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How to make your startup idea a great success

Thinking of building your mobile app idea? Here's everything you need from user stories, discovery phase, agile development and how to make money from your app

Richard Kacerek
Richard Kacerek


Demand for apps is growing.

Your mobile screen is a digital real estate for business. Over the next decade, we are going to see a real battle for your screen space. The global mobile app revenue will top $200 billion in 2020. Your app is facing fierce competition, as there are already 3.5 million apps in the AppStore alone and over 90% of them are free. So let’s take a look at how Empire Elements helps startups and entrepreneurs and turn their mobile app idea into a resounding success.

Make money from your app using the Freemium model.

Offering one-off purchase for app download is no longer an option. The most common model is the Freemium - free limited version of the app. Subscription or a one-off payment unlocks the full-featured app. This is the most widespread magnetisation model. Just keep that in mind when creating your app. People are not going to pay to download your app any more. What’s also changed is that you should offer guest access so that people don’t need to register to try your app. Once they have your app on their phone, they can try it for as long as they like. This is the point where you show value and entice your app users to signup or purchase.

Is your app idea solving a problem?

If you have identified a solution to a problem that people have, then congratulations! You are a rare breed of an entrepreneur wanting to address a widespread problem, shake up the industry and build something awesome. Your idea does not necessarily have to be unique or original.

You can become a competitor in the marketplace, doing things better, cheaper or faster. Whatever your target audience and real app users desire. There aren’t many industries left with no competition. Everywhere you look, the game is progressing, and there is no sign of slowing down. The real trick here is the specialisation in a niche market and doing it better by adding more value to the users and knowing how to show and market this value effectively.

Adding value for your customers is what will make sure your startup idea is a great success. It’s the value, not the features that matter!

Do you know your target audience?

First, you need to know who is going to be using your app. Who is going to benefit the most? A little tip here, it’s always your customer! Whatever you do with your app, always validate the core idea with your target audience and ask for invaluable feedback. Don’t be tempted to make the classic mistake thinking of the commercial value first and a customer second. 30% of startups fail within the first two years, so don’t let it be you. This is why we always start a new project creating user stories and profiles. It’s sometimes called user avatars. A cool name for fictional or even real characters. Map how they interact with your app and most importantly, how they individually benefit from your app. The trick to your app’s success is to solve their problem.

What problem are you solving?

Let’s carry on with this line of thought and explore the actual benefits. Now that you have personal avatars, you can start showing the value. Value is personal and always different. If your health & fitness app, for example, is allowing people to connect with personal trainers in the area, then Julia (our avatar) can benefit by booking time according to her schedule. The value is not your app. The real value is that Julia can spend more time with family and exercise at times that suit her. Value is personal. Never forget that and use it for your marketing purposes. Show that personal value to your customers.

Did you research your competition and how they do it?

Ah, the competition. Nothing beats a good race. We are in the most competitive industry in the world, the internet! Building websites and mobile apps are almost seen as a commodity. Always be aware of what your competition is doing and don’t be scared to show compassion and congratulate when someone has beaten you. It’s unavoidable, and those businesses that are willing to learn and innovate will thrive. Just have a look at how complacent Nokia got dominating the mobile market in the nineties. When the iPhone was released, Blackberry (RIM back then) didn’t see it as a competition, and everyone laughed at the iPhone. And where are Nokia and Blackberry now?

Another great example is Netflix vs Blockbuster. We all know how that worked out? Don’t get complacent when you are successful, and your app idea is growing.

How are you going to fund your idea?

Every startup idea needs funding. There are many accelerators, angel investors and Venture Capitalist companies out there ready to invest in your idea and most importantly, you as the director. One of the challenges Empire Elements thrives on when working with entrepreneurs is to prepare you and your startup for the investor pitch and answer any technical questions. We are ready to stand by your side as an experienced technological partner. We will make you and your startup investable!

If you already are investable and have made the first round of funding, then our sincere congratulations! We are ready to become your mobile app development company and tech partner to build your idea and support rapid growth. We like to form lasting partnerships with our clients and help them even beyond the app launch. We’ve worked with Nexus since 2011 when they had an idea on how to disrupt the security outsourcing industry. Empire Elements team designed and built the Nexus system and mobile apps for iPhone and Android. Today, Nexus is a multi-million-pound company and the leader in the UK’s security outsourcing sector.

