design innovation startups

Find Product Market Fit Fast

Product Market Fit is one of the hardest things for an early-stage startup to achieve and it’s a critical step for companies looking to scale and be successful.

Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market

Marc Andreesen – Andreessen Horowitz

So the first thing you need to do is to understand your target market. Are you building a product for the automotive market, the food & beverage market, the software or technology market or something else? To find product-market fit, you really need to narrow your market and niche down. Don’t try to make your product solve the problems of multiple markets early on. Identify a core initial target market.

Once you know your target market, make sure you really understand and research it. You can’t possibly expect to satisfy your customers let alone a target market unless you really understand their problems.

In researching a market and the problems within that market many entrepreneurs will start to identify problems. Once you have a couple conversations you’ll see patterns emerge in terms of problems that people are experiencing.

In the early stages of a startup it’s typical to build early solutions to those problems. And when these solutions solve those specific problems you have product-problem fit. You’ve identified a problem and you’ve provided a solution… many entrepreneurs think that they are set and they stop there but finding product-market fit is more complex. You need to ensure that your product doesn’t just solve a specific problem, but rather it solves a problem that is repeatable and consistent across a large market segment.

To do this you need two core things:

  • First: You need a good cross-section of customers across your market. Not just your friends’ circle, but knowing that a good portion of any customers in your target market have a similar problem you can address.
  • Secondly: Your product has to be sticky enough that people are upset if you were to take the product away.

Finding and solving a problem is a great start but to really find product market fit you need to make sure that the problem you’re solving is widespread and impacts a large enough market in a scalable way and that the solution doesn’t feel like a NICE-to-Have but rather a NEED- To-Have.

It’s better to make a few users love you than have a lot that are ambivalent.

Paul Graham – YCombinator

You need people to care and the best way to find out if they do is to ask them. Ask your users how they’d feel if they could no longer use your product. The group that answers ‘very disappointed’ will unlock the product/market fit.

Sean Ellis, who ran early early growth in the early days of Dropbox, LogMeIn, and Eventbrite and adviced that if 40% of your customers would be “Very Disappointed” then you’ve found product market fit.

When thinking about product market fit, it’s worth also considering founder-market fit. Some founders have deep experience with a particular market. Maybe they spent a decade at a large company within the target market so they know the right people and they know the problems that are un-solved. Sometimes having a good founder-market fit can be a huge advantage and investors will consider how well a founder is aligned to a market. On the flip-side sometimes founder-market fit can be road-block. Consider how sometimes only an outsider to a market can realize just how broken a market is. If Uber had deep market experience in the Taxi market they may never have build as disruptive a company.

Finding product-market fit is both one of the most misunderstood and difficult steps for any growing startup. Keeping yourself focused on the customer and how that relates to the larger market will keep your company on track.

design innovation

WWDC 2020

Each year Apple holds it’s WWDC conference giving developers a peek at what’s coming in tech for the next year. This week Apple unveiling iOS 14, the next version of Mac, watch OS, and more.

DubDub is a fantastic event for enthusiasts and entrepnours because it gives us a peek at upcoming trends that we can expect to see over the coming year. There are three trends that I think are particularly interesting…

The first trend is the proliferation of apps.

  • iOS introduced widgets – they allow more information without opening apps
  • Organization – if you have many pages of apps you can quickly find them.
  • App Clips – an easy and lightweight way to install quick use apps like when you need to pay for a parking spot or cafe but don’t need to keep the app around.
  • Many improvements to Siri making it able to answer more informational questions and perform more tasks. Siri also doesn’t take up the entire screen, making it easier to invoke anytime without loosing context.

All of these features recognize that there are too many apps and bouncing in and out of apps isn’t great. Widgets bring you the information you want without opening an app, the organization makes it easier to find apps, and app clips allow you easy access to app powers without the download and clutter.

The second trend I spotted was around transportation.

  • Apple introduced features in its map product for bike routes making it easy to see elevation and get bike-friendly directions.
  • It introduced EV charging routes to give better directions for electric cars that need to charge-up while en-route.
  • They also introduced digital keys for the upcoming BMW with other cars in the works.

All of these features point to a macro trend around the evolution of transportation away from traditional cars. From bikes to the application of App-Clips for scooter rentals to sharing keys, Apple is painting a future where how we get around is changed.

