What motivates
19 August, 2014

4 mins

What Motivates Developers To Build Apps?

There’s an app for everything these days and with more being created every second, fast growing industries like wearable tech and IoT (Internet of Things) are poised to start benefiting from the app economy in a big way.

Today, there are 300,000 developers building apps for IoT but a new report from VisionMobile estimates that this number will increase to 4.5 million by 2020. If that’s not enough to start thinking about building a developer community, Gartner expects IoT to hit $309 billion in direct revenue by 2020, with 80% of that money coming from services like apps. Ultimately, the real success of any IoT, Saas or big data company will hinge on how effectively they can attract a community of developers.

The Three Developer Personalities

If you want to catch a developer, you must first learn to think like a developer! Generally, most developers fit into the Myers-Briggs INTJ personality type and today’s app economy has given us great insight into the three main motivations behind app development, each of which corresponds to a particular personality.

The Hacker


Attributes: Creative, Enthusiast, Early adopter
Goals: Self achievement, Fun
Tagline: “Dude, check out my new iPhone”
Total Developers: 36%
Total Revenues: 14%

Hackers are independents who do it for the love of the game. Made up primarily of amateurs, enthusiasts and hobbyists, hackers are driven by passion, pride and a keen sense of self achievement. Amazingly creative, these early adopters find pleasure and happiness in building apps that align with their personal interests. To put it in romantic terms, Hackers can be compared to the high school sweetheart that is endlessly loyal and will love you forever and ever.

Companies with young or small app ecosystems should focus (almost exclusively) on attracting hackers. Mainly because they don’t care about money or market size and will develop an app even if they are the only one in the world that purchased the device. Although hackers are the easiest to attract, they are the least financially rewarding developers (due to their tendency to create free apps) and account for only 14% of app ecosystem revenue.

The Executive


Attributes: Captain of industry
Goals: Promote products, Create partnerships
Tagline: “Let’s do business”
Total Developers: 25%
Total Revenues: 35%

Executives are leaders that are focused on creating partnerships to cross promote products or increase their own competitive advantage. Made up primarily of CIOs, technology managers and heads of business development, executives are interested in advancing their own product by creating a mutually beneficial partnership. Cross promotion, increasing organizational efficiency, and reducing costs are all common motivations for Executives.

Companies with app ecosystems of any size should always be actively seeking out mutually beneficial partnerships with other companies. A partnership will not only contribute valuable apps to the ecosystem but may also help strengthen your brand as well as helping you reach new customers. Even though it may take months before a deal is signed (and even longer before an app is made), companies with complementing products are easy enough to seek out and such deals currently account for 35% of app ecosystem revenue.

The Assassin


Attributes: Experienced, Professional
Goals: Money, Cars, Clothes
Tagline: “Don’t call me, I’ll call you”
Total Developers: 39%
Total Revenues: 51%

Assassins are highly skilled professionals who are in it for the money. Made up primarily of experienced product developers, assassins are only interested in developing apps for devices with large, proven and profitable audiences and avoid small markets or indie products. For better or worse, everything will be fine as long as you have the money and success to keep them interested but once it’s gone, don’t expect them to stick around.

Companies with young or underdeveloped app ecosystems generally lack sufficient size to entice such monetarily motivated developers and shouldn’t bother wasting time or resources trying to attract them. Although assassins are the most expensive and difficult developers to attract, once an app ecosystem reaches critical mass and the sweet smell of opportunity fills the air, they are also the most financially rewarding developers and account for almost 51% of app ecosystem revenue.

The Next Step

The first step to building a developer community is to understand the motivations of the developers that you will be targeting. The next step is to build the infrastructure that will house, engage and motivate the new community. For more details on community infrastructure, check out my article on How To Build An Awesome Developer Community.

Related posts

How To Build Your Own App Marketplace
Developer Experience

How To Build Your Own App Marketplace...

It’s not easy to build your own app marketplace but it has become one of the greatest product strategies out...

Helping Users Discover Great Integrations
Developer Experience

Helping Users Discover Great Integrations...

The number of third-party SaaS platforms has exploded in recent years, with a huge range of companies allowing users to...

App Marketplace UI: Finding the Balance
Developer Experience

App Marketplace UI: Finding the Balance...

A majority of SaaS providers now find that the best route to growth is to facilitate integrations with other SaaS...