Funding startups is always tricky. You can start with developing the idea, booking our discovery phase with us and get a prototype of your idea ready to show to investors. Being investable means working on your idea, explaining the problem you solve and most importantly adding value to the users. Investors are also interested in revenue streams, business plan and your user acquisition plans.

How is your app going to be built?

Mobile app development is a part creative and part technical process. It takes years of training to gain the necessary skills to build an app or to design one. Just because you have a few screens that illustrate your idea, does not mean you can start building it. App development process goes through several stages, and every thought that is put down to paper should be discussed with tech-team that will be building your app. Sometimes how you think a specific feature should work may be more expensive to make than what your team suggests. And sometimes it might be downright insecure, and other times there is simply is a better way of doing it.

Don’t forget; you are building an app for your customers, not for yourself.

Did you choose the right team?

Choosing the right development agency is critical. The right team should give you a helping hand and guide you on how to make your ideas more useful and user-friendly. Your team should put together a solid startup strategy, not only how to build your app. Empire Elements is always looking at ways to save cost by automation of certain features and to run your startup more efficiently.

Don’t reveal too much before signing an NDA.

All ideas should star with an NDA. We have our standard non-disclosure agreement, or we are happy to sign yours. Either way, get the NDA in place before revealing too many details about your idea. Our team can provide signed NDA in a few minutes.

Have you defined your app’s core features?

We always recommend building MVP first (don’t start building too much). The single most prominent mistake startups make having an overly optimistic expectation of how fast a complex feature can be created. App complexity adds development time and will cost you more. If time to market matters, and if you are working with set and limited funds, focus on really nailing the core functionality of your startup app first. Then release and repeat the process. The reason why startups like this lean development process is to be able to say the app is already in the store. They start acquiring users and only then they can seek an investor to back them with funds to develop the idea further. It is a good practice too. Listen to your customers and gather valuable feedback from them. Maybe you will discover something amazing you did not think about.

Get an absolutely clear idea of what your app version 1.0 should be.

Could you benefit from a discovery phase?

If the idea is not clear, get help and discover together. We have put together some handy tips on how to build a startup, according to a millionaire. Building a business is hard, especially when it comes to a startup app. Our discovery phase is a fantastic way to explore your idea together with our specialists. We regularly help entrepreneurs build up their idea, finalise and crystallise it. Part of the discovery process is to cover the technical aspect of your app. The underlying cloud architecture and also the most suitable model of monetisation. Building apps from an idea to a million users is our speciality. A robust, scalable and secure cloud computing platform is a significant part. Discovering different possibilities to build your app features will also be covered in detail.

Do you have a development plan?

Once your discovery phase is completed, and you have an absolutely clear idea of what your app should be doing in the first version, you have a plan. This plan is clear to everyone involved, your investors, your development company, your marketing team so that everyone can work toward a single goal. Having a clear plan of action is instrumental to your success. We see this over and over, where startups with unclear plan end up missing deadlines, quick-bolting on features just because they are a good idea. That will cost them time and money.

Planning is important. An experienced team will give you a solid plan for your success, not and empty promises.

Gather app development estimates and price.

How much does the app development cost? This is probably the most common question we are asked. Well, the cost is only part of the problem. How about the value? An excellent mobile app development team brings unique value to your project by doing things faster, better, more efficiently and helps you to make the right technical decisions. That comes at a price. Just imagine that your app is snowballing and your system is getting slower, unable to cope with demand. Your customers get annoyed and leave your services for good. What would be the cost of that?

Work with your team, listen to their advice and experience. The chances are they have done it before for another startup, and they have a ton of knowledge to share with you. Use that experience to make your startup a great success.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. Warren Buffett

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
Warren Buffett

Agile development, tested and ready to launch the app.

The last stage of mobile app development is the actual app development. It’s been a journey to get to this point, and now you can see your app being built. Great teams like Empire Elements have adopted agile methodology, and they have a proven plan. Plan, develop, release, iterate and start again. In other words, we use two-week sprints which deliver pre-defined milestones that you can see. We use automatic build so that you can see your changes on the app in the next build, without waiting days or weeks to test your changes. App testing is integrated into our process, which you will be part of. Each week we catch up, discuss the work and closely cooperate with you, keeping you engaged and informed during the whole process.