They also hinted at Augmented Reality with technologies like spatial audio and more detailed perspective maps.

The third trend is really around the evolution of the computer.

Apple announced that they are producing their own computer “Systems on a Chip” or SOCs. This means that the chip that runs your iPhone, iPad and Mac will finally be made on the same architecture and that means that Apps from your iPad will now be able to run on your Mac.

  • The Apple UI got updated in a number of areas from Siri, Icons and Notifications. There’s been a lot of consolidation and the look and feel of the platforms is starting to align.
  • The Apple UI for the Mac is starting to look touch-friendly and that’s hinting at a future where Mac’s have touch screens.
  • Earlier this year Apple’s new iPad proclaimed that the new computer is your iPad and with the mature Mac operating system making the shift, this could become very true.
  • Additional focus on virtualization and compatibility technology imply that more cross iPad/Mac/Phone work is in-play and we’re likely to see iPad apps on the Mac and perhaps the inverse too.

What else?
There were a lot of features in iMessage for replies and animoji making iMessage almost like a twitter/slack client. The iPad introduced many features for pencil based interactions and there are a lot of subtle UI tweaks and improvements and I’m sure a ton under the covers.

Why DubDub?

Companies that want to get ahead should look to see if they can lean into some of the future trends. Being an early adopter of a new technology can give startups a distinct advantage.

So iOS 14 looks like a nice update, it doesn’t feel major but there are lots of little improvements throughout. App Clips are particularly interesting and I think it will aid in on-the-spot discovery.

Widgets are cute but I’ve never found widgets particularly useful. I think it’s a nice progression and a good departure from the grid we’ve had for the last decade. It’s also nice that this functionality isn’t buried in the today view.

Lastly, I do think that the migration of Mac to a common architecture will be a key change for the next decade of Apple. We can expect more shared features and more touch capabilities on the Mac. I think we’ll also see more powerful apps move to the iPad as a result. Xcode, FinalCut, Office, Photoshop and more are likely to become full-featured apps providing a consistent experience across touch, pen and computer.

business design innovation startups

Hey, Apple!

Hey, Apple, we need to talk about the App Store… Our relationship has gotten away from us. Things started great, I remember how Steve Jobs introduced us.

It started out simple: Free Apps, and Paid Apps. Paid apps pay a 30% rev-share and Free Apps are always Free. Steve Jobs, made it pretty clear and it was a good deal for a new platform that didn’t have many apps.

Things were good for many years. App Store was growing, Apple was promoting and advertising developers and apps. It was a great time to be an app developer, but things started to change.

The App Store Review process started to clamp down on developers. At first, it was for consistency with the platform, design guidelines, network consistency, and quality. But soon it started to be much more than that.

Apple started to reject apps that competed with Apple and started to enforce payment requirements on all digital apps that had subscriptions. At first, it was newspapers and magazines but over the years it has gotten broader and broader.

Many rejections are no longer for the benefit of consumers, it’s just for the benefit of Apple.

Applications from Netflix, Spotify, Audible, Facebook, and many more started to create features and experiences that were terrible because it was necessary to avoid paying Apple 30%. You’d download an app and you couldn’t do anything unless you went to a website to subscribe or create an account. For years you couldn’t use your audible credits to add books to your library because Apple wanted to compete with Amazon and take 30% off the top.

This terrible experience was a requirement if you wanted to avoid paying Apple 30% of your revenue. For many businesses that have smaller margins, this made it a requirement to create awkward free apps or limited apps that would then convert outside the app.

The App Review is a good idea – to provide a level of quality in the App store but the rules that are good for consumers are now confused with what is financially good for Apple. The App Store and Apple are very different now.

The promise of simplicity in the original app store isn’t there anymore. Apple isn’t helping market or sell apps the way that it did in the early days so the benefit to individual developers isn’t there anymore. It’s time to renegotiate the deal.

I’ve seen many businesses large and small get turned upside down because of reviews. The Hey email app being rejected recently is only the most recent battle. Apple’s platform isn’t an option for mobile-first companies, it’s table-stakes to compete.

Apple needs to look in the mirror and reexamine the relationship they want with their developer community. Do they think that Apple Pay and In-App-Payments should win on its own merits or if they should continue to strong-arm every digital business? Do they need developers to build apps anymore or should we go back to building web-apps? Does the App Store Review exist for the benefit of consumers or does it enforce an Apple advantage in certain businesses?

