Sorry for crushing your dreams but your web app for tracking happiness levels (or for “social-aware” todo lists) is probably not going to make enough money to let you retire in Hawaii. Many programmers and web developers find making a web app very satisfying and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you are doing it for fun, it is OK. But making web apps is the trivial part. After all, most web apps are nothing more than a slick interface for CRUD operations. The key to making money is to find a market where people are willing to pay for those simple CRUD operations.
The usual approach for making web apps (or “startup” as some would like to call it) is this:
- Have a “cool” idea
- Implement it in X number of hours
- Try to justify its need by finding users who may use it
I am just making up a statistic here, but I have seen 9/10 efforts losing hope after the third step and the web app just languishes with the creator given up on it after initial euphoria.
That is a wrong approach.
If making money is the objective, I suggest going with the market-first approach (as opposed to idea-first approach). If you are confident that you will be able to make a good enough product/prototype, I suggest taking the following approach:
- Find an industry (ideally, an old fashioned one) where people are making money
- Find the single differentiator which will put your app apart in the already established industry (read or research what pain points are still not addressed by top 3 solutions)
- Make a web app, market it, refine it based on feedback, monetize the app
- Slowly incorporate all standard features expected out of a solution in that industry so you can shoot to be a market leader
Note that I never talked about the idea here. That’s because I believe in market-first approach. Any sufficiently big market will give you tons of interesting ideas. Why do you need to come up one of your own?
As far as finding industries that make money is concerned, I will blog about it in next post. But I will leave with an example: Survey Industry. Did you know Survey Monkey makes $45 million a year in this (boring) industry? Then there are other players who are most likely profitable: Wufoo, Survey Gizmo, Kampyle, etc. So, instead of an image-gallery app, why not make a survey software specifically targeted at, say, event attendees. Once your app is ramen profitable, fire all your engines and pivot as full-blown survey software.
Aim is to make money, not justify your “cool” idea.