I'm Mike Sims and I help app entrepreneurs secure investor funding by producing top-quality app business plans and pitch decks. Ask me anything!

Mike Sims
May 21, 2018

I am a digital marketer, business plan writer and entrepreneur. As the owner of ThinkLions, I have worked with hundreds of app entrepreneurs around the world, helping them build their Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), validate their app ideas, secure seed funding and develop their applications.

Writing a business plan for a mobile app idea can be difficult - there are many requirements, a ton of information to be covered, and a great deal of research that must be gathered. You want your app business plan to be information, captivating, and creative enough to stand out. What do you want to know about writing a business plan for your mobile app? Ask me anything!

Check out a sample mobile app business plan here: Sample App Business Plan

Or, see my recommendations on what an app business plan should include: How To Write The Best Mobile App Business Plan

Or, just ask me anything!

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What are the things most people overlook when they are creating a startup?
May 28, 7:01PM EDT0
How influential in the success of a startup is to be transparent about its weaknesses and threats?
May 28, 6:09PM EDT0
As an entrepreneur, can you share some successful tips for first-time entrepreneurs?
May 28, 10:13AM EDT0

For first-time entrepreneurs, here are a few pointers: 

1) Find your market. Your product/service won't appeal to everyone, and by approaching too wide of a market, you will waste valuable marketing resources. Find out exactly who your market is, even if you have to do some testing and validating to figure it out. Once you find out who your market is, find out where  your market is. Are they in Facebook groups? Are they on forums, Pinterest, Instagram? Do they listen to specific influencers? Use these questions to help form your marketing strategy. 

2) Be ready to feel really really lonely. Being an entrepreneur doesn't mean "oh cool, I get to set my own hours now." It really means trading in working for a boss for 8 hours to working for your clients and your brand at every waking hour. There will be sacrifices to your social life (unless you're launching a night club, which then, maybe it'll improve your social life lol); there may be sacrifices to how much time you're able to spend with your family and friends; and etc. Battle this by involving yourself in different entrepreneur groups - not only will this help balance out your social life, it will also put you around people who are in the same situation as you are and those who may be further along that can help advise. Networking is both business and pleasure, and when you're in the trenches building your business, it may be the only social life time will allow for! Furthermore, many people you go to for support may not support you - friends probably won't buy from you, family might think you are crazy and will tell you every reason why it won't work. Be prepared for it!

3) Don't give up. Things won't always go to plan, and sometimes things that you prepared for won't work. There will be obstacles, and there will be times where it feels like it's all a huge waste of time. Always remember that the obstacles are what allow you to perfect your business. Everytime you overcome an obstacle, you create a new solution that you can add to your toolbelt. Maybe a customer skipped out on payment, which can be a major headache, but that causes you to change your payment options to make sure it doesn't happen again - which saves you from having to deal with the same issue over and over again in the future. Always look for a solution. Many times those who quit are much closer to success than they realize, and if they would have only kept going...... well... if only. 

Hope that helps!

May 28, 2:06PM EDT0
What marketing tactics and be helpful to maximize a fast growth of your app?
May 28, 9:25AM EDT0

There are many marketing tactics that can work, but a true marketing plan is specific to the business. The best marketing tactic is to run small tests with various types of techniques (FB ads, Twitter ads, content marketing, etc.) and see how the results compare. Whichever one shows the most promise, start there - optimize it and maximize it as much as possible. 

The basic stuff should be in place also --- a website that is opimized for related keywords, and strong SEO to make sure it appears top rank in the App Store for related keywords. A strong PR plan will also be highly essential to quickly growing an app. 

I recently wrote an article that gives several tips for coming up with a winning marketing strategy. It can be found here: How To Make An App Go Insanely Viral

May 28, 2:15PM EDT0
How long would you estimate is the average shelf life of a written business plan, before it needs to be revised?
May 27, 4:31AM EDT0

It's definitely specific to the business and how quickly it's growing, but in general terms, you should update your business plan: 

- Anytime the business takes a major shift or pivot; such as if the business switches their service or offering. 

