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7 Steps to Check if an App Idea Already Exists

February 21, 2024

Where to look, what terms to use when searching, and little-known insider secrets to check if an app idea already exists – plus; what to do if it does

What if your app idea already exists?

There’s a good chance someone else might have tried to solve the same problem. It’s a big world, after all. There are millions up millions of products on app stores already – and thousands of times that amount were removed or never submitted in the first place.

You want to have an innovative product. So, how do you check if an app idea already exists?

Well, it’s not an exact science, but there are some solid steps you can follow…

How to check if an app idea already exists

1. Start with Google search, ChatGPT and Bard

You’ll be surprised what the right mix of keywords can deliver on a simple Google search. Try to use relevant and descriptive phrases like “music app that <describe your idea’s unique function>”, as this could pick up the value-proposition text on a competitor’s website you should be aware of.

Use keywords describing problems you solve, functions and functionality you want to build and benefits you plan on offering.

And if Google doesn’t return joy, plug in ChatGPT with a powerful browsing-enhancement extension or even Google Bard (recently updated, so maybe worth checking out again) to help you scan for similar products.

2. Then check the app stores

With over 4 million apps in the Google Play Store and more than 2 million apps in Apple’s App Store, if there’s a similar commercial app there, this is probably where you’ll find it. Again, use the app category, name, description, functions and benefits to research.

The benefit of finding an app this way is that you can actually download it – and then start testing it immediately. Note the download time, speed, onboarding, experience, screens, features etc. One common strategy for commercial app builders is to try out a competitor app and then copy-cat it, just with new or better features.

3. Check the Y Combinator startup list

Y Combinator's startup list is a valuable resource for discovering innovative startups and app ideas. Browse through their list to see if any startups are working on concepts similar to yours. This can provide insights not only into potential competitors or collaborators but also what they’re currently building.

4. Ask potential customers

Apparently, the Dropbox story goes that when founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi went to ask Sequoia for investment, they got pushback. A potential investor said: “this is nothing new, there are tons of products that do the same thing”. To which they asked, “OK, do you use any of them? Because that’s why you should invest in ours…”

They built their product based on user feedback and got their funding based on user-centric reasoning. Notion was pretty much the same – they started by seeing what the ideal target market complained about on Reddit and then built products/features that solve those problems. 

If you can connect with your potential customers and ask them “How do you x, y, and z”, they might tell you about competitors, what they like about it, and what they don’t. Have them basically build your product for you.

5. Look for patents and trademarks

Another option, though highly unlikely, is searching for patents and trademarks with search tools like Google Patents, Patentscope, and Escapenet.

6. Contact a consultant

Internationally, you might find a specific Mobile App Consultant or App Development Consultant, inside South Africa you could try to find a business development consultant or just go straight to an app design and development agency.

The reason is simple: They work in the ecosystem and have a pretty good general idea of what's going on, who’s built what, and what’s failed and worked. See why your business needs a digital consultant.

For example, we at Specno help funded startups and corporates build new products, so our team needs to know everything in the industry. In fact, we offer consultation and validation as a service. This brings us to the final step…

7. Get pro concept validation

We saved the best for last, because, though it costs, it’s the best start you can give any new product or startup idea. Concept Validation is a systematic, comprehensive professional process for fully analysing your idea’s feasibility, scope, fundability, and potential profitability all in one go.

In fact, if you do a Concept Validation, you get a report that you take as is and put into your pitch for funding. We at Specno do this professionally, so ask us about Concept Validation

How do you validate an app idea?

Defining the problem, analysing the market, planning monetisation and building a go-to-market strategy. This is the step-by-step possess for idea validation and how to validate a mobile app idea. As well as why you need to test your app idea and how long it takes to test an idea.

But wait, what if you find out your idea already exists…

Can you build something if a similar product exists?

Actually yes (mostly). If a vaguely similar product already exists, it gives you two huge benefits: 1) you know that the problem and market probably exist, and 2) you can learn from the competition.

Founders are often put off when a competitor already exists. But the simple truth is that ideas are not nearly as valuable as execution. Think about it: How many similar products are there on the market? And why do some of them make it and others don’t?

Often a product’s success comes down to many factors other than the initial idea – user experience, scalability, marketability, value proposition, cost per acquisition, profitability, ROI, etc. You can build a new product that does the same thing but build it better or smarter, or even outplay the competition with business finesse.

Have an app idea you’re serious about?

Talk to us, we’ll help turn it into an actionable, scalable product and business…

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Specno Team