Apps are the fruit flies of entrepreneurship

By Ray DePaul

Students creating smartphone apps get a lot of flack for not doing "real" entrepreneurship. And there's definitely some things that you don't have to deal with for an App versus a physical product - channels, cost of goods, supply chain…

But then it hit me. Apps are the fruit flies of entrepreneurship. (pause for effect)

Geneticists study fruit flies, not because they have all the complexities of humans, but because they go from an egg to a reproducing adult in 10 days. You can actually study 36 generations in one year! Apps share a similar quality. They can be quickly conceived, designed, built, delivered, and evaluated, so you can get feedback and iterate. And this cycle of build-measure-learn is critical to learning many lean startup principles.

Can you learn all of the elements of business through an App? Of course not. And you can't learn about human anatomy by studying flies. But in an educational environment, it is an invaluable way to go through the entire process in a reasonable timeframe without mortgaging your parent's house.

But don't think building an app is the same as building an app company. An app is a software project. An app company is an entrepreneurship project. How are you delivering real value to users? How will you compete and gain traction? How will you be sustainable? While more complicated product companies are still trying to figure out how to build their first prototype, you should have a success or failure on your startup resume and be on to the next fruit fly.