Building an app is like building a house. If everything is well scoped out the process goes quickly. If you’re half way through construction and the client suddenly wants to reduce the size of the kitchen, add a new bedroom or tack on an additional story, there are serious delays.
Rob is a business development specialist with experience in mobile app development, analytics, online marketing, sales, customer service and raising business capital. His first app sold more than 3,400 copies around the world and broke even in three weeks. He has a BS in entrepreneurship and is the published co-author of the HR Analytics Handbook.
What are you working on right now?
We’re building a really exciting iPad app that uses a game engine to render content in a three dimensional format which will make it easier to connect to other people with similar interests and access large amounts of data.
Where did the idea for AppIt Ventures come from?
Long story: http://appitventures.com/about-us/
How do you make money?
We have a very unique business model. We invest resources alongside our clients to reduce their out of pocket costs, and help them get their product to market. In addition to design & development we also provide our clients with strategic consulting support, which includes industry research, competitor research, customer demographics, pricing and platform selection. Finally, we work with our clients to develop custom marketing campaigns and then execute on those plans to drive downloads and sales.
What does your typical day look like?
Drinking coffee, brainstorming ideas with clients, meeting with new clients, drinking more coffee, testing apps we have in development, tracking sales, adjusting price metrics, drinking coffee and discussing the future of the industry.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Building an app is like building a house. If everything is well scoped out the process goes quickly. If you’re half way through construction and the client suddenly wants to reduce the size of the kitchen, add a new bedroom or tack on an additional story, there are serious delays. We work with our clients to figure out what before construction starts so that we can get a product to market and there aren’t major delays.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m personally excited about software or apps moving beyond tablets and smart phones to other types of hardware. This could include your security system, refrigerator, oven, interactive campus map, or soda machine. We’re moving into an era when we’re going to start seeing software integrated into every type of hardware.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I spent a summer commercial fishing off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea. We’d have to pull in 250 fathoms of net (about a quarter mile) by hand, in 12 foot seas with freezing water spraying us every few minutes. It was an intense experience but it provides me with perspective when I think another task is difficult, “Well at least I’m not pulling in net by hand at 4am!” It also taught me that you have to be tough in life and to never give up.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have appreciated the free food, lack of bills and free rent of my childhood.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly, ever achieve greatly.” I believe this is true in entrepreneurship and life. Business is a risk, and if you’re going to make it you have to get comfortable with that. This doesn’t mean taking bad risks (gambling), but educated ones where you think you have an understanding of the customer, the market and believe that your product is going to be satisfying a need that doesn’t currently exist.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The first real business I ever started was an advertising company in college. I developed a student publication, and then woke up at 6am before class everyday to go and sell advertising space to local companies. When it came time to print the product I massively over guessed the quantity needed and ordered way way too many copies. It was an expensive mistake, but it taught me to be more conservative when it comes to sales. That experience was invaluable. I always learn more from my failures than successes.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’d impose term limits on Congress. If senators and representatives weren’t worried about being re-elected they could focus on accomplishing the things their constituents elected them to do. It would also make it harder for lobbyists to get “dug in” with specific politicians, because every few years they’d have to start all over with a new one. It would also allow more people to serve, and help to reduce the barriers between someone who’s been in congress for 40 years and the average person.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’ve met Buzz Aldrin.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
No question – Dropbox. The ability to store data, stop worrying about hard drive failure and access that content from any device is absolutely amazing. I couldn’t live without Gmail – it’s my connection to the world and I check it every few minutes. AppAnnie is also a spectacular platform for checking out daily app sales, reviewing trends, and pricing our products.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Do More Faster by Brad Feld. The world is moving faster and faster; I’m a firm believer in getting an MVP to market and then iterating on that product with time.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Mark Suster (great advice on entrepreneurship)
Brad Feld (Venture Capital)
Cory Booker (mayor of Newark – saves people from burning buildings).
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night – my girlfriend is getting me into Arrested Development.
Who is your hero, and why?
It’s really corny, but George Washington. Not only because of what he did for our country, but because of what he didn’t do. He was so popular within the military at the end of the revolutionary war that he could have easily taken over the country if he chose. Instead he turned over all his power to Congress and stepped down. Incredible moment – something you don’t always see, even in the modern world.
Would you recommend building a native app or a web based version?
I’d always go with native because the closer you can get to the hardware the better. This provides you with more interaction and usability of the devices native features, it allows you to get into the app stores which is a huge point of distribution and it’ll still work when you don’t have access to the internet.