Published: 7 years ago

Setting expectations

One thing I’ve noticed from talking with people entering the mobile application market is that many of them start with unrealistic expectations.

We are bombarded every day by overnight success stories. We read about them in the newspapers. We hear about them on TV. What we often don’t hear is the years of trials, failings and pivots behind those stories. When the media celebrates the “overnight” success of Angry Birds, they don’t tell you that Rovio, the company behind the popular game, was founded in 2003 and released 51 games before their big hit in 2009. And that by then they were on the verge of bankruptcy. That’s a 6-years-long overnight success.

I’m not saying that you will have to wait that long before you’ll be successful with your idea, but that things aren’t as easy as they look. While you may think you have the greatest idea on the planet, there are plenty of things that could make your application not as successful as you are expecting. Including the possibility that it’s not that great of an idea. I’m sure some of the 51 games made by Rovio were awesome and some were awful, but I’m also sure they learned something from each of them.

One thing I often tell 39’s clients is that they most likely won’t recover their investment. It’s part of the game. Just like an investor, it would be pretentious to expect 100% success rate on your investments. It’s part of the game. Of course, there are many things that can be done to increase your chance of success and decrease the possible loss, such as talking to your future clients and focusing on a few core features.

That’s why it is very important to set the right expectations when entering the app business. That doesn’t mean starting with a negative mentality, but knowing that there’s a lot of work ahead in order to make it into a success. It’s also important to define the concept of success for your application. For some applications success will be having millions of downloads and generating 0 revenue, while for others success will be selling a few copies but generating tens of thousands of dollars each month or it may even be enough to simply generate enough to pay a few bills.

Working with clear expectations will help you make better decisions, focus on the important stuff and ultimately increase your chances of success.

  • Brian Breslin

    setting expectations or managing them is imperative in all walks of life, not just app development.

    • DimensionM

      I was just about to say that. :) In fact, we went through the same wild expectations on “web 2.0” (cough) sites about 4 years ago. People though they could throw up almost anything and make money. I literally had to put clauses in my contract to make sure I got paid specially if for some reason the business falls apart before we could finish. I was very serious in talking w/ clients about their ideas and expectations.

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