- Anytime financials take a major swing or starts moving away from original projections. In this case, the projections (which may have been assumed initially) can be replaced with real data to create a more accurate financial representation. 

- Every 6 months in general if nothing major has changed in the business. In this case, we look through to update ideas, check for new research data, analyze any changes in competitor behavior and etc. 

May 28, 2:18PM EDT0
What would you do about regularly reviewing and revising a business plan that an outside business plan writer had written?
May 26, 3:49PM EDT0

Honestly, it depends on how well written that business plan is. Just because it's written by a "professional consultant" doesn't mean that it's a good business plan, unfortunately. Even some so-called professionals are nothing more than template writers. 

However, the first thing I look for is to make sure that all the normal sections have been covered - research, marketing, financials, and etc. Then, I look for flow and the "story". Really good information can be really boring. Business plans should have a flow to them and everything should be connected - your research should tell you how to market, your marketing should lead into your financials. 

In terms of our own clients, if they are extremely progressive in their businesses, we suggest a revisit every 6 months or so. Many things can change for a startup within that time. Also, that gives us a chance to update financials with a longer history of real numbers to make our projections even more accurate. 

May 26, 7:21PM EDT0
How would you get a team of people committed to a business plan that an outsider wrote?
May 26, 2:52PM EDT0
How do you deal with questions that come up, after a business plan is done?
May 26, 5:45AM EDT0
Why did you specialize your business to tech apps instead of offering your services to various businesses?
May 25, 1:54PM EDT0

When I first started business planning on a freelance basis (before launching my business), I offered my services to businesses of all types of industries. In fact, I built my reputation doing so.

When it came to mobile app clients however, I had additional knowledge of development and app funding that really allowed me to really offer my app startup clients a specialized service. As I focused in more on the app industry and worked with more app entrepreneurs, I began to notice specific problems that they faced - and specific elements that they lacked that would help get them funded. For instance, I realized that most app entrepreneurs know very little about lean startup, which automatically puts them on the wrong foot even in the ideation stage! 

May 25, 5:49PM EDT0
What are some of the reasons why some startups fail to get funding?
May 25, 12:16AM EDT0

There are many reasons that a startup can fail to get funding, some of them just can't lock in the investor relationships they need to even find themselves in a pitching situation. For those who are pitching their startup for funding, some reasons they might not get funded include: 

  1. Business hasn't been been validated enough. Investors don't invest in "good ideas" they invest in fundable startups that have been validated to prove that a true consumer demand exists. Ideally, the idea will already be launched in a minimal way, already have users, and already have some type of revenue being generated. 
  2. They over value their business and can't lock in a solid deal. The way businesses are valuated can change depending on who you ask. Ask the entrepreneur and it will likely be valued much higher than it is supposed to be - ask a potential investor and they will likely value it at a much lower valuation. Sometimes entrepreneurs are too hard-pressed on their percieved value to negotiate to a lower valuation - and other times, investors are too hard-pressed to negotiate to a higher valuation. 
  3. Weak team. A great idea even with a bit of traction can easily fail if it's being launched by the wrong team. Investors want to see a team that has the knowledge and experience to truly build a successful startup. Some people don't have the background to confidently build the business that they are proposing. Another thing... personality can be a turn off too. Some investors might turn down an opportunity simply because they don't like the personality or character of the entrepreneur behind it! 
May 25, 6:23PM EDT0
From your own experience with your business, when should an entrepreneur expect to generate profits from their business?
May 24, 3:20PM EDT0
How do you market your own business among your clients? How successful has your strategy been so far?
May 24, 12:23PM EDT0
What has been some of the apps that you've helped market? Do you tailor a plan according each app or do you have a strategy that works for all apps?
May 24, 9:49AM EDT0

What is the most "unconventional" company that you've worked with on a business plan?

