How to Make Your App Stand Out

Apple’s (APPL) popularity can mean cash for small businesses and entrepreneurs playing in the mobile application market.

Thanks in part to Apple’s ecosystem of mobile apps and investors hunger to fund Apple-related companies, those wanting to profit from Apple have more opportunities than ever before.

But take note, competition is fierce, which means the mobile app will have to stand out from the pack to generate interest from consumers and investors alike.

“The iPhone audience is ravenous for applications,” said Matt Murphy, partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and manager of its $200 million iFund that invests in startups making products for the iPhone and iPad. “iPhone users download 30 to 40 applications a year. With other phones people download three apps during the lifetime of the phone.”

Not to mention that when it comes to the iPhone and apps, there’s something for everybody whether it’s a college student or grandma. For developers making money is easier now by taking free apps and offering premium services that cost money, said Murphy.

KPCB recently doubled the amount of money in the iFund after Apple unveiled its iPad. Murphy said like with the iPhone, the e-reader is likely to provide another opportunity for developers. Unlike some mobile carriers that offer apps in a way that consumers aren’t able to find easily, Apple approves 99.9% of apps, features them in the App store and has a roughly one week approval process, said Murphy. Apple also has a free suite of developer tools that makes it easier to create an app for the iPhone and now the iPad.

But in order to pique the interest of the iFund, entrepreneurs will have to do some homework.

While having a good idea is the first and hardest part, knowing the competitive environment and coming up with something different is a surefire way to garner interest in a saturated market.

“There are 180,000 apps right now. The bar is higher,” said Murphy, noting that the most successful apps on the iPhone are those that give users immediate delight and aren’t complicated.  And while there are some apps that have millions of dollars in backing, Murphy said there are others that cost $10,000 to make and made $12,000 in a single day.

When KPCB sifts through the roughly hundreds of business plans it gets per week for the iFund, it’s looking for startups with a strong team, a big idea and entrepreneurs with a practical sense of the market.

“The hardest thing is to figure out what consumers want,” said Murphy. Although Murphy and a team of two others read all the business plans, having a crisp  plan that spells out the idea in a couple of paragraphs helps.

And since KPCB is inundated with business proposals, having a standout idea will generate interest.

For Scott Lahman, founder and chief executive of Jamdat Mobile, which makes Gogii,  an app that offers iPhone users the ability to send free text messaging, making an app for Apple is easy--but standing out is tough.

“You have to do something to distinguish yourself,” said Lahman. “You have to do more than something novel. You should be approaching an idea that is lasting.”

Alex Musil, vice president of product development at Shazam, a mobile company that  received financial backing from the iFund early on, said  knowing your competition or similar apps is key.

“Look at what’s been successful, look at the top apps and evaluate why they are successful,” said Musil, whose app recognizes what song is playing  when you hold your phone.