Today we are excited to have Joshua Howland as a guest blogger here at StartupFlavor. Josh is the founder of Lift Media, a niche ad network that he personally coded. He’s created dozens of apps for iOS and Android, some of which have been big successes. With plenty of opinions about mobile app design, he’s also been writing as a tech blogger over at Zagg. And until just last Friday, Josh worked for Zion’s Bank as a Financial Analyst and iOS Mobile Developer. As you’ll see, Josh is a self-taught coder who can both create innovative app ideas and also execute on them. He is now working full time on his latest startup, focused on mobile education app development, called LearnStack. And yesterday it was announced that both LearnStack and Lift Media made it past the first round of the Grow America competition, making him the only person with two companies as Round 1 winners. You can tell Josh has already accomplished plenty and is definitely on his way to even bigger things! We’re thrilled to have him here today. And with that, here’s his post about how to make your great app idea into a reality.
I get approached by people with mobile app ideas on a weekly basis. I honestly believe that your idea is as good as you think it is, you just need to ship it. You’ll see the success you work to achieve.
You need to stop talking. Stop going to startup meetings looking for developers. If you want to ship your idea, don’t let anything get in your way – including your lack of coding ability.
No developer background?
I’m an Economics major. When I started my app business I didn’t have a coding bone in my body. I certainly didn’t have any previous experience. Of course, I decided to try what most ‘business devs’ try. I looked for developers to write my apps for me.
When I couldn’t find a developer locally I decided to hire overseas. I had them create the frameworks (to save money), and planned to fill the apps with content, and paint them with design myself.
Overseas Developers Didn’t Work.
It was painful. The code was buggy. I was completely lost trying to develop and fix the apps myself – because I didn’t know how to write code. The apps didn’t sell well, and it looked like it would take a few years to break even on what I paid my developers.
Learn To Code.
It was obvious that I needed to learn to code. I once read on Twitter: Learning to code is the new MBA. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it has been one of the best decisions I ever made.
Here are the 4 tips I recommend to anyone ready to ship their mobile app idea:
1 – Dip your feet in.
Don’t be afraid to look at real code. There are websites where you can download the code for entire apps. Go get them. Play with them. Tweak the code, and see what you can do.
Because I had my apps developed overseas, I had a lot of chances to play with the code, break the app, and start all over again. This was some of the best learning time I experienced.
2 – Start building something.
Don’t wait to build. Find something simple and work through it. Some of the best developers I know started building without ever taking a class. Watch YouTube tutorials, read online tips, change your Google search bar in Safari to a StackOverflow search bar.
I built my app company and ad network while still working a full time job. Anyone that’s worked with me will tell you it took a lot of all-nighters. Nothing came quickly or easily, so don’t expect to have your first app done in a few hours.
3 – Find a mentor.
A year after I started my business a friend of mine was giving a 6 hour ‘crash course’ in iOS programming in between classes at BYU. I decided to take the course, and paid him with an Apple Airport Express.
The most important thing I did was find good mentors (including the friend that taught the class). It’s way easier to find developers that will help you learn than it is to find developers that will build your apps.
While I was learning to code iChat was my second most used app. I would try to solve problems on my own, and reach out to my mentors when StackOverflow and Apple Docs didn’t suffice.
4 – Make it a good mentor.
You don’t just want any programmer to help you; you want a good mentor.
Good mentors care about you. They don’t just give you the answer, but help you learn to find the answer, and solve problems yourself. They want you to be successful.
Good mentors care about your idea. If you work with a mentor that doesn’t think your idea is good, they won’t help you as willingly.
Good mentors care about quality code. There are a lot of ways to solve problems, the good mentor won’t just give you a quick fix, but help you get the best answer.
So Get Going!
No more excuses. Get out there and do it, and you’ll see the success you want.
I’ve learned from experience that you define your own success. It’s amazing that the monthly revenue I make today is exactly what I planned when I set out to start a mobile app company three years ago.
I have since been able to leave my day job and work for myself.
I get to wake up in the morning and spend time with my little girls. I get to decide when it’s time to start work, and when it’s time to stop. I get to choose what products to work on, and when they ship. I get to create my own business strategies. I get to decide how much money I make.
Go get your apps started. Go see the success you want.