What does it really take to build an app? One female developer tells us

Meet 35-year-old Daniella Orkin, an artist, entrepreneur and founder of tech startup Colormeclever Digital Kids, whose first app just won an award.

Daniella sat down with Tech Girl Contributor, Tanya Kovarsky to run us through what it takes to develop an app, what her best gadgets are, and why having Two Minute Noodles for breakfast are worth it in order to follow what you love doing.


Tell us a bit about your study and work background

I studied Fine Arts at UCT. I have worked as a graphic and textile designer. I have participated in art exhibitions (solo and group). I lectured fine arts for four years and  I have now started Colormeclever Digital Kids.

Tell us about the app/s you create, and how you got into it? 

Our products are based in storytelling and creative thinking/development. The child reads a story, internalises the message and responds with their own creations.

Monster Moogle is our first published product. It has a storybook and collage maker for kids. The app was created for the enjoyment of children who love to use their imaginations and creativity. Both parents and kids will be able to enjoy the Monster Moogle storybook and collage together. The message is that creativity is great fun. The storybook also gives parents and children the opportunity to dialog about monsters and creativity in the future.


I got into this in a very roundabout way – it wasn’t as if I ever imagined moving into the tech world. Two years ago, I wrote a children’s book and wanted to self publish it. An ex-teacher of mine suggested I publish the book as an e-book. However, being who I am, I made the e-book into a complicated app.

I then spent months running around, looking for funding or even basic recognition. At the same time I was illustrating the book and getting all the elements together (music, narrator, sound, collage elements etc.). This from my own pocket. In August 2013 I applied to a local start-up incubator and got accepted into the SeedEngine boot camp. And here we are.

One does not need to study anything. One needs to be a dreamer, visionary and hustler with a thick skin and oodles of determination. Just as an aside, my degree trained me to generate ideas and take them from concept to actualization. It also trained me to be an autonomous dreamer. But you don’t need any of this. You just need to be a bright spark and have a business kop (or willing to learn, in my case).

My tech partners employ developers who code the apps. They study software development or engineering, or sometimes even mathematics. They have no shortage of talent or brain cells.

What is the usual process that goes into creating an app, and how much does it cost?

The process is loosely as follows:

  1. I have an idea
  2. I tell people about my idea and they smile and move on
  3. I sit alone and research similar products that are successful
  4. I sit alone and scamp what I imagine the app will be like
  5. I gather all the information I will need for the app (this could mean anything, depending on the topic etc.)
  6. I sit alone and design (graphic and U.I) the app. Luckily for me, I am a creative, so the design and content for my app was self generated. In other instances, the entrepreneur will need to hire a graphic designer/illustrator to begin to give their ideas a visual identity. They may also need to hire a writer if they need certain written content. Music and other elements could come later.
  7. The entrepreneur then either codes the app/develops the technology, or they pay someone to do this. This has a variety of formulas. In some instances, the developer owns shares in the company and does not get paid.
  8. The CEO looks for funding/partners
  9. An MVP (minimum viable product) is developed and tested.
  10. Feedback is given on the MVP and the creators tweak the product.
  11. This process is repeated.
  12. The product is launched. Sometimes it is no where near perfect.
  13. The founding members continue to run around, looking for investment.
  14. The team throws everything into the marketing
  15. This continues and, at the same time, the process is repeated with ideas for the next product
  16. If the team gets funding (sells shares or wins lottery) or makes money, they will begin to hire more people
  17. If the team does not get funding, the will “bootstrap” and still continue to market their product and give it all they have (Don’t forget, Facebook took six years to really be on the map).

What award did Monster Moogle just win?

It won a silver award from MomsChoiceAwards. It is an organization that recognizes and promotes excellence in quality products from all over the world. The app becomes part of the Mom’s Choice Awards Honorees: named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services. Monster Moogle now carries the MCA seal. MCA will also market on our behalf.

What is the process of getting an app onto iTunes?

Apple has developer guidelines that are easy to follow. One needs a company name and DUNS number. Once the app is submitted, it goes through a rigorous testing process. If there is a problem they will send you information or decline the application. Apple will not accept anything substandard or illicit.

How do you compete with thousands of apps? How do you market or get known?

There is no straight answer here:

  • Enter Competitions/Awards
  • Pay for reviews
  • Gain organic reviews
  • Social Media
  • YouTube
  • YouTube demos
  • Host events
  • Launch parties
  • Possibly host a crowd funding campaign
  • Host competitions
  • Organise deals and freebees
  • Participate in forums and events
  • Look for strategic partners
  • Make a great app
  • Don’t give up
  • Push

Are you working on more apps? If so, what are they?

YES, but I can’t say – sorry!

What are your top five gadgets?

iMac ( & Macbook pro-retina), iPhone, Wacom Tablet, iPod, iTrip

What is always in your handbag?


What was your first gadget/device?

The 80s basic silver tape recorder radio combo – loved that thing. Used to listen to Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Gypsey Kings before bed. I would also choreograph/visualize music videos to the songs in my head – great foundations for an app maker. I would record my own songs/covers. I would record songs from the radio and make mixed tapes.

What phone do you currently use?

iPhone 5

What gadgets/devices are on your wish list?

Apple Tv, new iPad, Zoom Lens for iPhone. iPhone Mobile Cinema Projector, and a solar-powered tent would do. I’m actually very simple. I like nature

What are your favourite utility and entertainment apps?

Whatsapp, 8tracks, Shazaam, Google Maps, Jamie Oliver Recipes, iTunes, Tripadvisor. Kilojule-Calorie converter

Is the apps development market short of women?

Yes in general, and very much so in South Africa.

Any advice for apps developers?

Have fun. Don’t stop, even if you are so poor, you are eating ‘2 minute noodles’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner (resident joke at SeedEngine).

I'd love to chat to you some more.


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