There are many scenarios where you might find yourself wishing to sell apps. Perhaps you have a robust app with a neat design, but the business application is off the mark and uptake is slow. Maybe you have a killer app, but no time to manage it (who knew the indie app business was so challenging?). Perhaps your joke side project became an unwieldy success and you’re “sick of dealing with it.”
In any case, you’ve decided to sell your app. Now, how do you negotiate the highest price, but also find qualified buyers? In other words, where is the best place to sell apps? In this article, I’ll go over the most popular options.
Selling an app via private sale
Meet Marco Arment:
“To really shine, an app needs a full-time staff of at least a few people. But I wouldn’t be very good at hiring and leading a staff, and after more than five years, I’d like an opportunity to try other apps and creative projects. Instapaper needs a new home where it can be staffed and grown, but I didn’t want to give it to a big company that would probably just shut it down in six months.”
The appeal of a private sale is the ability to choose the product’s new owner. If you’re concerned about the future of your brainchild, a private sale lets you take measures to safeguard the ongoing management of it.
“A couple of months ago, at 1:30 AM, I suddenly realized who should take it over.” — Marco Arment, Creator of Instapaper
Ensuring a buyer is a good fit is critical if you have philosophical concerns about the future of the app or how your users’ information should be handled during the product’s transition to a new owner and into the future. A few months ago, Kevin Hoctor sold his personal finance software, including iPhone & iPad apps. In the months leading up to the sale, many users expressed concern about the future of their budgeting apps — as you can imagine, questions about how your ongoing ability to manage your finances can be stressful.
Similarly, if you’re interested in maintaining a role in the new business, selling privately may give you options to continue developing the app with minimum business handling, or perhaps take on an advisory role as Kevin did.
Finally, if your reputation is tied to the ongoing behaviour of the new company and their choices about your app, you may wish to take your time about finding exactly the right buyer. When Marco sold his other app business, it was an easy choice, but this is not always the case.
Going down the path of selling your app privately requires your own advertising efforts and negotiations. Finding a buyer can be a time-consuming process and if you’re interested in selling your app quickly, this might not be the best option.
Let’s open up the field a little.
Sell apps on forums
In forums and online communities, you’ll find a high density of people from a similar industry or with similar interests. For a highly niche app, focused forums may house your interested buyers. For instance, if you’re targeting audience is narrow and related to the topic of the forums you may have a good chance of finding an adequate buyer.
Within a specific field, taking the time to cultivate relationships and establish a reputation as an expert in relevant forums may yield additional benefits beyond your app’s sale, for example, leveraging your credibility to drive a higher sale price. Additionally, any time spent selling apps on forums lets you establish channels for repeat business if you intend to build other apps.
There are 2 main ways to advertise your app through a forum. Firstly, if you’re actively engaged in a forum, you can advertise your app through your online presence — your profile, signature, and/or comments in relevant threads are all great ways to get free exposure. This approach plays to your strength as an industry expert. Secondly, using dedicated forums and threads operating as a “classifieds” section. Typically, both options require that you read the forum’s rule carefully before posting your product.
Rather than selling your entire in-store app, including source code and rights, you may find it easier to sell parts of your app. Consider if you’d be better off selling:
- Repeatable app templates.
- Design assets, such as game graphics.
- Just the source code in a one-time sale.
- Non-exclusive licensing to game engines and core app functionality.
In this case, you can advertise your app’s source code in multiple forums using non-exclusive licensing. To learn more, see:
This will certainly affect pricing (like resorting to selling your car for parts). If you’re unclear on the principles of app valuation and which will yield better results for you, investigate tools like App Annie or AppFigures.
Some drawbacks of this approach — advertising your app to an audience with similar interests — are you may be trying to sell to other sellers. You’re also responsible for all the risk associated with financial transactions (similarly to private sales), such as asset valuation, negotiating legal terms, resolving disputes, and handling escrow. So, let’s consider another option.
Hiring a private company to broker your app business’s sale can help you with the heavy lifting of finding qualified buyers and vetting them. A broker can guide you through the sales process and provide assistance, though usually for a fee, and often only for app businesses over a certain size. Brokers are best for complex app businesses that will likely sell in the range of $100k to $15 million. However, for sales below this amount, or cases in which the app business is not necessarily complex, sellers are probably better off facilitating the sale by themselves, which brings us to our final option: app marketplaces.
Established app marketplaces offer the best of both worlds in terms of exposure and quality of buyers. By standardizing the process for selling apps, and providing a centralized location for buyers and sellers, overhead transaction fees are reduced and the process is simplified for all parties involved.
In addition to a low barrier to entry, selling your app through an established marketplace ensures an immediate supply of qualified buyers. This can reduce the time to sale, and reduce the risk of deals falling through. It’s also likely to result in an app sale at a higher multiple than could otherwise be achieved, as more buyers can get involved in the sale and compete against each other for the opportunity to purchase the app.
In the Flippa app marketplace, an auction process can be used to help ensure app sales occur at market value and minimize the complexities of accurately valuing your app yourself. Applying some additional strategies will help you boost sale price, such as a timely adjustments to your “Buy It Now” price. Additionally, marketplace support staff can assist you with any questions or concerns you might have throughout the process, without the added burden of fees charged by private brokers.
Accessing an established app marketplace typically provide other benefits such as:
- Assistance with intellectual property transfer.
- Payment management, including escrow services.
- Responsive support, including dispute management and/or refund policies.
It’s still possible to enjoy some of the benefits of private sales through an app marketplace. For example, by accessing pre-qualified, serious buyers, you are more likely to deal with people who fully understand the process of buying and selling apps.
Conclusion: Where to sell apps
At the end of the day, your app is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. A broker may assist with particularly high-valued or complex apps. On the other hand, forums can pay off for apps that are particularly relevant to the forums themselves. Of course, selling privately may be necessary if you already have a buyer in mind. And of course, utilizing an app marketplace such as Flippa to facilitate the transaction can give you the greatest amount of freedom and help you sell apps to a large contingent of experienced buyers.
To learn more about selling apps and other digital property, check out Flippa’s seller guide.