Turning an app idea into a success story

20 Nov 2015

By Shadforth Financial Group

The mobile app market is booming, meaning big business opportunities for IT geeks and investors alike. Never before have the barriers to entry been as low as they are now in the app development arena. A great idea is the starting point, but what next? Learning from people who have already forged a path is a good  place to start, so we get some ideas and inspiration from those who have gone before.


Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger will go down in history as two of the most successful mobile app developers. Instagram was launched at no cost in 2010, gathered 100,000 users in its first week and sold to Facebook less than two years later for $1 billion.

The solutions they strived to solve were simple: they wanted to make photos beautiful, to be uploaded quickly and shared on multiple social networks. But the process didn’t come without some challenges. The pair’s original idea was a check-in app called Burbn — it failed to get any real traction and Systrom realised that he was more interested in looking at the photos people were taking rather than where they checked in.

After a closer look at user behaviour, Systrom and Krieger redeveloped the app to create the wildly successful Instagram. Their key pieces of advice are to listen to your users, watch their behaviour and don’t be afraid to cut what doesn’t work.


Chris Strode was working as a freelance programmer on the Central Coast when he found the existing invoicing software, such as Quicken and MYOB, to be overly complicated. Determined to create his own, simplified invoicing solution, Strode used every spare   minute and every spare cent he had developing the first web app version of Invoice2go.

In 2009, a year after the iTunes app store launched, Invoice2go went mobile and Strode hasn’t looked back since. Today, Invoice2go is the market leading invoicing app and has more than 120,000 small businesses together invoicing over $10 billion every year.

Last year, the company secured $35 million in funding from Accel Partners and Ribbit Capital. While the business was already in a healthy state, the investment brought with it the expertise and resources so Strode was able to move faster and spread the Invoice2go message wider.

Tiny Wings

Andreas Illiger used to dream about flying when he was a child growing up in Germany.

He’d make planes and even jumped from the roof of his house one day – luckily he lived to tell the tale. Now all grown up and working as a developer, Illiger developed several different versions of Tiny Wings before launching the app in 2001. Keen to offer an alternative to the abundance of aggressive games on the market, Illiger strived to create a game that would make people feel happy. This, he believes, was the key to his success.

The app sits in seventh place on the all-time paid app list with annual revenues estimated at $4.5 million. The app was created at a minimal cost and Illiger continues to live in his same, small apartment, pursuing his passion for creating beautiful games.

If you’re looking for new investment opportunities or have a business idea, speak to your Private Client Adviser.


Q and A

We asked Richard Davy about developing an app. Richard is the Digital Design Director at Tractor Design School with campuses in Sydney and Melbourne. He is also a faculty member of Lowe Profero digital marketing agency.

Q: How can someone begin to create and launch an app?

A: The key step in any design process is to ask yourself the question: Do I have a problem to solve? And if I do, how do I go about answering this problem?

Stanford University, based in California, in the US, has created a Design Thinking Process that can play a vital role in answering both of these questions, and it should be the first activity that you conduct before jumping in and creating an app.

Q: How would someone go about prototyping an idea?

A: There are many ways to do this. One such online  tool is Invision, a website that allows you to upload your designs and ideas to their site and create an interactive prototype within minutes.
However, before you even get into designing on the computer, the easiest way is to resort to the old pencil and paper prototype. This will ensure you don’t get stuck on the details that can come with computer designs.
Draw-up your app on a piece of paper and create a phone mock-up that will allow you to quickly see if your idea works. Test your paper prototype with friends, colleagues, relatives and in particular strangers, who are best, as they will rarely lie to you.

Q: What are your top tips for someone who’s thinking of using an app development company to create their app?

A: The first step is to ask to see any examples of finished, live work that has had a proven track record of success. Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for introductions or referrals to their other clients — a great development company will be happy to oblige with this request. Lastly, ask them to develop a working prototype of a portion of your app. You will, however, have to pay for this.

Q: How do you gauge whether the app will be a success?

A: It’s essential to get your idea tested through user testing. This means getting your sketches, wireframes, designs and working prototype tested at every stage of the process. To ensure your success, you must constantly test and refine your app, from start to finish.

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