An entrepreneur recently asked me how to monetize her app. She’s made great progress building and marketing her app. In fact, she’s been asked to do several interviews and has been invited to conferences all over. Next, she’s seeking investment to support growth, but has few ideas on monetization. Given specific challenges, she could consider monetizing based on third-parties.
Some background: the entrepreneur’s app empowers users to reach long-term safety and security. Since app launch, she’s ridden an impressive wave of press and publicity. Her app is cause-related, and given the most common user demographic, users are not financially stable. Meanwhile, as a for-profit company, asking for donations to support app development and her cause has been troublesome.
The app helps users navigate the long process getting from “low-point” to “high-point”. Because her target users have little disposable income, charging users will be a major deterrent and possibly dilute the power of her cause.
The entrepreneur could consider monetizing the steps along the user journey by considering what third-parties could benefit from reaching the user and by supporting the cause. Perhaps like…

A gamification-like strategy, where company-sponsored rewards (i.e. discounts towards food, clothing, etc.) are earned when users complete specific educational tasks. This can motivate users to stay on track and supported throughout their journeys towards the high-point. 

The entrepreneur can monetize based on reward redemption or sponsorship careful not to dilute sponsorship dollars for the sake of revenue. Meanwhile, sponsoring companies will be able to market their products and services, while also supporting a positive cause.

There are many ways to monetize popular apps despite hurdles – low income users, fears of cause/ value dilution, user privacy, etc. In this entrepreneur’s case, consider not only the target users, but also what third-parties can benefit along a user’s journey.
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