When we first had the idea to build a mobile app back in 2014, similar to most people, we had no idea what we were doing. We used apps regularly ourselves, but we had no idea how those apps were created. That was when our entrepreneurial adventure started. We spent countless late nights researching, “How to build mobile apps,” and, “How to launch an idea,” all while working full-time jobs. During this time, it felt like we were getting a degree in online education. In today’s world, we feel blessed that we can find answers to nearly any question simply by typing it into Google, YouTube, or by reading websites. Now years later, we are happy that we can participate in the spreading of information with something as simple as this blog article. Below we will try to bullet point the major parts of how to get started building a mobile app and link you to our YouTube series we created on this subject matter.
Step 1: “Ways to Build a Mobile App”
This is the first step, and it is truly the most exciting! There’s a ton to learn during this stage, but there are only a few real options which we will dive into below.
Become a Developer
Here is a common option many founders find when they have an itch to build a product. Apps are built using code, and code is written by computer programmers. Nowadays, I’m excited that many schools are actually teaching computer programming at an early age. I think this is a trend we need to see continue to grow in the upcoming years. This is not an ideal solution though if you lack time, dedication, or a passion for programming. While there are countless free and paid resources online (www.Codecademy.com, www.teamtreehouse.com), please do not think this is the easiest route. It gives you a lot of control and a new skill set that can grow into a full career even if your app idea does not work out. But it takes a specific type of person to want to be a programmer, and it takes thousands of hours of learning. This is great solution only if you have those personality traits and you are looking to build something fairly simple. Ask yourself these questions when you are considering going this route:
– How much do I enjoy problem-solving?
– Do I like puzzles and getting stuck figuring out very specific issues?
– Do I have enough time to devote to this new skill?
– Do I enjoy staring at a computer for hours every day?
Next steps for this strategy:
Spend some hours Googling “How to build a mobile app,” “Advice for first-time founders,” and, “Issues to avoid when building a mobile app.” Figure out how you like to learn (reading, videos, podcasts), and find resources on any of these avenues to help. Some of our favorites are “Ycombinator” YouTube channel, “How I Built This” podcast, Code.org website, and this YouTube series from CrashCourse all about Computer Science.
Hire a Local Programmer
This is the most common solution most people will end up pursuing, since it takes the least amount of time and results in typically the highest quality of product in return. It truly is a tradeoff in resources that you have based on your scenario. Say you are a first-time founder who does not enjoy the concept of coding but has a full-time job, and you’d like to invest some of that income into building your first app. This is a great route because it can be done after your 9-5 job, and you still have the potential for huge success without putting all your eggs in one basket. This is especially true if you are a good communicator and you work with a domestic team; the work quality is typically high, but you will pay for that. Below are questions to ask yourself to consider if this is the best route to take:
– Do I have the expendable income to make paying another team a reality?
– Do I want to manage communication during the normal hours of operation (8am-7pm in your region)
– Do I have some communication skills to get across what I’m looking for in my app?
Next steps for this strategy:
Try searching your local area for terms like “Mobile app development companies,” “Best developers in my area,” and, “Software developers in my area.”
Find an Outsourced Dev Team
We live in one of the most fascinating times to be alive. It is truly a global world, and as of today we have over 3 billion of the world’s population online. That is an incredible concept that wasn’t dreamt of even 25 years ago. With that many minds on the internet, we are flooded with incredibly talented options all around the globe. Sadly though, due to many reasons, it’s typically very difficult to find a team abroad and build a quality product that actually launches. One of the biggest issues here is not actually the skill of the developers— it is the level of required communication and the dedication of the founders themselves. There’s also the issue (if you are not technical yourself) that you don’t know how to differentiate a strong development team from a poorly skilled one. Sadly, because of the sheer distance between you and the team you hire, there is little recourse if and when something like this happens. Yes, there is a cost savings between international developers and the more developed nations, but that comes with a lot of added risk. At Founders Approach for example, we’ve found that 50% of our customers come to us after being burnt one or more times trying to outsource themselves without the necessary skills to manage their team. This strategy is a good idea for anyone who has a good handle on these questions below:
– Are you prepared to stay up late or get up early up to jump on a phone call with a different time zone?
– Are you using the correct tools to find skilled developers?
– Are you ready to interview potentially 30 or more individuals before you decide on exactly who you will trust to build your product?
– How strong are your communication skills?
– How many hours a week do you have to dedicate to your idea?
Next steps for this strategy:
Watch multiple videos about “How to find quality outsourced developers” on YouTube, “How to create an Upwork job posting,” and create a profile on www.Upwork.com. Start searching for developers and write down the average prices and ratings you are looking at. When you get enough data you will start to see a pattern and can find the best option for your money and scenario. When you are interviewing, please ALWAYS ask to see physical products they have built 100% themselves that you can download and play around with yourself. Also, always research and find past customers of the developer and reach out to them directly to get an honest account of their work. No developer is perfect, but make sure their potential faults are not extremely important to you.
Find an Equity Partner in Your Idea
This is probably the most challenging strategy, especially if you are a non-technical cofounder. This strategy requires that you have a network to find enough talented individuals and the selling skills to convince them to join you on the entrepreneurial journey. Sadly, because development jobs are in such high supply these days, the reality is that a quality developer can typically always find a high paying job. So, it’s much harder to convince them that your long-shot idea is worth the risk. You could get lucky and find that your project does not require too much work and that your new team member can work late nights after their full-time job to help get your product built. But this is rare. Also, you might be able to find someone early on in their tech career who is willing to join your idea, but it’s mostly out of a need for a portfolio item to reference in meetings. This usually results in sub-quality code, lots of headaches, and back-and-forth calls asking for status updates when not much has been done. Remember that not everyone who says they are a “developer” has the same skills. There are front-end developers, back-end developers, designers, etc. You may end up hiring someone that is not able to build 100% of your vision themselves. Similar to the last strategy, if you have a lot of patience and don’t need anything highly technical, this can be a route to get started. But always remember there is a risk that at some point you will need to start over because of technical debt or poor choices made early on because you were trying to save money by lowering the quality of work.
– Do you have a lot of time to attend networking events or video calls to meet potential team members?
– How good are you at selling an idea to people (not just this idea, but think through your past. It could be something as simple as selling your friends on where you should go to dinner that night.)?
– Do you have a simple idea that can be built on a part-time basis?
– Do you have absolutely no funds to launch this product?
– What is going to happen if your new member gets a full-time job 3 months into building your idea?
Next steps for this strategy:
While I do believe this is like finding a needle in a haystack or discovering a unicorn, these people do exist. But you must have the determination and grit to stick through many dead ends. We spent the first 2 years of our first startup trying to find this person to no avail. We wish you the best of luck, and we recommend you start with your personal network and then move onto websites like www.cofounderslab.com
Hopefully you found this article helpful as you are starting the next steps of your business venture. Always remember that this is never an easy path forward, but it is truly worth the rewards. The number one thing we tell entrepreneurs is that if you are dedicated and ready to take the next steps, please make sure you are resourceful and resilient because the only thing I know for certain is that you will face challenges that you will need to overcome. Best of luck, and if there is ever anything we can do to help, please let us know!
The Entire Team at Founders Approach