  • How David got started in mobile and why
  • Why submitting an app may be the most important step in learning
  • Do I need to know how to code?
  • How to find viable projects (or test your idea)
  • Plus more!

Resources and Linked Mentioned in this Episode:


Chris: Hi everyone and welcome to App Business Podcast. I’m here calling from Bali, attending a conference in Bangkok and I’m here with David.

David: Hi Chris.

Chris: Hey David. So the audio might be a little messed up, we felt like it was worth it because we have a lot of stuff in our mind, a lot of fresh thoughts, specifically one that came up a bunch of times in Bangkok. David where as you know I was at this location independent entrepreneurs event and surprisingly not a ton of the guys are in mobile yet. A lot of guys that are freelancers or consultants or run like  pay-per-click type businesses which is great and there are some serious heavy hitters there too like multi-million dollar profit guys as well. They’re kind of like internet famous people but not a huge mobile presence. So I’m walking around there kind of as one the mobile experts so the biggest question I got, 20 times probably was “Where do I start?” or “How do I get into a mobile apps business?” and I just thought that was a really interesting topic for you and I to dig in to both of our thoughts and our experiences.

David: Yes, so your feeling is or what people have told you is that they are very interested in the subject and they really want to get into but they’re not there yet, right?

Chris: Yeah, and I think a lot of it is they kind of have gotten comfortable with maybe affiliate marketing, or they’ve got their SEO business and they have outsourced a lot of the program or the processes to a Filipino outsourced team so they’re just really trying to get new clients and they’re making their 10-15 thousand a month and living in Bali or wherever and they’re okay with that. And meanwhile you and I are hustling on mobile and I think maybe there is a feeling like, oh whats going on over there, yeah one of those things

David: Absolutely and although some people are arguing that an era is coming to an end where all these app entrepreneurs or whatever you want to call them or this indie developers have made so much money over the last couple of years in the app store, specifically in Apple’s App store on something like paid apps which is what we already talked about and I don’t really think that we should talk about an end of an era but really just the beginning because my feeling is that the mobile space has in a pioneer phase and is just entering its maybe second phase where it gets really interesting and really lot of more useful stuff can be done and that’s what I see right now.

Chris: Yeah I agree with you, but I mean we just talked about like you said on the episode on Freemium and yeah the era of charging 2.99 for finger print scanners is gone but there’s still a ton of opportunities here so without that..we thought that inspiring us on how we feel about that, they’re tired of listening because they agree with us. I thought it might be an interesting way to tackle this question is “How did you get into mobile apps business?” “What you could have gone a bunch of different ways why did you pick mobile?”

David: That’s an interesting question so for me maybe one of the most unusual kind of ways to get into the whole mobile space because when were talking about mobile from a developer’s perspective, then you usually thinking about Objective-C and Java, right? So if you’re thinking about two languages for iOS and Android and when I first got in touch with mobile, when I was first got maybe I dear that there is something that I would want to work on was literally and when I watch the keynote of the first iPhone. And the first iPhone if you can remember or maybe I’m piecing this together in a wrong way. I absolutely get up but I think on the first keynote they were already presenting web apps and if I’m not mistaken and that was the only way as a third party developer to bring apps to the first iPhone and the first versions of iOS. Only later was the appstore introduced and I have a background in back development and creating websites so that’s what interested me and that’s where I’m coming from so were focusing a lot on the HTML5 phase apps using lot of phonegap to create apps but this is just of course one aspect of namely the technology, the programming aspect of the whole mobile space, that’s how I started into it.

Chris: And its interesting that the company and the language that you created or the service or tool that you created – it mirrors that impression right of not necessarily non-native apps right so its interesting that that’s why you got into it

David: Yes, and I think a lot of people forget that webOS was the first way to get on the iPhone awhile there was no other means to have any native programming while you know of course today its completely the other way around. Most of the apps are written in native code and only a small portion or fraction is written in HTML5.

Chris: Right, Okay so I could give away to tackle the question is. So that’s your experience and then in kind of the next piece would be okay . What do the non-technical and technical or the developer and non-developer, so If I’m the developer, lets say I bang out websites and I know java, what would be the next step for someone to have that skill set should take a step forward in their mobile progression or mobile development?

David: YeaH, this are the kinds of questions where you have to decide when you answer them. Whether you want to give a quick actionable advice or whether you want to actually cover the entire spectrum of the question. So maybe we can do both. So if you are interested in just doing something right now and you really want to you know get into action mode and try something and not over think  it, not worry about strategy too much.

Chris: You learn by doing right?

