Fundraising · Marketing

I have my MVP for a mobile APP and I'm stuck at acquiring users / user growth as well as knowing the proper approach to marketing this idea.

Dov Markowich Founder @ Capital Actuarial Group

October 11th, 2019

I have my MVP for a mobile App and have received positive feedback from my friends and colleagues. I'm stuck at acquiring users / user growth as well as knowing the proper approach to marketing this idea.


I have developed a working app (MVP) called Center Stage (working title - can be changed).

Center Stage is a fun photo and video contest app for iPhone and Android with cash and prizes to be won.

The admin will post a topic or theme for a photo contest and users will upload a photo that corresponds to the theme of the contest and fight to get the most likes by having great content as well as sharing the photo with their network! The user(s) with the most likes for their entry, will win the advertised prize associated with that contest.

The app works for both iOS and Android and the download links can be found on the landing page at:

My next step is acquiring users and growing the user base however, this area is such a challenge for me. I'm not sure of the proper approach or best plan of attack.

Ideally, I'd look for someone that would want to invest, market and improve this app as there's nothing out there like this at the current moment.

Ad revenue can be brought in through in-app banner ads and / or through sponsorship of having a company or website advertise a current contest.

For example: The Main Course! - Post a photo of your favorite food! Today's contest is sponsored by Uber Eats.

Daniel Turner Available

October 11th, 2019

Hi Dov, As an experienced product designer and design strategist, may I suggest one interim step? You say you’ve shown things to friends and colleagues — research has shown over and over again that’s not a great way to get real feedback that reflects how well a thing addresses real problems for real people (people who’d have to invest time and/or money in your product and people who are not invested in making you feel good). Go out of your circle of friends and family and see if: a) The problem you think you’re solving for users really exists b) If it exists, you understand how people who are not you have built mental models around it c) Your proposed tool for helping them solve their problem works the way they need it to You can do this quickly and easily, too! Read Erika Hall’s "Just Enough Research": For extra karma, read "Design for Real Life", to think about whether you might be hurting people: It won’t slow you down in the short term, and can save you tons of time and effort stepping back from poor assumptions you made early on, and any code you committed based on unproven assumptions. Good luck!

Paul Christison Experienced FinTech Visionary Looking For Startup Opps

October 15th, 2019

Opinions from friends and colleagues are fine for encouragement, but next to useless for decision making. You need data and with a name including "Actuarial", I would presume there is skill to analyse data, once you have it.

Question to ask is;

"Are users my customers? (pay for the service?)" If yes, "How do I identify users who are willing to pay for my service?"

"If no, who pays for the service?

If on limited budget, start with assumptions and create personas for users and customers. Then test groups most similar to your persona models. Once there is data supporting your persona model(s), then test marketing appeal using compares between offer A and B.

Suggest reads on how to create Personas and test marketing would be helpful to you.

Renee Zau Founder of DonationMatch and SamplingforGood, Cause Marketing Guru, Startup Mentor, Fundraising Event Consultant

Last updated on October 11th, 2019

This sounds like a B2B app that could help brands crowdsource imagery for marketing usage. I would approach businesses/orgs for whom Instagram works well (restaurants, florists, caterers, entertainment venues, gardens, painting studios, museums, school yearbook clubs, etc.) and get some beta users... they’ll tell you what they need to make it work better as they use it, and this along with testimonials/WOM and proof of concept will help you get future customers. Luckily, this type of app can go viral easily if the UX is good, as it inherently compels people to share about your platform to get votes.

I’d suggest adding a simple photo release when the photos are uploaded, as well as give the host a way to judge/filter initial entries before “final” voting happens. These are based on other entry/judging experiences and the desire to help your client (the host brand?) get more of what they want.

my startup works with 15k event organizers across the country each year, and I’ve actually thought of asking for photos of people’s events to share. I’d be willing to beta test and give feedback if we can try it out... I think the event organizers/orgs themselves could also be potential clients. Reach me through if you think this might help.

Kim Adams Product Marketer in the Recovery and Plant Medicine space.

