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The 4 Characteristics of Successful App Startups

What are the shared traits of apps like Uber and Airbnb that help them become impactful multinational companies? The answer can vary depending on industry and business model. In this post we share the four most common characteristics of successful app startups.

Not since the dot-com days of the late 90s has there been such a prevalence of tech startups. The rise of mobile technology and innovations such as cloud computing has spurred this latest round of tech entrepreneurship.

As the mobile revolution becomes mainstream, new business opportunities are being presented. At Launchpad App Development, we help entrepreneurs and emerging businesses realise these opportunities through iPhone, Android and Web App Development.

Here are the important qualities to achieving app startup success in the evolving mobile marketplace.

They are disruptive

One of the defining characteristics of successful app startups is Disruption. A disruptive app challenges the status of an industry – transportation, retail, lifestyle, etc. – to such an extent that the traditional way of doing business becomes practically obsolete.

That’s easier said than done, and a lot more difficult than creating an app that follows consumer demand and market trends. So why are so many app startups aiming to innovate rather than regulate?

As the late Steve Jobs succinctly put it: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

So is a disruptive app created?

Clayton Christensen – who introduced the disruptive innovation theory in the Harvard Business Review – notes that disruptive innovation often starts from the low-end market foothold.

Consider an industry where companies try to provide their most profitable and demanding customers with ever-improving products and services. In such an industry, these companies are paying less attention to less-demanding customers. This opens the door to disruptive apps to provide these low-end customers with a Minimum Viable Product.

Example – Uber

The taxi industry is tightly regulated and the drivers face strict obligations. In most cities, drivers need a special operator’s license in order to act as a taxi. Furthermore, there are restrictions to what cars they can legally drive.

In comparison to traditional taxis, Uber started in the low-end market by allowing anyone with a car to drive other people around for money. No special certification or knowledge was required.

As Uber’s network grew in each city, ride costs and waiting times declined and the rating system ensured that the driver quality was relatively consistent. With this improved service quality, Uber was able to move upstream to attack taxis directly – a classic disruptive move.

Uber Most Valuable Startup

Now worth $85 billion AUD, Uber is the World’s most valuable startup. Source: Statista

They have a well-defined Value Proposition

A value proposition is a statement that explains what benefits your app provides and how it does it uniquely well. It describes your target users, the problem your app solves, and why it’s distinctly better than the alternatives.

A significant part of defining a value proposition involves what Forbes writer Michael Skok calls the 4Us:

  • Unworkable: Does your app solve a broken business process where there are real, measurable consequences to inaction?
  • Unavoidable:  Is it driven by a fundamental requirement for accountability or compliance?
  • Urgent: Is it one of the top few priorities in the marketplace that your startup is entering?
  • Underserved: Is there a noticeable lack of valid solutions to the problem you’re looking to solve?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you’re on the right path toward a compelling value proposition.

Example – Evernote

Evernote’s value proposition is to “help the world remember everything, communicate effectively and get things done”. From saving ideas and thoughts to preserving experiences to working efficiently with others, Evernote’s distinct app offering makes it easy for users to stay productive and organised.

With a well-defined value proposition, you know that your target market is primed for the solution that your app provides.

They start with a small market

When it comes to successful app startups, there’s been a lot of talk about the huge market that’s readily available through the ever-evolving mobile platform.

While it’s true that a startup must eventually reach a large market to transform into a large company, it’s actually best to identify a narrow market segment to begin with.

As we covered in a previous post, starting with a small market helps you to understand the behavioural traits of app users in an insightful manner, while also underlining any issues that need to be rectified more quickly.

“Begin with a really small market, take over said market, and then expand that market in concentric circles.”

Peter Thiel, PayPal Co-Founder and early Facebook Investor.

 

Thiel advises in his lecture , “the greatest mistake you can make as a new startup is going after a giant market from the get-go. That signifies that you haven’t defined categories properly. And you’re going to be dealing with too much competition in one way or another.”

If you want to turn your app startup into a successful company, you should first capture targeted small markets and then help that market grow over time.

They provide an outstanding User Experience

By definition, a startup is a new company. They can’t be dependent on brand loyalty built over years or decades like their big, entrenched competitors can.

This is why providing a useful app product that’s simple and intuitive to use is so important to the business’s long-term success.

