5 Really Good Reasons NOT TO Use Twitter Ads

I just launched my company’s new app called Velapp and used alternative growth hacks to Twitter paid ads. I reduced my potential cost per click (via Twitter) by over 500%


Is Twitter advertising best when you go through their self-serve ad dashboard?

Maybe

I have used Twitter ads in the past, but I found it costly and very time consuming.

Luckily, I found alternative growth hacks. Here is my experience using a new influencer service from Trend Pie and finding success on Product Hunt

Listen To Episode 498 - Victor Ricci founder of Trend Pie

Listen To Episode 498 - Victor Ricci founder of Trend Pie

Listen on Android

Listen on Android

My top 5 reasons to stay away from Twitter’s own ad platform.

1. Twitter Charges Too Much for Performance


On average, a thousand views on Twitter costs anywhere from $9 to $11. As I say, you pay too much using Twitter’s own ad platform.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.41.45.png

Source: http://follows.com/blog/2016/05/twitter-ads-facebook-instagram
 

As it happens, I just paid an average of $0.26 per 1,000 impressions using Trend Pie
 

I achieved 3,610,173 impressions and this cost $1,000.

In fact, here is the full report showing:
Impressions 3,610,173
Engagements 72,120
Engagement Rate 2.03%
Retweets 73
Likes 514
Media Views 59,710

Seeing the Twitter activity on launch day filled me with great excitement.

This is just one example of Retweets from a single tweet:
Original Tweet:

Source: https://twitter.com/meghanpellegri/status/839656962052800516

Source: https://twitter.com/meghanpellegri/status/839656962052800516

My click performance was high because of the massive number of followers from accounts who retweeted.


2. Target Trending Keywords

Trend Pie started my campaign around the spring break. This meant they targeted the keyword ‘Spring Break’ in a few tweets.

For example….

A good strategy is to start a campaign around a relevant big event so you can jump on the band wagon of a trending keyword.


3. Twitter Engagement Targeting


Everyone knows its not just about a follower count or number of impressions. A better metric is number of engagements.

In my campaign for Velapp, I achieved:
Engagements 72,120
Engagement Rate 2.03%


I used a tracking link because I wanted to share my experience with my community. This cost me in a lower engagement rate. If I never used a tracking link, I could’ve achieved a higher engagement rate of about 2.3% (which is 82,938 total engagements)


4. Twitter Has A High Cost per Click


Now remember, not all of my tracked clicks would’ve registered. However, in launching Velapp and working with Trend Pie, I achieved 1,903 clicks; almost all of these UNIQUE CLICKS.

This compares to using Twitters own ad platform at a potential cost around $2.75 per click.

Source: http://soloadsinfor.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/average-cost-per-click-for-linkedin-ads.html

Source: http://soloadsinfor.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/average-cost-per-click-for-linkedin-ads.html

So, conducting the equivalent Velapp campaign, but using the Twitter self-serve ad network  would’ve cost me a massive $5,233


5. Quality Of Clicks


In our live campaign, every 2.4 clicks from either Trend Pie or our hunt day on Product Hunt resulted in a download. We spent a total of $1,000. This meant a very low cost per install of $1.26.

This compares to an average of say $6.50 per download, but then this is all over the place when you run your own campaign on Twitter


Source: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/how-really-run-twitter-lead-generation-campaign


Note: It’s challenging to attribute each download because I had two initiatives under way at the same time - Trend Pie and Product Hunt. Total spend was $1,000

In summary


Here is an infographic to sum up my growth hacking experience...

Listen to episode 393 w. David de Min of Velapp

Listen to episode 393 w. David de Min of Velapp

How My App Got 30 Million Downloads Appearing On CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Daily Mail UK, Huffington Post, NY Times And More

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we appeal to app developers, app entrepreneurs; even if you are working in corporate and you're just fascinated with what goes on in the app world, then this is the episode for you - do stay tuned. I go around the world, find amazing founders and go through their stories.

Today I have really found a terrific founder... Get this - he has had over 30 million downloads for various apps that he's created. It's just a dream for anyone who's getting into the app world, so we're going to learn a little bit about the success he's had with those apps. But more importantly, we're going to go through what he's doing right now with a company that he is the CEO and co-founder of - SwingDev. They're developers that can create apps or websites for you, and they do it in a beautiful, very high polished way. Jo, first of all, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Jo Overline: Thanks, great to be here!

Paul Kemp: Terrific to have you on. We're going to go straight into it, man... 30 million downloads - that is a remarkable achievement. I would love to know, was that manufactured/strategized? What was your success owed to?

Jo Overline: It was kind of a mix, I would say. Certainly, there was a big element of luck in the whole thing. I think every great success probably has that little bit of luck. To really propel things forward, it was about leveraging that luck into a strategy to maximize the impact and just really push things forward so we could get the most out of the opportunity. That was the key thing that really drove things forward with that and changed thousands of downloads into millions of downloads.

Paul Kemp: The app was called Ugly Meter, and it resulted in you getting onto the Howard Stern show not just once, but four times... How did that come about? That's incredible.

Jo Overline: Well, there was a lot of press at the time, and it was never my intention. It was funny, because the whole reason I made this app was to -- I was just learning iPhone development at the time, and every time I needed to learn a new feature, I would come up with a mini project; really, the best way to learn is to just jump into it.

I needed to learn how to use the iPhone camera, so I'm just sitting there, thinking

"What could I do? This sounds fun, let's just do it."

I just did this app; I spent a few days with it, figured out how the camera worked... I never had any intention of selling it or making any money off it, but when I made stuff, you just put it in the App Store and let it be out there.

I woke up one morning and there's a message for me from the Daily Mail in the U.K. They're saying,

"Hey, just letting you know we're running a whole story on celebrities and the Ugly Meter, and we're rating everybody and doing all this stuff..."

I was like,

"Okay... That's cool, I guess."

I didn't really know at the time... I'd heard of the Daily Mail, but I didn't realize how big they were and the impact this would have on my future. 

30 million downloads of Ugly Meter

Things went pretty crazy from there. It got picked up on the U.S. side, all the news stations were covering it; I went live on CNN, Jay Leno did it in his monologue...  Howard Stern - that was one of our big breakouts. They contacted me... They had heard of it also, and I was a huge fan of the show, so I made that a priority, of course. It was a really great experience to meet all those guys that I listened to for so many years. It kind of got a life of its own and just went forward through the media nationwide, and even worldwide.

Paul Kemp: Yes, what's really fascinating and what I'm learning immediately from you, Jo, is that a lot of the listeners, the appster tribe are always asking about how to get free press, and here you are, without any PR agency I'm guessing, you just get this random call and it propels you into success. I'm almost grateful that we can learn about this story, because so many developers are trying to push their app so hard, get into the press, get rejected from all these journalists... And yet, if you build something that is viral -- why do you think it went so viral? What was the essence of the app that just kind of caught the imagination of the press?

Jo Overline: It's easy... There's one thing that the press needs. A lot of people make this mistake when reaching out the influencers in the press. The press needs a story; the press is not in the business of just writing about things... They love a story, and even better, they love a juicy story. Ugly Meter appeals to people's vanity, and everyone like to do this and see what happens. One of the big things about it was, whether they admit it or not - we know by the download numbers - everybody was downloading this. 

Keep in mind, this was many years ago, so the App Store worldwide was much smaller that it was today. We were instantly number one in the App Store, which was a big deal. We got the fun coverage by Daily Mail, but what happened was as the later news stations picked it up, they wanted to cover it, but they needed a new angle. It was actually an interesting view into the inside of the press because it was Fox News first that did it - completely fabricated a fake story that it was being used as a tool for bullies in schools, because they wanted to put a twist on it that sounded bad... Which is completely false, completely made up; this was never once reported or used as that, but the thing is, as soon as there was this controversy behind it - it was all made up, but it was there - that's when the media really ran with it, because they truly had a story.

What I realize is bad press and good press... Good press loves bad press. They love to run with these types of stories, because everybody -- literally, every news station across the country, and every comedy show ran with it. There were days where I'd do 50 morning show interviews just to talk about it, like morning radio shows. But really, you have to create a story. 

I see a lot of people trying to promote their apps, and they just put them out there and tell people about it, but the reality, the truth of it is nobody cares. It's another app; there's two million of them out there. You need to be unique, and you need to craft a story. That's what PR is all about - creating a story around what you want to sell, to give people an emotional connection to it.

how to get press

Paul Kemp: You're reminding me of my wonderful chat with the founder of Blonde 2.0. She was responsible for the Yo app, which I think attracted a hundred million downloads. The things I'm learning from that episode and from you now is that there's the connection of having a story that is slightly controversial as well, which is what the press love. Really interesting for any app developers who are struggling to get any exposure... It's a good thing to think about.

Should we transition then into what you're doing now? Because I guess this success gave you the freedom to choose your own future, although you were an independent developer at the time. Tell us about the story in the aftermath, coming off the back of this, and what eventually ended up with you founding SwingDev.

Jo Overline: Yes, so it really opened up a new world. Being in software development, since I was a little kid, was my dream; it's what I'm passionate about, it's what I love to do, and this really opened up to me the thought process of

"Wow, this is a real business. We just made a ton of money, and we don't need to stop here. What could we do? What's the greatest thing that would make me happy to do every day?" 

We thought about those things, had a ton of incoming requests... There was so much press around it... I just had hundreds of e-mails like,

"Hey, I have an app idea. I want to make an app. I want to do this, I want to do that."

Seeing that, I kind of came to the realization that

"You know what? I was so successful, and it changed my life... I would like to help other people do that, too."

It really made me focus on meeting people who had good ideas and are really passionate about them, wanted to develop them, wanted to create their own success... And to really take what I learned and what I know and mentor them to that success. 

That lead me into taking certain projects that I wanted to work on, and moving forward, it just kind of became too much, though. I mean, I was only one person; I had my partner, Ryan, who was a designer, but I was the developer, and you can only do so much. As the incoming requests started coming in more, I had a friend - partner, now - who actually lived in Warsaw, Poland. We were talking and he's like,

"You know, I've got these friends out here that are just brilliant developers, maybe we all partner up. You have this pipeline of projects and a lot of things you want to work on... Why don't you do what you love - work with the clients - and we'll build the engineering on the backend over here?" 

We did a trial, project experiment and it worked. That was about four years ago. Over time, our team has gotten bigger... We've built out a business. These days, we concentrate on working with startups. People have ideas, need execution... We make software, but we're not a usual software house. We have a clear goal, which is to make clients succeed. It's not about just letting them drive a process and getting billable dollars out of them. We work really closely with them to make sure they have an actual game plan to succeed with their ideas.

Our culture is really easy - we hire the best people and we create the environment for them to come up with amazing, creative solutions for the best clients. 

Paul Kemp: I love this, Jo. It's one of the reasons why I started the podcast, in a way - to help people, to help startups really fulfill good ideas, and I love that we've met some like-minded people along the way with this show, now 514 episodes. You know, this is the first time that I've spoken to an entrepreneur who has pivoted from the basis of success rather than failure, which is quite interesting. Normally, the themes of my podcast are a pivot, because you're perhaps not achieving the success you want, and yet your pivot is based on the success you were having, and then expanding into what you really wanted to do, which was to build apps.

Jo Overline: Yes, I saw it as a real opportunity. I had something that few people get, and it was like

"You know what? Now I can do whatever I want. What do I want to do?"

and it really was about working with startups and helping them have the same success. That's the thing that really drove me. 

Over time, it kind of created a culture of uncompromising quality. We never have to compromise. We work with the best people, we work with amazing clients, and it makes us unique because we are truly passionate about what we do. Anyone who works for us, they're not just your average software developer; they're like artists of their craft, in a sense. Those people are really driven to do creative, unique things, and our clients appreciate it. It's actually allowed us to enter the Bay Area, and we're highly trusted out there in the whole VC network, in the startup network, to come in and just deliver a hundred percent of time because it's just not an option for us. We're there to deliver every time, with the best quality. 

Unfortunately, in the software business that's a unique business model, to deliver quality on time and on budget. It's good for us, but unfortunately, the industry itself has a high dissatisfaction rate overall with outsourcing, so we really take a different approach. It's not about outsourcing, it's about partnering and creating success.

Paul Kemp: I love that. Let's talk about the clients you work with because you mentioned startups. Many of the appster tribe listening and reading this will be startups, maybe the founder. What do you find are the types of startups that you end up working with?

Jo Overline: There's a big range. There's everything, from the guy that walks in the door and has drawings on a napkin, to -- we work with a lot of series A, series B funded portfolio companies of the VCs. We're a boutique operation, we can't take every project. We need to take the right projects, and we take the ones that we can truly deliver amazing work on. We have to find the right people, and really anyone in that range. 

business plan on a napkin

We don't have a typical client that we only work with. It's more about the person, their idea and do we believe in the idea? Are we passionate about it, too? Because if we're not, we just don't even go down the path. We help them find someone else that may be a better fit, but we really only engage in the things that we truly believe in.

Paul Kemp: Jo, there's obviously people listening who have their own ideas, an  you're approaching this as an investor, because you have to invest in the company through your time and your effort. What assessment do you use then, when you're looking at a new idea?

Jo Overline: Well, we do a lot of planning up front, analyzing ideas, markets and things like that, to make sure there is a path for success available... Because there are millions of ideas; everybody out there has an app idea, and what we've come to realize is ideas mean nothing unless you're willing to execute and you're able to execute. So that's what we concentrate on, an execution plan - how to really bring something to market, how to create an MVP and beta versions that are successful. 

There's kind of backwards approach (some see it as a backwards approach) that we take. If a client comes to us and they have $20,000 (I'm just making up a number) and they have this idea of the app they want to make, what we actually do up front a lot of the times is we look at it and we're like, "Okay, I understand that you have this much, but let's strip things back; let's build this light version of it for half as much money. Don't spend all your money now with us. Let's get that and get some feedback and then get some new features." 

Generally, the people we work with are very smart and they have new ideas, and the last thing we want to do is have them spend all their money on a version and have no revenue to continue with these future ideas they have. While a lot of dev houses out there work with people, and when someone says

"Hey, I have a $20,000 budget"

they're like

"Alright, perfect"

and they take it and they build what they can... We really take an approach to do what's best for the client, for their long-term success. 

Our mindset - say we have a company that's got seed funding - is to put the company in a position where they can get their series A. If in our head we're doing everything and our goals are aligned, then that's when success comes. Everyone should be of the mindset to just get to the next level and be on the right path to do that. We're never opportunistic... We don't just go along with clients; we're a little different. 

I tell clients up front,

"If you're looking for a team of yes-men, we're certainly not that. We're going to speak up. We're going to tell you if you're doing things from our experience in a bad way or in a wrong way."

We're not going to force anything on you, but we will give you all the information that we can give you to let you make what decision you think is best. Of course, the last decision is up to the client, but we arm them with everything we know to help them make the best decisions possible. 

Paul Kemp: Jo, you've clearly worked with a lot of startups, regarding different apps... What metrics are you using right now to gauge success of an app? Is it still downloads, or is it other parts of the process, the metrics that you look at really in depth?

Jo Overline: It's really depended on the business case, and funding... There's a lot of variables there. Raw downloads mean nothing if you don't have a plan to eventually monetize, because you can't just operate for free forever. We work with clients to have those ideas up front; you have to have it in the back of your head, even if you're not going to monetize something from day one. There should be at least some type of idea of how it should work in the future. We kind of go through planning with them to figure those things out if they don't know yet.

Really, we gauge success as things go to the next level, and as you reach the next milestone, whether that milestone means a certain amount of downloads or a certain amount of revenue or a certain amount of press. It's unique to each situation, but we help the client set those milestones up so we can measure progress. Just making progress for progress means nothing unless it can be measured. We actually set goals and we help the clients try to meet those goals.

Paul Kemp: I was really interested -- the issues about branding, for instance... You help a lot of startups and you've learned yourself the importance of branding when it comes to press and stories and downloads... Any tips for the budding entrepreneurs out there who are working hard on their apps about how to get better branding, or help with marketing? Any tips that can really help those entrepreneurs that are trying hard with their apps?

Jo Overline: What we really learned is there are so many apps our there... The market is huge. Before [unintelligible 00:20:50.12] you could just put an app out and a lot of people saw it [unintelligible 00:20:54.23]. There are a lot of big players in the game now, because there are a lot of money, and now we're in the day we're competing with big brands. I don't think Ugly Meter probably would have had the success that it did years ago because I didn't do anything to promote it; it would just disappear into a sea of other apps.

We found the approach is never compromising on quality; you need to decide what you're going to do, and you need to do it better than anyone else. Then, if it's a niche market or whatever it is... It takes sweat; there's no magic answer, short of

"Hey, we'll throw millions of dollars at it."

That's not the situation most people are in.

It takes sweat. Get the word out there, work through target user groups, get their feedback - that's really the thing that matters. No matter how much of an expert you are in your industry, you'll find the users will tell you things you never knew before. It's about listening to users, building that confidence that you care what they think, and then hopefully driving organic growth from there. As a developer, you're responsive to what your users want, you listen to them and you try to follow the path of what they need. They will naturally recommend your product to others. 

Paul Kemp: The feedback thing has come up on the podcast many times. How did you go about getting feedback...? Obviously, you've got the reviews, which are maybe skewed to apps and bugs in the app. But how did you actually get good feedback from those users that maybe are the potential future power fans?

Jo Overline: It's actually pretty simple. Yes, reviews are actually a bad way, because people who write reviews, in general, are the angry people. They have problems, and they want to write a review. I don't even personally read them because I don't...

Paul Kemp: Unless they're leaving a review for The App Guy Podcast. I've only had five stars so far, which is...

Jo Overline: See, that's an accomplishment because, for every person that's happy that's speaking out, there are ten angry people that are speaking out. Those four and five star ratings are not easy to get. Really, the way you get the feedback you want is ask for it. Either you create communities around your app or around your idea, or go find the communities out there... There's a group for everything out there. You find that and you just as for their feedback. Create beta groups if you need to; give people inner circle access so they feel special and they feel obligated to help you with your idea because they're getting a benefit.

Really, ask for it. That's all you need to do. If you have an app that's been launched ten times, say... You've kind of passed the threshold of someone who just tried it and said,

"Oh, this is stupid"

and disregarded it. If someone launched it ten times, then put a pop-up and ask for feedback. Say,

"Hey, thanks for using this. Will you be willing to give us feedback?"

and put a little form to collect info.

I found those people that are starting to engage with the app and are asked for their opinion, they are really willing to give it.

Paul Kemp: Fascinating advice. In the final few minutes we have with you, Jo... This is a show that has inspired many working in a corporate environment to leave and become independent developers or startup founders,  just working on their own. You have been independent now for many years; I can't imagine you've had too many bosses in your life. What's it been like over the years to be boss-free, independent and pretty much making your own decisions? How important has that aspect been to you?

Jo Overline: Yes, you're right, I actually haven't had an actual job with a boss since I was 19 years old, which is 17 years ago now. I mean, I had my kid jobs, but I've never in recent history been in that position. Really, it's a blessing, it's the greatest thing in the world, but there's a lot of stress that comes with it, there's a lot of hard work... It's certainly not easy. 

A lot of people that have never been in the position are like,

"Oh, look at you... You get to do whatever you want and go all over the world or you can just stay home all day..."

There are, surely, great benefits, but at the same time there is a lot of sweat and there's a lot of work that people don't see. You're up nights and weekends, and your business and the thoughts of your business literally never leave your mind; it's what you think about all the time. 

It's an overwhelming thing, which is why when I chose the path of this, I had to truly do something that I was passionate about and loved because I knew from experience in the past that it would overtake my life. I needed to really know that I was going to do something that I loved. 

Paul Kemp: So do something you love, that's the thing I'm getting. Jo, it's been fascinating going through your story with Ugly Meter and the Howard Stern show and SwingDev and all these things you've done... What a stamp you're putting on the planet.

I wondered how best can people reach out and connect with you? What's the best way of getting in touch?

SwingDev on The App Guy Podcast

Jo Overline: The usual way is, of course, LinkedIn. If you want advice, if you have a project, if you want to talk, if you want to tell me you love me, if you want to tell me you hate me - I'd like to hear it all, so shoot me an e-mail. It's jo@swingdev.io. I'd love to hear from anybody. That's really the best way. If you have any comments or questions, I'm always happy to talk to anybody. I like meeting people, I like caring about other people maybe in similar situations that I am in business or life, or people that are trying to achieve that and need some advice or direction from what I've learned. I'm always happy to share that.

Paul Kemp: Jo, thank you for coming on The App Guy Podcast, episode 514 - it's a special one. I appreciate your time and all the best for the future.

Jo Overline: Thanks, I really appreciate it. It was great being on.

 

Why We Quit Our Corporate Jobs 6 Years Ago

What's Your Life About?

story of finding a co-founder

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the podcast where we really do appeal to app entrepreneurs, app founders, startup founders or if you're working on a side project. In fact, anyone who wants to really make a difference in the world of tech. I have a lot of archive episode. To listen and  access to over 500 episodes of The App Guy Podcast, either search Paul Kemp in any of your podcasting apps or click Archives on my website http://TheAppGuy.co. 

This is episode 513. Today, I'm really excited about my guests I have on the show. They're based in San Francisco - the hub of where all the tech action is happening. They are into app intelligence. Let me introduce Andrew Levy and Robert Kwok, the co-founders of Apteligent. 

Apteligent is an app intelligence company (based in San Francisco), and it is software which allows you to get app insights into events such as: app crashes, app load times, network latency etc. These co-founders have also fascinating startup stories, so let's get stuck in.

Andrew, Robert, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Andrew Levy: Thanks for having us.

Robert Kwok: Thanks for having us.

Paul Kemp: Thanks for coming, both of you. Let's jump straight into you, Andrew. I would love to know how did you get into the startup scene? 

Andrew Levy: Sure. I was going to school at a college out in Baltimore, and I knew I wanted to start a company early on. I did all the usual entrepreneur classes and business plan competitions in college. I actually got first place, so that motivated me a bit. Then I knew I needed to be out in the Valley - or wanted to be out in the Valley - to eventually start a company.

I got a job with HP that offered to pay for me to move out here to the Bay Area. That sounded great at the time. I flew out, I started working there... That's actually where I met Rob. We were working on data warehousing systems there. To be honest, it wasn't the most exciting job in the world, but we learned a little bit about enterprise software, and I guess eventually the kind of company we wanted to create. We wanted to create a different type of company than the one we were at at the time.

Paul Kemp: Were you both working in a garage, by any chance, like HP started?

Andrew Levy: No, that would have been fun... It was more like a giant cubicle farm. [laughter] But we met a lot of great people. We actually went our separate way at this point. Rob started a different company - he can talk about that - and I got into Ycombinator, a startup incubator based out here. That was about 18 months into HP. After I got in, I quit. The other two co-founders at the time were at Stanford; that was for a different company than Apteligent. We were focused on applying collaborative filtering to e-mail. Essentially, you can think of Gmail Inbox before that existed. 

We found it was very tough to monetize e-mail. Eventually, we got to be working on a few other projects, but didn't quite become passionate anything else we were working on, so by the end of 2009 - it was that summer that we were in the incubator program... By the end of that year, we just decided to disband that company.

We also happened to go through a different accelerator - Lightspeed Ventures - we did two at the same time, but it ended up working out, because after we disbanded that YC startup I met up with Rob, we started working on a few ideas together, eventually got to be building mobile apps and that's what lead to the founding of Crittercism, which was Apteligent's previous name.

Paul Kemp: Okay. Robert, in terms of your story - give us an insight into how you actually got into startups.

Robert Kwok: Sure. It's kind of a similar story to Andrew. I've always wanted to start a company. Just talking about it, I realize that it's been in the family business for a while. My grandpa  moved here from China, and he actually started a restaurant near San Francisco, in the East Bay. That restaurant became successful, and that's how he brought the rest of his family to the U.S. 

There's a crazy newspaper story about him and how he was separated from his wife for 20 years while he was starting this restaurant. My parents also started restaurants; my dad started one as well, so I guess it's kind of been in our family history there.

When I went to high school, I used to buy and sell magic cards, that was my side business back then. Then I went to MIT, and I guess I just met a lot of like-minded people there that also wanted to dream big and change the world, so I would spend a lot of late nights talking to friends about ideas in terms of what we could build and start companies - that was always the plan.

