Bootstrapped startups and the shit I learn in therapy

Pull out your phone. Go ahead, I'll wait.

What apps do you have on your home screen? Slack? Gmail? Maybe you're painfully single like me and Tinder has made it back into the rotation. Or maybe you're trying to get back into shape, and so have been trying out Nike Run Club.

My home screen (all the apps are hidden in the folder on the bottom left)

How much do you think it cost to build one of those apps?

At Krit, the app development agency I run, it costs us an average of $50,000 - $100,000 to build an app. But that pales in comparison to the cost it's taken to build the apps on your home screen.

By the time an app has made it onto your home screen it has a team of engineers behind it. It's been in development for years. The company has been iterating on it, testing it, making changes.

Let's do some rough calculations.

An engineer can make anywhere from $60,000 - $200,000+. We'll use $100,000 as an average salary (this is low). We can assume the average engineering team has 20 engineers (this is also low). And let's be generous and say the app has grown quickly. It made it onto your homescreen after 3 years of development.

A team of 20 engineers working on an app for 3 years, making $100,000 each comes out to a grand total of...

$6 million.

These numbers are super conservative. Tinder raised $50 million before it was bought by the Match group. Slack has raised $1.4 billion to date.

It's not uncommon that we have someone coming to Krit wanting to build an app like... [fill in hot tech company here].

That's totally cool! Getting inspired by the world's greatest companies, and doing competitive research all makes sense.

The problem is you can't try to match where the apps on your home screen are today.

You can't try to match where the apps on your home screen are today

Tinder didn't start with every single feature they have today. They started small. They launched on a handful of college campuses, and expanded gradually. Once they had traction they grew their team, and added to the platform.

If you try to match a multi-million dollar tech product before you launch... you'll spend millions of dollars (duh) and chances are you'll never launch at all.

So how do we build an app for under $100,000?

We start small.

We look for the smallest thing we can build that will still make your users' lives significantly better. We build that, launch it and listen. Then we iterate.

We don't throw crap at the wall and see what sticks, but we admit that we don't have all the answers.

We take inspiration from companies that have gone before us, but we remember that context matters.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

This is the lean startup way, the agile software way, whatever you want to call it.

Some have argued that lean is dead. I would say that the line for Minimum Viable Product has shifted. You need better design, more stable software than ever before. But you don't need to spend millions of dollars. Doing so would be a mistake.

Header photo by David Clode on Unsplash

You’ve successfully subscribed to Andrew Askins
Welcome back! You’ve successfully signed in.
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Your link has expired
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.