How to turn your idea into an application even if you don’t have money

Enterpreneurship

You’ve already got the greatest app or software idea, right? Do you see any unresolved problems? Or do you know the situation when the solution which has already existed doesn’t play its role?

Is your answer „YES” to any of these questions? So why didn’t you make it happen? I guess that, if you decided to read this post (with headline about costs of developing the application), the biggest thing which matters in this area would be money. For some reason you can’t or don’t want to fund an app or a software development on your own.

What to do in such situation? Give up?

Fortunately, you are not the first and not the last person to run into this dilemma. To be honest, most start-ups don’t have enough money from day one and they manage to achieve enormous success, because of the energy, creativity and hard work of their founders.

If you really believe in your idea, you will find the right way to establish a working development process. In this article I will show you four ways how this can be achieved. But be warned, there is no one silver bullet for everyone’s case. You will probably want to mix and match parts of these suggestions on your journey. Every company has different stages and needs along this process. Every phase is different and depends on your personality. So choose the first way of funding ideas, work on them, master them and only than move on to the next one to obtain more funds for your project.

Find a Co-Founder

This is the most obvious way to create an app or software cost free. You have an idea, but don’t have technical skills and money. This is a great space for a founder-developer paradigm. You can offer them shares for their input. You are not risking any money – „maybe it is going to take off”.

Unfortunately, this kind of approach often fails. According to the article 20 reasons Startups fail” are: disharmony with investor/cofounder, loss of focus (mostly when start-up is only side project for co-founders) and not having the right team (23% of the surveyed participants marked this answer). It means that with bad co-founder it can be impossible to achieve success. If you decide to try this model, use it very carefully.

On the other hand, we know many success stories, which began with no money, and 2 co-founders, so I can’t completely dismiss this way of creating a start-up – with Steve Jobs’ and Steven Wozniak’s story as a prime example. They created Apple in a garage. If you find the right person to work with, the synergy will take you to the next level.

In order to find a good cofounder I recommend Guy Kawasaki’s advice. In blog post „how to find good cofounder”he wrote that cofounders need to have similiatires in:

  • vision
  • goals of size company
  • commitment

Nevertheless an interesting fact is that they as well should have differences:

  • in expertise in various fields
  • orientation (micro vs general problems solvers)
  • different perspective (i.e. age, ethnic background or gender)

But sometimes it’s not enough to make the right call. You need to take the final test…

How to eventually choose the right ONE?

Guy Kawasakirecommends a simple test:

„Suppose you’re at a shopping center and you see someone you’re considering as your co-founder, but he or she has not yet seen you. You have choices: rush over to say hello, depend on serendipity to come face-to-face, or got to another store.
If you’re strong initial reaction isn’t to dash over to the person, do not make him or her your co-founder.”

That advice from Guy Kawasaki could work for you.

But I want to warn you not to procrastinate work over your idea, because of looking for a cofounder….

If you think: „I can’t start this without a cofounder”.

Say „NO” to these thoughts. It’s by no means a reason to give up on your idea. The history knows many start-ups that were founded by a single person, for example the dating site „Plenty of fish” founded by Markus Frint from Vancouver. He created it as a side project to practice a new programming language, and people started singing up. Many of them… In 2015 he sold „Plenty of fish” to Match Group for $575 millions in cash.

You can say that he was a programmer and you are not. You can’t program, but you can start working on your own project anyway.

Take part in a Startup Weekend/Contest/Hackathon

There are start-up contests, like Startup Weekend, Hackathon, being organized in many university cities. It can be a great opportunity to examine your idea in a real world. During one weekend you can find a cofounder or investor, who will pay for coding of your idea. But it also may not happen. You should be ready to get hard feedback or even hear too positive words about your project (when its quality is not as good as they say). The contest reality is not the same as the real world

There are many examples of winners of Startup weekends who didn’t make it. Only 20% of winners may survive (like in Holland edition of Startup Weekend).

There is also many success stories like Musefind, a Canadian startup that didn’t even win a Startup Weekend Vancouver 2014, they just took part. One of the founders, Li, when asked what she learnt during participation in this competitions, replied:

I learned a lot about pitching and presenting during Startup Weekend – one judge even told me that I came off intimidating. It’s all good feedback and learning. It’s only made us better as founders.