I started working at HP after MIT, and met Andrew there, as well. My plan was basically "Let's work there for three years, get some experience and then I'll quit and start a company." I think literally it was almost exactly three years after I started where I left HP, and then moved to Berkeley and started a company with some other MIT friends. Coincidentally, it was also an e-mail startup idea. I didn't know Andrew was working on e-mail at the time. 

Our idea was a little bit different... We were trying to create a new interface to triage e-mails. You can imagine, e-mail's been the same for the last 20 years - a list of e-mails on a web page - so we had this idea where it'd be a 2D interface, you could have all your work e-mails in one corner, you could have different sizes and shapes; more people on the thread would mean the shape would be bigger, more important e-mails would be red, versus blue... That was kind of the idea, and we ran into similar problems where people just wouldn't pay for e-mail. 

We also had a huge falling out in the company because two of us had a crush on the third co-founder, so that was a major problem. [laughter]

Paul Kemp: Which one of you won?

Robert Kwok: We actually both lost. She started dating this 40-year-old guy that she met on OkCupid.

Paul Kemp: Well, her loss anyway.

Robert Kwok: Yes.

Paul Kemp: Both of you - that's fascinating. What I've learned already, and from all these episodes I've done of the App Guy Podcast (over 500), one of the biggest takeaways is that entrepreneurs -- it's in the family. If you are listening right now or reading this and you have entrepreneurial parents or grandparents, just expect that it's in your blood.

Let's transition then into Apteligent. I'd love to know what you can do for the app developers, the startup tech people that are listening to this. How can you help them with app intelligence?

Andrew Levy: Sure. In the early days of Apteligent we very much talked with a bunch of other mobile entrepreneurs, mobile developers, mobile teams, and they were experiencing the same issues that we did while we were building mobile apps, which was that it was very difficult to understand user experience, especially once you released the app out into the app store. 

You see those app reviews saying, "This app sucks, it doesn't work", it's really not helping you get to the bottom of what actually happened. So what we created with Apteligent is a data-driven approach to understand where users are struggling in the app, and most importantly why.
Commonly, a lot of people will talk about analytics tools. Most of those tools just look at user behavior and they'll tell you that one of your funnels - say checkout - is dropping on step 3 of 4. That's great, but they don't tell you why are you losing those users, what is happening to them. So what we did was we built an SDK, a tool that you can embed into your apps and it sends off real-time diagnostic data about the performance. Think about all the ways an app can fail: slow load times, crashes, network problems, it could be a device or an OS-specific issue, a location-specific problem... 

We combine the performance data with the behavioral data, so what the user is doing and how performance impacted their behavior. Then we connect that to the business impact. For example, if you have a high crash rate, obviously your churn will be impacted. That's what's unique about what we do - our ability to connect a technical tool with the business impact.

Paul Kemp: Robert, I'd love to know the idea for this then - did you fall upon it based on the work that you were doing, or did you collaborate in a more strategic manner to bring this to life?

Robert Kwok: I guess there are a couple things. One, we were developing apps for ourselves, and we had an issue... There was actually a bug in some of the code that I wrote, where we'd worked three months building this app, and when we tested it everything was great, but then when we launched to a new user, it was looking for some value that would only get set if you're an existing user. So every new person that would download the app would have this crash.
Apple's App Store at the time didn't really have much there - I don't think it still has that much now - and it told us everything was fine, but then all these people started e-mailing us and saying, "Hey, your app doesn't work. Every time I load it, it crashes, so I can't even use your app." So we thought, "Well, there has to be a better way."

Paul Kemp: What's really interesting is that a few episodes ago we talked about the idea of building things for yourself and discovering problems. Scratching your own itch. How did identifying this problem lead to becoming a fully-fledged successful startup called Apteligent.

Andrew Levy: Right. So at this point, we had been iterating on a few different things for a while, so we were running out of money. We really wanted to make sure that this itch that we were scratching was real, so we did a few things: we spoke at a bunch of mobile meetups to hear feedback.

The other thing that we did was we created a simple landing page, a form where users could sign up, they could leave an e-mail address if they were interested in finding out more information, and we made sure that we hit some thresholds in sign-ups and combined that with the feedback we were getting to validate that we were on to something.

We also ended up applying to a different incubator called AngelPad. We had those sign-ups and that validation, the feedback, and then we actually ended up getting into that incubator, so a combination of both of those things - we said, "Let's go for it."

Robert Kwok: We also happened to know a lot of app developers at the time. For example, one of our friends actually made the number one gaming app in Asia at that point; it was a simulation cooking game. It had millions of users, and we were able to do a lot of the grunt work and just try to get as many people that we knew using it, going to meetups and talking to people there, going to hackathons, and just having that level of one-on-one connection with people really helped validate the concept also.

Andrew Levy: Right. The idea was to do unscalable things at the time, and I recommend everyone do those things.

Paul Kemp: What I'm learning, guys... You're picking up on many of the themes that The App Guy Podcast has touched over the years, and one is the importance of your own network and tapping into that, which clearly benefitted you with the game. Also, really trying to understand the feedback from the potential customers and users of your service. Do you feel like there are any other tips you can give any of those startup founders who are listening to this and want to give themselves the best chance of success?

Andrew Levy: Well, as I was alluding to before, I think people tend to hold their ideas to their chest, but like you said, you need that feedback, you need to get out there and talk about it, bounce ideas off folks, and part of the benefit of being in a place like the Bay Area is, like you mentioned, the network. It's not the only place to start a company; certainly, there's other startup cities all across the globe. It definitely makes it easier to be in those places where you can hang out with folks and talk about AI, or self-driving cars, or whatever you're into. Surrounding yourself with like-minded folks will lead to a higher chance of doing great things. 

Robert Kwok: The other mistake we actually made early on was we would spend too much time perfecting something before releasing it, and when we switched to this new idea I think we just went for it. A lot of it is just getting over this fear that it's not going to be perfect, or it's not going to be what you really want it to be, and just launching it and see what happens, and just keep iterating over time. 

Paul Kemp: Yes. So you are an app intelligence company; I wondered, do you actually aggregate any of the data that you get on the backend? For instance, the number of crashes, or the average load times. Do you create some reports or anything that you can share with us about the aggregate data that you're seeing?

Andrew Levy: Yes, certainly. I encourage you to check out data.Apteligent.com. We have a lot of publicly available benchmarks there, and also some reserved for enterprise customers. What we learned over time was that we're collecting a ton of rich information about the mobile ecosystem; let's leverage that in a way that we can give it back to our customers in the community in the form of industry trends and benchmarks, like average crash rates, average load times...
We have a global device directory, so if you're trying to launch an app and you're trying to figure out "What devices, operating systems, configurations should I be testing on? What is the average stability or bandwidth available in certain regions?" We provide all of that data so that you can create your test and release plans and you can benchmark how well you're doing relative to your competitors in certain app store categories. Tons of rich information.

We also - this is really interesting - have been able to apply some data science and machine learning to the data to understand how performance is impacting business KPIs. I'd mentioned churn earlier, and we actually found that crashes can decrease next-day app opens by up to 8x, and they can increase churn overall by up to 6x. So huge impact on just that one performance metric along. 

Of course, if your other metrics are not doing too well - it's taking too long to load, or certain flows are delayed - it will have an impact on the business. On that site, you can actually find -- we publish research reports every 4-6 weeks that go into even more detail about the industry.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and just to ensure, for those who are listening whilst driving - you can go to theappguy.co it's episode #513, with Andrew and Robert, and you'll see links to that site. I'm also wondering... You've seen a lot of app developers - appreneurs, as I like to say - start business, who have their apps, and I wondered what you feel like the most important metrics that they should be looking at are, in terms of what you've learned over the years.

Robert Kwok: When you're developing an app, it's great to monitor how your app is doing over time. One of the most critical moments is really around when you first release an app - tracking the first 72 hours after your release. The metrics there that you really want to track are: how many people are adopting that version, how many people are upgrading, and then being able to understand why they are or aren't adopting it.

One of the metrics a lot of our customers track is the crash rate of their app, which is basically the number of sessions that end in a crash. That's often a very good indicator; it's highly correlated with app store ratings, which help drive downloads, so it's kind of a feedback cycle there.

The other metric a lot of companies are tracking today are app start time. Just thinking about it, if you're using an app and it takes ten seconds to load, you're probably going to give up at some point and stop using that app and maybe use a competitor's app. Those are two metrics that a lot of companies closely track, especially when they're releasing new versions.

Andrew Levy: And just to pile on top of that, those performance metrics impact your business, and I think what many first-time app publishers make mistake of is they focus on conversion rates in certain flows in the app. Those are obviously important, but they'd really need be focused on engagement and retention first and foremost, before they ramp up marketing campaigns... As well as those performance metrics that Rob mentioned, because what's going to end up happening is you're going to spend a ton of money to get users, they're going to have a poor user experience and you're going to have a leaky bucket. You're going to lose a ton of them, your acquisition cost will go up, and it just won't be a happy ending. You definitely need to make sure you optimize those metrics.

Paul Kemp: This is great, because it's really compounding a lot of the information we've got from the past amazing founders, and certainly I've had a first-time experience of what you mentioned as being the leaky bucket, where you've got tens of thousands of users downloading the app for the first time, but maybe the conversion is not right... In terms of a conversion rate, what do you think is a good conversion rate? From landing on the app store page to then clicking the Download button.

Andrew Levy: It's tough to say... It can be very vertical-specific. Frankly, our metrics don't focus on the attribution piece. There's tracking of once they open the app, but then there's also "How do you connect? Where are the users coming from?" and those conversion rates. We focus mostly on, you know, once the app is opened what are the metrics that you should look at. 

There's some data out there - if you're interested in this topic, I would look up mobile app attribution of Google.

Paul Kemp: Yes. And as we draw to a close, I'm wondering what exciting stuff you're working on now, in terms of future updates or anything that's coming out going forward.

Andrew Levy: Yes, we continue to add new types of data science capabilities into our platform. We're really driving towards this idea of being able to say, "Hey, if you fix these three issues, then your churn will decrease by this amount, or your engagement will increase, or your revenue will increase." So being able to proactively recommend areas that teams should focus in on is a key area for us. 

We also continue to add other performance metrics. We just launched UI hangs - or you can call it app hangs and out-of-memory analysis - into our product. We're also adding some custom reporting for enterprise clients... So a lot of new dashboards that teams can play around with.

Robert Kwok: We're helping companies understand the wider user experience of the app. So not just knowing when the app crashes, but when the user gets frustrated by the app, or when it's draining battery or killing your data plan.

Paul Kemp: It's really exciting, because I can imagine that you're also looking at artificial intelligence or machine learning or something, to understand where in the code the crashes are happening, and perhaps give developers more insights into the parts of the code that are crashing. Are you looking into that stuff?

Andrew Levy: Yes, we've done some of that already. We launched a product called Smart Crash Search, where we identify similar root causes across errors. One of the common problems that people have is there's a lot of noise generated from these apps, so you need to understand where should your team be investing their time and what are the related problems. So we actually give a probability score in this new product to help you understand how similar is this issue, compared to all these other issues. It's a really interesting and unique capability of ours.

Robert Kwok: We also launched something recently called the 3rd Party SDK Analysis. One of the common problems when you're developing a mobile app is to figure out which SDKs you should integrate. Often times those will cause performance issues like crashes or slowdowns. We launched a product a couple months ago that allows you to recognize if a crash is actually caused by a third-party SDK.

Paul Kemp: Fascinating. Sadly, we've got to draw to a close now... But I'm wondering, do you feel like we've touched on everything in regards to what you wanted to talk about Apteligent? Is there anything else you want to add for those who are thinking about using you?

Andrew Levy: One thing I'd say is we have a free tier as well; we do work with some of the largest app publishers across the globe, but we also work with folks in a garage somewhere, looking to build the next big app. So we have a free tier, we also have a middle tier called JumpStart for small businesses, and our enterprise tier. I'd encourage anyone that's interested to check us out. It's very easy and quick to get started, at Apteligent.com

Paul Kemp: Wonderful. Andrew, Robert, thank you both for coming on The App Guy Podcast and sharing your story about Apteligent and what you can achieve with the software. I highly recommend the appster tribe go and check you out. How best can people reach out and connect with you both? What is the best way of getting in touch?

Andrew Levy: If you e-mail info [at] Apteligent.com, it will be sent out to us. Or you can just contact us directly - Andrew [at] Apteligent.com and Rob [at] Apteligent.com.

Paul Kemp: Great.

 

How To Engage And Retain App Users Like The Big Players (Facebook, Snapchat)

iOSDeveloper

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy podcast. I'm your host, it's Paul Kemp. I do go around the world - this is a pure global show, and we help everybody in the world who is an aspiring app entrepreneur, app developer, indie developer, small developer, maybe working on side projects... This is the podcast for you, do stay tuned. We try to bring you the best content that we can possibly get from the people that know what they're talking about.

I've got someone who really knows what they're talking about today, because he is the co-founder of Pyze, and we're going to talk about the current state of the App Store, we're going to talk about maybe obstacles that you're facing as a developer - I think that will be relevant - maybe how to create apps, get traction, the role of automation, and a bit more about Pyze.
Let me introduce Prabhjot Singh - he is the co-founder of Pyze and he's here on The App Guy Podcast. Welcome to the show, Prabhjot.

Prabhjot Singh: Thanks, Paul. Glad to be here, and excited for the opportunity to talk to you.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful to have you on. Let's just start with Pyze, an elevator pitch. How would you sum up what you do at Pyze?

Prabhjot Singh: Our mission is pretty simple at Pyze. We solve the biggest problem that any app developer faces - people download a lot of apps, because there's a lot of apps on the App Store, but people use very few applications, so we solved the challenge of retaining users by automating analysis, engagement and personalization for mobile apps, so that anyone can have the same sophisticated tools that big companies like Facebook, LinkedIn or Zynga use to make their app sticky. Whether you're a Fortune 1000 or you're two guys in a garage, we can give those same capabilities to you.

Paul Kemp: It's really interesting you mention that, because Facebook is definitely the dominant player on the App Store, they always are top of the charts. Do you think there's room for indie developers to get traction and have success with their particular apps on the App Store?

Prabhjot Singh: The deck is definitely stacked against the indie developer today. If you go back years ago to the beginning of the App Store - I'm talking 2006, 2007, 2008 - you actually saw a lot of indie apps being successful and topping the charts. Unfortunately, over the last few years, we've seen what I like to call the corporatization of the App Store, where you've got these big players that are completely dominating the space, so it's very hard for the indie developer to break in.

One of the big issues is data. The big companies can build these big data platforms, they're collecting all kinds of information about you and me, and they know exactly what kinds of ads to show us, they know exactly what  content to show us, they know how to personalize the experience for me, so that it's an enjoyable experience. 

Unfortunately, indie developers just don't have those same capabilities. They're just focused on trying to get a product out the door, probably trying to achieve product market fit, but they don't have to data scientists, they don't have access to these intelligence platforms that are using machine learning, and all these other fancy technologies to really individualize each person's experience. Without that, it becomes really hard to compete, and you compete for screentime, really.

Paul Kemp: Yes, that's a good segue to talk about the current state of the App Store. The Apple App Store, the Android App Store - how do you see it right now in terms of how it's looking?

Prabhjot Singh: It's still a wide-open market in the sense that -- we often like to talk about the app stores as the Wild Wild West. As it sort of matured, there is more predictability in terms of the type of revenue that you can generate, and app stores are still the best way to get distribution for a product easily in the history of software. Because you can immediately get access to billions of devices by uploading your app in just a couple of places. We've never had that  capability before as developers, as innovators, as entrepreneurs. 

If you think about, how many apps are being downloaded, 2016 was a record high; how much time is being spent in apps? 2016 was a record high. But also, how many apps are being uploaded to the app stores? 2016 was a record high. So not only is the opportunity the hottest that it's ever been, the competition is also the hottest. As with anything, everyone wants a piece and you have a lot of people with great ideas that are executing, but I think the app stores still present a great opportunity to get services out there, a great opportunity to generate revenue.

Paul Kemp: In terms of the obstacles that maybe you see developers facing - certainly small developers, indie developers that tend to listen to The App Guy Podcast - what are those obstacles as you can see it?

Prabhjot Singh: There are two or three things that we hear again and again when we talk to smaller app publishers, teams of maybe 1-5 people, or 10  people even. One is understanding who their users are because you can't really optimize your application or get a product market fit without really knowing who your users are. Unfortunately, the app stores  create this firewall between the publisher and the user, where they know everything about the user, but the publisher actually knows very little. 

You might use some analytics solution that will tell you where they click into the app, but that's about it. So that's one of the big challenges that all publishers face: who are my users, what is their behavior? Once you know that, the next big challenge is "How do I engage with those users in a meaningful way?" Through push, through in-app messaging, through e-mail, through SMS/MMS...

These are all challenges for small app publishers because the services that enable this generally cost thousands of dollars. I've built apps in the past and I've had apps with millions of users, and I still wouldn't be able to afford paying a few thousand dollars a month to send out push and in-app messaging and those types of capabilities.

This really gave genesis to the idea of Pyze. I had a problem myself, not understanding my users, not being able to communicate with my users, so the idea of Pyze was really to level the playing field and give those capabilities to everyone. Then we've added a bunch more features to enable personalization, so that you can really start to personalize the experience of each user.

Paul Kemp: It's so interesting to hear you speak about more focus on engagement than downloads. We've had over 500 episodes of The App Guy Podcast, and in the early days it was all about downloads. But the way I see it, a download is just one person downloading at one point in time; they may never come back, so I love to hear about engagement.

I would love to know now how can we create apps that do actually get traction? Any tips for us?

Prabhjot Singh: That's a really good question, you hit the nail on the head. Installs is a vanity metric. Unfortunately, a lot of the metrics that we measure in the industry are vanity metrics. Even a metric like daily active users, which was  considered the standard in the market - it's even used in earning calls for these public app companies, and so forth - I think is a fairly unimpressive metric. 

Let's say there's an application, you download it, I download it; you use it three times a day for 20 minutes each session, and I used it for one second. We're actually both counted as the daily active user number or the monthly active user number. 

When you get a download -- and you can buy downloads all day long. If you've got enough of a budget, you can pay Facebook, you can pay Google and you can generate as many downloads as you want. 

The real metrics to care about are engagement and retention, and the way you drive retention is by focusing on it at the design time. "How do I want to create cycles of engagement within the application, so that I keep users coming back?" Facebook's great at doing that. My friend Ted just uploaded a photo; well, I want to see what it is.  I might get an e-mail, or someone might share his photo and I'll get a notification... It's a great way to get me re-engaged. When I'm there, next thing I know, I've lost an hour looking at Ted's entire wedding album. [laughter]

So how do you create that for your application? That's important to think through in the beginning, but as you get users, there's a lot of cool things that we can do to ensure that users stay sticky.
For instance, we know that a third of the people who download any app will ever only use it once. You've literally got 5-10 seconds of that first app experience to make it count. You should automate an onboarding campaign to give that person a relevant message that tells them something about the application, something that's relevant to them, so that they get hooked and they want to come back.

Similarly, when you start to have a whole slew of users, it's important to start categorizing those users into different groups. You might have loyal users, you might have dormant users; you might have users that are at risk of attrition; ticketing app might have VIP ticket holders or discount ticket buyers... You essentially start grouping these users into meaningful categories and then there's different business objectives for each user. You have to define different user journeys for each of them, so that you can push those users towards that objective.

Someone who is really loyal but has never bought something - I might group them as an under-monetized user. Then you can institute a push in-app MMS campaign to drive them towards purchasing something. Similarly, someone who's a dormant user, I might send him a push notification to remind him why they downloaded the app in the first place.

That's the stuff we do with Pyze - we'll automatically segment the user base and give you the ability to start interacting with each group of users in a meaningful way.

Paul Kemp: I so love what you said there about under-monetized users, and I'm sure that many people listening to this now have many under-monetized users, including me. I launched an app that almost reached a million users, and I think every single one of them was under-monetized. 

We're all very busy... You mentioned earlier that there's a lot that the big boys do that we can't do ourselves, because we're smaller teams, but I wondered what we could do in terms of automation. What's the role of automation and how can it help us with getting traction, and all these other things?

Prabhjot Singh: I live by the rule of "Automate Everything", whatever you can, and that's important. Let's take your app, for example - you had an app with a million users. The rest of us, when we have access to basic analytics tools like Google Analytics or Flurry, or any of these types of solutions, we have to do a lot of manual analysis ourselves to create segments of users, and then analyze those segments for things that we care about - engagement, monetization, or whatever.

Now, when you've got a million users, how do you even come up with the right segments and groupings of users to analyze? It's impossible, and that's all you'd be doing, if you in earnest started focusing on that. So it's important to have a solution that can automate segmentation, so you can easily understand what makes your users different. You have some loyal users and you have some dormant users, right? What's the difference between those users? What makes a dormant user dormant, what makes a loyal user loyal? Because I want to go out and get more loyal users, obviously.

In a game you might have a group of people who are spending a lot of money and people who are not spending any money. Kind of like Facebook has these look-alike audiences, we can then start to engage users that fit a particular mold. That's automating analysis. Now you've got a grouping of users that meet different criteria that we understand, and we can see what aspects of the app each type of user is using. Maybe I need to make some changes in my application to move those users along.

Paul Kemp: Actually, it's fascinating you're talking about segmenting each group, because I can imagine that you do get lots of different users who can fit into many different categories, some of which you already mentioned. But are there any other ways to automate, other than maybe putting the users into different categories? Any other suggestions about automation?

Prabhjot Singh: Yes, absolutely. So once you've put users in different categories, you can then start to automate engagement with those users. There are going to be different engagement paths for someone who's a loyal user, or a seasoned ticket holder, or a discount ticket buyer for, let's say a ticketing app. Once you have that understanding of "Okay, these are the different groups of users", you can then start to automate... Almost think of it like a drip campaign for mobile, where you're sending out push messages or in-app messages to drive users to a particular objective, whether it's a purchase for under-monetized users, or getting them re-engaged for users at risk of attrition.

That's also another type of automation that can be done, and it's important to do that, because to do analysis against users, especially if you've got a million, two million users on a monthly basis, it's almost impossible to figure out what  push messaging you should send to who, and when you should send it.

Paul Kemp: That seems like a good chance, Prabhjot, to talk about Pyze. You are a growth platform, you help developers grow, get traction, segment... But maybe we could go into more analysis about what it is you do for developers and how people can use your platform. 

Prabhjot Singh: Sure. As I mentioned, we essentially automate segmentation - the analysis piece - and then we enable automation of engagement, and then personalization. Those are the three key things that we do. 

We spoke about the analysis earlier, in terms of being able to identify what are the trends and patterns at a macro level, across the entire user base - what aspects of the app are being used and not being used. Once you have that understanding and you can start to spot, "Okay, these are the trends" and "Oh, here's an anomaly. What does this anomaly mean?" Once you have that understanding, you can then  have the segmentation of users and then you can start to engage with those users in a meaningful way. 

We do a lot of the heavy lifting, like if you've got a million users, we know the best time to reach every single user of the application, so that they'll be most receptive. If you and I are using an app, you're using it at two in the morning, I use it at two in the afternoon, and I wanna send a push notification, it will automatically send it at the right time to both of us.

Those types of intelligence capabilities are built in. Then you can set up campaigns to trigger on events; if you've got an eCommerce app and someone's adding an item to a cart and then they abandon that cart, maybe we should send him a coupon for that item, so that we get them re-engaged and convert that user.

You can set up those types of automated actions with Pyze. You can do analysis to say, "Okay, show me all the users that have high engagement in my application, but they haven't spent a dime with me." Now I can take that group of users and I can say, "Okay, let me reach out to those users right now." We enable that  analysis in real time, across millions of users if you've got them.

And finally, personalization. You can  say, "Okay, I'm going to start personalizing the experience of these different user groups. Maybe my loyal users will see a different interface than my not-so-loyal users", or "My seasoned ticket holders will see a different UI, so they can pick their VIP seats, versus people who buy discount tickets." 

You can easily start to morph the application to be very centered around each individual, so that it becomes a personalized experience for everyone.