So how do you deliver a great user experience for the app that you’re building? Here are some guidelines to get you started.

  • Easy flow and navigation – Once you’ve decided on the first set of features you want to be part of the app, it’s essential that you make it easy for the user to navigate from screen to screen, or from one feature to another. Your aim should be to reduce the learning curve for the users and make navigation more intuitive.
  • Understand your customer What is the profile of your typical customer (E.g. Age group, gender, their behaviour with technology, etc.)? The navigational features (such as button size, easy tap instead of swipes) will differ from a 5 year old compared a 55-year-old mobile user.
  • Utilise the platform – Each platform, iOS or Android, offers various gesture-based navigation tools. Swipes (left, right, up or down) can bring a new screen and remove another, while a pinch can zoom into content or move out of the current screen as well. Depending on the nature of your application and its purpose, platform-specified gestures should be offered to provide an intuitive navigation experience.

App User Experience

The iPhone’s gesture-based navigation tools. Source: Business 2 Community

The User Experience your app offers should be an integral part of your product strategy. Remember, success is by design, not by chance.

Remember, success is by design, not by chance.

Concluding Thoughts

Whether your app idea will grow into a successful startup depends on a variety of factors. They have common characteristics that can be identified.

Successful app startups are disruptive, have a well-defined value proposition, start with a small market and provide an amazing user experience. Making sure that your app concept has these four traits will set you on the right path to achieving startup success.

What additional characteristics do you believe lead to app startup success? Let us know in the comments section below.

10 Apps on the Right Path of Disruption: Part Two

Disruptive apps create a ‘new normal’ for consumers and businesses alike. They make life easier and often improve upon the traditional practices that came before it. We look at five new apps that are changing the way we shop, find a car park and do chores.

A disruptive app strives to challenge the status quo within an industry – so much so that the traditional way of doing business becomes obsolete. That’s easier said than done, and a lot harder than creating an app that follows market trends and consumer demand. So why are so many app startups aiming to innovate rather than regulate?

Well, as the late Steve Jobs succinctly put it: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

In the first part, I discovered apps that aim to change the way we live. For instance, grabbing a coffee, finding nearby friends and even monitoring our health. I also discovered that these app startups that are crazy enough to think they can change world, are the ones who do.

Related: 10 Apps on the Right Path of Disruption: Part One

In this second part, I examine five more apps that disrupt the way we live our lives for the better.

 

1. Witness

What if live streaming, like those that run today on apps like Periscope or Meerkat, could be used to save lives? That’s the premise behind Witness – An app that does everything your phone can do to keep you safe in an emergency. With one touch, the app broadcast your location, audio and video to your loved ones and emergency contacts.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Live Mobile Video Streaming

Winner of the TechCrunch 2015 Hackathon, Witness can be activated by launching the app and pressing the ‘Witness’ button. As soon as you activate it, it will call and text your emergency contacts.

In addition to alerting your friends and family, Witness will record your location, camera and microphone activity. It also streams it over data and Wi-Fi to your emergency contacts in real time. In the meantime, your screen fades to black so nobody can notice that you’re streaming what’s happening.

Witness App

Source: iTunes

Changing the way we stay safe in an emergency

What makes Witness a game-changer in the live streaming app market is that rather than having the stream sent out to the public via social networks like Twitter, only designated contacts you’ve previously configured in the app’s settings are alerted to the incident via phone calls and text messages.

“Whatever emergency I have, I pretty much always have my phone and my wallet with me,” developer Marinos Bernitsas explains. That’s why he says it made sense to take advantage of the smartphone’s camera, microphone and GPS to build an app that could help keep people safe.

Operating as a ‘panic button’ of sorts for your iPhone, Witness empowers individuals and law enforcement agencies with a secure and efficient way to capture and deliver digital media in an emergency situation.

 

2. Membit

While searching for disruptive apps, I found that one of the most difficult industries to shake up was social networking. Companies like Facebook and Google are always striving, and spending, to remain at the forefront of how we connect to one another. With that being the case, how can a startup disrupt an industry where the most powerful are also the most innovative?

Well, when your app has a feature that Snapchat filed a patent for, it’s safe to say that you may have the attention of Silicon Valley. That’s what Membit has – a breakthrough mobile image sharing app that utilises a patented Human Positioning System (HPS) to share images.

