This post is for you if you're an aspiring tech founder and you are trying to figure out how much of an investment your idea is going to take. Ideally, you wanna figure this out without having to talk to someone trying to sell you something. Understandable. Let's get started.

How much of an investment will you need to build your product? Unfortunately, the only real answer is: 'it depends'. Different apps will have different requirements, scopes, features, and expected scale so they're gonna require differing amounts of effort and, hence, will be priced differently.

But I also didn't write this to tell you the obvious and leave you hanging. While fundamentally each product is different, it's still possible to narrow down your cost structure to an approximate ballpark figure by thinking through a few critical decisions. Stick around to the end of this article and we might be able to do that.

At a high level, there are 4 major factors that will determine and development time and cost.

  1. Functionality
  2. Platforms
  3. Scale
  4. Development Talent

Luckily, for 3 out of those 4 - platforms, scale and talent - pricing is more or less standardized so it's relatively easy to predict estimated cost. We're gonna focus on functionality on this post. I'll be writing about the others separately.


Now let's get to the heart of the matter - figuring out what kind of engineering investment your product will need. The first step is figuring out what you're going to need to have in your app. This is a little harder than it seems because we need to go beyond thinking about the main problem you're trying to solve and think about your user's entire experience.

Good products are simple. This means that they are easy to understand and use. By definition, this means that good product teams are very selective about what they wanna include. As a founder, your product - at least initially - should focus on solving one problem really really well, instead of trying to do everything.  

The best way to understand your requirements is to think through your user's journey. This forces you to think beyond just the cool features to things that are less glamorous but equally important. If you're building a SaaS product, you'll likely need features like subscription billing, payment history and transactional emails. Your users are gonna wanna buy your product (hopefully) and you'll typically want to give them them the ability to purchase monthly, quarterly or annual subscriptions. You'll need to record their payment history, email them their receipts and show them how to change their payment methods etc. Functionality like this is so obvious that founders frequently forget to think and, therefore, budget for them.

The other part that's also often overlooked is the administrator's user journey. As you start acquiring and servicing customers, you're gonna need the infrastructure to support your customers, understand your business and make changes on the fly. You'll need dashboards to manage users, subscriptions, payments and other sections of your business as well as the ability to run analytics on your data.

You'll also want to think through your customer acquisition strategy. The three most common strategies are advertising, freemium, or free trials. I've written about their pros and cons here as well an analyzed which strategies tend to work better for specific types of businesses / industries. Regardless of what you choose, it's gonna have an impact on your development timeline and investment.

Founders very naturally tend to focus on building product to solve the problem and, unfortunately, tend to overlook many of the smaller, operations-critical pieces of functionality they will need to turn their idea into a business. This can be a very expensive mistake because your app is going to have relatively few unique, differentiating features and will need a LOT of these generic pieces of operational functionality. Hence, from a costing perspective, about 80% of your investment goes into building non-differentiating functionality.

UNLESS, and this is a shameless plug, you work with Byldd. Here's why - Byldd specializes in helping software startups get started. We have proprietary tools and processes accelerate the development process by taking a modular approach to building common, operational pieces of functionality discussed above. We've built modules for all of the things described above - subscription payments, user management, freemium and free trial infrastructure, and much more. Since these modules are already build and can be plugged into your product, you don't have to invest engineering hours in developing them. This means that 100% of your investment goes into building features and functionality that differentiates your business and solves the problems you're looking to solve.

It's unfortunately not possible to generalize pricing for differentiating features because, by definition, they're going to be unique. Book a meeting with me here, describe what you're trying to build and I will give you a ballpark number on the phone.