John Egan

Like a powerful magnet, the multibillion-dollar app market attracts millions of developers – and even more customers. In 2012 alone, Apple’s store for iOS apps notched nearly 20 billion downloads. App analytics company Flurry predicts that sometime during the fourth quarter of 2013, iOS and Android app downloads will combine to hit 2 billion a week.

Most apps are created by solo operators or small companies. Of course, many of these developers dream of making big bucks from their apps. Yet for a large swath of app developers, those dreams fail to materialize.

A 2012 study by GigaOM Pro found that more than half of the app developers surveyed pulled in less than $500 a month from paid apps; one-third of developers of ad-supported apps made less than $100 a month in ad revenue. Only about 5 percent of app developers in the study earned more than $20,000 a month, and those developers tended to work for big companies.

So, given the many hurdles – notably the financial ones – how can an app developer achieve success? Several app developers who were showcasing their technology at the recent Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco said it takes a solid concept along with passion and commitment.

“Ideas are cheap; ideas are really worth nothing,” said Joe Bruzda, whose startup, Kijome Software LLC, has developed the BigDay Reminder app, which reminds you of special occasions and offers a gift-buying tool. “It’s the execution of the idea that matters.”

Bruzda and his wife, Kim Peterson, had to be persistent in order to execute their idea. Since they don’t have technical expertise, Bruzda and Peterson hired a programming company to build the BigDay app. But six weeks into the project that company dropped Kijome Software as a customer. Fortunately, Bruzda and Peterson got all of their money back, as well as the blueprints for the app.

That setback may have defeated some app developers, but not Bruzda and Peterson. “We decided to make lemonade out of lemons,” Bruzda said.

The lemonade, if you will, came in the form of tapping another programming company to build the app, which became available in late 2012. Bruzda and Peterson have promoted the BigDay app through public relations efforts and old-fashioned, on-the-ground marketing initiatives, such as attending Macworld/iWorld. A mobile advertising campaign is on the drawing board.

Like many other app developers, Bruzda and his wife are “trying to live the dream,” he said.

“Living the dream means (working) 10 hours a day, seven days a week,” Bruzda said with a laugh.

Michael Chen, cofounder and CEO of QuikIO, said that for app developers to realize their dreams, they must offer a product that people want and need. “You have to convince them why they need it,” Chen said, “and you really need to have people endorse it.”

QuikIO’s iOS app allows users to access documents, photos, videos and music from their Macs and PCs. During Macworld/iWorld, QuikIO introduced a new feature – the ability to transfer files from one mobile device to another. The startup unveiled its app in November 2012.

According to Chen, flexibility is key in app development.

“Your first idea may not be the best idea. You may be very narrow-sighted in certain aspects; maybe you think you’re unique enough, but your consumers don’t think that way,” he said.

Chen added: “You’ve got to make sure that people you see you as a valid business, see that you have a valid product and that you’re really dedicated to it.”

Oleksandr Kosovan definitely has a valid business and a valid product. At Macworld/iWorld, his Ukrainian app development company, MacPaw Inc., rolled out an updated version of its popular CleanMyMac app. The app cleans up your computer system, making it run more smoothly.

Kosovan, founder and CEO of MacPaw, said his company has grown from one person – himself – to more than 40 employees since he came out with his debut app, CleanMyMac. He never envisioned his business becoming so big. “I was just solving a simple problem and had a simple solution,” Kosovan said.

Today, MacPaw offers six other utility apps: Gemini, MacHider, CleanMyDrive, CleanMyPC, Ensoul Contacts and Ensoul Wallpapers.

What advice does Kosovan have for developers hoping to come up with an app – or, in his case, seven apps – capable of hitting it big?

“You’ve got to be passionate about what you do,” he said. “At the beginning, don’t think about how you will sell it in the future. You need to concentrate on what you do and try to do it best. Everything else comes afterward.”

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