Paul Kemp: I love it. It's a shame this didn't exist years ago, because it just seems like what we were talking about at the start - the big companies have the big resources, and they have these departments almost that are doing this stuff that you're now enabling the smaller companies, the indie app developers, and everyone really, who can now use your platform to do all this big data analysis and automate it, I'm guessing at a fraction of the budget that it would cost. That's really fascinating.

Prabhjot Singh: That's right. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention in many regards. For myself and the co-founders, this was a pain point that we had, and we thought it didn't make sense to solve it for one application because it wasn't cost-effective; we could build a platform. Pyze is free to get started with, and our lowest tier actually is free for up to a million monthly active users. We want to help everyone be successful, and if you're successful, we know we'll be successful as a business.

Paul Kemp: That is fantastic. So how can people go and sign up to Pyze? Where's the best place to go?

Prabhjot Singh: Pyze.com - P-Y-Z-E. You can just click on the Get Pyze button and get going.

Paul Kemp: And for all those English out there, in my native tongue it's P-Y-Z(zed)-E. [laughs]

Prabhjot Singh: That's right.

Paul Kemp: Pyze.com. Prabhjot, it would be wonderful to know how to reach out to you personally as well, because you're so inspirational as a founder, and I'm sure that you've inspired a lot of people. How can people reach out and connect with you?

Prabhjot Singh: Absolutely. You can reach out to me on Twitter @psinghSF, or you can shoot me an e-mail at ps@pyze.com.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on The App Guy Podcast and sharing hugely valuable content. We look forward to using the platform and seeing all the success stories from people who have come out and it's changed their business. Thank you very much!

Prabhjot Singh: Absolutely. The pleasure is all mine, and yes, certainly an open invitation to all your listeners - feel free to reach out to me. I often give advice on app concepts. Also, product market fit discussions is something I can weigh in on. Always happy to help in any way I can.

Leading Without Coding : A How-To Guide For Non-Technical Co-Founders

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where I help those entrepreneurs, startup founders, even if you're working and you are basically involved in a side project - you're the person who's relevant for this show. Many people have gone on to do amazing things. I've just spoken with a fan of the show who has even started up his own company and is flying to Silicon Valley to raise a ton of money.

It's wonderful that we have an appster tribe that is passionate about app-preneurship, as I like to call it. In this endeavor, there's many of you who are listening who will perhaps not be technical. In fact, I confess that I don't come from a technical background; I used to be a banker. So I love meeting people that can help us non-technical people start technical companies. In this endeavor, I have been introduced with a wonderful podcaster, the host of the Scott Barstow show. He's a fellow podcaster, he's going to help us with finding out how we can set up companies if we're non-technical.

Scott, it's a real pleasure to welcome you on The App Guy Podcast.

Scott Barstow: Paul, thank you so much for me asking to be on. It's a pleasure to be here.

Paul Kemp: Scott, you're a fellow podcaster, you've got a great setup there... Tell us first about your podcast, because I feel like we could learn a lot and it may be something we want to listen to.

Scott Barstow: Absolutely. I started a podcast about nine or ten months ago, talking with primarily founders of technology companies and exploring not only the back-story of the company, but also going in-depth on the struggles and the challenges that they had building out the actual product, whether that was dealing with trying to find a technical co-founder, or making mistakes in building too much product, or not enough, or whatever the myriad number of mistakes that everybody makes. My show is primarily focused on just exploring that topic with technology product founders.

Paul Kemp: Scott, one of the biggest challenges I do feel that are faced by those listening is finding a technical co-founder, and I have many examples of people coming to me and saying, "Look, I don't want to pay for a developer. I'd rather have someone who can become a co-founder and is passionate about the project as I am and will be my technical co-founder, and he/she can deal with the technical side." Is that a big challenge that you find when speaking with your audience?

Scott Barstow: It is, and I'd like to divide this particular question up. A non-technical founder - and I hesitate to use that, because I think if you're building a technology product company you are a technologist, whether you want to be or not... But it's useful for the distinction that we're talking about. I think there are two ways to approach finding somebody to help you build out your product.

One, as you mentioned, is to find a true co-founder. In my experience, the mistake that a lot of people make is that they take the mode of speed dating. They show up at a bunch of meetups, they pitch their company and they hope to find somebody interesting, that cares about it the way they do. They sort of rush to get married, and then inevitably it ends poorly.
The way that I think about the technical co-founder role, in particular, is that generally, I think you need to know that person before you've started thinking about the idea, or at the very least they're involved extremely early in the process with you. 

That's a true co-founder - somebody that's there with you at the beginning, that is strapped to the mast with you, believes in it the way you do. In my experience, you don't just typically find those people walking around on the street. It's a relationship process that you start six, nine months ahead of when you might actually start building the product. It's getting to know somebody, getting to know their family, getting to know what makes them tick... All the things that are going to matter when you're in the middle of the blizzard and you need somebody there with you that cares about it the way you do. 

It's cliché, but I think you need to think of co-founders like a marriage and treat it that way. There's a potentially different path to take as the founder of a company if you've got your idea a bit more further along and you really just need somebody to step in and run the engineering of the product. I would encourage people to think of that as you're hiring really your lead engineer, or you're hiring your chief technology officer, but you're not necessarily trying to find a co-founder.

The difference is that when you frame the discussion as "Hey, I'm looking for a co-founder", that drags with it a certain expectation on how much equity that person will receive, and how much influence they'll have in the direction of the company, whereas if you're hiring a lead engineer or a CTO, that carries with it a different set of expectations in terms of how much of the company you're going to have to give up, what the compensation package might look like and all of those things.

If you want somebody to be a true co-founder, just know that that means giving up a lot of the company and that means getting married, as opposed to perhaps looking for a lead technologist and making it more of just a true hire, if that makes any sense.

Paul Kemp: It does, and I'd love to give people some real actionable advice. We do have a ton of people listening who are at that stage where they have an idea and they want to build upon the idea, but they sadly go out to the market, they realize it's going to cost them a hundred thousand dollars or whatever it may be to hire an agency or to hire a developer it's going to cost them X... We're talking tens of thousands of dollars, at least. Do you have an example of a company that maybe you've worked with recently, a  founder who has had that challenge and has successfully managed to get married to a co-founder who they found, and it's worked out really well? Are you able to walk us through a case study maybe or some example of someone doing this recently?

Scott Barstow: That's a great question. I'm wracking my brain to think of a concrete example... I live in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and there's a company called EmployUs, and the founder of the company is a guy named Ryan O'Donnell. He went through the typical that I'm sure a lot of your audience goes through, which is - he had an idea, he tried to work with a contracting shop, that went poorly and he kind of threw up his hands and was like, "I don't know where to go next." 

He and I talked extensively about "How do you go find the right person to come alongside you?" He had enough funding that he could afford to hire somebody, and I think that's an important step. I don't think a co-founder expects to be compensated; they work for free the way that you are, at the beginning of the company. But when I had the conversation with Ryan, I really encouraged him to find somebody that thought about the future the way that he did, and was willing to take less now in return for more later.

The conversation that he ended up having with the guy who is now the equivalent of his technical co-founder - there were a lot of tests, a lot of gates that they went through at the beginning of the process, and it looked a lot like an audition, honestly. So what I encourage people to do is work alongside the person that you are contemplating giving this incredibly important role in your company; ask them to work alongside you for a meaningful period of time with no commitment either way. They're going to invest time, you're going to invest time, and you're going to figure out if you can work together in that process. 

In Ryan's case, he went through probably five or six people before eventually settling on a guy who's working alongside him today. The relationship side worked, the work ethic was the same, and he was able to figure all of these things out through just working alongside. I think he eventually compensated him a bit for some of that audition work, but the expectation was, "Look, there are going to be hard times ahead. I need to know that when things are hard, that we can work through the difficult times together, rather than getting contentious and blowing the whole thing apart.

So I just encouraged him to set up some scenarios that would tease as much of that out as possible - inducing false pressure, inducing deadlines that were unrealistic, which everybody has in this process. Those are some of the things that come to mind immediately.

Paul Kemp: Scott, that is genius. I love that piece of advice and it's the first I've heard of that in terms of auditioning the potential technical co-founder. Would you actually be in a position to tell them it's an audition, or do you go more under the radar and pretend...?

Scott Barstow: In my experience, it's best to be right up front. The kinds of people that you want working alongside you are people who can appreciate the fact that you're taking this seriously. If you have the conversation and frame it in such a way as to say, "Look, I'm trying to understand if we can work together, and I would think you would want to do the same. Before we get married, let's go on a few dates and let's spend some time together, and let's have a fight or two, and let's get into an argument, and let's act like we're going to act and work like we're going to work, and let's see how that works. If we get to the end of this and it turns out that it doesn't work out, then let's agree what it looks like to part ways. I pay you well below market rate for the work that you've done, I own the work product... But the goal here, both of our intents is to get to a working relationship and one that we can understand that we can go forward with, rather than let's all pile in and hope that it works, and then six months later we have to part company, and all the divestiture of ownership and all of the mess that that drags with it."

Paul Kemp: What I'm thinking of is a previous company that I've worked for, and I gave not ownership but directorship to one or two employees. The feel-good factor lasted maybe a few months, and then it started to decline; you know, that kind of wanting more... So I'm wondering how long a term do you think this audition can last for, for it to be a genuine assessment?

Scott Barstow: I think most people want to get to some sort of decision within a few weeks, so what typically happens... Assuming the person you're trying to bring on as a co-founder has another job, or has other commitments that they have during the regular week, a lot of times what I encourage people to do is work two or three Saturdays together and have very concrete things that you're trying to get done. "At the end of today, we want to deliver this feature. That means we have to go through a design process, we have to go through requirements, we have to think of how the user's going to interact with it, we have to sketch some wireframes, we have to argue about what makes sense. But at the end of the day today we want to have the strawman of this feature built out, so that somebody could click through and maybe use it a bit. We can put it in front of a user and see what they think."

I find that having concrete deliverables at each point tends to induce conflict naturally. When you're working on something and deadlines are tight and you're trying to get something done, that's when people's true nature tends to come out; whether or not you understand that you're auditioning for the position or not, at some point in that process you will be who you are, and I feel like that's what you're trying to expose. You're trying to show them who you are, and you're trying to figure out who they are.

Paul Kemp: [unintelligible 00:15:34.09] really interesting is I'd love to know how you find about getting the ideal contract in place for that arrangement, because clearly you're asking somebody to make a big commitment, and I'm guessing it could even be just as a side project, working in the evening if they have a full-time role, or working at weekends. Do you have any advice on where to find a good contract, say, to agree on this arrangement?

Scott Barstow: That's a great question. I'm not an attorney and I don't profess to understand all of it, but what I typically have in place, and I think if you're starting a technology company there are a few things that you have to have in place, regardless of how you go forward. One of them is intellectual property assignment, and the other is just the fact that the company owns all of the work product, whether that's your work product or my work product - the agreement is that all the work we're doing the company owns.

I think one of the fundamentals that a leader has to do probably right after the company formation is have some very basic intellectual property agreements and maybe a contractor agreement in place that they can just use to manage this engagement. There are myriad examples; you can go to LegalZoom, and there are a number of other places online where you can download sample agreements. Of course, every jurisdiction is different, and you have just the mess that is the legal system, so I always recommend that people have whoever their corporate counsel is - even if you get something from LegalZoom, have them review it and make sure there are no gaps, just as a way of ensuring that you're covered off.

Paul Kemp: Let's try to help those who perhaps want to go along this road but don't know where to go to meet these ideal people. Do you have any good tips for us on where to go online or events that would really help us meet the right potential technical co-founders?

Scott Barstow: My general recommendation when people ask that question is you need to be where these people are hanging out, and generally that looks like -- if you're in a reasonably active tech area, almost every technologist is going to one or two meetups in the area. I typically recommend, go to the meetups of "hot languages" and that would be something like a Ruby meetup, a NodeJS meetup. That's one area that's obvious.

I think the other is showing up at mixers and whatever's going on in the entrepreneurial community in your area. In our area, we have a meet once a month, and it's usually at a pub somewhere. It's a great mix of founders, technologists... It's really a cool mix of people. Showing up at those kinds of events and just having honest conversations about what you're up to, and not necessarily trying to pitch the company or hire that person on the spot, but just talk about what you're doing and see who's interested, who's ears perk up when you talk about the idea. Then, if you run into somebody and you have a good conversation with them, I think the next thing is you send them a note and you have lunch, or you have early morning coffee, and you have maybe a bit more in-depth conversation.

If you still like the conversation, then I think you start talking about the fact that, "You know, I'm kind of in the market for somebody to run my technology product. I don't know if you'd be interested in something like that, but if you are, here's how I'm thinking about it. If you're not interested, do you know anybody who is?"

I think generally showing up at events that are more entrepreneurial in nature, there are more developers who are willing to "take the leap" at those events, rather than big corporate events or things like that.

Paul Kemp: I was really wondering, as well... In your experience, have you met anyone who has perhaps made the mistake of not offering a co-founder position to someone that's more technical to balance out the equation? Because I can imagine a scenario like, "Hey, I want the whole company to myself, or maybe give some away for the funding, to the investors, but I don't really want to give away a big chunk to a technical co-founder, so I'm going to go alone." Have you met any companies that have perhaps done that and then ultimately regretted their decision?

Scott Barstow: I've probably met too many companies that count on both sides of that question. Certainly, there are a lot of founders who don't think they need somebody else alongside them. I remember I was sitting at a meeting - this was probably seven or eight years ago - with somebody from Google Ventures. Somebody asked the question, "What do you look for in a founding team?" and the guy said without hesitation, "The best companies have founding teams of at least two, no more than three." 

I think that's the way you need to think about it. I've tried to do my own thing and I happen to be able to build software, but I'm not great at being able to run a marketing campaign or go sell the product. I think you have to be self-aware enough to know that you can't do it all, especially if you achieve any measure of success. You need somebody else alongside you that's complementary to what you do because there's no way you can make it alone.

So my counsel to those who want to "keep it all", I think at some point... The quote is, "One can go fast, but two can go far", and the question is "Do you want to go fast, or do you want to go far?" 

Paul Kemp: Yes, and I'm thinking back to the over 500 episodes I've recorded with founders now on The App Guy Podcast, and I can safely say that the success stories are usually as a result of a team of two or three. A lot of founders do praise their co-founder, who's been along and helped build the company together. And actually, they've said that it's not just for monetary reasons, the great revenue, but also the fact that you've gone along the journey with someone else as well, who can share the ups and downs. As you say, it's a marriage, and you've got someone to share that journey with, is that right?

Scott Barstow: Yes, I absolutely agree with that. As I said, I've tried to build companies on my own, and I just feel like it's so hard and there are days that are so dark, where you feel like you don't even want to get out of bed because nothing is going well, and you need that other person to call your phone that day and say, "Why aren't you at work? Let's get moving. We're not going to have a pity party, let's get rolling! We've got work to do today." 

You're going to be that person on some days, and your partner is going to be that person on other days, and it's invaluable. I don't believe that you can build a successful company... People have done it, but by and large, the best companies are built with partnerships.

Paul Kemp: Scott, before we say goodbye then, one more question. This is more kind of switching gears and finding out about you... I would love to know -- someone who is a podcaster, into technology, running a successful business, I wanted to know what your day is like. Could you describe to us a typical day? We'd love to know and get inside what it must feel like to have one of your days and how different it must be to the kind of guys in corporate, who have got their typical nine to five. What's a day like for Scott Barstow?

Scott Barstow: A day for me... I've got a few things that I work on. One is my content offering, which is the podcast, and I've got a blog that I write about this topic of building technology products as a non-technical founder - that's a certain portion of my day.

I'm a part-time venture partner in a venture capital firm out in California, so I do a bit of deal work and technical diligence on deals that the firm is looking at. One of the great things about that is that you get to - just like you do on your show here - talk with amazing founders all the time about what they're working on, and I'm constantly amazed at the ideas that people come up with and the problems that they're solving that I just never think about in a given day. It doesn't occur in my life, so I don't really think about it.

So I have the venture work, I've got this content platform that I'm slowly building, and the third thing is that I do a lot of what I call fractional CTO work. So I will step into startups that are either in trouble, or they've got a fire burning in some part of the business. That could be they've got a team that's not working well, the product is not coming together the way it should, they have to hire their next team member and they're not sure who they should be looking for... So I will step into the middle of technology startups and just get them through whatever they're going through.

Typically, those engagements can be anywhere from two weeks, and I've been on some as long as six to nine months - embedded inside the company, working alongside them as a C-level technology executive. So those are the things that generally make up my day.

Paul Kemp: Scott, I can't help but squeeze one more in... I would love to know currently what are your biggest challenges, in terms of all the stuff you're doing? What are you really focusing on and what's causing you headaches at night?

Scott Barstow: There's a lot of those... [laughter] One of the things that I really struggle with is how to - and I know you've done a great job with this - create awareness for this project that I'm on, this quest that I'm on to help non-technical founders not set all of their money on fire in the first six months they're trying to build their company. It's something I feel strongly about; there are paths through that problem that don't require you to burn all of your savings that you saved the last five years for, trying to get ready for this moment where you take your shot, and then six months later, because you made a bad mistake, you made a bad decision, all that money is gone and you're going back to work at some corporate job.

The thing I lay awake at night trying to figure out is how to reach as many of those people as possible and get the word out and really help as many of them as possible. I care deeply about people chasing their dream and having a shot at it, and my small part to play in that is the fact that I've been in this industry long enough to see the mistakes that people make - and generally, they are the same... There are eight to ten things that people do all day, every day, that cause the most problems. So the thing that I try to figure out is how to get out and get in front of as many of those people as possible.

Paul Kemp: Scott, you've mentioned eight things - we might have to post that somewhere that people can find, maybe in our show notes. We can't finish the podcast teasing people about eight things they do wrong.

Scott Barstow: It's probably more than eight. It's probably 25. Eight is probably a simplification. But yes, I'm happy to share some links with the most common things that I see over and over again. I'm happy to do that with you and your listeners.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful, great. Well, I'll put that on the show notes. It's episode 511, which can be found at theappguy.co and just look for Scott Barstow - you can search for that, or it should be at the top of the website. Scott, how can people best reach out and connect with you? What's the best way of getting in touch?

Scott Barstow: I am on every major social media platform, @ScottBarstow. I've managed to squat on all of those over the years, I think. So you can find me on Twitter, Instagram - any of those, certainly. I'm active on Twitter, so that's usually the best place to get a hold of me. Then you can find all my content work at ScottBarstow.com. You can find my show, The Scott Barstow Show on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever your favorite podcasts are found.

Paul Kemp: Scott, it's lovely chatting with you. This has been one of the topics I've been meaning to cover with the thousands that listen to this. Thank you so much for being part of what we do and sharing your great content, and all the best for what you're doing in the future.

Scott Barstow: Thank you very much, Paul. It's been a pleasure being on.

Paul Kemp: Okay, bye for now.

Avoid Becoming A Corporate Lab Rat

corporate careers.jpg

Stuck In The 9-5 Rut?

Living a life without purpose or meaning



Hey everyone,

I’ve often felt like working for someone else is empty and lacks any purpose in life other than to give you (and your family) a inadequate lifestyle. Never have I heard it summed up so beautifully until I listened to a podcast with this devoted entrepreneur who talks about his entrepreneurial experience

A lot of us who live the corporate life become  a lab rat

Here is an extract from the podcast:

The App Guy Podcast is a show that is to inspire app entrepreneurs. Now, you’ve made a successful switch:

  1. from a high-profile corporate job
  2. to an entrepreneurial lifestyle

I wondered if you can take us back to that point where you did make that decision and give us some helpful tips on things that you learned that you would perhaps change in the way you did the switch from corporate to entrepreneurial lifestyle.


Christian Rouffaert, Founder Of Teragence

Christian Rouffaert: I don’t know if I’m in a position to give tips, but I can share my experience. I think a lot of us who live the corporate life will have a level of dissatisfaction that we have with the lives that we live. The politics of the workplace, the bureaucracy, we get squeezed into a corner and that frustrates us. The flipside of that, and this is really important to understand, is you do have a regular income.

What happens when you live in that situation is that you become — as somebody described it to me — a lab rat.

It’s a negative image, so let’s call it a lab hamster. Basically, the lab hamster goes to a machine, pushes it, and a pellet is produced. That hamster very quickly understands the relationship between pushing the lever and getting the pellet. He might not like the lever, and he might not like the fact that he has to push the lever, but he gets very quickly conditioned that if he does that, a pellet will be produced.

Meanwhile, the hamster has all these ideas of how the world will be better and what he could do, and he might have done an MBA where he’s learned the tricks of the trade, and he’s spoken to other people, so one day the hamster breaks out from his cage with pellets and the machine, and he comes out in the wide world.

What you will do as a corporate hamster is you will look for a new lever to push, which might be:

“Well, I learned that to run a business I need to do A, B and C. I will do A, B and C, therefore a pellet will be produced.”

The shock to the system comes that actually nothing is produced, because your idea might not be right, you might not have been pushing the right buttons… Nothing happens. There is no feedback on what you do.

What you realize is that as an entrepreneur there is a significant period where you have to work and try things and do things without actually any feedback — no feedback in terms of salary, no feedback in terms of money, and no feedback in terms of people saying that’s actually interesting or good, because most people in that conception stage will look at you and say:

“It sounds kind of interesting” 

 they will politely say that’s interesting, but actually not do very much.

So you are in this world where you had the certainty… At the end of the month, I will push the lever, a food pellet will be produced; and yes, life was a bit tough, but there will be food on the table at the end of the month…

To a world where this is not the reality for a long time.

You have to improvise, hustle and work through that without any pellets being produced.

If you’re lucky and if you’re good and if you do that long enough, slowly things will change. You can find your product and people will start to engage with you, will start to pay you money, but it’s a process of continuous change and understanding how you should do things, and adjusting.

In the hamster analogy, from pushing a lever and getting a pellet, you now have to forage for your food, and you sometimes have to forage in corners and places that you never suspected existed, or you could never imagine that you would go.

That’s quite a big, transformative thing, because up until that time you did a good job, you got a reward in some shape or form.


In entrepreneurial life….

you might be doing a good job for a long time and nothing might happen.

Then slowly you kind of grip into the market, you get traction, you get your funding, you get your first revenue, and then things slowly change. But the process, the mentality and the emotional resilience that is required for that is quite something that’s fundamentally different.

I’ve gained a very much newfound respect for people who have been able to do that, and of course I respect myself because I have gone through this journey…

But it is a fundamental change in mentality that is not to be underestimated. Running a business is not running a recipe book and expecting the cake to come out perfect. It’s doing everything right in the recipe book and the cake might come out wrong five times, and only the sixth time, with your last flour and your last eggs will something come out that somebody will pay money for. That’s the experience…

Which is good, and also quite disturbing. But if you do it right, you come out on the end and it’s a great kick, and you’ll never look back.

Thanks for reading! The full episode and transcript are on The App Guy Podcast website (episode 510) or search Paul Kemp in your favourite podcasting app


Why Are People Still Putting Ads In Their Apps?

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, this is Paul Kemp. Today I’ve got a fascinating chat with a founder who is reinventing the way that we can monetize our apps. It’s unbelievable what we can do with regards to data. We’re going to be investigating alternatives to putting those frustrating ads on our apps and getting little monetization; we’ve got an alternative to go through. It’s going to be a wonderful talk, please do stay tuned.

Let me introduce today’s guest — today I’m speaking with Christian Rouffaert. He is the founder and CEO of Teragence. They are providing alternatives to us putting ads on our apps, and we’re going to find out more. Christian, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Christian Rouffaert: Thank you, Paul. Glad to be here.

Paul Kemp: Let’s just go straight in. The big challenge that many of my audience appster tribe find is that they just can’t monetize their ads that they’re putting on their apps. You’ve got an alternative — right? Give us the elevator pitch on what it is you’re offering.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, so what we do is we have created an SDK — in that sense, we’re not very different from traditional ad models… An SDK that we embed in existing apps and the SDK basically sits in the background and takes network measurements of the mobile network (3G or 4G network, whatever it is) at regular time intervals and collects that data and sends it back to us. We monetize that information with the mobile operators.

The key value proposition for our app partners is to embed a very simple to deploy SDK that, contrary to traditional mobile advertising, does not interfere with the user experience, does not drain your battery and your bandwidth, but does generate revenue for you.

