Problem First, Not Your Cool Idea

$100k App Challenge #2

So, I have a challenge—build an app that makes $100k profit in under 6 months. I wrote that post on July 15th meaning I have until January 15th, 2021 to complete this.

What am I going to build?

At this point, I actually don’t care about what I’m going to build. What I care about is what problem I’m going to solve and for whom.

Five years ago, here is how I decided what app to build: I’d think of a cool idea and build it! Very simple. I’d get a hunch that something would do great and that people would care about it. Or I’d find some cool iOS APIs, bundle them together, and launch it. Market research was an afterthought. It’s the “throw enough shit at the wall and hope something will stick” approach to building apps. It almost never worked. You really never want to build an app on instinct. You don’t want to impulsively throw something together because you think it will be cool (though, you can do this for fun).

By properly researching niches, customers, and demand, you can know that solving a certain problem will lead to a revenue-generating business. You might be skeptical of that sentence. Think about it like this: Imagine, if I had a pill that made you live forever. What would the demand for that pill be like? People would fight for this pill, the richest of the rich would pay unlimited sums of money for it, governments would try to seize it. So, there do exist certain problems where a solution would guarantee a big business.

Now, working on a pill of immortality is not something I’m going to recommend. However, I think it’s fair to say that there exist problems that people and businesses are suffering from today that they would immediately pay money to solve. Finding a problem that fits that criteria will greatly increase my odds of success.

Start with the problem.

With this in mind, I’m going to take it one step further and ask myself “What criteria should I use to evaluate whether a problem is something I can solve with an app?” Let’s dive into this. Specifically, these are the things I look for:

  • How many people are suffering from this problem?

  • How big/painful of a problem is it to these people?

  • How many of these people are willing to pay for it to be solved?

  • How much are they willing to pay?

  • How much of an expert am I in the problem space?

If you solve a problem that is too specific, there won’t be enough people to pay you to make it a worthwhile business. I could build an app for people who live in my apartment building, but even if I charged $100/year, I’d barely make any money since only around 100 people live here.

If you solve a problem for a large group of people, but they either don’t have the money or don’t care enough to justify spending money, then you likewise can’t build a business. I made this mistake with an app I built that attracted teenage users—none of them were willing to pay, no matter what I tried.

On the other hand, you can attack a problem that affects only a small number of people if they are willing to spend large amounts of money, i.e. enterprise software. Enterprise software isn’t what I’m looking for. However, it’s plausible that there’s a problem that a few thousand people are willing to pay $100/month to solve which would represent a significant business.

Next, if you work on a problem in a space that you aren’t an expert in, you can build a successful app business, but it will take you longer. You’ll have to spend some time learning the space and getting up to speed. I’m feeling this now as a friend and I are working on a weight-loss product. I’m not familiar with the typical users and what they are thinking—there’s a learning curve.

So with every problem I examine, I’m going to filter it through these questions. In the next post, I’ll show you where I’m sourcing my problems from and walk you through my thought process as I evaluate them.

Did you find this useful? If so, leave a comment and let me know. I spent a lot more time on this post than my previous one so I’m curious if it paid off. Make sure to subscribe so you get the next post as soon as it’s released.