David: Yeah, absolutely how I get into it. So whether your using web technology or Java or Objective-C it just depends on your current skill set as a developer and you just chose the one that you are already comfortable with or it is more comfortable with than the others. So and if your web developer maybe stop trying to create mobile web apps, if your java developer try to create android apps – native android apps. So and them you just maybe think about something that would interest you with just a very small idea and try to create it and its really as simple as that. That means your googling your way to work an understanding, to work on knowledge of course and especially on android we have a privilege documentation that has a step by step guide to tetra. So you really can start doing something if your indie html / webspace and you want to create something with this technologies, you want to look at a technology or framework that you want to use so there’s something like Sencha, Sencha touchscreen where or there is jquery mobile, although personally I’m not really a big fan of these frameworks, but a lot of people use them with great effect and if that’s something that gets you get started immediately, I’ve had it. Also if you’re really really into the subject of mobile web apps, maybe you can just send me an email, thats or and request an invite to a private bit of the framework that we’ve been developing. But to get back to the question, that’s the you know take action now advise, create maybe just a hello world app or a very small kind of app that I don’t know maybe talks to twitter API or any API that’s publicly available and play around with it so you get into the habit of coding. Know how these mobile platforms work, what the differences are between a mobile and desktop development etcetera. That being said though I think there’s a whole other and maybe even a longer answer that I won’t get into completely right know but just to show that there’s something out there is you might also just want to think about what you really want to accomplish and not just in terms of what app I want to create but in terms of what business I want to create. So do you want to take on clients and create  apps for them? Do you want to create your own apps and sell them on the app store? Do you want to you know ask me as we have talked about that’s kind of an increasingly difficult business model to sell apps for fixed price in the app store? These are the kinds of questions that you have to ask yourself in order to determine what kinds of business you actually want to create.

Chris: Alright, so that actually leads into my answer to a non-technical lets say founder would be someone that’s interested in giving in to mobile and that’s the same kind of the measures which is just do something like start, do one, do an app, coz there’s someone that you learned to the process of submitting and signing app and managing ad networks and there’s just so much that goes into an outside of the idea. I think people get really hung up, on “Oh I had this wonderful idea and I don’t want to mess up.” So I gotta get a perfect time, a perfect scenario till I get my mobile app business started and my business started and I’m gonna get this in the podcast thought it was pretty clever and I said it a couple times this weekend was its kind of like a musician writing one song and expecting to be in the rock and roll hall of fame and its like dude it just doesn’t work that way. Get some experience and write about five albums and get better and improve. My first app, I might mean to tell you that this is embarrassing but did I learned from it? Did I get to the point where 18 months later I have 60+ apps in the App Store and I’m in Bali and just hanging out talking on the podcast with you. You know it started from just starting. You got to take that first step. So, with the idea of taking the first step I usually refer to a cup of books and things like that. I think I really grew the most besides for doing and I continued to do that okay. I test monetization methods all the time. So its a recurring effort, something I’m costly trying to challenge grow. But I use to follow people on twitter which I never did, I never used twitter. I started following people on Twitter and people will share like crazy on Twitter. That’s what it is, its like a sharing mechanism, sharing tool. So there will be like links to monetization articles from companies that I never heard of and I signed up to their whitepapers and before I knew it I was reading 10 hours a week. But I think if you want to compete in the space, with people like me, then your gonna have to do a lot of reading and you have to stay up on all these stuff. If you’re not the technical type of guy, if you’re the guy spending the money or maybe trying to convince clients to give you know have them give you money to execute their idea. So I guess my advice is do it. Start and build something and read like crazy.

David: Yeah and just make an interesting distinction here maybe is how would you give advice to someone that is on the edge that they either learned a programming language and because they’re already kind of technical but they don’t know any of the programming languages that they would need to use on mobile. But they’re already kind of technical, know that if you’re comfortable on the computer. And then the other experience would be to start learning all the marketing stuff like you did and just hire someone to do the apps for you.

Chris: I can tell you that understanding whats going on from a technical perspective even if you’re not the one doing the coding is very valuable. Like I put myself through all of I’m gonna say his last name wrong, but you guys probable know the website. Ray Wenderlich stuff he’s got. If you don’ know that site that’s a wonderful site. (link on the show notes) Ray Wenderlich has got tutorials like crazy and then you can pay fifty bucks or something and have mnyore in depth tutorials. I did every single one of those tutorials even though I’m not doing touching a code on my own apps. Just because I need to understand what I’m asking my developers to do. And this is from a guy who can barely put together some WordPress websites. So you know where I’m standing. So even if your the guy that has a little bit of technical confidence or maybe that’s’ your job, you’re a developer or web developer lets say it doesn’t hurt to – its encourage and it will be valuable for you to understand Objective-C and Java and understand what you’re asking your developers to do. Understand when there BS in you. It shouldn’t take an hour , it should’nt take 5 hours to add STK, like your ad network’s STK. Even if your code isn’t their code and understand there’s like working with others peoples code is scary and can cause problems but in any piece of code you should be able to add an ad network STK in an hour. And if you’re interviewing people on Odesk and they’re telling you 5 hours, 10 hours then you know you’re not getting straight answers from then and know they’re not the right people. So if I can do it then you know that at least you want that from someone you’re interviewing. And those little bits of information and knowledge can save projects. Because if you go three weeks before you realized you hired the wrong developer, that’s bad news. That’s a lot of money and a lot of time wasted. So I would, even if you don’t think you’re gonna be the guy which I can tell everyone don’t be the guy. Don’t do anything in your business, just do like your doing something. That’s probably another podcast but  it doesn’t hurt to learn all this stuff.