Paul Kemp: So let’s flesh this out in more detail then, because it’s a fascinating idea. First of all, why do you think that the traditional ad networks are not working for apps?

Christian Rouffaert: Well, I think there’s a number of significant hurdles that you have to overcome when you work with an ad network. First of all, it’s the SDK and its integration — integrating an ad SDK into your app is quite a long-winded and complicated process. That’s the first resource drain that it imposes.

Then secondly, what we see is that to understand the economics of that SDK deployment, there’s actually a vast amount of spreadsheets and modeling that you have to do in terms of number of exposures, numbers of click-throughs and all that. So the economics of it under normal circumstances is actually quite projective and uncertain. Add to that that the ability for the ad network then to get the adverts that work for you is sometimes limited. We’ve all seen people coming with big promises and low deliveries, so that’s the next disappointment.

And finally, adblockers — today more than 30% of traffic gets blocked and actually doesn’t generate any revenue. Then the final point is when the ad gets through, it often creates the distraction and the customer disengagement that you do not want.

There are all kinds of issues around mobile advertising that basically make it a very uncertain and not so nice value proposition, and that’s why we looked at some alternatives.

Paul Kemp: Yes! It’s the ad networks that control whether you get paid or not. We’ve seen as big as YouTube, for example, with its creators just changing the rules continuously, and changing how much they pay out, and actually just then deciding not to pay because you’ve broken some new rule that’s been put in place.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes. Well, I wasn’t actually aware of that, but I can absolutely imagine it. With the traditional ad networks, if you are a medium to small-sized app or content provider, you basically have to take what you are given by the big boys, and if they choose not to give anything, then that’s your loss.

Because we don’t pretend to be big and huge, but we are honest brokers, we can guarantee those payments much easier than the big boys are, and it’s not in our interest to change the rules halfway or down the line.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and on the flipside of that, we know that there’s these click farms that exist in Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere, where the advertisers are getting ripped off as well because they’re not getting genuine clicks. So both sides of the ad network there are challenges to the whole existing model.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, exactly.

Paul Kemp: Let’s try and understand a bit more then because it’s the first time I’ve heard of such an interesting way to monetize your app. You had a really good point in why we should think about our devices different from perhaps a traditional TV — it’s still a screen, we still consume content through the screen, but why do we need to consume typical ads? You had a really good explanation of what we’re actually carrying around with us and why we can find these alternative ways of monetizing.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, so the first thing to think about is that actually, I don’t come from the world of content, my background is in telecoms… But when we started to think about this, about our business model, it dawned on me that the model of mobile advertising today is actually still only a strange evolution of mutation of something that started in the ’50s. Let me explain what I mean by that.

In the ’40s and ’50s, televisions became a semi-ubiquitous consumer device. Every room had a television, and that television was essentially a screen that was able to produce audio-visual content that people wanted to consume. At the same time, people didn’t really want to pay for that audio-visual content, so people found other ways to monetize that content, which was to insert other content, which were called adverts.

So you had the typical American televisions phenomenon of the soap operas, and every 15–20 minutes two or three ads were inserted, and that paid for your consumption of your content free of charge. And it struck me that what we’re seeing now is that people are seeing smartphones and are saying, “Hey, a smartphone is a device with a screen, ergo the traditional screen monetization of advertising should work on the phone. So if people want to consume content on a phone which has a screen and therefore is like a television, we will do ads like we do on the television. We will position them differently — not on the entire screen; we’ll put them on corners or sidebars, but essentially it’s the same idea. This is an audio-visual device, people want to consume audio-visual content, therefore I’m going to insert other audio-visual content to pay for that”, which is actually just the evolution of the 1950s TV advertising model.

But the phone is not a TV. A phone is a super computer that happens to have a screen. It’s a super computer that’s charged with every kind of sensor imaginable. You could launch an Apollo 16 rocket off your smartphone.

The monetization techniques of the ’50s of TV advertising is just that — it’s an old relic. There’s actually all kinds of other things that we can do with that phone that pays for people’s audio-visual consumption, and that’s essentially what we do. What we say is we use the phone as a measurement device for network connectivity, and that enables the app guys to make money, and that enables the consumers to consume the audio-visual content free of charge or at a lower charge.

That’s a true evolution of the business model, leveraging the new capabilities of a phone, not just at an audio-visual screen, but as a super-computer charged with sensors that can be monetized in all kinds of ways that are actually not customer-intrusive.

Paul Kemp: Yes, let me just take this opportunity to summarize the way I understand it, because it is so revolutionary. What you’re suggesting is that because we carry around these super computers in our pocket, they have the ability to collect data — initially you were doing telecoms, and they can maybe judge the strength of the signal and all this other data that’s wonderful for the telecoms… You can aggregate that data up and present it and sell it to the telecoms who want to pay for that data, and then you’re rewarding the app developers by giving them a percentage of the return that you make for displaying…

That’s so wonderful, and I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done before… It’s certainly the first time I’ve heard of it. Why did you only choose telcos? Is that the only thing you focus on right now?

Christian Rouffaert: No… As with all startup businesses, you start with the area that you more or less know. I have lived my life before becoming an entrepreneur as a corporate warrior in the telco sector, so that’s where I saw the business opportunity. But as we think about this, we believe that there are other domains where we can apply the same logic of background measurement that is at scale, but at the same time also privacy-respecting.

Areas that we are currently exploring are things like weather and weather prediction. For example, your phone has a very sensitive barometer in there, so we could track the movement of a low or a high-pressure system almost on a meter-by-meter basis if we have enough measurement points in our phones.

So weather is one that we’re looking at… We think that in the near future things like pollution and air quality will become possible, and another use case that we’re looking at is quite a niche, but quite interesting — it’s around potholes. A phone has very sensitive movement sensors, and if enough people go by a certain location and their phone makes a sudden jittery movement, you know there’s a pothole in that street, and somebody has an interest in knowing where the potholes are so they can keep the public happy.

So those are some of the other use cases that we’re looking at: road conditions, weather, pollution.

Paul Kemp: The reason I’m loving this is that I recently read a book by the founder of Wired, Kevin Kelly, and it’s called The Inevitable. A fascinating read, but the big theme that he’s talking about the evolution of devices and the fact that they have more sensors being attached to them, and it’s the ability to extract the data from these ever-growing devices and ever-growing sensors, and then presenting that as viable data to those authorities or companies that are desperately wanting that type of data.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, and I would add to that… The technical capabilities are well known and we can create sensors for pretty much anything. The problem that you still have with sensors is that you need to distribute them, you need to get them to a wide enough blanket of measurement points, and you can do that the traditional way by sticking them into whatever device that you’re selling — fridges or microwaves or cars, but all these things have very, very long replacement cycles.

If you wanna deploy a network of sensors in fridges or microwaves, that’s a ten-year deployment cycle. Handsets have a 12 to 18 months refresh cycles. Within 12–18 months, you can deploy any new generation sensor to a very wide footprint, and then if you deploy our mechanism of collecting that information in a way that is large scale and privacy-respecting, and then extract the valuable information on there, you’re entering into a whole new world of how you understand the world.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and this is why I love my show, The App Guy Podcast, because we can almost foresee the future. What I’ve just gleaned from you in having this chat is that in the old world, in government, local authorities and state government in the U.S., they would have to get data by almost paying typically students who would go out and monitor traffic, look for potholes, look for various things and report back.

That would be a survey that the governments would pay for. But now, they have the potential of just buying the data from yourselves, and the data has been then taken from the population of smartphone users.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, exactly. I would also stress that it’s not only the governments and the big corporate entities that have an interest in this… For example, one of the use cases that we are investigating at the moment is around we can now detect network outages in mobile operators. So not only can we grade the mobile operators in function of the quality of their coverage and the quality of their connectivity once you are in coverage, we can also say “In this given area there were 15 outages and they lasted 20 minutes in total”, which is an information piece that the big corporates have always tried to hold onto, because it was their big, dirty secret. We bust that open and give that to the consumer to enable them both to have a better choice and a better-informed decision on their purchasing, but also to make the information available and to go to their big service providers and saying “What you’re delivering to us is not fit for our purpose. Here are the data points.”

So it is both creating data to enable big businesses, but also to hold big business and big organizations to account by busting open information that they have very jealously guarded before.

Paul Kemp: Yes, in fact in my past episode we were talking about artificial intelligence, episode 500, with the co-founder of Skype. With the evolution of artificial intelligence is the need for data. What I’m also learning from you is the fact that you’ve just found a way of making data valuable to each individual who then carries around a device, and app that perhaps has your SDK, because at the end of the day they’re getting content for free, and they then are extracting a value for the data that they’re collecting through their device. It’s just remarkable.

Christian Rouffaert: It’s exactly that: you provide a service in the background, without any effort, from your phone, that is monetizable for society and for business, and in exchange you get the services that you need, i.e. your content consumption. It’s exactly that.

I think as we go further on, we will see a number of changes and mutations in that business model, and it is truly very interesting. For example, if we start to apply artificial intelligence, whereas now we can retrospectively see how many outages there were and how long they lasted and which locations they impacted, we will very shortly be able to predict where the outages will occur and how long they are likely to last, because that’s just pattern recognition in the data that we collect.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and I guess one of the big challenges that you have right now is getting onto these apps and getting the collection of data going. Maybe we can talk through that and the sorts of app developers that you’re looking to reach out for, who you’d like to help out with and out this SDK into their apps.

Christian Rouffaert: Yes, so our sweet spots are essentially app developers that have a good Android estate; iOS is part of our roadmap, but is not in our offering today. So first of all, you need to have a good Android estate. The second parameter is that we look for small to mid-range apps. We look for a few ten thousand to a few hundred thousand users or installs in a country like the U.K. We do not look for people who have millions. We look for mid-range apps.

Thirdly, it’s very helpful if the app already has a location-tracking component in there. So outdoor activity apps, geosocial networking, navigation, location-based games are really our sweet spot. And in that area — not the big boys, but the mid-range boys is what we look for.

Paul Kemp: That’s music to my ears, especially because that’s the part of the app store ecosystem that’s getting most squeezed with the domination of the big companies, like Facebook just dominating the top of the app charts, and Google and Apple with its own apps. It’s nice to know that the mid-sized apps do have this alternative mechanism.

Two final things before we say goodbye to you, Christian… It’s kind of switching gears, slightly — this is also a show that is to inspire app entrepreneurs, and you’ve made a successful switch from a high-profile corporate job to life as an entrepreneur. I wondered if you can take us back to that point where you did make that decision and give us some helpful tips on things that you learned that you would perhaps change in the way you did the switch from corporate to entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Christian Rouffaert: I don’t know if I’m in a position to give tips, but I can share my experience. I think a lot of us who live the corporate life will have a level of dissatisfaction that we have with the lives that we live. The politics of the workplace, the bureaucracy, we get squeezed into a corner and that frustrates us. The flipside of that, and this is really important to understand, is you do have a regular income.

What happens when you live in that situation is that you become — as somebody described it to me — a lab rat. It’s a negative image, so let’s call it a lab hamster. Basically, the lab hamster goes to a machine, pushes it, and a pellet is produced. That hamster very quickly understands the relationship between pushing the lever and getting the pellet. He might not like the lever, and he might not like the fact that he has to push the lever, but he gets very quickly conditioned that if he does that, a pellet will be produced.

Meanwhile, the hamster has all these ideas of how the world will be better and what he could do, and he might have done an MBA where he’s learned the tricks of the trade, and he’s spoken to other people, so one day the hamster breaks out from his cage with pellets and the machine, and he comes out in the wide world.

What you will do as a corporate hamster is you will look for a new lever to push, which might be, “Well, I learned that to run a business I need to do A, B and C. I will do A, B and C, therefore a pellet will be produced.” The shock to the system comes that actually nothing is produced, because your idea might not be right, you might not have been pushing the right buttons… Nothing happens. There is no feedback on what you do.

What you realize is that as an entrepreneur there is a significant period where you have to work and try things and do things without actually any feedback — no feedback in terms of salary, no feedback in terms of money, and no feedback in terms of people saying that’s actually interesting or good, because most people in that conception stage will look at you and say, “It sounds kind of interesting” — they will politely say that’s interesting, but actually not do very much.

So you are in this world where you had the certainty… At the end of the month, I will push the lever, a food pellet will be produced; and yes, life was a bit tough, but there will be food on the table at the end of the month… To a world where this is not the reality for a long time. You have to improvise, hustle and work through that without any pellets being produced. If you’re lucky and if you’re good and if you do that long enough, slowly things will change. You can find your product and people will start to engage with you, will start to pay you money, but it’s a process of continuous change and understanding how you should do things, and adjusting. In the hamster analogy, from pushing a lever and getting a pellet, you now have to forage for your food, and you sometimes have to forage in corners and places that you never suspected existed, or you could never imagine that you would go.

That’s quite a big, transformative thing, because up until that time you did a good job, you got a reward in some shape or form. In entrepreneurial life, you might be doing a good job for a long time and nothing might happen. Then slowly you kind of grip into the market, you get traction, you get your funding, you get your first revenue, and then things slowly change. But the process, the mentality and the emotional resilience that is required for that is quite something that’s fundamentally different.

I’ve gained a very much newfound respect for people who have been able to do that, and of course I respect myself because I have gone through this journey… But it is a fundamental change in mentality that is not to be underestimated. Running a business is not running a recipe book and expecting the cake to come out perfect. It’s doing everything right in the recipe book and the cake might come out wrong five times, and only the sixth time, with your last flour and your last eggs will something come out that somebody will pay money for. That’s the experience… Which is good, and also quite disturbing. But if you do it right, you come out on the end and it’s a great kick, and you’ll never look back.

Paul Kemp: Christian, I have to genuinely say that in the over 500 startup founder interviews, that is one of the wisest stories about the transition that I’ve ever heard. And it’s true in my transition… It’s almost given me a lot to think about in terms of the journey that I’ve been through, and the analogy just absolutely is perfect. You’ve just framed for many of us what we go through and helped us understand that we’re not alone.

Christian, finally then, how do people best get in touch with you, reach out and also get connected with the SDK, to start installing it in their apps?

Christian Rouffaert: Okay, so the easiest way for us — I’m slightly old-school, so e-mail is still something I use quite a bit, so info@teragence.com is a way of getting in touch. We are also on LinkedIn and on Twitter, so any reach out via those channels… On Twitter look for Teragence or @InfoTeragence; on LinkedIn look for my name Christian Rouffaert, or look for our company, Teragence. All those channels — you reach out to us, we will respond very quickly.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and just to spell that, that’s Teragence. I’ll have full show notes on episode 510 of The App Guy Podcast, so you could also go to theappguy.co and search for Christian Rouffaert and Teragence, and you’ll see the links to LinkedIn, Twitter and to the e-mail.

I highly recommend people actually do implement your SDK. Thanks for such an inspiring episode and making a big change in the world, and all the best to the future. We’d love to see how you progress and have you back on the show after a while to see how it’s gone.

Christian Rouffaert: Fantastic, thank you very much, Paul. It’s been a pleasure.

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Alex Austin : Scaling From Nothing To 4 Billion Requests Per Day Has Been A Monumental Task

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we get founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, we deconstruct their app journey to help us in our own app journey. It's an inspirational show, we've had many people listening who have gone on to do great things and start their own companies, leave a corporate environment and just maybe go traveling.

It's a wonderful show, very relevant if you're into app entrepreneurship. Now, before I introduce my guest today, I do want to thank the sponsors of the show.

 

 

Paul Kemp: Let me introduce today's guest... His name is Alex Austin and he's here to talk about Branch.io, which is extremely relevant for us, for indie app developers. Let's find out about Branch.io - Alex, welcome to The App Guy Podcast!

Alex Austin: Thanks for having me, I'm excited to share my story.

Paul Kemp: Yeah, we'd love to hear your story. Let's start from the start - how did you found the company? Let's go back to the beginning... Just before you set up Branch.io you had the idea - take us back to that part of the journey, as you were setting it up.

Alex Austin: Looking back now, Branch is over a hundred employees. We've grown so dramatically, we're in tens of thousands of apps, and I'll explain a little bit more about what we do later. It's honestly the most successful thing that I've ever been a part of, but the road has been paved with a lot of failures, and I don't think we'd be who we are or working on what we are today if we hadn't gone through a lot of those pains.

Just a quick background and I can share a little bit more of the story... I'm an engineer by trade. I started actually a very different path than software engineering, not involved in mobile at all. I was actually a device physicist, focused on semiconductors, designing the type of material that would go into the chips that would power a phone was more my expertise.

I spent most of the early part of my working career doing material science, rather than programming. But programming was always a hobby of mine. I was always enthralled with this concept that I could identify a problem that people have in their daily life through just repetitive tasks that they have to regularly do, or sort of boring things that just require a lot of manual labor, that I could automate completely with software. And the idea of being able to just turn human functions into software programs was always a really captivating concept and I was really proud of the things that I would create.

When I saw the iPhone and Android phones start to take off - something about it just drew me towards it. I think it was more the fact that you could write a piece of code, write some software, build an app and deploy it overnight to a platform that accesses billions of people was something that I couldn't stop thinking about. I had to be involved in it.

The last company I was in - a startup - failed, and I had the opportunity to really make a career change, so I decided I'm just gonna dive head first into app development. I'd never written an app, I had no idea about Android Studio or Xcode, I had no idea what I was doing, but I convinced my parents to let me live rent-free in my old room until I would just figure all this stuff out. So it was just a crash course in self-taught app development, to start getting familiar with the whole ecosystem - how to build products, what do customers want, all that kind of stuff over I think about three years.

Ultimately, what happened with Branch is I built this tool to help us market our app that we were working on before, and the tool actually started growing faster than the app. So we decided to actually sell off the app that we were working on at the time and focus on the tool. That was about almost three years ago now, and Branch has just been exploding.

Paul Kemp: Alex, this is so inspirational. The reason is that there's a lot of app developers, startup founders, entrepreneurs that listen to this show, and are getting quite disappointed, in a way, with maybe the success, and it's just lovely to hear that you came into the whole game, and this tool - three years, a hundred employees... It's incredible.
Talk about the pivot, because pivoting is a very big theme on this show, and you've obviously pivoted from the app to the tool. How can we learn from you in terms of the success of that pivot and the decisions you had to make during the pivot?

Alex Austin: Probably most everybody who goes down this path has some technical background, probably an engineer... I want to write a blog post about this because I think this is a really interesting subject that people haven't covered. I'm convinced that the mobile app ecosystem and mobile development have the largest percentage of non-classically trained software developers of any other platform, just because it's so accessible to, you know, have an idea and start building something right away, with all the documentation and the tooling and everything to help you get started.

The evolution that I think is incredibly important for you, who might approach building a product the same way that I did, from my perspective I was "What's an interesting problem that hasn't yet been solved, that I think I can solve?" Looking for a combination of uniqueness plus something like a technical issue or user issue, or something like that, that I thought would then, just based on those two facts alone, become a really successful product.

Over time, over the three years of me just building app after app, product after product, I started to realize that there's actually so much more to it, and it's very nuanced, and you don't really understand it if you are just classically trained as like an engineer. If you think about as like "Problem - I have a solution. It should be a big product" - that doesn't work. It's more nuanced about how does that person who has that problem, how do they want to solve it? What are they doing today to try to solve it, and what can you build to fit into their daily workflow to actually solve it, while not being too much of an inconvenience compared to what they're doing already.

There's a lot more nuance actually about how you adapt the product idea that you have to the particular customer. I'll give some examples.

The first product that I built I think is the perfect definition of an engineer approaching building a product. I hated CityNet lights; you're driving to work or whatever, and - I'm a super impatient person, and there were a couple lights on my path where if you hit them right when they turned red, you ended up sitting for like eight minutes. And I was so angry sitting at a light for eight minutes... I was like, "I've gotta figure out when I can leave my house so that I always hit the greens." I had this idea that if I could build an app that would be running on everybody's phone, I could basically crowdsource all this data about when the lights were green and red, and then map exactly the timings of when you should leave your home to get to your destination hitting as many greens as possible, so like an optimization problem.

I'm like, "This is gonna be a massive, a huge product. Everybody's gonna do it. It solves a huge pain point that everybody has, I have the solution...", so I built this thing - I called it OpenRoad - and launched the app, and of course, nobody used it, therefore I didn't have any data. It was basically just me driving arbitrary routes, trying to crowdsource my own platforms data with nobody else. Basically, the product didn't work.

It sounds really silly the way I describe it, of course, but I think it's a tendency for more engineering-minded folks to approach problems in the same way, of like "I have a solution, let's just build this thing and address that problem that I'm trying to solve, and then it will just work." But I made a mistake - I didn't accurately take into account what does it require for somebody to join the platform? How am I gonna actually get them to open it up every single time they get in their car and start driving, so that they crowdsource the data? How do fix this - like the car before the horse? I don't have the data, so there's no value in the product.

All these little details are essential to actually building a successful business, but coming from like a zero product background and a purely engineering background, I didn't think about it.

Paul Kemp: This is fascinating, Alex, because in a way you're touching a lot of the pain points that I think many of us in the appster tribe feel. What I'm learning from you is that problem-solving is incredibly important - it's another huge theme from all the founders I've had (500+ founders on this show), but you've got to almost interject some level of demand or marketing or traction... I guess you didn't get the traction on that particular idea. Maybe it would have been quicker to just quickly test that, figure out whether people were using it and do an MVP before throwing everything into that particular problem.

Alex Austin: Yeah, it's really the customer aspect of it. That original idea was premised on the fact that I could get a bunch of random people to open up the app every day and crowdsource this data. I had an idea to solve the original problem of lights, but to make it a business, then the problem shifts to "How do you get customers to adopt it?"

I didn't adequately take that into account while building out that early version of the product. I'd say the three years of building - I think I built probably over ten different apps - I just slowly and brutally, through continued failure, just realized the error of my ways by not properly recognizing what does it require a customer to do to actually start using this product? I like to put myself in their shoes and really understand their pain points.

In that particular case it's somebody that woke up late, they've slept through their alarm, they got an angry e-mail from their boss, they're sweating, they didn't get to eat any food, they're running out to their car as fast as they possibly can, and now they're supposed to open up the app - that's never gonna happen.

Paul Kemp: [laughs] Well, it does for Waze, they figured it out... But let's deconstruct your journey, because this is an absolutely fascinating discussion. I'm loving hearing the things that you've learned along the way.  Obviously, you've migrated from building apps to having tools to help developers, and it's almost like the Gold Rush - the people that made all the money were the ones that made the shovel and spades, instead of the actual gold hunters.

Alex Austin: Well, we didn't make any money, but yeah...

Paul Kemp: But you basically switched to helping those who are developing apps.

Alex Austin: Yeah.

Paul Kemp: Deconstruct that part of it. How did that switch happen, and what's the tool? What happened after that?

Alex Austin: Yeah, so again, I worked on ten different apps. The most successful thing that we built was actually a Photobook making app. You could use photos on your phone, design a Photobook, order it and then we would handle all the logistics of printing and shipping, to deliver it to your house.

That was the core product, and we had a bigger team working on it. We raised a little bit of money, and then we were actually making some money... Not enough to make us wealthy, but enough to pay rent. What happened with that - and this lead to the transition to what Branch is. We were doing so much to try to grow it, we were working our butts off, doing the most ridiculous things, trying to get more people to download and engage with our product.

At one point, one of us was actually standing on the street, just poking people, asking them to install. We were just so desperate for growth, and one of the tools that we felt like we were always lacking - and we built kind of like a hack - was really just like a linking tool. It was a tool where if we were doing a social campaign, if we built a viral feature or a referral program, or send an e-mail out - everything about all those promotions had one thing in common: they all had links. The links were meant to, when clicked, open up the app if it was installed, or if it wasn't installed, go back to the App Store or the Play Store.

There was all these different, technical implementations of how-to do that redirection properly, depending if it was clicked from Facebook, or Twitter, or e-mail or whatever, and we ended up spending a ton of time just building all these link situations to give users a good experience.

