On Acquiring an App

As you might know, I recently acquired an app. Since then, I’ve been working hard on an update during the evenings and weekends. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to make the most out of the acquisition. Here are my suggestions to anyone considering of buying an application. Note, that these are based on my common sense and I cannot back them up with my new app's success yet. Hopefully, in a few months I can!

Know What You’re Buying

While this may seem obvious, there are many things to consider before making a purchase or an offer. First of, you should have the real numbers of the app’s (financial) performance. This should include download and revenue numbers from the app store, numbers and revenue from any ad networks used, app usage analytics (see, for example, this post for different metrics), number of subscribers to the app’s mailing list, and app product page analytics. Having this data enables you to make educated guesses on the potential income of the app.

And, of course, you should see the code, and all of the code for the application. You are going to be the one who will be developing the application in the future, so make sure it is as good as you need it to be. It does not have to be perfect (I don’t think there is such a thing as perfect code), but it should be reasonably understandable and solid in order for you to work on. And the quality should be reflected in the price. Also remember that the app does not only consist of the native application, but you should also get to look at the server side code and such if they exist.

Get All The Parts Of The Product

You should get the source code of the app. You can hardly forget that. But there are many different resources that you need to make sure to get. This includes

  • source code for the server side backend of the app
  • all the resources, including originals of all icon graphics, splash screens, etc
  • the domain of the app or, if it is just a product page, a permanent redirect from that page to your new page
  • administrative access to the app's mailing list

Not all applications will have all those resources, though. And, naturally, you want the app transferred to you in the app store as well. Even if you are going to launch it as a new app (to, say, do a paid “upgrade” or complete relaunch), it’s still a good idea to get the old app under your control.

Serve Your New Customers Well

You are new to your customers and they are new to you. You should show your newly acquired customers that you are trying to serve them the best you can. First, let them know you are now in charge of the app and what your plans for it are. For a typical app, this can be difficult if you have no contact information for your users, but you can still mention it at least in the app update notes.

An important step is to show your users you’re serious about the app. I’d say it’s best to make an update as fast after the acquisition as possible. While you are sure to have plenty of new development ideas, it might be better to make some small progress to show you are working on the app. Also, I’d suggest getting feedback from your users about what they are missing in the current app. This lets them into the process and gives them the feeling you are listening to them.

Love The App You Buy!

Every app acquisition should make business sense, of course. But I’d say you should only buy it because you love the people using the app or because you love the problem the app is solving. Especially if you are an indie developer working on the app part time, this will make it easier for you to motivate yourself to continue improving and spending time on development.

I’ve dedicated (somehow that sounds negative) most of my career to computer science education, so I love the app I bought for learning Python programming. Hopefully my customers will love it too!