How to Turn an Idea Into an App

The CEO of Knack does work on his laptop at the office's headquarters. A light up Knack signs is hung on the wall behind him.


Samyr Qureshi is CEO of Knack, an app that connects faculty college students with tutors at greater than 60 faculty campuses throughout the United States. Qureshi co-founded the app in 2015 with Dennis Hansen and David Soker. Qureshi was photographed on the firm's headquarters in Tampa, Fla, on February 2, 2020. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Samyr Qureshi and his faculty pal Dennis Hansen had an thought for an app that may match college students with scholar tutors on the identical faculty campus. That was 2015. Six years later their firm, Knack, has secured greater than $1 million in fairness investments and is price 20 instances greater than when it began. It additionally landed Qureshi, CEO, and Hansen, Chief Product Officer, on the 2020 Forbes 30 underneath 30 record, which highlights the nation’s high innovators.

The steps they took to make Knack a actuality supply a sport plan for anybody with a viable thought and the drive to show an thought into an app.

1. Find a Need and a Solution

Qureshi was tutored as a younger little one after which was a tutor himself in faculty. He and Hansen knew tutors helped with educational success, however realized it wasn’t at all times simple to seek out one. Through analysis they realized the “close to peer” idea was profitable. The extra just lately somebody has taken a category and realized an idea, the more practical they're at serving to another person perceive it. They determined to create an app that may match college students on the identical campus, one needing assist in a course and one other who has had current success taking the identical course.

2. Do your Homework

Airbnb and Uber have been taking off so Qureshi and Hansen realized all they may about how these apps obtained began and why they have been successful. They additionally researched how folks have been discovering tutors on Craigslist, Wyzant and different assets, and what was working and what wasn’t. They determined what they wished their app to supply and researched what it will take to create it.

three. Build a Team with the Variety of Talent Needed

The associates requested David Soker, who had a grasp’s in electrical and laptop engineering and knew the right way to construct apps, to hitch their group. He’s additionally a co-founder and now Chief Technology Officer at Knack.

“We deliberately put our group collectively to have engineers,” Qureshi stated. Paying an out of doors firm to construct the app would have simply price six figures.


Sonia Duraimurugan is an MBA scholar on the University of South Florida who used the Knack app to make cash as a tutor. Before utilizing Knack, she relied on meals banks for groceries. “I used to be actually strapped for cash,” she stated. The app offered a method for her to earn as a lot as $12 per hour. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

four. Take Advantage of University Incubators

Qureshi and Hansen, each graduates of the University of Florida, secured a spot at UF’s Gator Hatchery, an incubator that provides college students workspace, workplace assist, mentors and different assets for startups. There are lots of of University Business Incubators (UBIs) throughout the nation at faculties of all sizes. Some supply grants or stipends to assist assist college students financially whereas they create their enterprise or product. Others have relationships with banks that present particular loans to entrepreneurs. Most UBIs are adept at creating networking alternatives for college students to realize entry to potential funders, usually alumni. They even have media relations groups that get publicity for college students and their endeavors.

5. Get Feedback

Whether it’s a product, service or app, testing a beta model with a large viewers (past your mother and next-door neighbor) is important for understanding what works and what doesn’t. Knack launched a beta model on the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida to work out the kinks.

6. Enter Contests, Apply for Grants and Raise Equity

UBIs maintain college students knowledgeable about competitions and grant functions. But even for those who aren’t in a UBI, there are lots of competitions for entrepreneurs and faculty college students launching an thought in addition to grant alternatives. In 2016, Knack received first place and $25,000 money in UF’s Big Idea Business Plan Competition. That led to extra curiosity from traders. A couple of members of the family wished to put money into the corporate to assist it get off the bottom. The Knack co-founders bought them shares within the enterprise in trade for fairness. They priced their inventory by evaluating their firm to the market worth of comparable current startups.

7. Get Your App in Front of Users

To attain an viewers of customers and tutors, they ran digital adverts and marketed the app to college students on quite a few faculty campuses. One of the simplest advertising and marketing instruments was making a community of ambassadors on faculty campuses to symbolize Knack

“We recruited them chilly from job postings, interviewed them and employed them,” Qureshi stated. “We gave them $300 to $500 a month and a listing of ways that we had examined at UF: ‘Go purchase pizza and entice some college students to listen to about it.’”

eight. Have a Side Gig or Full-Time Job

Qureshi, who had been working professionally about two years, give up his job and lived off of his financial savings after becoming a member of the UF enterprise incubator to create Knack. Later, when the corporate moved to Tampa, he labored for a cookie supply enterprise on the facet to make ends meet.

Final Advice: Go For It

Qureshi’s recommendation to varsity college students or current grads who've an thought that might flip into an app is to “go for it.”

“We have been fairly naive and that gave us some pause. I used to be a pre-law scholar so I didn’t have any enterprise expertise. The majority of our group didn't research enterprise,” he stated. “We realized loads from mentors. We have been srappy, scraping up dollars the place we might.”

Katherine Snow Smith is a contract editor and reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla., and creator of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.

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