App Store submission.

The App Store review process should not be a surprise. A good app development company like Empire Elements would give you advice before any feature could become problematic during the review process. All apps in the App Store go through a manual review by the Apple review team. That includes app code and also the Store listing page and marketing copy and screenshots. That can feel a bit overwhelming at first.

App launch.

Launching your app is a great feeling, and you should congratulate yourself. It is quite an achievement, a result of several thousands of hours going into the development and the day has come for your app to be released. Like with everything there will be a competition. You need to set out marketing and user acquisition plans to get things moving.

Build a revenue stream.

Have you heard of WeWork and their rise to $47B evaluation? And then subsequent downfall? Have several ideas on how your app could be monetised and how to make money from your app or a service? Startups usually rely on rounds of funding to fuel rapid growth, but that’s a hazardous strategy. They are perhaps motivated by Facebook and how they focused on growth instead of revenue. This is now a thing of the past. It does not apply to your business. You may not want to implement a revenue stream from the start, but if you are seeking investment, you need to make yourself investable. Our team can help you with that. Being an investable startup means having a good grasp on costs but also revenue streams and possibilities of new streams. Investors will love that, I can assure you.

Build your audience and user base.

Building MVP and releasing the app as soon as you can allow you to start gathering momentum and acquire those critical first customers. You can start marketing your app.

Pick a platform.

Why do you think it is that iPhone users get all the great apps first? It is a more lucrative platform to build on compared to the Android counterpart. That said there are many more users using Android phones. Especially when designing your app for the European market, you need to consider that only Sweden loves Apple and iPhones. Android dominates rest of Europe. It may be the right commercial decision to focus on a single platform and then move to another once when you are ready. Maybe even consider building a web application for administrators to access your app.

Listen to your fist 100 users.

Listen well and focus on creating an experience. You are solving a problem and trying to make a positive impact in the world. Get to know your early adopters and listen to their feedback. Measure the impact your idea has. If your app is getting no traction, or there is no market need, you still have choices to turn the ship around. If you validate your idea early, it will save you a lot of hassle. Even Twitter has changed from an SMS platform to networking microblogging services we know today. It’s the ability to measure what you are building and quickly changing direction if necessary.

Define business KPIs and measure milestones.

How do you measure success? That depends on what you are looking for. In any business, there are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which give you an idea of how your business is doing at any point. If you are a rising startup, then I bet you are looking for user acquisition. A monthly, weekly or even daily user acquisition could be one of your business growth indicators. If you are selling a subscription service, a KPI could be a number of active and paying members, which could be then very useful if you look for second-round funding. Investors like to see growth, profitability and potential! Make yourself business-savvy entrepreneur by proudly showing your business key performance indicators. Even if you are in the planning stage of your idea, make sure you know what you want to watch out for to measure and show your growth. Another critically important indicator is user retention. How many people keep using your app and how many of them leave! If your user retention is weak, where people stop using your app shortly after trying it out, you might have a problem. Make sure you make an excellent first impression on your customers.

Refine and develop.

Gather quality data from your users. Your customers are a great source of feedback and work with them to deliver a better product, better features and better value. The chances are that you will be in the industry that has competition, so asking your users for feedback and implementing that feedback could as well be what sets you above the competition. Just look at the recent boom in FinTech and start of a financial revolution. There are many banks, but what started it all? A frustration with old school high street banks, and now they are playing catchup with those that are ready to listen to their customers.

Marketing strategy and budget.

Second most common mistake businesses do not allocate marketing budget. Do you have a marketing strategy? How do you promote your app, your services? Do you have an area you want to start?


A successful Startup is one that has an impact on the user’s lives. Is your app going to save them money or time? Are you going to make it fast, easy and even cost-effective to book their holiday, doctor’s appointment or train tickets? Make a difference with your app and always add value.

From an idea to a million users

Download our PDFs

Free resources to help you acheive the first step in your startup journey

5 mistakes costing your tech startup £10,000s PDF

5 mistakes costing your tech startup £10,000s

10 step guide to building a profitable tech startup

10 step guide to building a profitable tech startup

Investors are not interested in your app idea

Investors are not interested in your app idea