As app entrepreneurs, we each have our own idea of what a “successful app” is. For some, the first 10,000 users is a milestone of app success, while for others, just getting one user to download the app would be considered a major accomplishment. There are so many amazing app success stories out there, and we all believe that if we could just get our idea developed, we’d find app success too.

Unfortunately, many app entrepreneurs won’t have a success story to share when all is said and done. App startups fail everyday, and some apps that once had thousands of users now struggle to survive. Developing an app, getting users to download and actually use it, and retaining that position for the long run has proven to be a rather difficult undertaking – too difficult for most. As it seems, what may look like a smooth journey on the pages of your mobile app business plan will probably be quite the bumpy road in actual execution. App success stories aren’t overnight successes, they overcome many hurdles along the way.

Most app ideas will never become an actual app, and most apps will never even have a glimmer of hope in competing with more dominant apps within their industry. Many startup teams who once aspired to be on the list of app success
stories will only become a short story. Ranging from bad app ideas to a lack of commitment, there are several factors that prevent 95% of app entrepreneurs from reaching their app success goals. We recently spoke to several app startup founders about their app success stories to give you some mobile app inspiration and find out what it takes to become an app store success.

Do You Have The Right Idea?

Ask any successful app startup founder (or any entrepreneur for that matter) and they will tell you that app ideas are truly a dime a dozen. However, you need to have a solid app idea in place before you can execute it and introduce it to consumers. Successful apps don’t just ‘exist’, and users don’t download them just because they are in the App Store. Startups that become “app success stories” solve problems and attract users who are facing that specific problem and seeking a solution. There are entrepreneurs making millions from apps because the platforms that they have built solve millions of problems each and every day.

App success stories - solving problems

Steven Benson, the founder of Badger Maps, found that a problem existed while working in his industry. Steven told us, “My career has been spent in field sales, and so I understood the challenges faced by field salespeople first hand…”

Some say that success is the result of what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes, when you prepare yourself enough, the opportunity will find you; instead of the other way around. In the case of Badger Maps, Steven said, “Looking back at it, it was a combination of my role in sales and my industry background with software and mapping that made me well positioned to launch a company and solve the problems of field sales. I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right background to come up with the idea and start the company.”

SportMe founder, Andrew Greenstein, had a similar story of being prepared. With a background in AI and automation, he was able to identify how his expertise would be beneficial to the sporting industry. When we asked about his app idea, he said, “I’ve always believed that technology can play a strong role in helping everyone improve themselves, every day. We started SportMe to apply my technology, AI, and automation experience to participatory sports; choosing marathon training because of its supportive and rapidly growing community.”

There’s an insight here – sometimes the best ideas will come to you when you are most prepared to receive them. The more you know about something, the better prepared you will be able to identify challenges that need a solution and
opportunities where your knowledge can be applied to solve niche issues.

What Will Stop You From Succeeding?

App success stories - meeting new users

There is one common theme present in all app success stories – overcoming obstacles. Building any business is tough, but app startups have unique challenges that founders must overcome to reach their goals and objectives. Sometimes, overcoming these challenges will require you to be extremely creative and to put yourself in positions that may make you uncomfortable. Just how far will you go to overcome your challenges and become an app success? The founders of Friendz App pushed the limits – and it worked! Here’s an awesome story that co-founder Alessandro Cadoni shared with us:

“At the beginning, everything was a challenge! That is why we spoke with every relevant person in the field. We took part in startup competitions, filled white papers with ideas and improvised ourselves as skilled graphic designers, developers, and salesmen. We improvised and we tried, a lot. Initially, one of the biggest issues was getting the attention of big brands and marketing managers: we didn’t have a track record or a product yet, but we had the
courage to dare and to try every route. Stalking? We tried that too (and it worked!). We stationed in front of the headquarters of big brands, close to the smoking areas, hoping that someone at some point would have left the door
open for us to enter and meet all those people we emailed who never answered back. And finally, the lucky day arrived: we were able to sneak into unknown corridors and nobody ever noticed us or called the security (fortunately). Directly knocking at the doors, we were able to tell managers what we wanted to do and ask them for feedback in order to develop a service that could perfectly answer the needs of their future clients. From that day on, nothing scared us anymore!”

