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Startups don't have to fail like its 1999 Featured Image I recently read Mobile App Startups are Failing like its 1999 by Andrew Chen, and it hit home. Andrew discussed how the app store review process is quickly killing startups and shifting the developing process back to 1999.

Andrew starts by going back in time and looking at the design process in 1999

How’d we get here? Back in 1999, we did a similar thing:

  • Raise millions in funding with an idea and impressive founders
  • Spend 9 months building up a product
  • Launch with much PR fanfare
  • Fail to hit product/market fit
  • Relaunch with version 2.0, 6 months later
  • Repeat until you run out of money

This was Pets.com, Kozmo, and so on. Maybe you’d fire your VP Marketing in the process too, out of frustration.

Between 2002-2009, we learned a lot of great ways to work quickly, deploy code a few times a week, and get very iterative about proving out your product.

Startups post-1999 started getting creative and developed work environments where they deployed code a few times a week. This allowed them to constantly iterate and adjust until they found something that their users liked. Instead of trying to make a perfect product, they launched quickly in order to find out what their users liked.

From here Andrew states that, due to the arrival of smartphone platforms and app stores, we are reverting back to the practices seen in 1999. With the only difference being, startups are submitting to the app store instead of directly launching.

Then, with the arrival of the big smartphone platforms, we’ve reverted. It looks like 1999 but instead of launching, we submit into the iOS App Store.

It looks like this instead:

  • Raise funding with an idea and impressive founders
  • Spend 6 months building up a product
  • Submit to the app store and launch with much PR fanfare
  • Fail to hit product/market fit
  • Relaunch with version 2.0, 6 months later
  • Add Facebook Open Graph
  • Try buying installs with Tapjoy, FreeAppADay, etc.
  • Repeat until you run out of money

Startups are stuck with the mindset that in order to be successful they need to make a perfect product and build significant hype and PR coverage before they can launch. Before they even get to test their product in market, most startups have already burnt through half of their funding and then they spend the next half of their funding building 2.0.

Theoretically, in this scenario, you only get to see how your users react to 2 version of your app. If you don’t get traction in the first or second version, which for most is hard to do, you're out of luck. You thought raising your first round was hard, try convincing investors to come in for a second round without solid growth numbers. For a specific example of why this is hard you should really read Paul Graham's recent essay on what he calls "The Fatal Pinch"

Did we not learn from the mistakes of startups past?

The introduction of the App Store and their stringent review process introduced the concept of the approval process. This process takes on average 1-2 weeks, but in reality is highly unpredictable.

appreviewtimes.com's rolling annual trend graph of App Store approval delays

Because each release of an app can take so long to get to users it’s not that surprising that we have resorted back to our old ways. How do you release multiple times a week to the App Store when it takes 1-2 weeks to approve each release? It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of waiting for a bunch of changes to pile up before you even think about submitting to the app store for approval. The app store approval process is a reality, but how can we sit by and just accept this when history has clearly shown this is not the best approach.

Andrew left his post with an open-ended question, which is why I am writing this blog post in the first place. "How can we stop the madness? What can do we do to combine the agility we learned in the past decade with the requirements of the App Store?”

The Taplytics founders began as a group of developers creating mobile applications for the app store. What they quickly found was that their development team and the App Store were becoming a bottleneck for their designers and marketers to push content and fixes. They were also not able to be agile enough due to slow app store approval process. They did not want to accept this as the way things were going to be and instead wanted to do something about it and so they created Taplytics as a set of tools to be more agile.

So how do we stop the madness?

Taplytics is a mobile A/B testing platform that gives you the ability to iterate constantly, release quickly, and actually start making something your users want. We designed Taplytics for mobile first world, and we understand the needs of mobile startups. Your development team and the review process don't don't have to be a bottleneck for your marketers and designers.

With the Taplytics visual editor, everyone on your team can make changes and push content to your users. Your developers can set up code-based experiments to start testing every new feature and then get real-time data to see how your users react. Taplytics gives you the ability to test multiple hypotheses at once and then instantly push the winning variation to all your users without having to go through the App Store approval process.

We designed our features to give mobile developers the tools to enhance the way they currently develop. You will be able to start moving back to an environment where you can integrate fast, push content instantly, and actually understand your users.

Taplytics offers a full suite of tools to allow you to understand who your users are and how they use your product. With Taplytics, you can test hypotheses and work towards creating a custom mobile experience for your users.

We all know that in order to be successful you need to make something people actually want, and Taplytics gives you the tools you need to do it. Let's stop the madness and start being smarter about how we develop.

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Kelsey Ricard


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