Then we also focused very heavily on the user experience. For example, one of the things that I was just obsessed with creating was a Dropbox-style referral program for our Photobook app. In Dropbox, if you guys are familiar, you get a referral link and you send it to a friend, and that friend clicks on it, then goes to Dropbox, and you guys both get free space. I wanted that same thing for Photobooks; you'd get a discount... The referrer would get a discount, and the referee would get a discount. But I didn't want referral codes; I hated the concept that you had to memorize a referral code that was like a random string of characters, and then type it in once you install the app. I wanted the user to get that link, click on it, install the app, and have the referral codes automatically applied.

We had to figure out how  to pass that referring information from that link, through the App Store and Play Store, to properly do that automatic attribution and all that kind of stuff. So we built this really complex linking system, and we were the users of it. We had all these different APIs, easy ways to create links, classes to handle all that personalization when the user showed up for the first time - all this stuff to just support our own use cases. From our perspective, we were the best customer.

Then what happened is we entered in this incubator after we had graduated - long story, but we did some grad school stuff; I'll skip over that.

Paul Kemp: What was the incubator?

Alex Austin: It's an incubator called StartX. It's in Palo Alto, California. There were a bunch of other apps in our batch - the Periscope app was in our batch, and there were a number of other ones.

They saw us using this tool, and they wanted to use it, too. From our perspective... We had already built this thing for ourselves, so hearkening back to the light timing app, where I was building for a customer that I had never interacted with, I was trying to build it for myself, but it wasn't me alone that could make it successful. We had built a product for ourselves where it was like very valuable to us.

As other developers started to onboard, we knew exactly the problems they were facing, we knew exactly how they were gonna create links, what types of user experiences they wanted to create, so it was very easy to design the product for that  person. I think it was a huge difference from where I was three years prior, where I had no idea what this customer needed to start using this product, versus "I am the customer of this product, therefore I know exactly what's required."

Honestly, that's the only reason that I attribute to the success - that small difference. We were the best customers, and we were able to build it for ourselves, and use it and get a lot of value, so we knew everybody else would. So it's that customer understanding...

Paul Kemp: What a wonderful story. What I've learned from that, and I guess what the appster tribe are picking up is just keep showing up and building stuff, and follow the success. It sounds like the difference between success and failure there was quite small, but because you kept on and on, trying to save the problems, ultimately it succeeded.

Alex Austin: I think that's the biggest, most important point - just keep building, is what I always say.

Paul Kemp: Keep building.

Alex Austin: Yeah, just don't give up. You will find something. It's gonna take time. It took me ten different products, ten failures in a row, but... And I can't say that Branch is massively successful, but it's so far the most successful thing I've been a part of, and hopefully it continues to be so.

Paul Kemp: Well, just the fact that you've got so many people employed... It has been extremely successful. Now, we're going to deconstruct that part as well, some of the challenges you have to face when you are just exploding and having to grow.

 

Paul Kemp: Alex, in the last 5-10 minutes that we have together, I would love to know -- you hit this successful streak, and then I'm assuming it was a fairly smallish startup at the time, but then you had to start hiring people... What were the biggest pain points you felt as you then started to grow to ultimately the size you are now?

Alex Austin: Oh, man... [laughter] Personally, I think there's been a number. The top two for me first was hiring; the first one was hiring. Hiring people is a really hard process. Probably most folks out there that are thinking of building products or building apps... I'm an introvert and don't particularly like spending a lot of time talking to people, and hiring can be a very painful process for people like us. At one point I had about 20 different recruiting agencies scheduling time automatically on my calendar to have 30-minute phone screens with candidates, and there were times where I had back-to-back 14 to 15 phone screens with new, different people for different roles that we were hiring for. If you've never tried to just do back-to-back, tell the exact same story of the company for 15 times in a row to 15 different people all day, every day, for five months straight, [laughter] and you don't actually particularly like socializing too much, it's a very, very emotionally draining experience.

We're very fortunate that those days are over and now we get a lot of inbound and it's not as hard as it was when you're five people, trying to convince some high-quality candidates that you're worth taking a bet on, but... That was definitely an extremely challenging experience.

Paul Kemp: What was the other one? You mentioned two...

Alex Austin: The second one was around scaling. The way that our service works, it requires a very in-depth integration with apps. Every time the app opens up, we get pinged for a request, and then every time it closes we get pinged, and every time links get clicked we get pinged. We now deal with about four billion requests per day across our APIs, and when we first built it, it was... You know, the first SDKs were a couple classes that I had written for our app that had no documentation. The API and the link service were baked into our existing product, they weren't separate things. Scaling from that to four billion requests a day has been a monumental task. A lot of very late nights, no weekends, just a lot of 3 AM pages when traffic ticks up and suddenly one of the services crashes and you've gotta get up and restart it, and do all the things that are required to scale from your small MVP product to a really high-volume enterprise service.

Fortunately, we're now at another point... We onboarded Tinder a couple months ago, which is surprisingly a very, very popular app still. We didn't even bat an eye, it was a very easy thing, whereas before we'd add even a smallish app and we would be scrambling like crazy, there was fire alarm for the first couple weeks, trying to just keep the systems up. I can talk at length about the details of that, but that was a hard one.

Paul Kemp: It's interesting hearing the sort of challenges you have, and I guess it's the challenges that actually a lot of the founders and the app entrepreneurs listening would love. You know, also the one thing I was surprised you didn't mention is funding, because you had obviously funding to recruit and expand and scale. Was that a fairly easy path for you, or was that pretty challenging?

Alex Austin: This is another thing I like to say... I am so happy that we have these problems; it sounds like I'm complaining about them, but contrast that with our Photobook app before. I think I realized right before we saw Branch start to take off that it wasn't gonna be the big business that we had hoped. I had actually pitched about 50 different investors on the Photobook app and got no's from every single one. At that point, we had been working on the app for close to about a year, and, honestly, I did all the customer support, I knew a lot of our customers by name... It was a very emotional experience for me to come to terms that this product wouldn't be all that I thought it would, and I would eventually have to let down all these people that depended on us.

There was a point where I had trouble getting out of bed. I was so depressed that it wasn't gonna work, and just through what feels like sheer luck more than anything, we got these really positive signs from the market that Branch was a real thing that people wanted to use. Contrast that failed fundraising where I pitched 50 different investors... I went out to fundraise for the series seed - basically right when we were about people; we only had a couple apps onboarded, but there was a lot of excitement around the company, a lot of promises to integrate soon, all that kind of stuff. There seemed to be a good trajectory, and I went from start a fundraise to term sheet in three days. There was so much excitement about the product...

For me, knowing what hard fundraising is like, to go through that continued no's and start to doubt whether you're doing the right thing because other people aren't seeing it... I can't claim to say that we've ever had a hard time, because I know what it really is like when it's hard.

We've been very fortunate that they story, the product, the adoption numbers, everything that we have supports an easy fundraising process. But I am going out for the series C relatively soon, and the market is definitely a lot more conservative than it was a couple years ago, so maybe ask me that same question in about three months and then I might have a completely different answer for you.

Paul Kemp: It's so inspiring listening to you, Alex, and sadly we're gonna wrap it up... I just wondered, for those listening, who are the best people then to be visiting Branch? What sort/type of customers are you looking for?

Alex Austin: The way we've thought about Branch is really a developer tool. We have a whole set of enterprise products that we sell into large companies like an Amazon or a Target or Wal-Mart, or those types of companies, and they pay a lot of money for it. But fundamentally, in our roots, we're the developer who just launched, working from the bedroom, maybe it's a side project... We're trying to build a successful business, that's where we started. So we give away all of our basic products for free.

You can use the SDKs, create links, get full attribution - everything for free. Once you start making a lot of money, you use the product successfully in growing your app, then you can start paying us the money, paying back your debt. But in the meantime, access it for free.

The way I describe it is it's kind of like AWS for links. If there are links pointing back to your app, if you're doing viral sharing or referrals, if you're doing app install ads, or you're trying to build a community via Facebook or Twitter, you're putting links in all those messages, those should be Branch links and they should be deep links that point back to pages in your app. I think the more technical product manager or engineer who's thinking about building out cool user experiences on top of deep linking - definitely a candidate.

If you're a marketer who wants to measure and attribute your campaigns to see how effective they are at driving growth, you can do that as well. Honestly, Airbnb uses us and there are 47 people at that company that uses us on a regular basis,  from marketing to engineering to product.

Really, there's value for everybody. It's had to describe one particular use case, but if it's links, it should be Branch - that's my general summary.

Paul Kemp: Alex, I love the way you said that it's AWS for links, and I feel like a lot of us need to have these kind of straplines, taglines to explain what we do. You get it instantly.

Alex, it's been so inspiring... How best can people reach out and connect with you? What is the best way of getting in touch?

Alex Austin: Yeah, sure... Just shoot me a note at alex@branch.io. I'm happy to help if you're thinking about fundraising, if you're working on a product and you want some feedback... I'm stupidly busy, but I really have a soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs wanting to build big businesses, and I do want to make as much time as I can to help. Feel free to send me an e-mail, alex@branch.io

Paul Kemp: Alex, thank you so much for sharing your awesome journey. All the best with Branch in the next level of growth, and we'll definitely get you back on to talk about your fundraising and how it's gone. Thanks for coming on!

Alex Austin: Yeah, thank you.

Up Yours University And Corporate Life Because I'm My Own Boss

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where I go around the world and figure out who can help us with their journeys, especially in the space of apps and mobiles and technology.

This is a show for inspired founders, anyone who's maybe working at a corporate job and is thinking of quitting to get into startups, get into doing their own thing. I have literally an amazing guest; the reason is that he has taken a different path in his app journey. He is someone who, firstly, is calling in from Singapore, and he has never worked for anyone else before, he's never had a boss... In fact, he's never even been to university; he's followed a very different path.

So, my guest is Benjamin Yee. He is the founder of EMERGE App, and we're going to find out about his journey. Benjamin, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Benjamin Yee: Thank you, Paul, thanks for having me.

Paul Kemp: Okay, so in terms of EMERGE App - let's, first of all, explore the app, and then we can talk about your journey afterward. What is EMERGE App?

Benjamin Yee: EMERGE App is basically a web app that helps any merchant, whether you are selling any products or you are selling services, through a distribution, a wholesale or eCommerce model. You are able to just head to my website, get an account, put your products up, customers up, suppliers up, and start using the app to run your entire business from sales all the way to accounts. That's the view of the entire app itself.

Paul Kemp: It seems like a huge undertaking. So you're actually taking the problem that people have with -- talk about the problem you're trying to solve here, Ben.

Benjamin Yee: Basically, in my domain, SAP and ORACLE come to mind - big enterprise resource planning, CRM software... We are not serving those big companies, those huge multinational companies. We are going way small, to startups, small companies where you have five employees or less, where you really need productivity. Wholesale trading and distribution go way back to the stone ages where people traded stuff, things that they had, in exchange for something else.

Trading and distribution haven't changed. What has changed is how can we help each individual employee in your company become more productive, whether you are a salesperson, whether you are managing an inventory, whether you are doing purchasing, whether you are doing accounts. The entire system links the entire business together. Rather than using spreadsheets to manage your inventory, the quotations, and you're calling your customers and managing your customers' contacts - all over the place.

We are very focused to help small companies make sure that they run their operations much better, more effectively. At the end of the day, what bosses or employers are looking at is basically making much more profit, so once we are able to be more effective, each of your staff is able to be more productive, at the end you will have more profits in your bottom line.

Paul Kemp: What I love, Ben, already is that you're solving a problem for small companies, those 1-5 employees, for example, and yet you have never had a boss yourself. It's interesting that you've targeted the small companies... There's money in that part of the market. It's obviously nice you're not competing with the big powerhouses, but is there money to be made in that very small segment?

Benjamin Yee: Okay, just simply look at it like this - imagine you're going to spend two or three grand even to hire a sales person, or administration person, operation or even an accountant. What is spending 30 dollars more for just one single account? Yes, you may be asking me whether there's enough money to be made if a company only spends a hundred to two hundred dollars per month, but think about it... The trading and distribution business, the eCommerce business is one of the easiest businesses to start. You don't really need a lot of capital if you are doing trading; you can go straight to your suppliers, get a commitment and start selling. Once you sell your product, you can just buy from your supplier and fulfill the others.

Looking at it, the ease of getting into such a business, means we have tons of them. Just look at the World Trade Organization recorded statistics for businesses in this domain; you have at least 15 million such businesses. Of course, not all 15 million will actually adopt a system like mine, but say we're looking at 0,01% - it's a lot more than we could provide with just a small team like us.

Paul Kemp: Yes, I'm going to try to understand a little bit more about the product as well because I'm not quite understanding what it is... For example, if I wanted to sell something - let's just take SquareSpace for example. That's a website that does mobile optimized pages, and also enables you to set up an account and get paid... Is it something similar to that but more from an app?

Benjamin Yee: Okay, so SquareSpace, Shopify - such platforms allow merchants to actually put their product up online, to be able to sell it, like a frontend platform. EMERGE is more like a backend, behind the scenes application. Let me give you a scenario - a new guy comes up from the corporate world; he has been, say, in the machine industry for over 20 years, and he found a couple of suppliers and decided to get into the distribution business of XYZ machine parts.

First, you need to negotiate with the supplier; once he gets the products that he's going to sell, an an agreement with the suppliers, the next step for him would be having a product database. Once you sign up for EMERGE, what you can do is get all these products inside EMERGE to first manage your inventory, manage your orders and so on and so forth. With the app itself, you can actually go out there, so it's more like a B2B. One motto is B2B, business-to-business. You go out to machine owners and you start selling to them. If they require you to issue a quotation to them, you can use the app itself to generate a quotation and send it to them via the app.

Once the quotation is confirmed, they can convert it into a sales order in the system itself, which records all the sales figures and how well the business is doing in terms of sales, profit margin, cost price that you're talking about for each order... Once that happens, once the order is being confirmed, they can use the system to generate a purchase order from their supplier.

Imagine if he's not using EMERGE, he would first have to use Excel sheets to set up his whole entire business, from having quotations in Excel sheets, purchase orders in Excel sheets... When you fulfill your goods, you have shipment orders, your delivery orders... All these have to conform with general business workflow - documents like delivery order, invoices, quotation have to include certain things that are required to do business in the States, or anywhere else in the world.

That part of EMERGE - the documentation, the linking from sales and suppliers and purchases - helps new entrepreneurs or small businesses in basically digitizing all their business processes. They don't have to actually create all these documents in Excel sheets anymore.

Another problem with Excel sheets is once you get too many of them, you save them all over the place; especially when you're busy running a bar and customers are calling you, you don't really archive them well in different folders, and if customers and suppliers comes back to you again to look for certain things, you actually waste quite a little bit of time to search for all these files that you need to dig out, to actually send them to your suppliers or customers again.

Using EMERGE app, everything is digitized. If a customer comes back and says, "Hey, can you send that quotation to me again that you sent a month ago?", you just have to search (like Google) for that quotation and literally send it out from the app itself. You don't really have to PDF if and then put it in your mailbox and send it out. Most of the time, e-mails don't really reach the users (your customers or your suppliers) and that kind of slows down the whole process of the supply chain. We wanted to make it more effective from a global perspective. For us, once we are able to help these small businesses do their business much more efficiently, the whole supply chain could benefit from it as well.

EMERGE is not a platform that helps you advertise or list your product on the website, it's more like a backend solution for you to manage your entire business flow.

Paul Kemp: Ben, what I want to say as well is that I think that the audience, the appster tribe listening to this can really benefit from what we're learning from you, and it's that you look for an industry that is heavily reliant on Excel spreadsheets, which is something that is from historic ages, the stone age, and actually then build something that solves a problem, which is the overcomplicated use of Excel spreadsheets.

I remember talking on a podcast episode a while back where we were being encouraged to find industries, find niches where you can just do away with Excel spreadsheets and use an app to make the whole flow a lot better, which is what you've done with EMERGE app.

Benjamin Yee: Yes, but keep in mind that EMERGE is not something that is not in the market for a really long time. SAP Oracle has been doing such software for 30 years, but the target for them is really focusing on really huge businesses, for MMCs that can afford tens of millions of dollars to deploy a system within their business operations. But what about small guys, right? For myself, I started my first business selling T-shirts when I was 17 - still in school - so that was my problem... I kind of wanted to get software, software was too expensive, so "Screw it, I'm just going to build a software for myself. At least I have one client." So luckily, if I myself am facing this problem, I'm sure millions of entrepreneurs worldwide would be facing the same issue as well.

Paul Kemp: And Ben, I want to add you to the list of young entrepreneurs that have been on this show. I remember a past episode - and if anyone wants to remind me, they can e-mail me to get the episode - where an entrepreneur started at the age of 14, selling domain names, and here you are, at 17, selling T-shirts.

So I wanna carry on and dig deeper into your journey because I think we can learn a lot from especially those people who are either leaving school, university or perhaps sitting there in a corporate job and wondering what it's like to work for yourself or be your own boss. Just before I do, I do want to just take a minute to re-thank my sponsor, Gummicube... Tell me, have you heard of Gummicube?

Benjamin Yee: No, unfortunately not.

Paul Kemp: Okay, well here you go then. Gummicube, they've been sponsoring my show now for years and they really were spearheading the whole of the app store optimization trend. They help increase downloads by helping find your audience within the app store; they will help you determine the best keywords to focus on, and then get those keywords to be the ones where anyone typing in on the Apple app store will see your app. And you know how important it is when someone types in a word, say, like "productivity", if EMERGE App pops up when you type in that keyword.

App store discoverability is really hard, it's really one of the big challenges for developers now and anyone with an app. What Gummicube is doing that's slightly different to others is that they do actually pull the data from the app store, so all the data they have is not being scraped off the web, but is app store data, which makes a big difference.

Gummicube.com is where you go, and if you are listening to this and you're interested, I can also introduce to the founder, Dave Bell, if you want to get into the inner circle of people that work there. So that's Gummicube.com. Thanks, Gummicube, for supporting the show.

Ben, the fact that you've never worked for anyone else I'm very envious of... You don't know what it's like to work for an awful boss. You've never been to university as well, which is a really different course. How have you learned your trade then, if you haven't gone to an establishment like a university? Where do you learn from?

Benjamin Yee: I guess in a nutshell it's just to make mistakes. You make mistakes, but not lose too much money making mistakes... I guess that is kind of like the most important part about not having somebody or having a mentor around you that can actually help guide you through. But it's kind of good as well because if you haven't really started off in a corporate career, you can kind of like write your own playbook; you do not need to conform to a certain way of doing things.

If you are in a big company for a really long time, you tend to feel that you have to do things in a certain way. I'm not saying all this to downplay people from big corporations and that are trying to become entrepreneurs, but what you have to realize is once you're an entrepreneur, it's your own playbook, it's your own rules. You don't have to listen, you don't have to have your past way of dealing with your business... You can just do everything at your own pace, your own rules.

That is the huge benefit for me - I don't have a standard, I don't have a baseline to start with. Everything else is you make mistakes, you learn from them and you grow from there.

Paul Kemp: Ben, one of the things I was thinking, as you are living in a very expensive city, there are others around the world who equally are living in expensive cities, and I could imagine it was really tough when you decided that you were going to go down the root of starting your own thing. Have you got any advice for us on what it's like to start up in actually quite an expensive place to live?

Benjamin Yee: Okay, if I may, I should say that Singapore -- okay, I would like to beg to differ for this case... Many reports say that Singapore is one of the most expensive cities to live in, right? I do agree, to a certain extent, because for a Singaporean (born and bred in Singapore), most of us have a house - our families, our parents... Singapore induces home ownership, so our government housing is actually heavily subsidized.

Most of us grew up with a home, so basically we do not need to worry about paying for rent, or stuff like that. And food is really cheap. The reports that came out actually took more restaurant prices, so that's food at a much higher scale, but most Singaporeans do not really frequent restaurants that much. We have things like hawker centers, food courts where you can even get a decent meal for 2,50 Sing Dollars, so that is about 2 U.S. Dollars.

Paul Kemp: Wow.

Benjamin Yee: Yeah, so in fact, Singapore is kind of like a great place for locals to start their business. It's just that in Asia we don't have a good ecosystem for starting businesses... Parents always tell us to study hard and go to a big university and get a big corporate job when you grow up; don't take on the risky, entrepreneur route.

So my advice for entrepreneurs that are starting up in expensive cities, I guess find a way to have extra streams of income. When I've started off, early on, luckily, I was still being kind of fed by my parents, because I was still in school. I started off early, so that was a bonus, but for the rest that starts later on, I guess the advice is to find other streams of income, things that you may do on the side - maybe becoming an Uber driver for 3-4 hours a day, or maybe even selling domain names, or writing blogs to earn some advertising dollars from there.

Find a second income, if possible, to subsidize everything else, so you can continue to basically work on your dream. That's my advice.

Paul Kemp: I'm sure that many people listening are having these same worries... What was it like when you first told your parents - I'm assuming you were living with your mom and dad at the time - how difficult was it...? Because I can imagine it's quite a challenging conversation when parents and the older generation expect us to do certain things - they expect us to go to university, and they want us to get a career, and become a doctor, or some established profession. And actually, looking at the future, we know that a lot of those professions are going to fade and they may be taken over by AI, robots... Who knows? So to start a startup and know how to develop your own streams is very important. But how did you overcome that? It must have been a challenging conversation with your parents, to tell them that this is what you really wanted to do.

Benjamin Yee: The majority of my friends and people around me had that problem when they were at the start of doing their own entrepreneurship, but for myself, I was lucky that both my parents were doing business when I was young, so the resistance was not that much. If my parents are doing business, they'll kind of encourage me to do business as well, so coming to another point, I guess your environment, especially your parents, do play a huge role in whether you take risk or not, but it's not necessarily true for everyone. I could speak on behalf of my friends and family around... It's really tough.

Paul Kemp: Actually, Ben, can I just jump in? Because I remember... One of the themes I think I've had from all these 500+ episodes over the years is the theme that entrepreneurs do come from entrepreneurial families, and it seems more often than not that that's the case. So I would encourage anyone who's got maybe an entrepreneurial family  - mother, father, uncle, auntie or whomever it may be - to maybe stay close to them and try and learn from them, because maybe that's what's driving you. What do you think?

Benjamin Yee: That's definitely true, and also it really depends... If you are so buy-in into entrepreneurship, you could even find support groups, you can find entrepreneurship groups. Every city in the world has them; you can just do a Google search, join those groups and find like-minded people that share entrepreneurship dreams with you. We are who we mix with, right? If you spend most of your time with people that are encouraging, people who are already doing business, the chances for us to become a successful entrepreneur, or even start becoming an entrepreneur are much higher.

If you're going to be mixing around with friends and people around you who are in big corporations and focus their life on stability, then it could be a lot tougher for you to actually make the leap into entrepreneurship.

Paul Kemp: Yes. So Ben, just before we say goodbye to you then, the final thing is that people listening and reading our transcript - I wanted to know what type of person is ultimately going to download and use your app... If you can just re-explain the sorts of people that should actually be going and downloading the app now.

Benjamin Yee: Sure. So if you're a merchant, you are already an entrepreneur, if you're selling a product, say T-shirts, coin pouches, soft toys - any physical product that you are buying from a supplier or manufacturing yourself, that you are selling on an eCommerce platform, selling business-to-business to retail stores, business-to-business to any industrial business, industrial domain, get it now. Download it and check it out. It's free for the first user, so we make it really simple, really easy for entrepreneurs that really use apps before, haven't really tested apps before this, to kind of test the system and find out to what extent it could help your business.

For us, we've helped hundreds of businesses around the world increase their productivity, and the next one could be you.

Paul Kemp: Yes, and I'm guessing as well that it's not just the founders or the entrepreneurs running those companies, but anyone in the company who is putting in data into a spreadsheet that's got supplier or customer information or purchase orders or anything, then they should be using EMERGE app.

Benjamin Yee: That is absolutely right... Not just for small businesses - even for larger businesses as well.

Paul Kemp: Yes. Ben, you've been so inspiring to talk to... I've loved walking through your journey, and I would like to know, if people are inspired by your story, how best can they get in touch with you? What is the best way of connecting with you?

Benjamin Yee: The best way is to look for me on Facebook or drop me an e-mail at ben@emergeapp.net. I will reply to your e-mail within 24 hours.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful! Ben, ever so nice talking with you, and all the best for the future of EMERGE app.

Benjamin Yee: Thank you very much, Paul, for having me.