David: Yes, and you have to do it at least once, right?

Chris: Yeah, I did like 20 hello worlds or whatever. A hello world and the 19 subsequent lessons.

David: Yeah, so I guess we have it for almost every one and every situation you just put in at least four weeks, four solid weeks and immersed yourself in the subject and create some tiny apps and projects to sell. In any event, I mean if you consider the option of maybe becoming a full time developer because that’s what you know fulfills you and is great for you, okay great do that. If not, at least you have the technical competence to guide you to hire developers and to control them to give you the work etcetera, right?

Chris: Yeah I think that’s the advice.

David: Very cool.

Chris: Do we solve this one in like 15 minutes…its amazing! So since we have a little bit of time I want to throw a couple books that helped me. There’s a book that’s 3 years old or so its by a guy that’s kind of active in this indie development (whatever it is) in the history or something. Chad Mureta wrote App Empire, that’s a really good book if you’re not from building your own products perspective because he really gets you out of the mindset and creating something so brand new and so amazing and more about monitoring the market and seeing what people are interested in. Taking approach, finding something that works, putting and making it better and releasing it. And that’s a really been for me like a skill that I’ve gotten better at, but it was a departure from what I thought I was trying to do. And so that book is an easy read,  Amazon will link to it. And I think he runs a big community and he’s kinda taken a (I don’t think he’ll take offense to this) Tony Robbins type of boys like you can do it, here’s how we can do it. He’s kind of a raw kind of guy, I think the market needs that and I think he has a community and he’s got his hands in all sorts of stuff, so that’s a good place to start if you absolutely know were with mobile.

David: As long as its good content, I mean that’s great right?

Chris: Yes, and there’s been a lot of guys that kind of come out from that and re-skinning or you buy code, add new graphics and add new ad networks and themes and I mean there’s all sorts of little niches that have come out of that hole I guess its kind of a Rip, Pivot & Jam style of finding mobile app store. I have taken a little bit of a different approach where to me the app doesn’t even matter that much, monetization is more important to me. But you know I think everyone finds their thing where they’re kind of comfortable in what they’re good at. Lots of times when you’re good at something, you’re comfortable at it and so people will find there, but the best advice really I think you just get started and you won’t know unless you keep going at it.

David: I just thought of something else that might be interesting. So here’s a bonus and if you have done all your hello world tutorials and if you’re kind of bored and want to do more, then we quickly explain the Rip, Pivot & Jam style of what to do next. And Rip, Pivot & Jam means: the Rip part is you copy someone’s already existing product but not in a scammy fat face but in a sense that’s its the inspiration for you, and then you Pivot it, you changed it and in a kind of unique way that’s unique to you and then you Jam which means you just you know publish it, launch it, sell it, whatever is the next step for you and put all your time and energy into that. But when you’re still in the learning phase, I thin`k you can also apply the same concept which is everyone have apps on their phone that they really like but there’s one thing that they don’t like. There’s this one feature that doesn’t have, or this one broke your iPAD or whether the work flow just isn’t quite right. And why don’t you take this app, lets say this twitter app and changed just recreate one screen, not the entire app just recreate this one aspect and fix the broken part and see if you can do that. Because if you can in the meantime the process you have learned in tremendous amount, right?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely I mean that’s, I think your advice – link app to an API, an open API and like a twitter API and play with it and If you could find an app that isn’t an app that you like and has something wrong, you wish it had or if you read through the comments and why doesn’t it do this. Do that, fix that and see even if it solves nothing like for a time that you’ve learned something, obviously you don’t want to invest too much time if or money if the thing isn’t gonna happen or returned besides your education, but that’s how almost all this has happen, I mean really. So yeah I think that’s just another thing to get started and its as simple as finding what you don’t like, whats missing in your life, in your app life and go make that thing. Really its that simple.

David: Yeah, I agree

Chris: Wow, this was a very agreeable session, I like it. Alright, so we’ll post the notes on the show notes…….