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The Updown Nightlife app and founder Joshua Lewis

Want to Build a User-Driven App? A KC Entrepreneur Reveals 5 Key Things to Do


As we approach the launch date for the Updown Nightlife App, I couldn’t help but take some time to reflect on how I’ve gotten to this point and what I’ve learned along the way. Entering the tech field is a beast in and of itself, but tackling an app with big named competitors like Facebook and Instagram? That takes mental fortitude and strategic planning.

Here are a few tips on how I navigated the process as a Kansas City entrepreneur and what I think could benefit those of you who want to launch your own app.

1. Start with a small user base to test your app in a private beta phase.

Bigger is not always better. While Kansas City may not be known globally for its nightlife scene, that has actually been to our advantage as we developed an app that is centered around the nightlife industry.

When the market is oversaturated, it can be difficult to build an effective business model that will work on varying scales. However, in smaller markets, you can introduce new ideas and phases of your app in a private beta phase. This will allow you the time and freedom to make mistakes, adjustments, improvements, etc. without the scrutiny you would face on a grander scale. If you release a product that is not ready to the masses, your business could fail before it even had a chance to succeed.

2. Find someone to join your team who will monitor and assess the technology full time.

Founders wear many hats, and at times, the number of daily demands alone can be overwhelming. But when it comes to developing an app, the technology piece is the most vital. There are no corners that can be cut or sacrifices to be made. It must operate at the highest level to be worth the time of your users.

By bringing on a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Head of Tech, you can invest your time and talents on the other, more minute details of building a company. It is important that your CTO feels a sense of ownership in the work they are providing. That could include investment opportunities, sweat equity or another agreed-upon structure, but the idea is to weave them into the fabric of your company in whatever capacity makes sense for long-term growth. 

3. Start very basic when building features.

Slow and steady wins the race. Build one feature at a time. This way, you can lay a strong foundation.  It’s tempting to think of getting everything done at once so you can launch as quickly as possible, but doing it that way could sacrifice the integrity of what you are trying to build. It can be time-consuming, but by focusing on singular features, you will catch the small kinks and bugs that will inevitably happen but could be detrimental to the user experience.

4. Focus hard on the MVP (minimum viable product).

Before you even start building your product, you should establish clear goals for your MVP and how it will attract a small user base and perform well enough to make a profit. Explore different options. Consider the problem you are trying to solve, and which solutions are most feasible. Analyze your competitors.

Then be clear and concise in forming the product, taking into account each of these steps and applying your intent.

Your MVP offers the most insight for founders and investors when it comes to assessing the viability of a product. It must have enough features for functionality and should be used to gain data and feedback to improve upon. An effective MVP will validate your product and push you toward the discovery of the best product-market fit for your company.

5. No matter how small/slow you start, build the platform with the big goal in mind.

You need to have an abstract end goal that will supersede all minor setbacks, missteps or restructuring practices because this will not be an easy process.

In business, fluidity is your strongest advantage. The idea you have at the beginning with morph many times over, but the main goal should remain intact. Nine times out of 10, what you thought would work will need adjustments, and growth won’t look how you anticipate it will. But never lose sight of why you started in the first place.

Keeping an open mind and adapting to what comes your way throughout this journey will afford you the kind of tenacity and versatility required for successful entrepreneurs.

In the end, my best advice is this: Keep going.

The Updown Nightlife App will be live in the Apple Store and available to download Aug. 29. The company will host an official launch party that day at The Truman with guest host Joie Chavis. Tickets are available now.

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