This article was published on December 23, 2013

Building a mobile app startup is about solving problems, not chasing ideas

Building a mobile app startup is about solving problems, not chasing ideas
Rahul Varshneya
Story by

Rahul Varshneya

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC, America's premier mobile app consultancy helping startups in mobile product strategy and d Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC, America's premier mobile app consultancy helping startups in mobile product strategy and development. Subscribe to his free email series on actionable mobile app growth hacking tactics.

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea, a company committed to helping entrepreneurs and businesses build, market and monetize their mobile apps.

Building a mobile app startup is the “I want to build an Internet startup” of the late 1990s. The only difference is, this time, there is no bubble waiting to burst. At least not so, in my opinion.

17-year-old kid created a mobile app (Summly) and sold it to Yahoo for a reported $30 million earlier this year. Then, Snapchat was offered $3 billion by Facebook just a month back, which it declined, for reasons only they know.

The point is, deals like these create hopes for many people who aspire to run their own mobile app business and launch themselves as a closet entrepreneur.

For those who are dedicated to jumping on the mobile app startup bandwagon but are starved for ideas, I’ve got news for you.

Let’s start with the bad news: You’re yearning for the wrong thing (ideas) to help you start up. The good news is, what you really need are problems, and they’re everywhere! Chase problems and not ideas.

Successful entrepreneurs solve problems and in a way that we could not have imagined. When you look around you, every product and service you use were all created to solve a problem. You wanted to get from one place to another faster, you got a car. You wanted to get from one country to another faster, you got planes.

Should you then look for problems that solve the intrinsic problems (solution: horse carriage, ships) or the ones that were enhancements (solution: cars, planes)? My answer is look for the latter. In pursuit, you may stumble up on the former, but the important thing is that you should get started. So below are a few ways that can get you started looking for problems to solve.

Better an existing problem

Many startups were not the first in their domains. Take Google for instance. Many popular search engines existed – Altavista, Yahoo, etc – and we never thought we would move away from all of them at once.

Google simplified search for people when all the other search engines got lost in integrating news, weather, sports, features, and everything else under the sun on their home page. So, look at existing businesses in the areas that interest you and see how you can better solve the problem for their customers.

Adapt existing solutions to problems in your country

Many ventures exist which essentially do the same thing, but with localization. For example, SnapDeal is a Groupon clone in India with localized content and features. Google’s clone Baidu is hugely successful in China. And Singapore has its very own Pinterest clone called Singterest.

Identify some of the successful startups in other countries, see how they are solving problems in their countries and adapt that to your country based on the local culture and problems that locals face. Germany’s Samwer Brothers built a fortune doing this.

Apply existing solutions to your industry

Think Linkedin – social networking concept adapted to the business industry. Think Airbnb – a popular hotel search and booking concept adapted to the bed and breakfast industry. There are many businesses that can be adapted to a niche area, a space that you understand best and one that interests you. Look for popular concepts that can be adapted to your industry.

Seek and address existing pain points

Every business vertical has issues that will range from areas in marketing, customer acquisition, customer service, sales, operations and others. Chalk out the industries that you identify best with and would be passionate about working within. Then, speak to a wide range of professionals from that industry to understand what problems they are facing in their jobs.

Write all the information down in an excel sheet and then begin to narrow down into the most common problems faced by people and choose the area that excites you enough (marketing, sales, operations, etc). There you go. You now have a list of problems that require a solution.

So, you’ve identified a problem that you would love to work with. Is that enough to launch you into successful business? The answer is no. You now need to focus on the ‘how’. How you solve a problem then becomes a far more important factor in your mobile app startup’s success, but we’ll leave that for another article.

Here is a comprehensive guide to web application testing.

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