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Why Most Mobile Apps Fail and How to Avoid the Same Fate

By Jeremy Ryan Slate, Last Modified
Jan 30, 2017
> Technology

Just like many others in the online space, entrepreneurs are jumping into the mobile apps space with the idea of making large profits. They see companies such as Snapchat and Facebook and await their payday, using movies like “The Social Network” as their case study. The truth of the matter comes down not just to the wrong viewpoint in starting out, but also in the totally incorrect marketing of their product.

A 2014 study by Gartner showed that 94.5 percent of apps sold are free apps and of all apps sold, only 0.5 percent are expected to be profitable in 2018. A further study by technologist Andrew Chen found that apps lose 77 percent of users within three days of initial install. The main reason for this dramatic drop in users can be attributed to launching without an audience, rather than building an app and an audience side-by-side.

I got a chance to sit down with Ben Lee, co-founder of Neon Roots, and found out the method that app developers should be following to launch to success and not crickets. Lee has found that startups have three main worries when launching a mobile app:

  1. Not being an A-Player
  2. Not having an audience
  3. The app will flop

It’s understandable to have the worry of not being an “A Player,” as many high-level entrepreneurs can take would-be products that shouldn’t excel and turn them into gold; purely on reputation alone. There are no guarantees that an app will not flop however, developers and entrepreneurs alike can cut down on their chances of failing greatly if they address the audience during the entire process of building and launching an app.


This incubation process unique to Neon Roots is applicable to all bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Test the concept. Most entrepreneurs see dollar signs floating in front of their eyes, but neglect to play devil’s advocate with their own idea.

The idea here is to figure out how the product will make money and if it will actually work instead of just making the large investment of building something doomed to fail.

Build the Thing

The development process of building an app is a long one, taking 12-15 weeks to do it correctly. Lee pushes clients to start marketing and building a following in this step, whereas conventional wisdom was to build an app then the audience.

The issue with not building both at the same time is that the money will run out before the app has generated any revenue; it’s not just building an audience to launch for but also attracting early adopters to the brand.

Get it Out

Since its September 2016 release, WordPress theme Divi 3.0 by Elegant Themes has seen 25 updated versions released, proving the point that is just more valuable to get an end product into the hands of the end user. It’s most important to get the product into the hands of what Seth Godin calls “Early Adopters,” in his book The Purple Cow, not only will they need the product, they will promote it to others.

It's not to say that apps should be pushed to market unfinished, but that early adopters understand that there will be bugs in initial versions. If your app launches without any bugs than you most likely spent too long in the development phase and may have missed some possible market share were it to be released earlier. Users will tell you about bugs in addition to what they like or do not like; get your app out to the market.

The difference between an app and a physical product is that updates can be made much more seamlessly and to user feedback rather than having recalls creating the necessity for releasing a completely new product. The app market is flooded on a daily basis by entrepreneurs, eyes filled with dreams of passive income. However, it comes down to creating a product that is actually wanted, testing the concept and then building an audience while building the app, then there is much less of a chance of launching to crickets.


Photo credit: zaozaa19/Shutterstock

Jeremy Ryan Slate
Jeremy Ryan Slate
See Jeremy Ryan Slate's Profile
Jeremy Slate is the founder of the Create Your Own Life Podcast which helps entrepreneurs live the lives they know they were meant to. He studied literature at Oxford University, Specializes in helping entrepreneurs to tell their story and was ranked #1 in iTunes New and Noteworthy. It is because of Jeremy’s success in podcasting that he was able to accomplish 10,000 downloads of his podcast in the first month. After his success in podcasting, Jeremy Slate and Daniel Gefen founded Get Featured to help entrepreneurs get their message out by appearing as guests on podcasts.
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