 

 

Paul Kemp is a podcaster and app founder. He's appeared in multiple publications, such as Inc.com and he's behind the launch a #2 chart topping recipe app, and a #1 music app on Apple’s App Store. Paul's latest video app is endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. He’s probably best known for hosting “‘The App Guy Podcast” which is in its forth year and has over 500 episodes with founders and app entrepreneur guests from around the world. Subscribe at http://TheAppGuy.co (for free) if you are interested in the app startup scene. You can also subscribe to receive new episodes using these links:

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Live A Life Full Of Purpose

 

 

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. I love where this show takes me - around the world. It introduces me to so many inspiring founders and entrepreneurs, digging into great app stories.

Today's episode, it's with the founder of DonorSee ; he's got a wonderful app, he's got an inspiring story about making a change in the world. Gret Glyer, the founder of DonorSee, welcome to The App Guy Podcast!

Gret Glyer: Thank you, Paul. It's a pleasure to be here!

Paul Kemp: Thanks for coming on. Let's find out about DonorSee then... "Donor" being "donation", I guess. Tell us about the app and what you're doing to change the world.

Gret Glyer: Alright, so basically the idea behind DonorSee is to provide donors a way where they can see where their money is going. This is only on a massive scale, where some people are calling it the Uber for charity. On a transactional level, this is what your experience will be like:

….let's say you go on the app and you find a little girl in Malawi who needs hearing aids. She's never heard anything before, and she needs an 180-dollar bone conduction hearing aid; this is something that we have on our app all the time. So you go onto the app, you donate $180 and a week later you'll get a video of that girl hearing for the first time.

That's the same type of experience that you would have with almost anything. Let's say you donate towards a house - then you would get to see that person's house being built. Or you donate towards a little kid who needs a school uniform - you get to not only see the school uniform, but them going to school, getting their books, all that stuff.

Paul Kemp: What I love about this -- in the U.K. there's been a lot of controversy around some of the bigger charities, the way they use quite strong tactics to get their donations. And often, there's these huge charities, a lot of money goes through them, and it's a black box. We kind of never see what happens directly with our money. What difference does it make when you actually get to see physically what a difference your money is making?

Gret Glyer: On a statistical level, I can't share exactly... [unintelligible 00:13:24.17] just because we're not allowed to share that, but I'll tell you, the number of people who make repeat donations on our app is astronomically high for our industry.

For example, when someone comes to the app, they make a donation, they get to see feedback - a week later, feedback comes on their phone, they swipe it, they see this video of this girl hearing for the first time, and then all of a sudden it's like this light bulb goes off and they're like, "Oh my gosh, I gotta keep doing this! This is way better than anything I've done before." Because you're right, usually when you give to charity you get a thank-you e-mail, or you get some donor relations person saying, "We promise that your gift went to the right place", but you never get to actually see where it's going. We've had a hugely positive response in the two months that we've been launched so far.

Paul Kemp: That's why I love this industry. The amount of money in the mainstream charities, let's say - they could have easily done this with technology. But it takes someone with passion like yourself, who I assume is not extremely well-funded, but you're coming in and you're just disrupting the whole giving mechanism through technology and through apps. What's driving you to do this, Gret? I wondered about you, what's giving you the impetus to do this?

Gret Glyer: Sure. So I grew up in Northern Virginia, which is right outside of Washington DC - very wealthy area. I went to a private school for both high-school and college, and I was just always privileged. I always had the best life. I graduated from college with no debt, my parents paid for it, and I got a good job right away, and I was off to the races. I was working at this customer-service-oriented company, and they were telling me, "We're gonna fast track you, you're doing very well." It wasn't very satisfying to me, and eventually, after a year of working at this company, doing very well, making plenty of money, I said, "You know what, I can't do this anymore."

I left, and I went to Malawi, Africa. So I went from one of the richest areas in the entire world to one of the poorest areas in the entire world. In fact, in 2014 Malawi literally was the poorest country on the planet. That was shocking. When you see the level of poverty that is going on in the world, it's impossible -- I tell this to people all the time... If you live in the U.K. in London, or if you live in the U.S., you have no idea what extreme poverty looks like. It's just like a completely different planet.

I think seeing that and experiencing it for the very first time really gave me a lot of meaning and purpose that I hadn't had in my life for so long. Being able to see how small amounts of money can completely change someone's life or even change someone's life gave me a lot of motivation to say, "Okay, what can I do about this?" Because there's a lot of charities out there, but they're not doing good work. There's some that are doing good work, but on the whole, they're not transparent, and people are giving them money and they don't care where the money's going, and they don't get to see where it's going, so what can I do to change that?
When I came up with the idea for DonorSee, and ever since then, I've had a passion to turn the app into something that’ll make a real impact. An app that not only provides funding to people in need living overseas, but also changes how people in the first world see how they are making an impact.

Paul Kemp: That's what I love about his show as well - it can inspire anyone to make a difference. I've actually been to a lot of places with extreme poverty; in India's pockets of poverty, in North Africa... I've been to a lot of places. It is quite life-changing, isn't it? And a lot of us are digital nomads. Are you going to some of these places and seeing people actually working there, Westerners who are deciding to use those locations to work and then try and use their time to help out the local people?

Gret Glyer: Yeah, there's these aid workers living all over the planet. I lived in Malawi for three years and I'm back in the U.S. at the moment, and one of the things that you realize when you get over there... It's kind of this funny thing - I, Gret Glyer went over to Malawi, and it was a big decision in my life. It was life changing, I didn't know a single person over there. And I got over there, and there were actually lots of other Americans and lots of other Europeans. It was interesting to talk to each and every one of them because they were all there, they all have their own story where they decided to go overseas, and they're all very interesting people. I'm sure you met plenty of them when you were traveling to these places like India and North Africa. So there are lots of these people abroad, and they're all there for different reasons - sometimes it Peace Corps work, aid relief, all kinds of stuff.

Paul Kemp: Yeah, and actually some of it feels quite dangerous as well, in some pockets of those places. This is a show about apps and we have a lot of app entrepreneurs listening to this, people working for corporate jobs that tend to want to do side projects, or maybe actually work on their app full-time... I'd love to know the process that you took to get this off the ground, because it's one thing having an idea... In 2014 you had this idea - great, but how did you actually physically get the app built, how did you fund it? Did you do it yourself? Talk us through that story of how you got DonorSee off the ground.

Gret Glyer: Gotcha. Like I said, I lived in Malawi for three years and I was living off of about $600/month, so I was by no means living a lavish lifestyle. I had a house, electricity, Wi-Fi, that kind of stuff, but I wasn't rich - $600/month. I came up with the idea for the app actually this past January, and I spent a couple months really working on it and talking to different people who I respected in the tech industry. I had never done anything technical before, I'd never written a line of code before, but I really believed in this idea; it came into my mind, "the Uber for charities", and then I realized, "Okay, what is this? How is it gonna look? What's important about it? What's gonna make it tick?" and by March I had a really good idea and a really good plan for how I wanted to have this thing sustain itself, and also how I wanted it to look... I worked with designers and all that stuff.

First what I did was I went to UpWork and I hired a guy from Ukraine to build a very rudimentary version of the app using some streams that I had designed. That cost $7,000. UpWork is a website where you can go online and hire freelancers all over the world.

It wasn't a great version of the app, it was extremely buggy and glitchy, and you couldn't even use a credit card to make a donation, you had to have a Paypal account... All sorts of stuff were wrong with it, but what I was able to do is get a handful of people to start playing around with it, and then I showed it to some investors. These venture capitalists in Raleigh, North Carolina - I showed it to them and I asked them for a certain amount of money in exchange for equity. They offered me some money in exchange for some equity but it wasn't a very good deal, so I went to one of my mentors and I told him, "Hey, what should I do? These guys are offering me money and I think it's enough to help me get off the ground, but they want a lot of equity. What's your recommendation at this point?" He said I should take it. He said, "Gret, you're 26 years old and you have an idea that hasn't made a single dollar yet. These guys are offering you a lot of money for someone in your position. I would just take it."

I spent the night thinking about it and the next morning I was gonna call them up and say, "Thank you for the offer, I accept", but before I had the chance to do that, that mentor called me and he said, "Hey Gret, I was thinking about last night and I wanna give you the funding that you need for the deal that you want." So what he did was he and a bunch of his friends who are multi-millionaires, they're business partners and they're entrepreneurs on their own - what they did was they each chipped in about ten or twenty thousand dollars in exchange for a certain amount of equity and we raised about $150,000 altogether. I was able to use that money to hire some programmers to help us get the thing off the ground. That's the version you see in the App Store today; it was professionally developed by some people in Raleigh and a few other places.

Paul Kemp: How inspiring is that? On the day you were about to take the investment, your mentor comes through...? The two things I've learned from that is the importance of getting in front of investors and having a good pitch, but also the importance of having an excellent mentor.

Gret Glyer: Oh, yeah.

Paul Kemp: How did you keep the costs under control? Because even though you had a wonderful seed, an injection of cash, I'm guessing with the idea that you had, the app can run away from you in terms of costs, with all the features that you wanted to include. How did you manage the cost side of it?

Gret Glyer: Yeah, I've told this to several people... I probably saved tens of thousands of dollars on that side thanks to a friend of mine and also a mentor - his name is Scott Barstow, and he's got a podcast and a blog that you can check out. His whole thing is basically how do you not light your money on fire when you're building a tech startup. It's designed for people who are non-technical to give them enough background so they don't do that stuff. He really helped a lot out in that, and he gave me a lot of personal advice. The basic idea there was I had the really important stuff built stateside - the server and all of the background stuff was built state-side, and then we went overseas to build the frontend stuff.

Also, honestly, my app DonorSee is designed to help people and it has one of those missions that lots of people wanna get behind, so there were a lot of people who decided they wanted to help us for less than market value just because they felt that it was something where they could contribute to a meaningful cause using some of their talents. So that was another thing that helped our situation specifically.

Paul Kemp: What I'm learning from you there is don't be scared to ask, as well. If you have a real cause with your app, then just ask the people that are building it to really help out as well. It sounds great, it really does!

So you got to launch the app then, and often it is quite hard to get... Discovery - one of the biggest challenges the appster tribe have here is with app discovery. Were there any big things that has happened to get your app noticed, get it out there? Because I noticed there's a lot of people putting money through, donating and stuff like that... Were there any big breakouts that you've had?

Gret Glyer: There is a number of things... Some of it was just a stroke of luck and some of it was making my own luck... A week after we launched there was this random friend of mine on Twitter who reached out to a guy named Tom Woods who has a really big podcast in the states, and he's like "Hey, Tom, you should check out this app" and Tom was like, "Yeah, sure. Let's interview him on Monday." So I interviewed a week after the app was launched, and immediately we got a thousand users right off the bat, just from that, and just had this huge spike in traffic a week after our launch. That was a pretty exciting thing, and that's lead to other podcasts and stuff like that that's happened.

Another thing that happened - you're probably familiar with hurricane Matthew which hit Haiti and really devastated a lot of the areas in that part of the world. When that happened, I immediately bought a ticket and took a flight down to Haiti, and I used my influence - I have a sizeable donor base of people who are interested in donating to whatever projects I'm working on, because they've been following me in Malawi for a long time... So I immediately bought a ticket, went down to Haiti and I said, "I'm going down to Haiti, I'm taking nothing but my phone with the DonorSee app and that's it."

I went down to Haiti for like three days and what we did is we raised enough money to provide several hundred emergency disaster relief kits to the victims of hurricane Matthew. There's all this controversy about, you know, "Is the Red Cross spending my money correctly? Is the Clinton Foundation spending my money correctly?" Well, with DonorSee you don't have to guess. Everyone who donated - there were hundreds of people who donated - got notifications on their phone of videos of us passing out the disaster relief kits in real time. That was a great testimony, and we actually got written up in U.S.A. Today because of that.
There was a whole bunch of good that came from that as well. So yeah, we've had a few big breaks so far, thankfully, in the only two months that we've been launched.

Paul Kemp: Gret, it's fantastic. I love the fact that you had a big breakout. One of the first times that people have said it's podcasts, which is wonderful...

Gret Glyer: [laughs] Yeah.

Paul Kemp: ...given that you're now on a podcast.

Gret Glyer: Oh yeah, I love podcasts. It's one of those amazing things where you get 30 minutes to just passionately talk about this thing that you've built and you're excited about and you have this vision for... It really does help get people excited.

Paul Kemp: Yeah, and also once you are on one, the ball starts rolling and you can show credibility and that opens up other doors.

Gret Glyer: Exactly.

Paul Kemp: Before we carry on now, there are definitely some other things I wanna talk to you about... One is how anyone who's interested in going to live in Africa, maybe you could give some tips for that. But before we carry on, let me just return to those two sponsors. I'm not sure if you've heard of these guys... Have you heard of Toptal before?

Gret Glyer: Oh yeah, I almost used them, if that guy Scott Barstow hadn't gotten involved.

Paul Kemp: There you go, there's an endorsement as well.

Break: [00:28:07.12] to [00:30:52.10]

Paul Kemp: Gret, what I was really fascinated with is that we do have founders who start their own companies, and they're living in London, San Francisco, New York; rents - sky high. I love the fact that you lived on $600 a month. Do you have any tips for anyone who may want to start their startup but perhaps could consider doing it maybe abroad, in a low-cost location?

Gret Glyer: Yeah, for me it was just coincidence. I happened to be overseas and then I had the idea for the app. If I had been in a different location, I would have probably found a different way to make it work. But I will say that the benefits of spending a year overseas are enormous. I tell people, if you spend a year overseas it's kind of the equivalent of a Ph.D. level education. You just get opened up to this brand new level of experience and culture that is impossible to really appreciate unless you spend a significant amount of time in some other location, where you're a sore thumb, you look different than everyone else and you talk differently than everyone else, and your cultures and customs don't work in this location. There's a lot of educational benefit to that.

I think there's certainly a lot of monetary benefit in terms of it being a low-cost place. That's something that people can look into as well. I would say if you want tips on going overseas, that's always the tricky thing - how do you get over there? I personally went to go teach at an international school in Malawi, and that was a really great setup for me because they paid for me to go over there; they gave me my monthly paycheck and I was able to get my feet on the ground out there. A lot of times people choose to use teaching as a way to get overseas, and English as a second language is a big way to do that.

I wasn't making a ton, but there are a lot of places where you can actually make pretty decent money being a teacher overseas. That's definitely something to look into.

Paul Kemp: Yeah, and I'm guessing they help you as well with the visa processing...

Gret Glyer: Oh, yeah. I mean, it's one of those things where it depends on where you are. The particular establishment I was with, it was one of those things where you show up at the airport and they kind of like fast-track you through customs. They really have good relationships with everyone, and they've been there for 20 years... Lots of different stuff like that is also really helpful.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful. And the Wi-Fi speed in Malawi, was it decent?

Gret Glyer: It was horrible. [laughter] I was there for three years; when I first got there, I couldn't even watch a YouTube video. By the end of it, you could kind of watch one if you put on the lowest setting and not too many other people were using the internet. It was tough... That was a big reason for why I came back. I really felt passionate and I wanted DonorSee to be a big success; I felt like it's gonna help lots of people on both sides of the world, and I felt like I'm gonna have a better shot at doing this in America where I have good internet and I'm able to Skype with people and interact with people a lot faster than I can in Malawi.

Paul Kemp: Finally, before we say goodbye to you, I'd like to just ask you... For those people that have listened to you and are actually in that corporate job, doing something they perhaps realize that maybe they regret and they wish they'd made a different decision - do you have any suggestions on how you make this huge leap? Because you were on a certain path, and you made such a drastic decision that I'm guessing a lot of people around you were probably questioning what your thought process was at that time. Do you have any practical tips on advising anyone who's in that same part of their life but actually going down the path that they are starting to realize is the wrong path? How can they make the change?

Gret Glyer: I would encourage the listeners to really think about opportunity cost, because I think a lot of people are worried, like "I'm gonna be away from my friends for a year, I'm gonna have a blip in my resume for a year...", they're worried about what it's gonna cost them to spend that time overseas, leave their corporate job and all this other stuff. They're worried about a whole ton of stuff and it's probably harder for them to imagine, but I will go ahead and confirm for them - when you spend a year overseas, you become a lot more solid in who you are; you can't hang on to any part of your identity that isn't your true identity until you spend a significant amount of time where your only frame of reference is things that are totally foreign to you.

I also thing that you can kind of spin your resume however you want; if you spend a year overseas, a lot of employers are thrilled about that. That's a really great thing that you can talk about in interviews, and it's something that will set you apart for future employment. Then I also think - if I'm being honest, that all your friends are gonna be jealous that you're going overseas and you're spending a year overseas, and when you come back they're gonna wanna know where you were and they're gonna wanna hear about this experience, and they will be the ones who are gonna be questioning, "Oh man, I wish I had done something like that." That's always the case.

I guess I'll leave it at this one thing - you hear people all the time saying, "I wish I had traveled when I was younger." You hear that all the time. You never hear anyone say, "I regret traveling when I was younger", because no one does. It's a big, big benefit that can really transform your life, so I would just say go do it.

Paul Kemp: Let's try and direct people then to how best they can help and get involved. What can we do to connect with you and DonorSee? What's the best thing we could do right now?

Gret Glyer: Anyone can reach out to me on Twitter, I'm pretty active on there. That's @gretglyer. I'm happy to also just take e-mails from people. That would be gret@donorsee.com. You can follow me on DonorSee; if you sign up for DonorSee, you can follow me and anytime I post a new project, you'll get to see that. Feel free to reach out, I'm pretty available.

Paul Kemp: In terms of actually saying that, it's DonorSee, D-O-N-O-R-S-E-E. I'm guessing that it's a unique name; if you search that on the App Store, you should find the correct one. That's great. Use the app, or use the website to donate.

Wonderful, Gret. It's been, honestly, so inspiring... It's one of the reasons why I do this show - to meet people like you, and realize that not everyone is cut from the same cloth, that we all go and do some different things, and thank god we have people like yourself doing the stuff that you're doing, so thank you so much for being such an inspiration to the world, and coming on the show.

Gret Glyer: Paul, it was my pleasure, thank you so much for having me.

Paul Kemp: All the best! Bye for now.

How To Get Free Press For Your App Startup

An insightful interview with Dmitry Dragilev

https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-app-guy/id771670010?mt=2

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it’s Paul Kemp. As you know, I go around and I get all nationalities, everyone from around the world that can help us with our app journeys. Today I love my guest. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve met, wonderful at building up relationships with influencers and he’ definitely got something to talk to us about.

This founder is responsible for building up — get this — 40 million pageviews for his startup, which actually ended up being sold to Google. It’s a dream come true for many of the founders and the startup entrepreneurs that listen to this show.

He is the founder of JustReachOut, he’s got a product; I’ve been going through it, I love it, it’s just great content. Let me introduce Dmitry Dragilev. Dmitry, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Dmitry Dragilev: Thanks, good to be here!

Paul Kemp: Dmitry, you do a lot of stuff in the web space but it’s very applicable to apps because you have this product called JustReachOut, which I want to uncover with you going forward… But first, we must touch on Polar — your experience of building up this 40-million view site and selling it to Google. Would you be able to give us a run through of actually the story behind Polar?

Dmitry Dragilev: Well, actually it used to be an app when we started. It was primarily a mobile-first app, because the founder of Polar, Luke Wroblewski was the guy behind mobile-first development, the idea, and all the books, and he’s kind of a thought leader in the space (@lukew is his Twitter name). When he founded the company he said,

“Hey Dmitry, come work with me and this couple other people that I wanna recruit.”

It was primarily just a mobile app and it was a very simple app; it was just a beautiful way to create a poll on any given topic or question you have, and ask your friends to participate in your poll. It could be anything — Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts or Xbox vs PS4…

When we first launched to the app store, we really didn’t have a lot of time to try to find customers. We were funded by Jerry Yang of Yahoo!, so we had some money to play with, and we tried a lot of different things. We tried App Store optimization, we also tried a lot of different tactics such as partnerships, we also did ads, and all that did drive a good amount of users to our app to download and use it, but it was just not having impact of millions. We were burning through some of the cash and we were just not seeing huge hockey stick growth.

We tried a lot of things and a lot of them worked, but there wasn’t that sporadic, huge growth that was sustainable. We had to spend more money to get more users, and this app was free. We couldn’t keep spending more money on acquiring users and just hoping we’ll turn into the next Twitter. We needed to make this a business where we were not spending more money to get new customers.

What I was looking at at the time was breaking tech news, and one of my experiments — I like to call them PR experiments or SEO experiments — was just to find a way to gain a whole big influx of users with a cool little experiment or a trick, and see how sustainable that is, and if we can keep repeating it.

iOS 7 was coming out, so what we did is Luke being a design mind, with a design thinking, mobile-first, and really well-known in the design community, having a lot of connections, basically we compared 1-to-1 all the icons and all the functionality of iOS 7 with iOS 6. And at the time there was a little bit of uproar; people were not that excited about the new iOS 7. They were actually comparing that to the Windows phone operating system and saying that it might not look great and that there’s inspiration from Windows that came over to it… So we did a poll, Luke promoted it, and we got a thousand votes on each icon. It was icon-to-icon: iOS 6 versus iOS 7.

We ended up running that over our poll, and again, some votes on it. This was all on the iOS app. And what we did is we took that and pitched the results of it to press and media, to who was talking about this topic a lot — because the iOS 7 update was coming up — saying that people actually prefer iOS 7.

People loved it. They cited our name, they said

“This cool new app called Polar that allows you to poll did this study and this is what they found….”

…except there was nowhere to link to because it was an iOS app, so they just linked to our homepage, which was okay. People came to our homepage, some of them downloaded the app, some of the didn’t, but there was no immediate action or engagement on it. So we did a few other ones like that that were very newsworthy at the time: Xbox vs. PS4… Game consoles, games, all the different aspects of those, and compared them against each other.

Little by little, we just started going to Techmeme.com, TechCrunch… Just trying to figure out what are the hottest topics that are happening right now and what polls should we create.

We understood that journalists love these free studies, these free data that we’re giving them, and it was time to ask them to create these polls on their own, but also embed them in their own articles. That is where we pivoted away from the iOS app, which was kind of funny, because of Luke Wroblewski — his whole thing was mobile-first, and mobile-first became such a huge idea… It’s a worldwide phenomenon, everybody was talking about it; all he did is he flew around, giving talks about mobile-first development. So for us to pivot away from it and go to a web version was kind of a big deal, but we had to, because journalists would create these polls only on the web and add them to their sites through the web.

We built a whole web version, and that really kicked things into overdrive after we launched the web version. NPR, MLB, NBA, NHL, Gizmondo, all the sites out there, everybody started using it, and we would help them keep people on site longer by embedding these polls. Instead of just leaving a comment, a person might vote on ten polls, and then all sorts of ads would improve, ad performance would improve and so forth. That’s how we really grew.

The app was still kicking around, people were using it; it’s just the main growth kind of pivoted away from the app world into the desktop world a little bit, helping each other. The process was very similar to YouTube — you’d embed a poll, people would take it, they would click on the logo to come to our site, our site would show them this poll, it would all show them to sign up and create their own poll, and improve time on the site for themselves. It was like a circle… People would always go back and create more polls for their website.

Paul Kemp: Dmitry, I love this because… You know I’ve done 500 episode of this show, and you’ve just hit on two of the massive themes that come out of all of my chats with all these different successful founders. The first is the theme of solving a real problem, and it sounds to me like your journey was about solving a real problem especially for the journalists. The second one is pivot when you need to and follow the success, even if it’s against what you initially thought. You must have listened to all the other episodes to figure that out.

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah, I mean, I listened to quite a bit of your episodes. But I wanted to make sure people get some takeaways from this kind of stuff. It’s always hard to talk about success; everybody talks about success, and then people kind of get sad listening to it a lot of times, but…

Paul Kemp: Let’s talk about how we can help the appster tribe listening to this, because you have obviously had a huge amount of success. You were eventually bought up by Google, but what you learned throughout that whole process you are now giving back through JustReachOut. What is JustReachOut? Tell us about how you’re helping others pitch to the press.

