How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – The App Store Edition

“Dear reader, this little book is designed to tell you everything you need to know about the science of getting ahead. Now let us assume you are young, healthy, clear eyed and eager; anxious to rise quickly and easily to the top of the business world- You Can! If you have education, and intelligence and ability so much the better- and remember that thousands have reached the top without many of these qualities. Just have courage and memorize the simple rules in the chapters that follow.”

– Opening Lines of: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Broadway

Last week in New York City I got a lesson in business from Harry Potter’s, Daniel Radcliffe playing J. Peirrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In this adaptation of the 1952 book of the same name, Daniel Radcliffe rises the corporate ladder from the lowly window-washer to the mail room and to the chairman of the board in one week. How did Radcliffe’s character, climb so fast? Well, he had a guide book and just followed the simple rules in the “little book”.

The play is highly relateable to anybody who ever had a job, but I ended up reflecting on how the lowly app developer can climb to the top of the corporate ladder, in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – App Store Edition. I’m not quite ready to publish the guidebook yet, but I do hope to dispel some myths.

First things first.  Why do apps matter?

iTunes App Store is a $2.5B marketplace today and Apps are estimated to be a $36.7B marketplace in 2015 (Apps Statsbook 2011).

Not many window-washers, that also have an app idea, are ignoring the opportunity to submit their application for an app into the mail room. Some 350,000 apps are already in the mail room, but can their app rise the corporate ladder to the top 100 paid apps in iTunes?

In a word, yes. My company has helped our customers hit the top 10 and thousands of others have also reached the top of the app ladder.

But you have been told there are too many apps, it is impossible to be found, your brand isn’t big enough. All incorrect!

Simply looking at the Canadian and US iTunes App store dispels the idea that a big brand is required to stand out in the crowd of 350,000 apps. On the day I looked, August 22, 2011, brands that barely existed, or didn’t two years ago, take up 78% of the top 50 Canadian iTunes paid apps. The first existing brand (SIMS) hits in at 13 place. In the US store, with much bigger sales volumes, big brands only make up 16% of the top 50 and 21% of the top 100 paid apps. Remember this is a $2.5B market.

How does Camera + or Doodle Jump or Nature TV make it into the top 20?

That is a much better question for developers to find the answer. Having the confidence, ability and simply building a great app that people like, tell their friends about and that delivers what was promised is a good start to getting ahead and setting yourself apart. Developing a killer user experience helps too. As the play, How to succeed… states, courage is a key to success, just assuming you can’t get found on a store shelf because of competition in the market place is not a good starting point and will not help find success.

Some further examples of window-washers climbing the corporate ladder in days:

  • #2 in the Canadian App store was at version 1.0 on August 22 (Cut the Rope: Experiments). It was released on August 4 by Zepto Labs – a company with a one page website and 3,000 followers on Facebook.
  • #3 (Fruit Ninja) same story different window-washer – Halfbrick Studios has been developing games from Queensland Australia since 2002.
  • #4 is a productivity app (What’s Up Messenger) from a company (WhatsApp) that received $8M in April 2011 and later that same month released version 2.0 of its app.
  • #5 (Camera +) a one year old app from 13 month old company, tap tap tap (1 year old, must be out of the mailroom by now)

It doesn’t even look like it is getting harder over time to crack the top 100 as unknown or smaller brands do so regularly.

On August 22, in the Canada app store the #6 paid app (Spy mouse) was at v1.0 and released in the last month. Similarly 9 other apps in the top 50 were released for the first time in the last 30 days.

None are brands and not all are games. All, I assume, are good and relate to fantastic user experiences, and that is what matters in the end.

How to Succeed in Business… App Store Edition – build great apps, give them good names, give people a way to talk about them, give people a reason to talk about them – climb the ladder. Perhaps you will make chairman of the App store in 1 week like J. Pierrepont Finch.

This quick analysis further convinces me that any brand or app developer that believes they can’t do this is just making excuses or is getting bad advice. So, if you don’t think you can rise from window washer to the top, maybe fly to New York City and take in a Broadway musical to get in the right frame of mind. Or just submit your application to start in the mailroom – the window-washer of brands and app developers can rise to the top of the App Store ladder. In fact, the majority of the top 100 apps in the US and Canadian iTunes App Stores fit the window-washer story line.