Membit is a new way to share memories by letting users unlock past clips (‘membits’ ), captured at a specific location.

Changing the way we share memories

“Membit is destined to become the world’s way of memorialising and sharing moments that matter.” It’s a bold statement by Membit Founder Jay Van Buren. But when you consider the patented form of augmented reality the Membit has for geo-locative photo sharing, it’s a statement that he can say with confidence.

Membit photos know where they belong in the real world, and users can share Membits simply by leaving them in a particular place. Others can experience these images through a 3D interface or through their mobile devices at the Membit’s actual physical location. It’s a uniquely compelling way to experience and share photos.

 

3. Mallzee

Tinder-esque ‘swipe to filter’ interfaces (A.K.A. ‘Tinderfaces’) are in app vogue right now. ‘X app is the Tinder of Y’ has become the standard descriptive shorthand for this trend, named from the dating app Tinder which popularised making snap aesthetic judgements swipe style.

U.K. startup Mallzee is just one example of apps following in the gestural footsteps of Tinder by applying a Tinderface to high street shopping decisions.

The self-proclaimed ‘Tinder for Fashion’, Mallzee has captured the attention of fashion labels and investors alike. With a database that let’s you search over 2 million products from around 200 major brand retailers, the company has raised a nearly $6.7 million since being founded in 2013.

mallzee-app-screenshots

Source: Student Fashion

Changing the way we shop for clothes

Mallzee’s personalisation technology and retailer analytics appears to be the biggest draw here. The former creates what the startup describes as unique personalised style profiles that make finding ‘the perfect outfit’ quick and easy. This includes sending you alerts when items you have swiped-to-like are reduced in price.

For the retailers, Mallzee provides a data insight tool, which claims to provide ‘actionable real-time knowledge’ of how their products. For instance, how they are perceived and used across various consumer demographics, such as location, age and gender.

It’s quite the innovative shopping startup, but it’s Mallzee’s clever social twist that’s shaking up the personalised shopping experience for users. The app lets you share the item you intend to buy with friends. If the consensus is a thumbs-down, Mallzee will actually prohibit you from making a purchase — the buy button becomes disabled — helping to avoid any potential fashion faux pas. This feature could prove to be a viral hit with the young demographic. Or just a bit annoying. Time will tell.

 

4. DoStuff

Algorithms can’t tell you what to do tonight. You need a local who knows about all the events and can tell you what’ll actually be fun. That’s why DoStuff hire natives from cities across the United States to power recommendations in its new event discovery app.

The app is smartly designed to find awesome local events that are the real deal. While most other event aggregation apps force you through the chore of sifting out what’s good (I’m looking at you, That’s Melbourne!), DoStuff has real humans curating the events.

Changing the way we… well, do stuff!

So how does DoStuff stand out from the heavily saturated event discovery market? “There’s probably been 87,000 companies that have tried to tackle this,” DoStuff’s founder and CEO Scott Owens admits. “Where we’re different is that we’ve become a part of the scene in those communities by partnering with people.”

DoStuff understands that it doesn’t have to build an empire to create a disruptive app. The fact is that the companies perhaps best equipped data-wise to nail event recommendations just don’t care. EventBrite only makes money by selling tickets to events on its system, so Owens says “they’re fighting against themselves if they surface other things.”

Owens thinks similarly about Facebook. “It’s not in their DNA to be a part of a local community. They’re a platform.” Facebook knows where your friends are going, just not if where they’re going is any good.

Event discovery may be saturated, but that just shows there’s a clear need for it to be done well. DoStuff have realised that it’s people that are needed to do that.

 

5. Parkhound

After publishing the first part of this blog, I had a mate astutely say ‘Cool apps bro. Any Aussie ones?’. Considering Launchpad is Melbourne-based helping Australians develop their innovative app ideas, he had a good point.

As such, this app startup is disrupting a something that most Australians can relate to: finding a car park!

Enter Parkhound – An online marketplace that connects drivers looking for parking with local property owners who have spare parking spaces. A 2014 Australian Mobile and App Awards nominee, the app aims to make sure you won’t have to drive around aimlessly looking for a parking spot ever again.

Changing the way we find a car park

Parkhound works very similarly to Airbnb, but as a marketplace for empty parking spaces instead of rent accommodation. Drivers reserve a parking spot in advance and parking space owners get to make extra income on the side.