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah, through that process I learned that all the people in my spot where I was were struggling exactly the same way. They wanted publicity and exposure for their apps and they couldn’t get it through traditional means. They had to either the big PR firm or hire this huge agency to represent them and pay them $5,000, $10,000. We only raised a million, a million and a half, so it wasn’t that much to keep a team going for a year, a year and a half and also afford a PR agency. We just couldn’t afford one. I found that a lot of people were in that same boat, they just needed to figure out how to talk to the press and get some exposure for their apps.

JustReachOut was born out of that need for the smaller entrepreneurs, app developers who are just on their own, one or two-person teams, to be able to e-mail a journalist and pitch them something relevant to what they liked to write about. We built sort of a matching algorithm that looks at journalists and their needs. Say, a journalist is writing about Bitcoin, and they’ve been writing about Bitcoin for the last five years and they’re probably the best expert in the Bitcoin field, and there’s somebody out there developing a Bitcoin app. Well, they probably should talk to each other at some point and they will have a lot of mutual interest. That mutual interest is a great conversation starter.

Our software just kind of makes that easy to find, finding that match. It will try and find the best journalist best on what they’ve written, or what they’re writing about right now. There are journalists out there that actually put out queries, believe it or not, saying

“I’m writing an article on Bitcoins and I need a quote from a Bitcoin expert. Or it could be an entrepreneur, an app developer. I need to interview them for this next issue.”

They’re just looking for somebody to talk to in their space. We aggregate that data and we also help you match with them, and then you can contact them through our platform. We make sure that your page gets to them, gets open, we correct any kind of e-mail addresses that are not correct, so we guarantee 100% deliverability.

It’s a SaaS product; I realize that people sometimes can’t afford 50–60 dollars a month. Literally, they’re looking at every dollar they spend every month, so it’s designed for the smaller guys to good at or become better at reaching out to press and journalists and be able to talk to them and gain some publicity.

Paul Kemp: I know how great it is when a journalist reaches out to you and asks for a comment or a quote (I just happened to be today); it’s so much easier. That’s the right way of doing it.

I’d love to know first — because I’m sure everyone’s I guess doing it wrong in some way — what is the wrong way of doing it? What is the wrong way of reaching out to influencers in the tech press?

Dmitry Dragilev: The wrong way — and I see this all the time — we have over 3,500 paying customers of the service right now, and I do the support for all of them, which is crazy, but I wanna talk to my customers… And the number one way that our app developers or small business are trying to pitch press is

“Hello John, I launched this new app. This new app does this, this and this, it helps families spend less time on their iPhones by rewarding them”

or

“It helps the teenagers not to text and drive. We just launched. Here’s the info about our team, here’s the link to our page, here’s the link to our app. Can you check it out? We’d love to hear from you”

..and that’s all they write.

That type of pitch is all about them and themselves and what they’re doing, and they’re presuming that that person will find it interesting. Now, usually journalists will receive anywhere from 80 to 100 e-mails every day, exactly the same format:

“Hey, this is what we’re doing. Can you write about us?”

and there’s no actual conversation starter there. I always say, a conversation starter is where you give something to them, you give value to them upfront, to start a relationship or a conversation. I always say

“If you saw them at a conference and you sat down with them or you started talking to them randomly, cold — they don’t know you, you don’t know them — what would you say?” and chances are you would not walk up to them and say “Hey” and start talking exactly about your app and what you’re doing. You’d probably refer to something they’ve written, something they’ve tweeted or something they’ve done, and start the conversation there and see if there’s any overlap between that and what you’re doing day-to-day with your app.

It’s a little bit of a bridge to

“Hey, this is what we’re doing. Can you write about us?”

and that’s where a lot of people tend to fall down.

“Well, I can’t figure out what that transition should be, because a typical app developer might not be an extrovert”

I’m an engineer by background, I know what that is like exactly. I came here as a Soviet immigrant in ’93 and I was not an extrovert in any way. I was that guy who sat coding on my computer. But I pushed myself to get a little better at just starting a conversation where there’s some common interest between you and the other person, and that person at least finds something you say is interesting.

It’s kind of mundane or too shallow I guess for a journalist to hear,

“Hey, we’re doing a new app. We have this new product. Can you look at it?”

Everybody says that to them, so how can you stand out? You have to offer some value, some insight, some data, some opinion, some comment on their article. Maybe you found a spelling mistake in the article, but something besides “Hey, here’s what we’re doing, here’s our brand new app.”

Paul Kemp: Dmitry, I have to confess… In my first ten episodes, I had a chat with the author of Pitch Perfect — this was when I was just staring the show out — and we were talking about exactly the same thing. That was four years ago. I feel that even though we know that it’s sensible advice, because you’re so excited about the app you just can’t help but start throwing e-mails around and saying,

“Hey world, I’ve built the app! Are you ready for it?”

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah, it’s so hard, and I still do it, too. I mean, I preach that stuff, I have a whole course on it, I coach over 200 startups every year, and I still once in a while go

“Hey, have you seen this?”

and I’m like

“Oh, I really shouldn’t be…”

So I started the practice of actually reading my e-mails out loud if I’m reaching out to somebody who I’m doing this on a first-time basis. And when you read it out loud, you kind of stop, because you usually wouldn’t say that to a person live, but somehow e-mail makes it fine to do. So yeah, I catch myself all the time with it, and I’m still struggling, but I’m getting better at building that first relationship, first value upfront, and then seeing how I can improve.

That’s why I started the course, for basically teaching people how to do it. I saw 3,500 people on there, and a lot of them are writing these huge e-mails all about their apps and what they do.

Paul Kemp: It’s crazy… It sort of reminds me of when I was at university; you start with the essays and you end up writing these really long essays and getting poor results, and then you realize if you start thinking of it as the marker and what they’re looking for, you start to write differently.

I guess if we put ourselves in the shoes of the journalists, they don’t wanna read this huge, long e-mail with pitches and PDFs. I’m guessing they just need a one-sentence pitch if you are pitching to them, or certainly something where you’re adding value.

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah. There’s an agency called Fractal, and they put out pretty interesting studies usually. They concentrate on content that goes viral, I guess; they create content that goes viral. It’s a marketing agency. They put out this study that was really interesting; they surveyed 500 journalists and they asked them what do they prefer to see in a pitch, and they compiled all the study into this slide deck which was shared on growthhackers.com, which is this platform to share interesting marketing articles and materials.

If you google ‘500 journalists survey’ you’ll probably find it, and I can send you a link to it. It’s funny, because they told you specifically:

“We want something that’s less than 200 words; subject line less than 65 characters. No PR releases, no attached stuff to it. We wanna receive it in the morning, something like 8 AM”

and something like 70–80% of them prefer e-mail pitches versus all other mediums.

That kind of gave people I guess the status quo when it comes to pitching press. From there, you can kind of improve on the actual conversation starter. But mostly e-mails… They should be kind of short, to the point and just to start a conversation with them, provoke them in some ways. I go through many different examples on it. Asking to interview them on your blog might be one way. Asking them to answer a Quora question, or a Reddit question or LinkedIn. Telling them,

“Hey, I tried to answer this question myself; I don’t think I did it justice, I’m not an expert. But you are — would you happen to share a few words of wisdom around this question?”

You’re not asking for PR, you’re not even asking them to cover yourself, you’re just engaging in a conversation with them about a topic that both of you share a common interest in. If you’re interested in something and they’re interested in something you both contribute to the same discussion, that’s one place you can push off of in the next section of the relationship, and just keep going that way.

Paul Kemp: Dmitry, clearly for everyone interested, just go to JustReachOut. There will be links on the show notes as well. You have a wonderful teaching style as well, having gone through now a majority of the courses; just a wonderful course.

I was thinking of changing gears slightly now… This is a show where we like to inspire those who are listening. They can be traveling in a car to a job they don’t like, stuck in traffic… And you are an entrepreneur, you’ve had a huge success with what you’ve done so far, you are living now almost I guess a life of freedom, free to do your own things; give us some idea of what it’s like to go through a day in your life, because I think it would inspire us.

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah, actually the first lecture in my course I talk a lot about trying to reach this point because I came here as a Soviet immigrant and half of my family believed it would be a better life here versus Russia, and when we arrived it was pretty tough, like it should be for any immigrant. I raised my sister on my own, my mom was working a lot, and the whole I was trying to think about this life that I have now. I didn’t wanna work for a large company or a big boss; I wanted to have a business where I control what I do day to day and I have the financial freedom to take vacations if I want… Sort of have control of my own destiny and I’m doing something that I’m truly excited about. I wanna wake up every day and be very excited about it day-to-day.

But it wasn’t like that so I was always on the search for what makes me click day-to-day and what makes me excited every day. I used to be a software engineer; I began working in software really early, in my teens, and then I got my formal education and I decided to become a full-time software engineer. I still wasn’t finding that excitement day-to-day. It was fun, it was interesting, but I was working at a large company at the time, so I quit my job, pre-MBA I think it was… Because I was reading magazines about Silicon Valley and all these news publications were talking about startups. This was 2005–2006.

So I drove cross-country in my Honda Civic to go to Silicon Valley. I arrived and I was trying to find a job, except I had no experience in marketing so nobody would hire me.

I lived in this cracky EconoLodge and I was trying to find a free gig

“I’ll work for free for anybody in the startup world. I just wanna figure out how to do startups.”

And nobody would hire me. They’d be like

“You’re a software engineer from BAE Systems; you worked on Department of Defense software development projects. You should just go back and do that.”

Little by little I proved myself to this one startup and they took me under their wing, and I learned a lot from their founder. We went through two years, we raised a lot of money, and we were acquired two years after that. So I learned a lot from that and then I kind of stuck around Silicon Valley for a while and bounced around different startups and met a lot of people, started my podcast series, met a lot more people by interviewing them, and then that’s where I thought

“Oh, when I interview them I can promote them, and I could help them fulfill whatever need they have.”

It was funny… Konstantine Guericke, co-founder of LinkedIn agreed to be on my live interview in front of other people. Usually, he charges money to do this thing and did it for free just because he’s looking to hire people. And just because I knew that I could get him to come, and get the right people to come to this event and make it worthwhile for him. So I started thinking how I can help people and also align those interests with my own as well. That was the beginning of the PR space or the SEO space.

Now I love it, all of what I’m doing. It took a while to get to this point because I was always trying different startups, I did different roles… I was a product manager for a while, I was a marketing manager for a while… I needed to find something that was sustainable, that was the first thing — how can it be sustainable month over month and year after year as a business? And then how can I wake up every day and just can’t wait to open my inbox and see what’s going on, hop on calls? What can I be doing…? Because if you’re not excited every day about it…

There are always down times. 90% of the stuff I do is always failing…

Paul Kemp: Like now? [laughs]

Dmitry Dragilev: [laughs] I failed at all this stuff, I could be like, “Oh…!” 90% of stuff is like,

“Oh, this didn’t work out. This is not working.”

But it’s still exciting. I find it very exciting to think about traffic, exposure… I just love working with companies that are trying to get exposure; when they get it right, they get exposure, or they meet a big celebrity or something.

Paul Kemp: Dmitry, let me jump in here because you’ve mentioned a lot which literally resonates to many of the past episodes that people will pick up on. What I’ve learned from you, a very inspiring chat — it’s important to understand yourself, work at a startup, because you learn more at a startup in those few years than you could do in lots of years doing an MBA or proper education; add value first, when you’re reaching out, I learned that. Work hard, and just have exciting work that has a purpose. All those things seem to come out of your inspiring journey, and I really appreciate you sharing that with us.

Dmitry, I want to make sure that people do get a chance to follow up, so where best can they reach out to you?

Dmitry Dragilev: Yeah, criminallyprolific.com is my site, which is independent of JustReachOut. That’s where I write my articles, I got my little bio… There’s a contact field there, so you can contact me through criminallyprolific.com. I guess that’s the best way.

Listen to more interviews like this one

Paul Kemp: Great. There’s also JustReachOut, which is the course I’m going through. It’s obviously very easy to google; otherwise, just go to the show notes. It’s episode #503 with Dmitry.

Skype Co-Founder Says Our Biggest Existential Threat Is Artificial Intelligence

An interview with Jaan Talinn, original co-founder of Skype

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it’s Paul Kemp. This is a very, very special episode. It’s episode #500. We actually made it to #500, can you believe it?

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So, 500 episodes of The App Guy Podcast. Now, before I just start celebrating, I have a terrific episode lined up for you. It’s with the co-founder of Skype.

Skype is the reason why this show exists

Skype is the reasons why I can get so many guests on the show. It’s because it’s done all virtually.

Let me introduce Jaan Tallinn, one of the original co-founders of Skype.

We’re going to be talking about what he’s doing at the moment. It’s related to promoting the study of existential risk. Specifically relating to AI. Imagine! The possibility of the human race not existing in the future. It’s clearly a really important topic.

Jaan, welcome to The App Guy Podcast!

Jaan Tallinn: Thanks for having me.

Paul Kemp: Thanks for coming on this special episode #500. Let’s go straight into it then. How is the human race going to survive with artificial intelligence looming? What’s the big threat to us?

Jaan Tallinn: Well, first of all, AI is just one of the many potential existential risks. The big idea is that as we are creating more and more powerful technologies, the effective radius of influence that new technologies have keeps increasing, while the planet does not. You can imagine that clearly, you can do way more damage with nuclear weapons than you could do with rifles. Nuclear weapons are just almost a hundred-year-old technology. In some ways, we got lucky that it’s actually hard to construct nuclear weapons, whereas some of the new stuff that’s on the horizon might actually be fairly easy.

Paul Kemp: It’s interesting, we’re talking about the possibility of exterminating the human race with nuclear weapons at a time that actually seems quite dangerous (the threat of World War III between the U.S. and Russia). So, as it relates to A.I, surely this threat is at least a few hundred years in the future? Have you got any guess to how far into the future?

Jaan Tallinn: I think it’s important to be humble when projecting future timelines. If you look at the previous breakthrough technologies such as heavier than air flight… Heavier than air flight looked like 500 years off when it was actually 500 years off, but it still looked 500 years off when it was merely just a couple of decades off. Some people didn’t even know that heavier than air flight was possible after it was done on this planet.

I think in was the ’30s (last century) when Ernest Rutherford, the really prominent nuclear scientist said that anyone who is thinking or talking about harnessing nuclear energy is talking moonshine. Then, Leo Szilard invented the nuclear reactions the next day. When people say that some technology is in principle possible but hundreds of years off, they are what’s called über-confidently pessimist, in the sense that they don’t actually have sufficient evidence to make such a confident prediction.

Paul Kemp: This is where you’re testing my history now… I’m pretty sure that a lot of money went into trying to discover flight, and the Wright Brothers were incredibly under-funded. Nevertheless, they had a passionate group of people around them and they were the ones that got to fly before some of the rich universities and other inventors with lots of money and resources. I’m guessing it’s not just money that will get people to where we are inevitably going. True?

Jaan Tallinn: Exactly. Actually, that’s been more like a rule rather than an exception. I think that was a prominent exception to the rule that you really can’t buy scientific breakthroughs with money was the Manhattan project. There was a deliberate, well-funded effort to construct nuclear weapons. Other than that, usually the way breakthroughs happen is like the Wright Brothers stumbling on some new approach that actually opens up a new landscape of possibilities.

Paul Kemp: Where are we now with regards to artificial intelligence?Because I’m sure a lot of people are [reading] and thinking:

Well, I’ve got the Amazon Echo and it just doesn’t work very intelligently

You’ve also got Siri who fails over and over again. Where are we with A.I right now?

Jaan Tallinn: There are many ways to frame the current situation. One important background context is the AI has been coming and going in these fashion cycles called “AI summers” and “AI winters.” Somebody makes a breakthrough and a lot of people pile in, and the topic of AI becomes fashionable. Then at some point the researchers don’t live up to the promise, the investment dies down and then you have what’s called an “AI winter.”

Right now we are currently in the AI summer.

There is an increasing amount of investment being poured into artificial intelligence and machine learning. One of the reasons is that now people have figured out ways how to actually turn marginal improvements in AI into actual profits and revenue. If you actually improve Google’s AI algorithms, that will actually show up in Google’s profits and eventually share price; therefore, there is this existing economic pressure to improve AI algorithms.

The other way of framing AI, ia asking

What kind of approach has been the dominant one?

When AI started, the dominant approach was so-called “symbolic AI”, trying to code up rules of thinking in terms of symbols and symbol manipulations, logical operations.

Currently, as almost everyone is aware, the dominant approach is deep learning, which is, instead of having very clear-cut symbols, you have these almost human intuition-like systems that look at a lot of data and try to develop patterns or intuitions about the data.

Paul Kemp: Let’s talk then about the thing that perhaps is the biggest breakthrough that we could almost realize, but also then the biggest danger,

Consciousness

When machines get some form of consciousness- will we be to them like ants are to us? Do you think a lot about consciousness within the framework of artificial intelligence?

Jaan Tallinn: Well, interestingly, almost everything you said is false.

Paul Kemp: Okay, that’s why we’ve got you on the show to learn the truth. LOL

Jaan Tallinn: I think consciousness is a bit of a red herring.

If you think about it, when we ask whether a machine is conscious or not, what we are asking is what this machine is. However, I’m much more interested in what the machine does. It’s actually pretty plausible and it seems even likely that the machines that will dominate humanity will actually not be conscious, they are just very competent.

Are we creating machines that will break free of the programs that we gave them?

NO.

This isn’t how little machine programs work. There is no ghost in the computer that could read the instructions and then decide whether to execute them or discard them — no, the software is the machine, obviously, implementing the hardware.

The thing is that we are going to create really, really competent systems that have very precise work models and are able to foresee the consequences of their own actions very well, much better than humans, so even better than humanity in its entirety. So whenever they want something, they’ll obviously want something that we actually programmed them to want, and they are much more competent than the humans that created them. Basically, they will “get it.” They will be almost like a King Midas or a genie story, where we basically think we want something, yet actually, if we let the machine loose to do it, we quickly find out that actually we don’t want this after all. However, then it might be too late.

Paul Kemp: It’s interesting because this comes on the back of something I learned recently. It’s regarding the rise of the financial institution Black Rock. As you know, in our pre-chat I was saying that I was in finance. More specifically, in Asset Management. As it happens, Black Rock gained its prominence and financial success through its use of AI / machines to predict the potential risks and accurately assess the economic outlook. This was initially many years ago. Nevertheless, if we extrapolate this timeline, will we reach a point where was ask ourselves

Do we really need humanity to run institutions?

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Jaan Tallinn: Yes, I think the comparison with various institutions is pretty apt. It may be possible to have an organization do something without actually any humans working for that organization. The question is — do we actually want this thing to happen? It’s obvious that if there’s a very centralized organization, then the CEO has the ultimate control. But even then, the CEO’s hands might be tied. Corporations might exhibit these types of characteristics that I describe.

Paul Kemp: You know, I’m getting a lot of my information from films, which I’m sure a lot of people [reading] this are thinking about. I can’t help but think about the Matrix. In this film, there was a discussion about control.

what is control?

What I’m learning from you is that we may have a future where we [humans] lose control because we are a low-level existence compared to these very competent machines. Have you got any views on who will control who in the future?

Jaan Tallinn: Importantly, the technologies that we have developed so far and the institutions that we have created, they kind of assume that the controller is external to the system. That’s very starkly visible in the so-called “autonomous system” discussions.

For example, when we talk about autonomous weapons,

Where is the human? Is he in the loop, on the loop or out of the loop?

So far, whatever tools we have developed, we assume that a human is actually the one that uses the tool and controls the tool. However, once we start talking about autonomous systems, especially systems that are actually able to foresee the consequences of being turned off, the control mechanisms kind of assume that the system that’s being controlled is not aware of the control system itself.

So if there’s a button that we use to turn off the machine, yet the machine is aware of that button and can predict what are the consequences of it being turned off, and weigh its goal fulfillment, then it’s actually not really about anything human, like survival instinct or anything. It’s just a very natural consequence of goal-directed behavior. 
For example, if there’s a robot who’s goal is to fetch coffee, yet there’s a huge hole in the floor, of course it’s going to go around it. It’s not because it’s afraid of falling into that hole, but it knows that if it falls into that hole, then it will not be able to fetch that coffee.

It really frustrates me how people think that in order to go around that hole you have to have survival instinct.

NO, it’s just basic goal-directed behavior. You avoid obstacles when you want to get to the goal.

It’s a similar thing — if you have an off switch and your goal is to fetch coffee, if you see that being switched off you will not be able to fetch the coffee, you will avoid being switched off.

Paul Kemp: This is really fascinating. What I’m learning from you is that it’s all about the goal of these machines, these new artificial intelligence robots. They’re going to show very different characteristics to humans.

However, I’m guessing that there’s good and bad that will come from Artificial Intelligence? You talked about nuclear and the good versus bad which comes from it.

Is it just the same with artificial intelligence? Will there be good versus bad?

Jaan Tallinn: Yes, absolutely. One of the big reasons why I’m focusing on AI (and not the other risks such as new kinds of biological technologies) is that it has this huge upside. In fact,

if we get the AI right, then basically we’ll be able to address all the other existential risks

Whereas, if we just fix the nanotechnology or nuclear or synthetic biology risks, this will not help us directly with AI risk.

As far as I know, Elon Musk was interested in AI actually as a direct consequence of him realizing that

Wait a minute! Becoming a multi-planetary species will help us against all the existential risks — except the A.I risk

…because of course, if we are able to travel inter-planetary distances, so will A.I.

Paul Kemp: It’s fascinating. You’re in Elon’s group. I know he’s put a pact together to try to prevent the extinction of the human species. Are you involved in this?

Jaan Tallinn: When it comes to AI, as far as I know, there are two initiatives that Elon is supporting.

One is supporting AI safety research through what’s known as Future of Life Institute, which is an institute at MIT where I’m a co-founder. We’ve been ‘kind of’ handing out Elon’s money. He donated 10 million dollars in research grants to different AI researchers.

The other initiative that Elon Musk started earlier this year is OpenAI. There’s this group in San Francisco that is basically trying to do AI development, but they also have hired many excellent safety people. In fact, I do think that OpenAI’s safety team is right now the best in the world. They focus on developing AI outside of commercial context. Whether that’s a good idea or not, I have some reservations. Nevertheless, I certainly acknowledge that the group of people that they have over there is really excellent.

Paul Kemp: You’ve obviously seen the benefits of technology from building something that’s commercially-focused — Skype. I’m wondering, for the appster tribe who follows me and for the readers who have quit corporate jobs — how is it best to get involved in startups, tech, and AI?

Jaan Tallinn: I think regardless of whether you’re interested in AI research, (increasing the competence of machines) or AI safety research (improving the value alignment); I think a good place to start is to just get a better understanding about AI.

There are many excellent books out there, and open courses. I think Hacker News publishes some new course every week or couple of weeks, actually.

When you’re specifically interested in AI safety, there is a website called 80000hours.org, that has a career guide for so-called “effective altruists”, and it has a career guide for potential AI safety researchers. Also, they have published what they call AI Safety Syllabus — books to read and videos to watch and so forth.

Paul Kemp: Yes, because I’m also thinking of the future workforce that we may have in the future. In fact, who would have predicted 15 years ago that people would be going into careers such as Google AdWords, Pay Per Click experts and SEO. Getting involved in AI is probably a good bet on where the future workforce may be heading — right?

Jaan Tallinn: That’s true… Or, more generally, programming. It’s something that it’s harder and harder to avoid. Having some idea of how computers work and what software can do is a more and more important component of jobs, regardless of what domain you are in.

Paul Kemp: As we wrap this up, Jaan, I’m often thinking — the human race. We have to realize that technology is not the solution to everything. It could actually wipe us out instead of helping solve our problems in the world. What is going to be, in your opinion, the way that the human species is going to become extinct because of AI? How can we prevent it?

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Jaan Tallinn: Well, there are many ways how human species can go extinct. The most mundane thing is that every ten million years or so a large or, more important, a fast enough rock comes along to cause a wipeout of many species, potentially humans. It has happened before here, and if you just wait long enough, it will happen again. But it’s more likely, indeed, that there could be catastrophic scenarios from 21st-century technologies, or perhaps even 20th-century technologies such as nuclear weapons.