May 23, 7:03PM EDT0

What sort of information do you need from a startup to be able to work with them? At what stage of development should they be contacting you, just after they have an idea, after they set up their site, when is best?

May 23, 6:54AM EDT0
So far, what has been your success rate with your clients?
May 21, 6:29PM EDT0

It would depend on what you consider success. Only a portion of our clients are seeking funding - and for those individuals, building investor relationships and pitching investors falls on them. For those who have a startup that's too early in the startup stage (such as pre-validation), a great business plan won't do much for increasing their potential for funding at that time (although our consultation usually makes them more comfortable in knowing what steps to take next). On the other hand, a validated business with an MVP, active users, and some level of revenue ---- that's a type of business that has considerable success with our business plans. 

I do believe that we have a 100% success rate in the terms of -- we've helped all of our clients move along to the next level; whether that level is launching their app, getting funding.... or simply, getting their idea defined so they can move into the initial MVP development stages. 

May 21, 8:25PM EDT0
After checking out if an idea has potential to succeed in the market, what is the next step?
May 21, 7:28AM EDT0

Figure out what the most minimal features the app would need to validate the idea for demand --- build it and get it out there, start getting customer feedback to see if you are on the right track. Follow the Lean Startup Cycle ---- Build, Measure, Learn.

Here is a good visual from Kissmetrics to explain the process a bit further: 

Last edited @ May 21, 10:17PM EDT.
May 21, 8:26PM EDT0
What is lean startup methodology and how do you apply it during the developing stage?
May 21, 4:45AM EDT0

Lean Startup Methodology is an agile and iterative approach to bringing software to the market. Instead of launching a full software and hoping that you are building something that customers want; you offer them only a super minimal version at first, and use behavioral data to determine whether you are on the right track, or whether a pivot is necessary. Lean Startup follows the Build, Measure, Learn process.. You build and launch a small iteration, measure customer behavior, learn from it, and use that data to determine whether a pivot is necessary. Refer to the visual by SketchBubble below: 

Last edited @ May 21, 10:16PM EDT.
May 21, 8:31PM EDT0
What process do you use to validate if an app idea has potential? What defines a good idea?
May 21, 4:21AM EDT0

We use the lean startup model. You can prove whether an idea has potential without ever writing a line of app code. Run what is referred to as a "smoke test". 

Let's say I wanted to start an app -- an Uber for gas. You schedule it on the app, we come by and fill your car up with gas. Will it work? Maybe... we can spend $50,000 to build it and find out.... or we can run a smoke test. Here's what I'd do: 

  1. Build a landing page that explains what the app is, how it works, and shows a few screens of what it will look like. 
  2. Have a "download now" button. But here's the thing. Instead of it actually going to a download link (it can't, it doesn't exist), it will go to a page that says, "Sorry, the app has not yet been released, please leave your e-mail below to be notified of it's launch" -- something like that. 
  3. Promote the page with Facebook ads to a specific market that you believe would have a particular need for the app; spending a couple hundred bucks in ads. 
  4. Measure user behavior. How many people were interested in the idea enough to visit the page? How many were interested enough to try to download it? How many were interested enough to sign up? 

Maybe you find that out of 100 people that visit the page, 50 of them try to download it, and 20 of them end up on the e-mail list..... Those are some pretty good numbers! On the otherhand, maybe you find that 100 people come to the page and 5 try to download, and no one signs up.... Either way, the initial idea will be validated!

May 21, 10:00PM EDT0
How long did the whole process of developing your startup take?
May 20, 11:58PM EDT0

We've been in business now for 4 years, and I'd say we're still developing. I'd also say that our startup was developing even before we ever launched! Startup development is an ongoing proces, it never ends! Everyday we're learning something new and there are always frequent changes within our business. 

It's all about the first step though. Once you take a step, it's a never ending journey, and in some ways, the journey becomes the destination! 

Probably was more "Mr Miagi" (Karate Kid) than you hoped for... but I hope that answered the question!

May 21, 10:06PM EDT0