As a Melbourne motorist that heads to the city every morning, here’s how I feel about this app…

Blog Meme

As indicated in the above meme, parking has been a major issue for all Australian motorists. Lack of investment in infrastructure meant that parking is either unavailable or is too expensive.

Instead of ignoring the issue, Parkhound has decided to challenge it head on. The solution? parking spaces need to be better utilised. Through collaborative consumption, here’s hoping that Parkhound can give the Australian parking industry the much needed shake-up it deserves.

 

Bonus App (Surprise!)

Apps like Tinder have gained popularity by shallowly focusing on physical attractiveness. It’s unfortunate, but also understandable. How is another way someone can find the perfect match with an app? Well, Oscar Mayer believes it has found the perfect equation for this and it all comes down to bacon.

Last month, the company released Sizzl, a dating app that allows lovestruck users a closed network of bacon lovers where they can scour for their ideal dates. This ‘totally real dating app’ allows people to “specify their bacon preferences in a customisable profile, upload photos and start swiping through profiles of local fellow bacon lovers, with the ability to message and meet up with other Sizzl users based on a mutual-matching system,” according to a company press release.

Changing the way bacon lovers find their soulmate

“In love, as it is in bacon, it’s important to be discerning when selecting your perfect match and to never settle for less than the best,” said Eric Dahmer, Oscar Mayer’s marketing director in a statement. “With the launch of Sizzl, we’re thrilled to give our true bacon lovers the chance to find each other and potentially meet their soulmates, in life and in bacon.”

This is a real app, and you really can attempt to meet your love match via a bacon-based matching service. It may not be disrupting the online dating industry anytime soon, but let’s be honest — it can’t be any worse than what’s already out there.

Are there any other disruptive (or bacon-centric) apps we should be checking out? We’d love to hear about them.

 

VALIDATE-MY-IDEA!

 

Rocket Icon

10 Apps on the Right Path of Disruption: Part One

‘Disruptive’ is a common word amongst app entrepreneurs and startups today. Everyone aims to have the next Uber or Airbnb in their respective industry. By what exactly is a ‘disruptive app’? And why are so many entrepreneurs and startups in pursuit of this title being bestowed upon their app?

A disruptive app is one that challenges the status quo within an industry – transportation, retail, lifestyle, etc. It does it so much that the traditional way of doing business becomes nearly obsolete.

In essence, these apps create a ‘new normal’ for both consumers and businesses alike. They make life easier, more fun, and often improve upon the traditional practices that came before it.

So what are the ‘game-changer’ apps that we can look forward to in the future?

During last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, we got a glimpse of the next generation of innovative apps that aim to change the way we live.

Here are 10 apps that could soon change the way we travel, exercise, grab coffee, and much more.

 

10. Hopper

Hopper is an iOS and Android app that shows travellers where to go, when to fly and buy tickets. The app analyses data from billions of flights to determine the best time for purchasing a ticket and flying.

Hopper

Hopper has been building out its Price Prediction tool since 2007 to focus specifically on the challenge of helping users get the best flight deals. Source: TechCrunch

Changing the way we find flights

The aim of Hopper is to help consumers find the cheapest flights possible. It does so by using data sets comprising billions of flight prices to help app users find the best possible deal for the right destination.

As noted by Investopedia, Hopper doesn’t want to just be an app that provides available flights and price information. If it did, then it’d be no different to all the online travel companies readily available to consumers.

Instead, Hopper wants to give the data-driven results for the lowest possible flight prices. For all the consumers wanting to avoid the complexity of flight prices and just be confident in their purchases, travel apps don’t get more convenient than Hopper.

 

9. Foodful.ly

Automatic reminders and delicious recipes to help cook your food before it goes bad. That’s the mission a Foodful.ly – a mobile app that is designed to help users save money, time and food waste in their home. The app catalogues everything you have in your fridge – along with expiration dates – to send you timely reminders and recipes so you can cook your readily available food before it goes to waste.

Changing the way we waste food

According to lunchalot.com, Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase. Furthermore, up to 40% of the average household bin is food, which equates to an average of $1,036 worth of food being thrown out each year.

One reason for this is that food is mistakenly thrown out before the use-by/best before date. We are also prone to not planning our meals and menus like we could to avoid such waste.

