Start an App Business the “Easy” Way: Buy One!

By Sara Angeles on February 7, 2013 / 2 Comments

There are two kinds of entrepreneurs: those who want to manage new ventures from start to finish, and those who want to take over existing ones. If you’re the latter and have a brilliant idea for an app, the app industry has a place for you.

It used to be that the only way start an app business is to build apps and launch them on the app store. Today, the barriers of entry are much lower for those who want to run an app-based business, but don’t quite have the time, patience, or desire to start from scratch. With app brokeraging and ready-made app marketplaces, app entrepreneurs can launch an app without having to actually build one.

Where Can I Buy Ready-Made Apps?

You can buy ready-made apps at app brokerage sites like Apptopia , SellMyApplication , Appslit , and SmartAppster .

Apptopia, launched in 2012, is arguably the most popular app trading marketplace. Whereas other sites allow developers to sell app licenses, source codes, and other components of an app, Apptopia sells ready-made app packages complete with exclusive rights and source code.

Apptopia Facts

Average selling price: $7,500 (see recently sold apps and final selling price here )

Types of apps sold: Everything from gaming and social to business, productivity, and utility apps, as well as niche apps and specialty app categories like lifestyle, education, health, medicine, entertainment/sports, reference and more.

Who are the buyers?

  • App entreprenuers who want to launch an app ASAP or test-drive the app business without making a huge investment developing apps from scratch
  • App entrepreneurs who want to “flip” apps by buying cheap and improving, repackaging, and reselling apps on app stores
  • App entrepreneurs who want to grow their portfolio or publishing company (e.g., JMT apps )
  • App developers who wish to incorporate parts of an app into another app (for example, OneLouder’s Powow messaging app and DrawChat )

Who are the sellers?

  • App developers who love making apps, but aren’t great entrepreneurs or prefer not to manage the business side (e.g., marketing and number-crunching)
  • App developers who make more money building/selling ready-made apps vs. developing custom apps
  • Appsters who want to cash out or need an exit strategy for unloading underperforming apps
  • Innovators who love to build, but want others to grow their masterpiece

What are the advantages of buying ready-made apps?

  • Takes less time. Because you’re skipping the development stage and don’t have to build the app from the ground up, you can launch as soon as you have the rights. It’s even faster if it’s an app already being sold on the app store as you will likely only transfer rights and hit the ground running.
  • Lower cost. Depending on the app, it may cost significantly less to buy a ready-made app than to build one from scratch since you don’t have to hire a developer or an entire team to design + develop the app.
  • Traction. Many of the apps being sold on Apptopia and similar sites are currently on the app store and thus already have a large following or some sort of traction.  Lucky Slots , currently listed for $7,500, has an average of 16,424 monthly downloads. Bunny Shooter , a Top 10 gaming app, has an average of 229,632 monthly downloads. You’ll still want to do some of your own marketing to grow your empire, but at least you’ve already got some fans and users to back your newly acquired app.
  • Revamp, repackage, and resell. See something you don’t like or feel could be better? Change it. You can tweak the app and improve it prior to release. See your idea already made into app that’s listed at a fairly cheap price? With hundreds of apps being sold for under $2,500, you’ve got the perfect blueprint to recreate it as you please. Either way, buying a ready-made app gives you a starting point instead of nothing at all.

What are the disadvantages of buying ready-made apps?

  • Must familiarize self with app. If it’s not an app you can currently download from the app store, this will take a little bit of time and playing around after you’ve purchased it. If you’re lucky, it will be seamless and you’ll love it from the get-go. Worst case scenario is that you’ll spend a day or two wanting to pull your all your hair out discovering all the coding and UI flaws the hard way.
  • Must familiarize developers with app. If you decide to tweak or improve the app, you’ll have to go through the development process and find developers who understand the app and can get the job done . When it comes to improving others’ works, some devleopers are better than others (read: some developers are more costly [in time and money] than others).
  • Debugging hell. Like above, if the app hasn’t been fully tested (if at all) you’re stuck with the task of finding/working with developers who can fix problems instead of making them worse. This could be a breeze – or it could be a complete nightmare. Luckily, some app owners disclose bugs in their listings, but you’ll never know if you’ll run into unknown problems until after you’ve purchased the rights.
  • Metrics? What metrics? Apptopia is an industry favorite in that potential buyers get insider app stats, such as monthly profits, download numbers, app rankings, and trend analysis. That’s great for already successful apps, but what about newer apps or apps that don’t have any concrete numbers, such as those in the lower price range?

Jonathan Blum says it best:

“Good apps might appear to perform poorly because they are relatively new or because they’ve been marketed poorly. Others might be legitimate fixer-uppers. Ultimately, buyers have to rely on their best business sense before taking out a flyer on an app.”

The app industry is more than about app development and app stores. App entrepreneurs don’t just have the option of developing apps. They can skip the development process too. With app brokerage sites like Apptopia, appsters can take ideas and turn the, into apps – without ever building one.