Your idea is worthless, but don't worry

You're watching television one night and you see a commercial. As the paid monotony plays out, you start to hear things you've talked about before, "I had that idea!" then comes out of your mouth inadvertently. As you watch the hypothetical dollars flow to another person's not-so-hypothetical bank account, you lament your lack of action. This is the moment you start thinking about every other idea you have and where the embers for the next great idea you're about to have. This scenario is very common and holds in it the true value of an idea, nothing.

When you have an idea, that is great! If you can look at a problem and see "outside of the box", that is the first step to revolutionizing the world. However, the ability to find that idea, hone in on a specific market, have the wherewithal to stick to it when things fail all the time and you feel on the brink of financial ruin, navigate new competition and tailor your product to the needs of users, along with many other things are what make successes. There are multiple examples, Facebook beat Myspace, Friendster & others. Using exclusivity and the allure of "private information", Mark Zuckerberg took an idea and made it a behemoth. This is just one example; Silicon Valley, the world & our daily lives are riddled with examples of this from Google to Amazon and everything in between. How do they succeed while your idea didn't come to life?

You would be surprised how often ideas are born out of necessity. Think about the last time you had an idea to improve a product you were using. Apps let you do this to your daily life</em>. Since the "I had that idea!" experience is common, you will most likely find a group of people that agree this is a good idea. This brings me to the major point here, GET MARKET VALIDATION!

Happy users are your best validation

You are going to need users to test your app. Also, the way mobile works, you will need feedback in order to keep them coming back so you can raise money or make money (or both). How do you get market validation? Simple, talk to people. Talk to your friends and family, they will have insights you didn't see on your own. Ask people you hear experiencing the problem in public what they'd like and what your idea is. From all these points of view you will eventually end up with a core value proposition; the main pain you are going to cure with your app.

Big companies come by attacking large markets. Since you now have the core idea you are after, you now need to validate the market more broadly. By researching like a crazy person online, at libraries, talking to experts or whatever you feel is necessary to give you the largest market while keeping that core idea in place. This process won't happen all at once, in fact you will always be doing this. At different points in the process it turns into "competition research" or other manifestations, but in the end it is looking at all the users you want, the whole market undoubtedly, and see how that will best be attained.

Finding your MVP

By knowing the size of the market you also start to see the long-term viability of your app. One single app won't be a Facebook, Google, or Amazon. One app is a stepping stone to a larger mission normally. Even companies that use mobile apps for their brick and mortar stores end up creating 2 separate businesses between the online and offline divisions. By focusing on users the speed you can scale, or grow, your business is to find market opportunities that the technology being used in your app can be modified to help address and grow your reach &amp; business larger.

You know your idea is solid and you have research to back you up to those pesky naysayers, now is the time to attack the market like a commando. When you do this and don't know how to code you have a couple options. First, you can find a life-long friend that you are fine being married to as a co-founder (the analogy is very apt, only I argue marriage is WAY easier to get out of). You can try to find a development firm or coder and get them to create the app's Minimum Viable Product (your core idea in app form). When bugs come up you will need to find another coder and then go through the 3-4 month process again. Finally, you can go the Agile route and act like your competition.

Implementing your plans

In order to implement Agile, however, there is a strong team that is needed. There are important things called user stories and they are part art, part science yet hold the key to your app's experience and hence its appeal to your users. Agile focuses on small iterations of the product. You start with the MVP and move through small iterations to get the app developed. When bugs pop up, you can fix them quickly by moving the priority of them higher and moving it to the top of the development list.

You need a technical (coder) member of the team in order to orchestrate the backend work. There are 2 sets of requirements needed for best implementation of an idea. The plans non-coders can understand and get across to the team and the technical details needed to cut development times and streamline the code. These are impossible to implement without a "grand architect" on the team in the form of a coder.

Testing is also important. There are security issues, load times and size issues, bug problems, device specific issues (especially with Android) and many other problems that require intricate testing and are a subset of specialists on its own. Having an agile team means these testing procedures are done many times, limiting the chances of failure due to lack of thorough testing.

There are some other specialists needed, but as you can tell it is important to hire a team that will offer you the best of all the above if you are to truly go agile with development.

Gartner has said that “Agile development is essential for mobile app development”

You are at home one night to watch a movie. As the theatrics play out you start arguing with the person in the room about what the actor (or actress) in the film you are watching was also in. You know IMDB, but you don't know the person's name and it is a pain to go through and look through to find this, then the inspiration hits....What if I could hold the phone up and let the camera recognize the actor and show me their bio and filmography! Eureka, you think. Then you start trying to dismantle the idea into its core components (or MVP).

The process may go something like this...

Well, there are competitors, like TV manufacturers that have smart TVs, but phones can do so much there must be a way to make that unique and something they can't do without serious privacy issues. That brings up a good point, what are the privacy issues, we can't just have it "always listening", people would be weirded out, but we need people to engage. How could we attack that problem? Knowing virality is important for growth, you need people to tell friends and engage the people (in a constructive, non-obtrusive way) to use your app so they grow a good enough relationship with you and your app to recommend it to friends. So, in order to make it compelling, over time it could learn the types of movies you like and actors you frequently query and create a "you may like this" push message every week or so, possibly allowing the user to purchase tickets and WOO HOO money for the app! People will pay to have their content put in front of an engaged user base, this idea has some legs. Now what?

Market research begins

Are there any apps that do this? One example of this here, however that just proves there is a market. After doing more research than I'm going to do for a blog post and gathering substantial data (not just now, but throughout the life of your app) will create a cutting edge app and business.


This is when you break down the idea into user stories and get the development finished. There are many routes for this and you are free to take any that would lead to agile development. Hiring the experts is the best option. The key in agile is get things in the hands of users, get feedback and then react to that feedback through more iterations (development sprints). This process never ends and ebbs and flows on your users' emotions. Experts help mitigate delays and through experience know what to look for and what to avoid in the process, saving time, money and users in the process.

Suffice to say, that "I had that idea!" feeling is common, but due to the technical execution issues, there are many pitfalls and traps. Taking that idea and making it a business that can afford that commercial you are watching is the hard work and diligence behind having an idea and running a business. Next time you have a great idea, come get some free guidance and see if it has legs, most ideas can find a unique way to attack the market, the more brains the better!

Happy dreaming