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Startup app development guide

How to build a successful tech startup from an app idea to a million customers

Richard Kacerek
Richard Kacerek


You have an idea, you are not technical, and you want to know how to build a successful startup. Find out how it works and steps you should take or avoid.

Easy! Let’s have a look at how others have done it. You can learn from other successful startups to understand the steps they took to become successful. You are in luck. We have done the hard work for you.

Development of a startup product goes along the same lines. We decided to call this process from an idea to a million customers. First of all, you need to understand that this is not a quick path to millions of users or overnight success. It’s not. It is a journey from a starting point to your desired destination. You decide where that destination is (whatever your ultimate goal is), and we help you get there.

Your idea has to matter

Building a successful startup begins with a problem. Well, I mean the problem you are solving, of course. And if you can solve a big enough problem, then the journey will be easier.

“Your startup product needs to solve someone else’s problem!”

Once you know what you are solving you, then need to figure out the value your solution brings.

You might want to start by merely writing your ideas down, just on a paper and add sketches. Try not to make a mistake by diving into features your app will have or which technology you would like to use. Keep your focus on the reasons why anyone should use your app. What kind of difference are you going to make to their lives once they install it?

If you can’t clearly explain your tech startup concept in 3 minutes, then you still have some work ahead of you.

For example, my app idea helps tourists connect with a local guide. Then you can make it more elaborate by saying something like: “and this would be verified guide who is passionate about his/her city” and so on. Work on your single purpose until you are clear what your app does and why.

However, many startup founders make the mistake of focusing on solving too many problems at once. Keep it simple, nail just a single one and then add the others to your future product roadmap.

Sketches and wireframes

The next step is to start sketching ideas. I am old school, so I still use pen and paper to draw and sketch ideas quickly. Pen and paper work well for me. Crude sketches, also known as low fidelity wireframes, are meant to show the overall functionality of your app. Once you think you have enough start putting them into high fidelity wireframes. There are tons of tools out there you can use to put excellent wireframes together.

Focus on only what’s necessary. Don’t complicate things by adding Facebook, Google and LinkedIn login or something developers never heard of. These little things will quickly add up to the complexity of your app, and you might be surprised when you ask for development estimations.

App UI design and prototype

This is where you switch from wireframes to user interface (mobile UI). You can do it yourself, and again there are tons of templates out there but be aware that these steps are where things start to get a bit technical. You need to understand mobile app development or at least consult with a development company like Empire Elements. Check periodically if what you are creating follows user experience guidelines and capabilities of mobile devices.

Even at this stage, of creating a clickable prototype, startups still like to make things impressive by adding complexity.

“My advice to you is don't show features, show your idea and value it brings. There is great power in simplicity.”

Funding your app development

Here is where many wantrepreneurs get things wrong because of their unrealistic expectations!

You are at a crossroads now, you need to choose a way to fund your startup app development. If you expect that your groundbreaking idea can be built for a couple of thousands, you are better off keeping that money. Mobile app development is a highly technical skill that requires a collaboration of many team members clocking up thousands of hours.

We wrote a detailed article on How to fund your app development. You need to align your expectations about what can be achieved for a reasonable investment from your side. Building a prototype is something you can fund yourself, maybe even make it yourself at virtually no cost. But building a mobile app is better left to experts which comes at a price.

You may be even tempted to hire a freelance developer to help you build the app on a tiny shoestring budget. Please don’t. Nine out of ten times it will not work out, and you will waste your money and end up with nothing tangible to show for it.

There are three ways to fund your development: debt, equity or CrowdFunding. To find out which route is best for you, book a Startup Strategy Session with us and get a detailed and practical plan to develop your startup idea.

Building a tech startup MVP app requires a great team, skill and a clear strategy with milestones. Usually, it takes 3-6 months to build a medium complexity app for two platforms: iOS and Android. Adding a website version to the mix will increase that timeframe and investment further.

Growing beyond MVP

Your app is now launched in the app store. Congratulations, you are halfway there. Building an idea into an app and launching an MVP is where the real fun starts. Your responsibilities will change, and you’ll need to learn juggling customers, feedback, growth, sales, marketing, investors, new funding rounds and new features and products.

It may sound overwhelming, but trust us, it’s not that bad. This is where you’ll need to learn to delegate tasks to your team members. Most startups grow too fast and hire the wrong team members. Choose carefully and outsource tasks like marketing, scaling and new features development to your new technology partner Empire Elements. Working with a professional team will allow you to focus on running your business and other, more valuable activities that move your business closer to your goals.

You’ll learn how automation can be a fantastic tool when applied to marketing. You can, for example, have a sequence of emails created for all new customers added to your system, like what we did for easyParking project where each new member is added to a sequence of onboarding emails designed to educate the user and help them solve a problem. This is how we can automate user retention and satisfaction. Carefully integrated with marketing, it can be a powerful tool. Remember what DropBox did with recommending a friend in exchange for extra storage space - what a genius growth hack!

Scaling your app globally

Rapid startup growth presents a new set of challenges. Working with Empire Elements means we plan for your app to become successful, and we design the architecture to be scalable from the start. Without the ability to scale, your business cannot grow. Imagine having thousands of frustrating users lamenting over your slow app right after you paid for a marketing campaign to bring them in.

That’s one terrible scenario you need to avoid. Let’s plan for your success, right from the start!

Expanding to new regions and territories usually require development and code changes to your app and the business. Growing outside of borders means your business will need to change and evolve. There are different laws and taxations in each country. So if you take payments across the borders, there are exchange rates to consider. You’ll need to tackle a different set of challenges.

The marketing strategy that works

What is your marketing and sales strategy? If your answer is none, you are in the right place because you need one. You need a marketing strategy that works and delivers results. A successful marketing strategy is always based on content. Empire Elements will help build a strategy around your business that is focusing on benefits to your customers. Creating digital assets in the form of lead generators, blog articles or social media posts.

“Throwing money at Google or Facebook ads is not a strategy.”

Once you get people interested in your idea through content marketing, then you can lead them to a sale via a sales channel. Today, more than ever, your company, your brand and your product need to solve customer’s problem directly. Better you show that to your customers, more profitable your business will become.

One on one guide session

If you enjoyed this article, why not carry on. Book a 30-minute meeting with us and discuss your ideas freely, without any pressure sales tactics or tech jargon. Discuss your idea with a qualified professional to see how your idea can be built.

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