[Book Review] App Empire: Make Money, Have a Life, and Let Technology Work for You

Madanmohan Rao
18th Mar 2013
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2012 John Wiley, New York (Amazon)

10 chapters; 205 pages

Review by Madanmohan Rao

This is another classic “appreneur” book encouraging entrepreneurs to play the mobile app game (see my earlier review of “Appillionaires: Secrets from Developers who Struck it Rich on the App Store” by Chris Stevens).

The book offers useful tips on marketing apps, once you get past the author’s excessive hype about becoming a millionaire by directing app developer teams from your iPhone and spending your time on a beach.

Chad Mureta is the founder of Empire Apps and co-founder of T3 Apps and Best Apps, three mobile application businesses that he created through outsourced development and without a background in technology. His first app was Fingerprint Security Pro, which spurred him to develop another 46 apps (though very few are described in this book).

Readers looking for more technical information, industry trends, or product and project management tips are better advised to look elsewhere. The market is changing fast, cautions Mureta, in fact so fast that this book may itself become obsolete soon.

“What happened with Web sites is exactly what’s happening now with apps and mobile technology with apps and mobile technology,” begins Mureta, drawing comparisons with the dotcom boom of the 1990s. Even with the recent global economic downturn, the app industry continues to grow.

Apple expects to make more money from apps than music by 2014, according to research firm Asymco. Canalys predicts the app market will be worth $37 billion in 2015. Trends to watch include object recognition and context-aware services.

“The app business isn’t about getting rich quickly with one app. It’s about research, creativity, timing, and sound business sense, which includes creating several products instead of only one,” Mureta advises. I have summarised some of his business advice in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Tips for Mobile App Strategy

Success FactorExamples
MindsetWinning belief, a sense of wonder and gratitude, clear vision, critical self-questioning, faith, optimism, flexibility, focus, ability to outsource
Market segmentationTwo kinds of apps: entertainment and productivity/utility. App discovery and metrics (eg. Chomp analyser), business models, user behaviour patterns
Successful appsFun/entertaining, intuitive, engaging, addictive, value, cross-cultural, great graphics/sounds, viral (at least 6 of these 8 properties)
Building on other appsEmulate/tweak others’ successful apps: improve functionality or marketing features
Basic marketingCatchy and effective app title, icon, description, screenshots, keywords. Change category where necessary. Monitor user reviews.
Accurate metricsTraffic, rankings, user activity, revenue (trackable via AppFigures, App Annie, Flurry)
PromotionsNag screens, promo pages, app networks, push notifications, paid traffic/ads, frequent updates; networking with other developer communities
App monetisationFree apps (to drive app networks, cross-promotion, bring in banner ads), premium apps (paid apps), freemium apps (free apps but with in-app purchases). Ads: mobile ad networks, affiliate marketing.
Global marketingTranslate and localise apps for other languages and countries (eg. Spanish, Chinese, Russian, German, French, Portuguese)
Back-end optimisationIntegrated portal for workflow management, with app + global dashboards. Build/hire data analysis skillsets, expertise in accounting and business contracting.

Mureta offers a list of questions for app managers to ask programmers while building development teams. How long have you been developing apps? Can you share references from past app projects? How long will it take to get a quote? Is it a flat-fee quote? Can I see examples of the graphic work? What's your payment schedule? Can you create milestones tied to payments?

“If a picture speaks a thousand words, to me, an app speaks 10 thousand,” explains Mureta, urging app managers to first look at the app portfolio of prospective developers.

Sites like oDesk, Freelancer and Elance are useful for locating developers around the world. Mureta cautions about risks in outsourcing to app development companies: some will themselves be developing their own apps or apps for other clients, and thus may compete with you.

In sum, successful app businesses call for continuous and global market research, regular and systematic app maintenance, deep analytics, leveraging of multiple revenue sources (eg. several mobile ad networks), and professional networking.

It would be fitting to end this review with some of the useful inspirational quotes in the book:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. (John F. Kennedy)

I’ve failed over and over again in m life. And that is why I succeed. (Michael Jordan)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust)

More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth. (Napoleon Hill)

Any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom. (Hitch)

Sometimes we think we’re losing the game of life when we’re really winning simply because we’re not keeping score. (Anthony Robbins)

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. (Henry David Thoreau)

[Follow YourStory's research director Madanmohan Rao on Twitter]

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