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The most requested service we receive at Hype Digital Innovation is for app development, which accounts for 85% of our business.   The other 15% are requests for secondary services such as websites, marketing and consultations, including how to fund an app or tech idea. Here are some tips, lessons and resources for launching your app or tech idea based on my 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur and app developer in the metro Detroit area.  

Tip #1:   There is a GREAT gulf between a great idea and a great product.   As an entrepreneur, you will have to find a way to bridge that gulf in order to validate your MVP (Minimum Viable Product).    Suggestions for validating your MVP are a wireframe, mockup or prototype. What’s the differences between the three?

Wireframe

A wireframe is somewhat like a flow chart, flow diagram or 1-Line diagram, a low-fidelity way of showing a design. It’s the graphic representation of an app or a website containing the most essential elements and content.  A wireframe will help gather things together and see the big picture. A few characteristic features of a wireframe diagram are the following:

  • It shows the main chunks of content
  • It draws the outline and the layout structure
  • It depicts the most basic UI (User Interface)

One huge advantage of creating a wireframe is that it is not expensive and is fast to complete. You can show it to potential customers and investors and ask for feedback which is great because people will pay more attention to the functionality and user experience than the aesthetics. You are going to fine-tune the aesthetics in the second iteration. 

Mockup

A mockup is a high-fidelity static design diagram, which demonstrates information frames and statically presents content and functions.  It more closely resembles a graphic representation. Unlike a wireframe, a mockup looks like a finished product, but is not interactive and not clickable.  Colors, fonts, texts, images, logos, etc. can be added here to provide a static map of you app. A mockup can be helpful to provide investors with a picture of how the finished product will look and help team members review the project visually. 

Prototype

Prototypes are very close to the finished product.  At this level of design, processes are simulated, and user interactions can be tested.  Unlike the previous two, a prototype is clickable and allows the user to experience content and interactions in the interface.  The difference between the final product and the prototype is mainly that the interface and the backend are not often tied together in the case of a prototype. This is done to reduce development costs until the UI is approved. Once the prototype is tested, the team can go on with coding.

Tip #2:   If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional app developer, guess how much it will cost to hire an amateur?    To ensure you get value for your money, here is what should expect to receive as part of your quote.

  1. A comprehensive mobile app strategy.
    1. Identify your business goals.
    2. Connect your business goals with your audience needs
    3. Connect your business goals with your product’s features.
    4. Choose product features with the biggest return.
  2.  An app prototype
    1. Define the user journey screen by screen.  (No shortcuts)
    2. Test key features with the prototype
    3. Nail down all details before any code is written.
    4. Lower your development costs.
  3. Develop Product Roadmap
    1. Develop presentation/pitch deck 
    2. Acquire everything you need to start development
    3. Pin down the cost of your app.
    4. Pin down how long it will take to get to market.
    5. Start pitching to investors.

Lesson #1Protect your App idea before publishing.

  1. Share information selectively
  2. Carefully choose professional relationships
  3. Always use Non-Disclosure Agreements
  4. Trademark your name.
  5. Turn your idea into a reality.

Lesson #2   Plan for your app’s success.

  1. Research your target market.
  2. Perform competitor research.
  3. Create a landing page that sells.
  4. Make your app visible in app store.
  5. Create viral video content on how your app works and how to leverage its capabilities.
  6. Start a blog.
  7. Reach your audience with social networks.
  8. Measure your app KPIs.

Resource #1 Tech Town 

  1. Don’t give up on Tech Town, it Works!
  2. If you don’t get what you want or need on the first try, leverage the Tech Town team to assist you.   

My success story with Tech Town:  When I first launched HDI, I applied to Tech Town for one of their incubator programs and was declined.  I was hurt and shocked. Failure was not something I was intimately familiar with, coming from corporate America.  Subsequently, I called Paul Riser who said we were not a good fit for what they were looking for. Nonetheless, he encouraged me to leverage their resources to get my company off the ground.  He arranged for me to meet with Marlin Williams, Warren Galloway and Gerry Roston and share with them who we are and what we do. In short, I gave them my unpracticed elevator pitch, they asked me more details about my company and skills and encouraged me to stay in contact with them and come by Tech Town and leverage their many resources.    I went to Tech Town events and met with their staff weekly. Within a couple of months, I received a call from Gerry, who asked if my team would meet with him and his project team regarding a mobile app. We did meet with the project team and subsequently they purchased the first app we built on our new platform. It was not easy, but perseverance and building solid relationships delivered our objective.  My experience in multiple start up programs has yielded excellent relationships and opportunities. Detroit has a large and well-equipped entrepreneurial ecosystem. Be smart about your business goals and relationships. There are hundreds to choose from within Michigan, out of state and online. If one doesn’t work for you, find another until YOU find a good fit. 

Resource #2   My Picks for resources to take your business idea to the next level.

  1. www.buildinstitute.org
  2. www.startupnation.com/start-your-business/small-business-loans/
  3. www.detroitsoup.com
  4. www.thecenter.nasdaq.org/entrepreneur-pitch-toolkit/
  5. www.pitchclubmi.com/

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Stephanie McKire

Hype Digital Innovation

Chief Executive Officer