npower Developer Challenge launch highlights top tips for mobile startups

To mark the launch of npower's Developer Challenge 2013, the energy giant held an event in the heart of London's Tech City, designed to help devs discover new ways to build, fund and monetise their apps.

Speakers at Google Campus included YPlan's Ross Murray-Jones, Octopus Ventures' Federic Lardieg, Facebook's Connor Treacy, Import.io's Nick Scott and Stripe's Andy Young.

Much of the evening's buzz revolved around the appearance of Murray-Jones, who attended on behalf of YPlan, the event discovery service that has become a Silicon Roundabout fairy tale recently. Within the space of a year, YPlan has grown rapidly from an organisation of two people to one boasting almost 40 employees.

According to Murray-Jones, YPlan – which is currently exclusive to iOS - achieved 225,000 downloads in six months, and now features on 10 per cent of all of London's iPhones. He also offered a few snippets of fundraising advice to the developer audience.

Speaking from his own YPlan money-raising experiences, Murray-Jones outlined three separate sources of revenue: family, friends and fools; angel investors; and venture capitalists. Travelling through the list, he warned, developers can generate greater cash injections but retain less control of their business.

Murray-Jones also recommended beginning the funding process early, requesting more money than you think you need – buffering for the unexpected, such as lawyer costs - networking effectively and refusing to accept any rejections.

Also on hand was Frederic Lardieg of Octopus Ventures, which counts YPlan, Zoopla and Swiftkey within its portfolio. Lardieg's speech revolved around venture capitalists' preference of mobile apps over desktop versions, for several reasons.

Firstly, there are around five times more smartphones than PCs in the world, according to Lardieg. Mobile advertising and in-app purchasing also means that monetisation is possible from day one.

Smartphones also have the advantage of being constantly switched on and in a user's hand or pocket, as well as the ability to interact with the outside world, be that through NFC or location-based services.

According to Octopus, would-be investors look for a number of key characteristics in a startup before even considering parting with their money. Perhaps most importantly, a good product must have the potential to disrupt the market it is directed at.

He said it was also essential for aspiring developers to build complete businesses rather than standalone apps, as well as strong teams and a beautiful, simple user interface. Since mobile marketing can be difficult, Lardieg also recommends hiring experts in this field, instead of launching internal - probably unsuccessful - attempts.

The npower Developer Challenge is a brand new competition, in which developers are invited to create an energy-monitoring app for mobile, tablet and desktop that will help consumers track daily consumption. The winning designer will receive £10,000 and all entries must be made before 31 July.

Further details are available at thedeveloperchallenge.com or follow @npowerdev on Twitter

Image credit (top): Tech Hub