So how does Foodful.ly help to avoid such a state of waste? Well, let’s see what the app knows when integrated with your food purchases: 1) What food you have on hand, 2) What you like to eat, and 3) How much you save. With such seamless integration into the consumers’ lifestyle, Foodful.ly can change the way we save money and be less wasteful with food around the home.

 

8. Pull

Alright, I should note at this stage that I’m presenting these 10 disruptive apps in no particular order. However, Pull has firmed as a personal favourite from this very impressive bunch of apps.

In my ‘3 Steps To Validating Your App Idea’ blog, I examined the need to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to only include app features that address the problem you are trying to solve and demonstrate the core value of your product. Pull does exactly that.

Simply put, it is a location-sharing app without the map. The app lets you find your way to your Facebook friends that are within 1000 feet by using a compass instead of a map.

Pull

Pull allows you to navigate to any Facebook friend within 1,000 feet, using a glance-able compass.

Changing the way we find any friend

On most mapping and messaging apps, you can drop a pin to save and share your exact location. However, with the amount of data stored on such apps, users have become wary to their exact whereabouts being geo-tagged on a map. That’s where Pull gets it right.

Once logged in on Facebook, Pull only allows you to find friends when they are nearby. This is done so with a simple compass function to let you know how far they are and in which direction. Furthermore, you can select how long the location sharing last to ensure that your Pull session is readily available to your friends for only the applicable time required.

 

7. Café X

Australians are one of the world’s great lovers of coffee and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. According to industry Research Company IBISWorld, the cafe and coffee shop industry will continue to grow over the next five years by an annualised 2.6% to total AUS$4.96 billion.

Even though there seems to be a café wherever you turn in Melbourne, supply still hasn’t caught up with demand. The lines to get a coffee are getting longer, especially in the morning and early afternoon – right when you need coffee the most.

We could interpret this in two ways: 1) Us Melburnians need to scale back on the caffeine, and 2) the café culture is ripe for disruption!

That’s where an app concept like Café X comes in. The Café X app lets you pre-order and pay for any coffee right from your iPhone or Android Phone. After ordering, users head to the nearest Café X robotic café to pick up their premium coffee.

Cafe X

Café X designs and manufactures its Robotic Café to serve pre-ordered, premium coffee. Source: IT World

Changing the way we grab a coffee

Café X’s mission is ‘to accerlerate the adoption of robotics in the service industry to increase human productivity’. This is quite the mission statement for the HAL 9000 of Baristas, but it’s the type of advanced thinking required to create a ‘new normal’ for coffee consumers and the café industry alike.

Right now, the robotic café start-up is only established in Hong Kong, but the company is looking to expand globally into airports, shopping centres and university campuses. If it can make a decent Latte with one sugar in half the time and a fraction of the price, the Australian cafe culture could be disrupted a lot sooner than anticipated.

 

6. Supercharged

Based on 12 years of research in quantum biology, Supercharged was a featured participant at TechCrunch Disrupt. When you consider how the groundbreaking mobile app is aiming to change the way we look at health, it’s featured billing at the San Francisco event was more than justified.

When it comes out, the Supercharged app will be able to analyse your health based on the sound of your voice, combining voice resonance technology with machine learning to create a personalised health profile. The app then becomes your personal health and wellness coach with recommendations on how to optimise performance through innovations in quantum biology.

Changing the way we monitor health

“The way Uber changed transportation, this app changes healthcare. Like a personal health coach, it offers specific solutions to help relieve your problems and SuperCharge your health.” – Harry Massey, CEO and Founder of Supercharged.

It takes a bold App Entrepreneur to attempt a disruption of the healthcare industry. But Massey has streamlined the physics of biology and created a health performance product that is effective and affordable for consumers.

SuperCharged claims it can help users detect and correct their own health without going to the doctor or hospital

Now I don’t see myself replacing my local doctor with an app any time soon, but healthcare is the world’s largest industry today. When you consider its lag in innovation for almost five decades, the disruptive startups that are striving to revitalise and transform the healthcare system need to be given the attention they deserve.

The healthcare industry can be improved by enhancing the experience of care, bettering the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of healthcare. SuperCharged may have just launched, but it’s on the right path to revolutionising such aspects of the industry.

 

To be continued…

Later this week I’ll show you five more apps that aim to disrupt the status quo.

Until then, do you know of any disruptive apps out there that we should be checking out? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.