Hey Apple – I’ve been a fan of for many years, the app store has made me a lot of money and it’s made Apple into a trillion-dollar business, but the reason we loved Apple is that it symbolized the creators, the rebels, the misfits and trouble makers. As you think about iOS14 and WWDC- it’s time to reflect on your roots. Apple made products that wowed and we need to get back there. We need to rekindle the relationship. The AppStore is an amazing innovation but it’s gotten away from its roots. Let’s stop strongarming and let’s get back to making things that are insanely great.

business design startups

How much does it cost to build an app?

I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times. I’ve built mobile apps for over a decade with millions of downloads and I’m going to give you the formulas that developers use from the worlds leading mobile agencies to figure out what an app costs.

Whether you’re building an MVP for your startup or you’re building a polished product for a Fortune 500 company, the cost of an app can ranged in price from thousands to millions of dollars and how you design and architect your product can impact that price a lot!

When building an app most app developers will break down the work required into three core parts.

  • The front-end
  • The back-end
  • Design work

The front-end is all the work in developing the mobile app itself. This is what you use on your iPhone or Android device and the Back-end is the work that needs to be done on your server to store files, images and other information for your app to work.

To figure out what it will take to develop your app the requirements or the features of the app are broken down for both front-end, back-end, and design features. Engineers and designers will run estimates for each feature to come up with a high-level estimate.

Each app development firm or team will do this slightly differently but generally they will end up with an estimate of the number of hours, days, or weeks for each feature. More experienced firms will factor in time for handling edge cases, supporting a wide variety of devices and testing across a wide set of scenarios.

Here’s a hypothetical example for a very basic app:

Login2 days4 days1 day1 day
Display Profile2 days1 day2 days1 day
Take photo1 day2 days0.5 days0.5 days
Total573.5 days2.5 days
Sample app adds up to 18 days of work.

In this basic example we would have 18 days of work. Each development team may do the estimates differently but it’s typical to get an estimate in terms of weeks of total work.

Once you have this estimate you multiply it by the hourly rate that the developer or firm charges This can vary by firm from $20/hour to over $200. This is why some of the ranges for how much an app costs can vary so widely. Even for this simple app that would take just a few weeks to develop you could see prices from $2800 to $28,000.

FeatureNative on-shore mid/senior engineersNative off-shoreHybrid off-shoreJunior
Example Costs

Quality of the app experience

The quality of the app and its success in the marketplace is often driven by the quality of the engineers and the details that are in-place in the design work. Spending more on great design can reduce complexity in engineering and keep your end-users happier in the end.

Technical Choices Impact the Costs

One of the key considerations for app costs is the technical architecture that you choose for your engineering. Most larger-scale mobile apps are built separately for iPhone, Android, and web experiences. This means that these larger firms often have to triple the engineering costs for the front-end of the product. As you can imagine this can triple the costs too. For well-established firms, the trade-off is worth it and well-built apps and web experience provides for both smoother experience for all users and a more robust code-base

Some engineering teams, however choose to use a cross-platform technology such as ReactNative by Facebook or Flutter by Google. These technologies allow you to more easily develop one core code-base and deploy across multiple platforms such as Android and iOS. These technologies are a good option for reducing initial costs but they come with tradeoffs in the user experience and on the maintainability of the code.

Ongoing Costs

Now so far we’ve talked about the initial costs of building an app but most successful apps are thought of as long-term and annualized investments. While many people think of apps as things, successful apps tend to be core and critical to a larger business. Because of this, these apps have to be updated, enhanced, and improved on a month-to-month basis. If your app is tied into a core business you should consider budgeting for an annual expense that’s related to the size of your engineering and design team.

For smaller startups, the initial engineering and design team can be as small as two people but often mobile teams are 5-10 people. Larger corporations will often have dedicated teams ranging in size from a dozen to hundreds of employees.

Because these teams are operational year-round their budgets are also annualized. Larger companies can do this because they think of their mobile teams as a profit center that’s core to their business, rather than a one-time cost.

While the price of an app can range wildly the impact that an app can have on a business is similarly large. Mobile apps can drive significant revenue for larger businesses and as more people are getting comfortable installing and using apps, the mobile-first trend will continue to grow.