How to Build a World Beating App George September 26, 2014 Audience Building, Billion Dollar Apps, Insights, Management This article originally appeared in WIRED Magazine. Your app idea might not beat WhatsApp’s $19bn valuation, but George Berkowski, former head of product at Hailo, sees plenty of opportunities. “We’re all well-positioned to create game-changing projects, we just have to be prepared to be a bit risky,” he says. His book, How to Build a Billion Dollar App (out September 4, Piatkus), studies how 43 billion-dollar tech companies hit the big time. Here are his tips. 1. Find a bugbear — and a fix The best way to start is to identify a problem, suggests Berkowski. “It doesn’t have to be related to mobile or apps, just think about difficulties that people share and how you can make them better — something that annoys you that you can fix with technology.” If it’s something that bugs you personally, that’s even better, he says. “Working to solve your own problems keeps you motivated.” 2. Assemble your team There are three key roles: someone who understands how to build the product, experiences the problem and wants a solution; there’s the person responsible for the technology that will make it work on a small screen; and there’s the person responsible for attracting users. “If you can get people to a great product that works, you’ve nailed the three legs of the stool,” says Berkowski. 3. Nail the business model “Make sure you think about how advertising can be weaved in at some point,” says Berkowski. Other common models include pay-per-download, subscription-based software as a service and in-app purchases. In-app makes up the majority of App Store revenues: “You only pay for additional features once you’ve got the app, so, it’s a great way of demonstrating value first.” 4. Develop a brand identity Coming up with a great name is important. You should aim for something that alludes to the function of your app, something that’s novel, has emotional resonance and, above all, is simple. “We’re entering a world where there’s increasing competition for our attention,” explains Berkowski, “so you will need to make your proposition as clean and crisp as possible.” 5. Build the prototype Even if you can’t code, tools such as InVision and Proto.io can get you to the stage of a prototype. “Don’t outsource this process — go out there and try out a handful of different tools,” says Berkowski. With a little knowledge of graphic-design software you’ll be able to create a user interface. “If you can pull that together you’ve got the beginnings of an app; then you can see if it’s going to work or not.” 6. Test it to breaking point User feedback is essential to figuring out exactly what you’re building, and for whom. “Make sure you’ve got analytics throughout your app from the very beginning, because if you’re not measuring stuff objectively then you’re missing out,” Berkowski says. “Be a power user of your own app. If you’re not using it in anger, or on a daily basis, then you will miss out on vital insights.” 7. Get the app out there Once you start getting good feedback, you’re confident in what you’ve produced and are ready to scale, it’s time to soft-launch your app. “Focus on getting a few hundred people using it religiously,” advises Berkowski. This will fuel word-of-mouth and drive your product forwards. “Until you’ve got that product/market fit, and people love what you’ve built, it’s not a good idea to spend much on marketing.” 8. Make it highly visible A 2012 Nielsen report revealed that 63 per cent of app sales come through in-store searches, so you need to ensure that yours comes up first. “Having all the keywords that people would associate with your app is crucial,” warns Berkowski. It’s also essential to maintain consistent brand identity across channels so that people know exactly what to search for, and aren’t surprised by what they find. 9. Raise funds Berkowski advises self-funding as much as possible at first, but when it comes to expanding, there are a lot of people out there with money to invest. “You can find investors from all around the world on AngelList,” suggests Berkowski. “Then there’re all the different incubators and accelerators: Seedcamp, Techstars, Wayra, etc. We’ve even got Y Combinator in London this summer.” 10. Grow the right way It’s important to consider what kind of expansion makes sense for you. “Games like Angry Birds are language-agnostic,” says Berkowski. “So all they wanted to do was share it all around the world.” In contrast, apps like Uber and Hailo need to move city by city. “The main thing is to focus on users. Keep delighting people, keep people using it for longer and keep people coming back.” This article was taken from the September 2014 issue of Wired magazine.