Building a startup is an exciting adventure. It comes with risks, but also with great potential rewards. Stepping into this world can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what you can and cannot do to make a living out of it.

The truth is that the internet has become a huge worldwide marketplace, so those who want to satisfy a need through a digital solution these days prefer building an app. Today we’re tackling what you can sell in an app and under which circumstances.

What is there to sell on the internet?

I’m sure we’ve all taken a look through eBay or Amazon at some point, maybe to get a new pair of shoes or something for your home; so it’s no secret that goods can be sold via the internet. However, when we talk about startups, although “regular shopping” can be profitable, what you sell through your the internet isn’t limited to that. In general, we do have more options, but we’ll see that through apps, they may be more limited.

A very popular option is selling services, especially among startups. Just keep in mind that it has to be a real service, something that genuinely provides value to your customers so that they actually want to pay for it. So far there aren’t any fees, and you can sell both goods and services directly from your app. But things get complicated at Option 3, which are digital products.

What’s wrong with selling digital products through my app?

Well, it’s a lot more expensive and you might lose a lot of money just to keep a competitive price. Let’s go back for a minute and explain.

In this scenario, everything has to go through either Google’s Play Store or the Apple Store.

So if you want sell digital products legally through your app at all, you need to classify them as in-app purchases. This means that the platform supporting the app (Play or Apple Store), would also take 30% of every purchase. That is a lot.

Then how can I sell digital products?

Let’s go back to Amazon. We know that they sell e-books and movies. But as we just learned, they can’t sell them through their app. The workaround they use is to sell them only through their website. If you notice on the app, you don’t have the option to buy any digital products directly from there nor the link to the website. However, you are encouraged to go to the website and buy what you want there. Same thing happens with Audible. You can listen to the excerpts, but you can’t even add one of the audiobooks to the wishlist from your app.

Let’s use my own real-life example to better understand how this works.

I am selling courses for startups, but I cannot sell them from my own app. What I can do is redirect people—in my case, via email—to my Teachable website where they are able to buy the courses. Once people have purchased a course, it becomes available in the Teachable app without actually going through with the payment on the app itself.

There are so many things to consider when building a startup. Now you know what you can and cannot sell on your app, and how to navigate these restrictions for your own startup. If you’d like to learn more about the process of creating a valuable product, check out all of the content on startup tech management on I’m also available for consultations, so ahead and book a consultation based on your needs or schedule your first FREE session with me.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.