Should you go to events like Startup Weekend?

If you have time to attend the contest like the Startup Weekend you should definitely join events like that. But manage your expectations wisely don’t expect that this particular event will change everything. If your goal is networking, gain experience and validate your idea – it is well worth it.

Business Angels/Venture Capitals

Another solution to get funded for app development is to ask for help at some serious business. We often hear that another start-up got funds and that there is plenty of money on the market up for grabs but it’s not exactly a good idea…
They may be just waiting for your idea!!

I’m not sure. Plain ideas aren’t enough to succeed. You should start executing on it anyways. Moreover, you should start earning money, before you reach out for investor’s money. In blog GrooveHQ Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove mentions:

„if you’re not bringing in a healthy profit yet, that funding will be the most expensive cash you ever buy”

It’s different when you are sure that you need big money or you are experienced in your field. Therefore I recommend that you work on your pitch strategy.

Luckily we can check out successful pitches of big internet companies today. Piktochart company’s blog accumulates 30 famous pitches and now we can get lessons from it. The most important lessons are:

  • depend of numbers (show data in your pitch)
  • social proof (where you worked, who is already your client)
  • simplicty (how would you describe this idea it to 7 year kid)

One of the most important contents of your presentation is you. You need to learn psychology of effective pitching ideas. The master in this field is Oren Klaff, author of the book „Pitch Anything”. One of his biggest recommendation is to learn how to use framing. You can’t start from lower position if you want get millions of dollars in an investment.
To do good framing you can use timeboxing strategy (“I have 15 minutes here, if that would work good we will organize a follow-up meeting” ), agenda, status.
Watch video explanation of this rule.

Learning and practising – that skills will benefit you in other areas of your professional life. Everyone uses frames whether they realize it or not, in many situations. You can be more conscious of it and may get funds for your company when you really need it.

Build community

Finally, my favorite advice to start from nothing is to build community around your idea. Build your Tribe.
The big opportunity of nowadays is that we have social media and we can check free of charge if people are involved in our idea or if our assumption of what people want is right.
For example, you see if any existing solution for a particular problem is or is not good enough.
There is a need, but it may be that the problem is not big enough (the number 1 reson why startups fail is no real market need – read survey) to invest money in developing process.
Let’s start from creating content and building community around your channels. You can start your blogfor free on wordpress.org (watch turtorial how to do it)

OK, we have a blog. Now you can ask: what should I write in there?
The simplest answer is: something that users of your future app or software are really looking for. You should find out what kinds of problems they mention and answer the question if they are asking. Just give them reason to read what you have to say.

You also need to create a mailing list. This is the best way to deliver your message to your target audience and to stay in touch with them. If you send them an email and they remember who you are, this is the best way to sell your product. Even in preorder.

You can do it for free (up to 2000 users) in Mailchimp. You’ll find their step-by-step tutorials on how to setup and run e-mail marketing campaigns.
Than start looking for your target audience on social media.Set up a fan page and/or a community group on Facebook. You should also try other platforms where your audience lives. I recommend reading the blog of Neil Patel with great tips on how to grow your channels.

It may be another way to implement your idea. In this talk famous entrepreneur Noah Keagan adviced Corey, who wanted to create an app to prank it’s users, to start with youtube videos and other free platforms. If audience finds it valuable they won’t have any problem joining your mailing list or interest group where they can create the app with you.

In the same talk Tim Ferriss advised to „focus on relationships that I would have for years, not transactions.” Which means you should genuinely care of your potential prospective customers.

This summarizes how to prepare a perfect Kickstarter campaign. You need to start by creating a tribe. As Seth Godin wrote on his blog, Kickstarter is the last step, not the first one.

Also in “10 Secrets of Highly Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns” Nathan from Igitiondeck brings up a valuable point: “Build Interest Before You Close

Link do “I’m Fine, Thanks” movie.

When you build your tribe you may find the right co-founder, developer in it. Your project with it’s first users and benefits will be so valuable that you won’t even have to look for investors, because they will come to you.
You will also learn a very important thing. That is if your idea matters to other people.

Conclusion

The story of every start-up is different. Nowadays I recommend you start with engaging people, because in the end of the day these people will need to buy the solution and bring money to your company. Always remember to care about the theme, and all problems will sooner or later go away.

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