Mark McDonald – Co-founder of Appster

[quote style=”boxed”]Constantly learn from people who have done what you want to do.[/quote]

At the age of 19 Mark McDonald co-founded Appster, the world’s leading app development company with his business partner, Josiah Humphrey. Together the two launched the company in 2011 in Melbourne, Australia with just $3,000 and no outside funding; today the company’s revenue is in the millions employing over 100 staff across three continents with expansion plans to be in over 30 countries within the next 3 years.

Mark is responsible for the strategic direction of the company, international operations and innovating Appster’s business model. He is passionate about real innovation, open book management, lean operations, creating robust company cultures, data driven decisions and accountable high ROI marketing (plus lots of other ‘buzzwords’).

Where did the idea for Appster come from?

Myself and my co-founder Josiah Humphrey started Appster in mid-2011 when we realized that there wasn’t a company that catered to entrepreneurs, startups and innovative companies to build software.

The reason we were different is we helped clients with their product strategy, capital raising strategy, agile development and growth hacking post launch. We consider ourselves a true-technical co-founder without the equity.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Usually work starts at 8:30 a.m. and the first thing I do is check emails using a tool called ‘the email game’ where you race through emails responding to them against a timer. I’ll then review our core metrics across the organisation, things like cash-flow, marketing systems and client communication and feedback.

Throughout the day I’ll have 5-6 main things which I want to achieve. They can range from meeting with accountants to structure an options program through to working with the marketing team to release a new website.

Generally speaking the day-to-day operations of the company from development through to product strategy are all managed by our strong management team.

30% of my time is spent finding new people for the team, 20% putting out fires, and 50% in marketing and new products.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We have a meeting schedule we live by that converts ideas into reality.

1. Yearly planning retreats where we decide on what our winning moves for the year will be.
2. Monthly Strategy Sessions – where we plan our execution and strategy around the vision.
3. Weekly alignment meetings – where our teams align themselves.
4. Daily Stand-ups – To clear the day-to-day ‘blockers’ out of the system.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

We’re excited by a lot of the new technologies that are emerging around the world that start-ups are exploiting, but more importantly we’re excited about the rise in the predominance of start-up culture where everyday people (not just techies) are looking to build a disruptive company and challenge industry assumptions and the status quo.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Delegate, Delegate, delegate.

No matter how productive you are, you can’t do the work of 10 people.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

When I was 13 I had a paper run, when it rained you still had to deliver papers on a bike in the rain and cold for a pretty small amount of money ($30 a week).

What did I learn? Essentially that no matter how uncomfortable you still have to get the job done, and that I didn’t want to be in the newspaper delivery business.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Find very experienced leadership earlier. Having people with 10-20 years experience solving problems we were facing is invaluable.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Constantly learn from people who have done what you want to do. Josiah and myself read books on a daily basis and are constantly trying to figure out a better way to run our company.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

We’ve focused on making sure we only hire the very best people. Our interview process is notoriously difficult to pass. People have to pass both technical testing, personality testing, culture fit interviews, and finally competency for the job. If somebody isn’t a fit in any of those areas we don’t hire them.

In fact we only hire the top 3-5% of engineers in their technology stack which allows us to focus on working on truly disruptive start-ups.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest failures you have are always related to people – choosing the wrong people always wastes time.

This is why we’ve been so diligent about building up a hiring process that allows us to only hire the best.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there’s a huge opportunity in duplicating successful business models that have worked in the west into developing countries like China or India. The process may take longer.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I have a tattoo!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use religiously for project management for clients. It’s simple and easy to use and clients understand it as soon as they sign up.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Winning by Jack Welch.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jack Welch
Margaret Thatcher
Steve Jobs


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