By Lebo Moerane

I can’t help but buy into the notion that if you have an issue, there must be a digital solution to fix it. We live in the coded dimension where naughts and ones have the capacity to offer avenues to solve brick and mortar problems. So it’s not surprising to note that more and more people are channeling their entrepreneurial stamina in the direction of technological solutions.

I’ve helped build a few apps in my day for entrepreneurs as a business analyst/transformer in chief/she who can see the wireframe before anyone else can. As a natural born creative/marketer ideating mobile applications is a natural progression for me from my digital marketing background. I love seeing an idea turn into buttons, screens, and data. However, herding clients within the boundaries of budget, to prevent them from being devoured by scope, is not my favourite part. Working with a multi-disciplined team to build apps is no small feat. It’s like trying to orchestrate a symphony while the music sheet keeps changing.


More and more people are channeling their entrepreneurial stamina in the direction of technological solutions


All these years spent building solutions for mobile has driven home a very important fact that is often overlooked by entrepreneurs: A mobile application is not a business; it’s a mobile application. It takes a bit of work to turn it into an empire. Here are few things you need to consider in your journey as a tech entrepreneur with a focus on mobile applications. 


Who is Your Real Customer?

If it’s free then you are the product. Case in point: Facebook. You, your colleagues, your ex-boyfriend whose photo’s you stalk, and your friend who seems to go on holiday every quarter; we are not Facebook’s primary customer. Facebook makes its money from selling your information to marketers…like me. Understanding who you are selling to is not to be taken lightly.


What is the Value?

After you figure out who you would be sending your future invoices to, you need to also make sure that you will be selling something people want to buy. It seems obvious but I’ve encountered entrepreneurs who have spent over R500 000 building an application only to realize that their customer doesn’t see the value of what is being sold to them. You ensure this by building your application bearing in mind that each swipe, click, download and upload in your application should extrapolate the maximum value for your customer when it is time to sell.


How Do You Plan to Make Money?

Defining your revenue model upfront helps your development partner design the value-providing solutions into your application from the first line of code. How you are going to make money should not be an afterthought. It should be weaved into every screen that your user will interact with.


A mobile application is not a business; it’s a mobile application. It takes a bit of work to turn it into an empire


Customer Validation

Can you sell before you have a product? Customer validation aims to find your early adopters and gauge whether your customers can commit to paying for your solution before your application is even built. Can you get buy-in with just a prototype? Customer validation should be tangible. It should be in the form of pre-sales, sign-ups or even downloading the beta version. This data helps you figure out if your building the right solution for the right customer, and it also gives you some clout when engaging with early-stage investors.

I’m not a motivational speaker so I won’t sell you on the “failure is an opportunity” rhetoric. Failure is expensive. If you can mitigate it while still indulging your ambitions then you have a good thing going. Don’t jump into the coded deep end wearing a “my mobile application is an automatic business” life jacket. You’ll drown. It takes more than an idea; it requires a strategy, customer validation and an understanding of the nuances of starting a tech business. But, boy, when you make it, you have the potential to make it big.

With all that said, let’s write some code.

Lebogang Moerane has a background in Digital Marketing and Agile software development. She’s held the role of Chief Digital Officer in a software development company. Currently, Lebo is Managing Director of Unpack This, a digital experiences agency. She is also the founder of The Pie Factory, a start-up consultancy.  

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