You probably won’t have to stalk anyone during your journey, but you will likely have to shake many hands, deliver your pitch to a million people, convince customers, and complete many other tasks that you may not be used to doing. Will it stop you from reaching your goal and writing your own app success story?

Is Your App Really That Different?

There are far too many ‘copies’ in the App Store today. For every Uber, there are 20 more ride-sharing apps that offer the exact same service but have failed to catch on. Successful app developers approach unmarked territory, they don’t just follow suit because they catch wind of a gold rush. Apps that win big are those that have clear competitive advantages and unique selling propositions that make them significantly different than their competitors – even if the core of their app idea is similar.

Original app ideas quote

No matter what your app solution is or what industry you serve, some type of competition exists. Even if there are no other apps providing the same solution, there’s always some other way that consumers are solving their problem;
although it may be inefficient or ineffective. For Steven Benson, Badger Maps gave sales reps a more streamlined way of completing an inefficient process:

“Since we’ve created a new category of software, meaning that it didn’t exist before we made it, our biggest competitor is our user doing what we do by hand. They’ve been solving the problem that we solve with our app by hand for years,
and our biggest job is letting them know that we can solve it for them. Sales Reps have always had paper maps, lists of where their customers and prospects are, and a paper (and later a computer-based) calendar.

What we did was combine all of these things together and put them on a mobile device to create a mobile solution for Field Sales Reps to be more successful. Field Sales Reps have a very unique workflow because they’re always on the move, so they need mobile solutions more than anyone. As a result, Badger differentiates itself by prioritizing a great mobile experience via iPhone, Android, iPad and tablet – not just a desktop.”

Is Your App Scalable?

Successful apps are able to take their initial momentum and scale it rapidly across their industry. They don’t just work for a handful of people, but they provide a solution that can be adopted by a great proportion of a specific niche market. Most app success stories start small with a handful of testers or early adopters but are able to scale consistently to reach more and more users each and every month.

Scalable and successful mobile apps

When Steve Carlton first founded Invitd, only a handful of people downloaded it, but he was able to scale drastically to increase his user base at an exponential rate. Invitd allows event hosts to create an invitation in under 60 seconds and send out invitations via text message. Steve told us, “ The day the app launched in 2014 was a rush, we got a total of 34 downloads! Since day one our mission has been focused on making the process of sending invitations as easy as possible. We have focused on making a great experience for the host and the guest. Just over 3 years later, we surpassed over 250,000 registered users and 5 million invitations sent.”

What Is App Success, Really?

What is a successful app startup?

Success in any capacity is never ‘one-size-fits-all’. An app in a niche market might be widely successful with 20,000 users, while a mass-market app may need a million users to be considered a successful app. Some apps may need to
convert 50% of their users into subscribers to reach their definition of success, while others may need 100,000 active users per day to earn enough ad revenue to turn a profit.

Andrew Greenstein of SportMe met a major milestone when, “we reached a six figure revenue and our smart marathon run trainer started ranking as the #2 Marathon Trainer in the Apple App Store.”

For Alessandro Cadoni, the Friends App team found success when, “…in 2017, we consolidated the Italian market, creating a community of nearly 200k users with a Monthly Active Users (MAU) of 27%. Last summer, we organized the ‘Friendz Tour’ – offline meetings with our community in several Italian cities where we had picnics together and spent some afternoons talking about the app, pictures, their life, and their interests. In the last several months, we have been working with more than 120 clients, mostly multinational enterprises (FMCG). We made more than 200 brand campaigns and published more than 2 million photos; earning over a million Euro in revenue.”

App Success Stories – Will You Be Next?

The first step to building a successful app is to define exactly what success means for you, your app, your team, and your business. The second step is to get started. Over 95% of app ideas die within one of these two stages; either the founders never define success and therefore can never reach their unspecified goal, or they define success and realize that it’s a much bigger journey than they are committed to pursuing.

App success - image of phone app

If you’re serious about building a successful app, but confused about where to start, ThinkLions can help. We have worked with dozens of app entrepreneurs to define their ideas, launch minimal viable products, secure app funding and bring their app ideas to reality. Contact us today for a free consultation!