October 15th, 2019

Hi Dov,

In development did you do testing of markets at all, like beta testers or social proof exercises? Have you ever gone through a Customer Journey Mapping exercise so you can decide who to target? A lot of startups bump up against this and ask for marketing help but in order for me or any marketer to help a client, they need to understand where to start. I created this for clients to do with their team so they could define where to start. Take a look and see if it can help define a target market to begin with: DIY Customer Journey

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

October 11th, 2019

Quite a nice idea.. Although I’m not quite sold on the authencity or genuine likes.. but I’m sure you‘ve got that figured out.:

any case to answer your question, you will have to do legwork marketing (hyperlocal) for this type of venture and then rely on word-of-mouth.. Paid (social media) advertising won’t do you much justice as its sort of a “leisure prize-based reward” than a “everyday-use”...

either way, it’s normal to experience stall growth.. it’s a challenging period in figuring things out

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

October 11th, 2019

You need a new revenue model. Unless you have millions ADU, you will not have a national sponsorship or placement. Additionally, given that Uber loses $3.36 on each order, Eats is a business line that may not survive the inevitable regorganization (and all the other headwinds at the entire gig economy), you need to carefully look at the space as a source of revenue in general.

Ainsley Rattray JPMorgan Chase

October 11th, 2019

Congrats on building something!

  • Don't use friends and family for product market fit - Do almost anything else, go to starbucks and offer to buy someone a coffee in exchange for feedback.
  • Feels like the contests can easily be gamed, I'd look for ways to defeat bots and countries were $25.00 is a considered a lot of money for upvoting a picture.
  • Agree with comment that says this is more of a B2B play, where you get advertisers to sponsor contests. Also agree with other commenter on adding photo release/requirement for original photos.
  • Try to do as many interviews, podcasts, blogs, articles, etc to generate interests, perhaps, share the process of building the app, how you worked around issues, share revenue numbers, strategy, etc


Steve Barnett Persuasive Persistant Problem Solver, Cofounder@Objective Leader, Director@PVQD Consulting

October 12th, 2019

Hi Dov,

It really depends who your target market segment was while you were developing the app in the first place.

Your friends and colleagues may not be representative of your target market segment, and their feedback may be biased simply because they like you as an individual - not because of the app.

I suggest you figure out a way to get your app in front of your target market segment, this could be running facebook ads, handing out flyers at the local bowling alley, etc. Your success depends on how well you are able to identify and segregate your target market, then how well you are able to convert them into users.

Good luck

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

October 16th, 2019

@Dane is right. You have started backwards. It's a common mistake to build something and then try to figure out how to sell it. Unfortunately you invested in the wrong thing, whereas you would have been better off to start with your marketing strategy first, validated it, tested your assumptions, and let the research you did for product/market fit define what your app should be, instead of the other way around.

No one, I repeat no one, invests money so you can figure out your market, advertise, and revise. That all needs to be figured out before someone invests, hence the order in which things need to get validation first, product development last.

Uniqueness is not the same as saleability. Your research would tell you what makes people use your program, what amount of money needs to change hands, and what makes your app a habit, not just a fad.

Don't despair. You can go back and do the work now that would ideally have come first. But it is likely going to change a lot about your app, and redevelopment is likely to be necessary based on the discovery work you do. That's just the way of things.

Knowing that you've hit this wall, an investor is not likely to step in with money, because money isn't going to solve the business problem. That's what the investor would want to see, that you have solved the business problem first.

Rodrigo Flores CEO of Halp, BBA from Universidad Francisco Marroquin

October 11th, 2019

Hey, I analyzed your idea, and I can give you some tips based on my business/marketing experience.

The first thing I will recommend you is thinking about a "bait". Your website should have an irresistible "bait". That bait should be financially possible and should contemplate the lifetime value of each customer. If you look at other companies, they usually offer free trials or something to ease the pain of experimenting with something new. (What does the user win if they trust you)

The other thing that I'll suggest is that you don't think of your website as a fun "social" app, because that only works when content drives people into your app. In this case, I don't perceive "voting" in a contest as a benefit. If you need "voters" you have to offer them something other than fun, because for that we already have Instagram: The "earn money and prizes" benefit works for the photo takers. But what's for the voter? I don't think all voters want to take pictures. Also, you could use Instagram and Facebook to make those contests in a non-invasive way.

In this case, you are betting that "fun" drives people, but you are not a gaming company. You should empathize the "earn money" part, at least at the beginning.

The social component of "fun" is only valid when you have a big user mass, but at this stage you should focus in your most valuable users in terms of cash.

The second thing is that I think that your market target is a little wide. It may be wiser (at least at this stage), to focus your target in just one audience. I'll say companies and businesses, but I don't know the specifics of your company. You could offer business a way to crowdsource images, ad ideas, facebook posts, slogans, logo concepts, videos, etc.

And there you could negotiate with the company some kind of benefit for the voters of the winning photo/video/logo, etc.

I'm just trowing some ideas that could help you find a "bait" for the voters. And for the "photo takers" I think that the best way is focusing in having great rewards, and that is contingent on your ability to find companies willing to pay for that.