How to Decide Between Web and Native for Your Startup Idea

March 14, 2016 - 3 minutes read

website vs mobile app

You have a great startup idea. Your service will solve a gnawing problem for millions of users, attracting investors and generating huge revenues. The question is, should your product be a web app or native iOS/Android app? Depending on the details of your service (and budget), both web and native mobile app developers offer compelling advantages.

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Creating a competitive advantage

Differentiating your startup from competitors matters as much (if not more) than the actual product. “Competitive advantage” may be a slippery term, but it’s how Facebook beat MySpace, it’s how Warren Buffet picks stocks, and it’s how your startup will succeed in the face of fierce competition.

Put simply, if a service offered on the web has yet to jump to mobile and your startup makes it happen, your app has a competitive advantage fresh out of the gate.

Consider the London-based mobile app developers at Linqapp for example; language exchange services already thrived and survived on the web, but similar services had yet to jump to mobile. By leveraging mobile solutions that utilized native-only features, Linqapp was able to overcome the odds and rapidly grow from a bootstrapped startup into a successful, monetized company.


For bootstrapped startups, staying in budget can be a challenge (especially when the competition already has investors). As a rule of thumb, websites and web apps are cheaper to develop than native apps, and for some startups web may be the only option.

In that case, the important thing is to make sure to take advantage of the web’s unique advantages, which are:

  1. It’s affordable.
  2. It’s fast to develop on.
  3. It’s device agnostic.

Starting on the web generally puts you at a disadvantage if your service provides real-time or location-based services. However, it can be very valuable as a tool for testing the market and figuring out your core value proposition on a budget.

So which is better: web or native?

As always, the answer depends greatly on the details of individual features. In the long term successful startups tend to go the Facebook/Evernote route and build out onto as many platforms as possible.

What matters most about the platform an app starts on, whether web or native, is that you can build a critical mass of early adaptors there. Native iOS and Android app developers usually win the race to user loyalty, but ultimately what matters most is simply getting enough users to expand and conquer on multiple platforms.

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