The reason I’m focused on AI, for one, it has all this positive upside. The way I describe it is that you can frame AI research as humanity’s search for the best possible future, with an important caveat — we are going to irrevocably commit to the first result that we find from that search. The other reason for thinking about AI is that Ai is sort of a meta-technology; it’s a technology that can develop its own technologies. Whatever concerns we have of a biotechnology, nanotechnology, terraforming and so on and so forth — if you don’t actually make AI being concerned about the same singular constraints that people would like to exercise on our technology development, well, once it starts developing its own technology, we’re just no longer going to have an environment that is able to sustain humanity.

Paul Kemp: It’s interesting, I think it definitely highlights how we need to think about his subject. Often, we feel like it’s very science fiction, it’s very put towards the future, but we don’t know when there could be this big breakthrough, so these safety things that are going on are obviously very important.

Thank you very much for coming on this very special episode, episode #500 of The App Guy Podcast. I’ll be putting full show notes on the website — it’s theappguy.co.

Jaan, thanks very much for speaking with us today and leaving us with the possibility of us all potentially becoming extinct.

Jaan Tallinn: Alright, thank you.

Follow me [Paul Kemp] on Twitter or join my Slack community. Subscribe to The App Guy Podcast for 500 episodes with other successful founders

Chino Lex : How One App Developer Went From Carpet Cleaner To Top 1% App Developer & Millions Of Users

Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we speak to really interesting founders and ask them lots of questions about tips and tricks, and any kind of help that they can give us in our own journeys. It's really perfect for anyone who has side projects or anyone is founding their own companies, startups, and just to tap into this whole community.

Today I've got a really awesome, fun app, something that I have needed for quite some time. It gives me the ability to look at my friend's playlists for music. I'm a big music fan. I switched from Spotify to Apple Music recently, and I love finding new music, new songs. So let's introduce Chino Lex, he is the founder of tapTrax.co

Chino, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Chino: Hey, how's it going? Good to be here.

Paul: Great. Firstly, let's try to describe better than I've just done what you're doing with tapTrax.

Chino: Yes, tapTrax is a rapid music discovery app. Imagine Pandora on steroids: you type in a song and you get relevant, succinct song suggestions in six-second clips that you can like or pass. The liked songs become fully streamable in your playlists, which are public.

Paul: What I'm learning from you already, Chino, is that you've got a great tagline: "It's like Pandora on steroids." I think anyone else who's got their own product, they need to think of comparing it to something well-known like you've done - Pandora on steroids.

How did you get the idea?

Chino: I was actually in the car, in a radio experience with some friends, and do you know when you're in the car and you switch from station to station, you usually listen to the songs for like two to five seconds and decide you don't like and you switch stations? We all just wanted some new music, and then I plugged in my Pandora, and five skips later I was out of skips. I figured everything else we consume is bite-sized, like 140-character news updates, split-second date decisions with Tinder, five-second snaps - why not discover music this way?

Paul: It is an absolutely awesome idea. I'm almost like in that car with you, and the light bulbs come on. It must have been a great feeling to know that you've come across a pretty awesome. Now, 99% of people would have thought that was a great idea and then several years later it would have come out from someone else, and they would have done nothing about it. You did something about it; talks us through going from that idea to then making something that was actually a product.

Chino: Yes, what comes to mind is a quote - I'm probably butchering it, but "You don't rise to the level of your hopes, you fall to the level of your training." To contextualize it, I've published over 160 apps in my history, with over 5 million users. I've never started to run ads or marketing, so my kind of bread and butter is being able to grow apps and develop them.

So to the first point of the quote, I kind of fell to my history of making apps and being able to grow them, so I figured why not make this into reality? I know the steps, so I tried it out.

Paul: I'm actually writing that down, I love that: you don't rise to the level of your hopes, you reduce to the level of your training. That is just so awesome! Because I can imagine, if you hadn't had the experience of all the apps that you've built and all the downloads that you've had, then the initial reaction - I'm sure people listening to this have had this, the appster tribe - is you get really excited and you think, "Oh my god, the whole world is gonna want this right now", and you perhaps blitz a credit card, you pay a developer maybe, you launch the thing and you realize, "Oh dear, this is not working out the way I thought."

You've had a wonderful experience. Do you feel like that's a common mistake that a lot of people make, what I've just described?

Chino: Yes, I mean half of it is just mental and half of it is in practice. When you want to start something, there's like a level of novelty to your ideas that will get you really excited, and then you realize the reality of it, putting it into practice or letting it come into fruition is harder than you thought. You see some people quit, and the case most of the times is that people quit before they even start, or they think, "Oh, that's cool", and then they go about with their day.

Paul: Yes. Okay, so I just want to revisit something you've said, which is that you've built a lot of apps, and was it five million downloads?

Chino: Yes, more or less. [laughter]

Paul: That is a pretty impressive achievement. To be fair though, I've released apps, and some have reached a million, but I didn't make any money from the ones on Google, especially.

Chino: Yes, Google's tough.

Paul: So of the five million downloads, have you been able to crack the real secret, which is to source some income that would then give you a lifestyle as an app developer, as an app entrepreneur?

Chino: Yes, sure. First, for more context, in the last two years I've been to almost 30 cities, eight countries, so I've traveled quite a bit, and the lifestyle of an app entrepreneur I guess is either really good or terrible. There is two extreme ends of the app store - you've got your hits, and then you've got your long tail of apps. You've got your Facebooks, and then your thousand other social networking sites that didn't work out.

Paul: Yes. Okay, so you've traveled to around 30-odd cities. Where are we speaking to you right now?

Chino: I am currently in Montreal. I came back from Quebec a day and a half ago, and I'll be in New York City on Sunday, and then after that L.A.

Paul: That's just so awesome. You know, I was inspired quite a long time ago now, it was episode 97, my chat with Andreas Kambanis, and he was submitting his very successful at the time, Caveman Feast, from a bus in Columbia, and he was trying to get an internet connection.

Chino: That's so funny... [laughter]

Paul: Yes, so you must have some really similar stories where you're trying to do something, and there you are, traveling around. Has it been a good lifestyle for you?

Chino: Yes, I remember in school where you had a lot of work and you knew how to do it - for example some math homework - and you'd look outside, it's a sunny day, and you wanted to just focus on it, get it done, do it the right way so you get a good grade, and go outside. It's kind of the same thing - I have work to do, but I'm in a new city. So I wanna sit down in a coffee shop, focus on it, really nail it down, and then go and explore the city. It's kind of like that same recess kind of feeling where you know you can go play outside, but you've got some stuff to do. And that's okay, because you have to balance both, of course.

Paul: Yeah, absolutely. So anyone listening, the appster tribe, we love to learn about the different lifestyles from the entrepreneurs... So how on earth did you get attracted to becoming an app entrepreneur yourself, and actually traveling around to all these different cities? How did that come about?

Chino: I whittled down from being just a general entrepreneur... My parents immigrated when I was kid. I'm a first-generation American, so the pressure to go to college was definitely there, but me myself - I've always been an entrepreneur in the sense that I've always mowed my neighbor's lawns, shovel the driveways, traded Pokémon cards when I was a kid. So that's always just been there, because my parents were a good middle-class, they never had a lot to give me, and whenever I asked for something they told me, "Go mow a lawn, or something."  

So I was an entrepreneur from the start, and then in terms of apps, that road was really interesting. I actually just read into this Yahoo! News article, the headline was, "18-year-old makes app empire from his laptop". So I click on the article... Now, he's actually my long-time friend, co-founder, also roommate.

Paul: Okay, let me just recap then... So you're reading something, and it's about an app entrepreneur who's only 18. You click on the article. Now he's a co-founder and long-time friend.

Chino: Yeah, yeah.

Paul: This is great, because this is all about my show - it's about networking, it's about reaching out, it's about helping, collaborating. So how did you actually get to know him that well?

Chino: Actually, it was really casual.

Paul: You mowed his lawn. [laughter]

Chino: No, no... So at the time I was in my hometown of Spokane, Washington and he was in Princeton, New Jersey. I clicked on the article, I read it and thought, "Well, if this kid can do it, I can freakin' do it." I've always had ideas back then, so I reached out to him, tweeted him and then got his email address and we started just talking back and forth on e-mail, and we added each other as friends on Facebook. He was just casually giving me tips here and there. We mostly connected over traveling, or food, or whatever. Then six to eight months later when I published my first app that actually made me money, I actually got up on my feet and started reinvesting that money back in the company and started publishing more apps. It went well, and then I could finally move out of my parent's house.

I was looking for a roommate, and I posted an ad on Craigslist, and there's just like this bunch of weirdoes. So I'm like, "Who's gonna move..." - because I wanted to move to Seattle, which is about four hours East of Spokane; it's like the bigger city, Seattle, Washington, of course... And I didn't know who else would be my roommate. I mean, all my friends were over in college, friends who had entry-level jobs couldn't get these places that I wanted to live in, so I just asked Spencer in a Facebook message, "Do you want to move to Seattle?" He said, "Sure."

Paul: That's just so awesome.

Chino: Well, it was great. But the funny things, I'm missing a lot of parts in the story... I kind of messed up, because before I was an app developer I wasn't just a student, I was a carpet cleaner. I actually got a job as a carpet cleaner, so cleaning up pee and poop from dirty carpets with machinery. That was my day job, and at night I'd work on apps.
It was kind of an interesting journey... It's just really random, and it all kind of worked out with a lot of curiosity and some Google searches.

Paul: I love this story, and it's why I do this podcast, to meet people like you. It's almost like there's a theme developing... My last episode, the guy sold his first company at the age of 15, and there's a real theme - there's something in you when you're young that you just know that this is the path to go down. You know, the establishments, the organizations, the corporations, they don't attract you; you just have this urge to be free and do your own thing. But you have to be, I guess, very self-motivated. Is that fair to say?

Chino: Yeah, I would say less motivated, more disciplined, because freedom without discipline is pretty much useless. But I'd say discipline is the main factor.

Paul: Yeah, because when you have this lifestyle, you can almost wake up and do anything you want to, in a way. I've chosen to have the discipline of getting a lot of episodes out of the podcast; you're episode 476, but I'm guessing everyone listening to this needs to think of discipline. Okay, let's get back to the story, because it's just so... So there you are, you're cleaning shit off the carpets and stuff like that, and then you move to Seattle. You've got Spencer, your friend who had a really massive win at the age of 18 with his app empire. Did you work then together to start building a lot of different apps?

Chino: No, I started my own company, he had his own company. We were just friends, it wasn't like a transactional thing, like "Hey, if you help me with this, I'll do this for you." It was just really two guys who... I think my first or second e-mail to him was like, "Hey, Spencer... I got into the University of Washington, which is the school I wanted to get into. It's number 13th in the world, right behind Princeton in terms of ranking." US News ranked all the colleges in the world, and it's at number 13, right after Princeton. It's a public school, best school in the state of Washington, definitely, I would say.

I'm missing parts to this story, I'm jumping all around because it's just all coming back to me now. So I actually went to college in high school, with this program called [unintelligible 00:17:43.27] It lets you take college classes in high school, at the community college level. So I had college credit, and then when I got into the University of Washington I actually went to orientation, and then dropped out the second day.

Paul: [laughs]

Chino: I can't make this shit up. So I went to orientation, and I was like, "I will not be happy here. I wanna continue working on my apps. I have college credit under my belt." My worst-case scenario is I'd spend another year or two at home, then I'd go back to college, right on track anyway.

So I kind of moved my chess pieces in a way that I didn't really have any risk. Of course, I was 18, I had some college credit under my belt, I had some money saved up, and then I wanted to do this apps thing... It was really all over the place.

Paul: Right, okay. So you then decided to focus solely on apps, and I'm guessing this is your biggest creative spell. Like me, did you just start creating apps that you thought would do well? Did you have a process in place?

Chino: Oh, I wanted to conquer the world. So my first app was a -- I didn't conquer the world. I mean, not conquer the world, conquer a world. The world of like sneakers, and stuff. In high school I was really into Jordans, so there were a lot of instances where I'd meet a seller for Jordans and they'd try to sell me fake shoes. So my first app ever - this is the only app. I'll have and keep forever, it was called NoMoFakes. It was a fake product  catalog for fake Gucci bags, fake Ray-Bans, fake Jordan shoes, and it'd help you indicate whether or not the item you'd buy is fake or not. I thought it changed the world, but it made like two dollars a day.

Paul: Yeah, actually a lot of my apps have the word 'fake' in there as well... But the first way you monetized the app was what - just a paid app? Or did you do it through advertising.

Chino: It was a paid app, and then I made it free to get more traffic, but it didn't get more traffic.

Paul: This is great, actually, just to take stock because I think a lot of people have the same problem. They're attracted to the app store through PR press, these reports that you've read, like "18-year-old makes an app empire". You make your first app, you put it on the app store, go through weeks and weeks of negotiation with Apple because it's been rejected for whatever reason. You get it on there, and then nothing happens. I reckon there's millions of people who are disappointed with their first app... But what kept you going?

Chino: Honestly, I think that's the part of the story we need to zoom in on most. My accolades - they're great, but it's not the important part. The important part was the journey. I had a moment where I was in the shower, crying; sitting down in the shower, crying. Pathetic. To contextualize, I'd quit school, I was on Facebook, I'm seeing all my friends making new friends... I didn't feel like I was progressing. My app didn't do anything. Actually, my first 20 to 40 apps got rejected. They were all failures, they did nothing. So I had this moment, like a quarter life crisis, or a pre-quarter life crisis, where I was miserable. But I figured, "Okay, if I could stick this out a little longer, maybe some of them will hit off", and eventually they did. Do you know that game Candy Crush?

Paul: Yes, of course.

Chino: Well, I didn't make that - I'd be like on a yacht right now - but I made the first guide to that in the app store, and that did really well. I figured that people had to pay to keep playing the game if they couldn't get past a level, so I figured why not make a cheat guide to just show you how to save money and beat the game. That got up to the top 200 in the store, and that let me kind of reinvest in other projects as well

Paul: Yeah, I mean Candy Crush actually I'm sure was successful primarily because of Facebook, they were advertising all over the place, and their viral in-built mechanisms were amazing. But you managed to write a guide, I'm guessing it was a paid app... I almost get the feeling that the first 40-odd apps were training for this one idea, for your Candy Crush guide, and that ultimately then gave you the success you needed to validate all those hard decisions you took, and rejections. It made it all worth it.

Chino: It did, it did. I remember exactly where I was... I'd go to my gym every day and work out, and I was playing basketball on the gym basketball court, and Spencer texted me saying "Hey, congratulations! Some of your apps, they got to the top charts." I'm like, "What are you talking about?" because I didn't even check these. I thought they'd be rejected like the first 40 of them... And I checked it on my phone, I went to the US Store and I saw my app on the charts. It was like the heavens were singing, the good music comes on in your head... It felt good. It felt like that moment in The Pursuit of Happiness, the end where Will Smith has his hands in the air and he's clapping, he was about to cry - that stuff. It was good.

Paul: Any movie producers listening to this, we're getting the story here: there you were, in the shower, on your hands and knees crying, and then it goes to the moment where you first hit the top charts. Okay, so you've built the Candy Crush guide, it's giving you a big boost... Carrying on the story, I'd like to know what happened after you had that big sort of win.

Chino: I knew it was just the start. I figured out how to post the apps and how to position yourself in the app stores to get traffic, and I made valuable products for those niches in the app store, for example - quizz guides, game guides, quizz apps... Different apps that I knew niches needed to be filled for. And then that training - going back to training - prepared me for TapTrax now, because obviously the music space is highly competitive, I'm not naive to that, and of course the app space is ever growing. So that training helped me put together a foundation to build the product on top of, as well as grow the actual traffic in parallel.

So that training was very important. It prepared me for what I'm gonna do now, as well as prepared me and gave me the tools to say I'm confident and competent enough to make something like this.

Paul: It's so inspirational... I'm pretty sure now that for anyone - me included - who's been plugging away and finding the app store just so hard to have any success... It took you 30-40 apps until you had this hit, so anyone else who's going through -- I mean, I've spoken to a lot of people who have only got to 20-30 apps, not even that, and have stopped, and quit, and said it doesn't work. So it just shows that you've gotta keep moving forward, keep doing it, plugging away, and eventually you'll get something.  

So Chino, let's talked about what you've learned to then market TapTrax. Are there any things you would say could help us with what you've learned in terms of how to get downloads and how to get up to the tops of the app store charts?

Chino: Yeah, I guess some things that you shouldn't do... I think what some people do is they -- for example, if I was making an Instagram competitor, they'll include Instagram in their keywords because they think that the traffic from Instagram searches will be relevant to their photo app. That's a bad idea, because Apple is smart and knows you're not Instagram, so they won't show you in no search results.

Something else you shouldn't do, don't include relevant brand names in your keywords or your app store descriptions or title, because it will actually hurt you in terms of searchability and discovery. That's one of them.

In terms of creatives - worry about your creatives last. I've seen lots of apps with ugly icons and ugly screenshots go up to the top charts, and that's pretty much just because they have good positioning on the app stores in terms of search results. That's similar to SEO, but it's a little different obviously, it's kind of a new feel, but it's art and science. There are tools out there, like SensorTower or - I think you mentioned them as one of your sponsors - Gummicube. But really it's moreso an art, because there are words and phrases that you can use in your metadata that are not necessarily competitive, but they are popular in terms of search volume.

Paul: That's great. What we're learn from this podcast series, Chino, is to have the problem first of all - completely try to focus on solving a problem, rather than emulating an app that's already successful and putting a different angle on it. So your problem, your overcoming is the difficulty in finding new songs, relying on Pandora and Apple Music curation. Were there some big technical hurdles that you had to overcome to get TapTrax on the app store?

Chino: I guess not that many, but to your first point, in terms of the problem we solve and how we're different, I would say we're rapid music discovery.

Classically, music has been discovered in three ways - Shazam, Pandora, and the big dog, the radio. All those solutions are what's called passive; you run into the song and you IT it with it Shazam, or you run into the song on your station on Pandora or the radio and you kind of put it in the playlist on Spotify. But with us, you're finding tens, possibly hundreds of songs in a short amount of time, as opposed to running into the songs one by one on the other medium.

For us, the problem we solve is - I'm just willing to bet there are people out there who are actively looking for music and who wouldn't want to just discover it by way of chance or serendipity.

Paul: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that we've had some past guests who are very relevant to you. There's the founder of Clammr... I would love you to maybe have on your next project a way of podcast discovery, so getting little clips in podcasts maybe in some kind of playlist and then realizing the ones you actually want to listen to; that would be pretty cool.

There's so much to learn from you, Chino. I feel like we could go on for some time. Before we close and before we say goodbye to you, are there any things that you know that we should be asking you? You know the audience... What have we missed, to tap into your knowledge? Is there anything we should have gone across to get the most out of you?

Chino: Yeah, definitely - just look at the app store like the rest of the internet. People say, "Don't make apps, because it's too competitive." Well, there are - what, 2 million apps? How many websites are there? There might be a billion websites and then two million apps. Which landscape do you wanna compete in? The one that's growing - mobile - or the one that's having less and less users go to it everyday, like desktop, web.

Actually the app store is a good platform in terms of digital experiences and value, but in terms what I -- I actually consult for startups as well for growth, because there are funnel dynamics to this in terms of growth. There's the top line, which is ASO, game discovery on the app store, activation signups, all that good stuff, and retention and invites. But I help companies too with growth for apps, just because it's my jungle.

The funny thing is that people try to invest time and effort into external channels for growth. For example they say, "Oh yeah, we have influencers with a total reach of a million followers who are gonna shout us out on Vine. An influencer has a blog of 20,000 followers", or whatever it is. But the thing is - and there's data on this, you can check my facts - that 65% of the apps get discovered on the app store. It's not gonna be on a newspaper, a billboard, a Vine, a Snapchat or whatever, because there's just too much friction from that channel of promotion to download the app.

So really what you need to be focusing on is your ASO - that's very, very important - as well as getting your users to each step of that funnel. To get them to be an actual user of your app, so that you can solve a problem for them.

There's a lot of nuance to the area of app growth, but it's not as hard as everybody thinks it is.

Paul: Yeah, in fact from my own experience, I've managed to get apps onto the top, number one in the category; I was working with the guy I mentioned earlier to get a number two app, just getting piped to number one post. But what I've learned is that the app store does command most of the downloads, and yet actually I've spent a lot of this podcast on the other ways of getting downloads, and you're absolutely right - that's one of the most valuable things I've learned; 65% of apps roughly are discovered on the app store itself, and that's where you need to really focus the attention.

Thanks for mentioning my sponsor as well, Gummicube; I'm sure they'll be happy, Dave Bell there. Chino, this has been a terrific chat. It's really, honestly been so great going through your story. People will want I guess to maybe hit you up for consulting on startups - how best can people reach out and connect with you?

Chino: Yes, so I'm on all the socials: @itschinolex, or you can reach out to me on Chino Lex, or my website is chinolex.com. Pretty simple.

Paul: Chinolex.com, great. Of course, there will be show notes on episode 476 of The App Guy Podcast. Chino, what a great, great, great episode, I love it. All the best with tapTrax.co. I'm going to be using it. We wish you all the best and look forward to the next 40-odd apps that maybe come out from your company.

Chino: Thanks you.

Paul: Thanks a lot.

 

An Interview With A Doctor Who Quit - Goes On To Create A Rap Video For Kickstarter

Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we get exciting CEOs and founders on the show and we learn from them. We have all types of founders that we can learn from, and we have a great founder today. It's the founder of the London App Brewery, Angela Yu. She's actually going to talk to us about going from - get this - a doctor to a programmer. So instead of saving lives, you're helping enrich lives through programming, and there's a lot of other stuff we can learn about as well. So Angela, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Angela: Hi, hi!

Paul: Let's go straight into it. So you went from obviously a lot of time training to be a doctor and all the qualifications, and then you jumped ship and became a programmer. Tell us about the back-story of that.

Angela: Yes, it's pretty crazy. So I trained as a doctor at UCL in London for six years, and then went on to work in the National Health Service for another two years. When I was young I was quite into programming, and while I was in medical school I started picking up iOS development, because I really wanted to make medical apps that could make our lives slightly easier. Then as I got more and more into it, I sort of felt "Hey, wait a minute. I enjoy this a lot more than my day job, so what am I doing here?" [laughter] And also, the NHS, for those of you who don't know, is complete wasteland for tech, basically. I mean, we're still faxing in this day and age. And not just faxing, but you fax somebody, and then you call them to make sure that they got the fax, and then you e-mail them a hard copy. And I'm thinking most of the jobs that I'm doing could probably be replaced with a few lines of code, and that was really frustrating. So yes, it's a big jump, but a very good one.

Paul: I often get asked how to know when to make that jump. There's many people who listen to this who have different occupations, different types of jobs, and they ask me, "Paul, when do you know...? Because it is a big risk." So how did you prepare? I think we can learn from you on that.

Angela: A friend of mine who's a founder as well once quoted somebody, I don't know if it was Elon Musk or somebody else - starting a company is like staring into the abyss and eating glass, and it's very true. Making that jump was really, really scary. But once you do make that jump you realize, "Oh, I'm not actually freefalling." So for me I think getting traction in our company, starting to see an uptick, that was the point where I said, "Okay, I think this is a good enough result for me to decide to change career." I have a lot of friends who maybe did it too early or maybe too late, and maybe regretted that, but yes... Seeing traction.

Paul: This is great advice. So specifically what is it - a certain amount of earnings from your company whilst you're working on it part time? Or is it some other traction, such as trajectory?

Angela: So I started the London App Brewery with a co-founder who came from finance to Android app development, and basically we started out by teaching friends who wanted to learn how to code. We then saw that more and more friends wanted to learn from us, and we were having this little weekend boot camps, and then we thought, "Hey, let's launch this out into a website, see if anybody will actually sign up for it." And that uptick that I was mentioning was people paying for the course, people talking about our course after having been on it to their friends, without us ever asking them to. We were seeing Facebook, Twitter shares, and people raving about it without any push from us, and I think that was the real sign that there was some sort of a product market fit, and it was a good point to jump into it.

Paul: Yes, let's talk about the London App Brewery then. You are teaching coding...

Angela: Yes, we are. My co-founder and I, we're both self-taught programmers. We don't really have background in tech other than maybe messing about with stuff on the weekends. So we thought about trying to create a course for people who are from a non-technical background. Because very often you get very technical, very good programmers explaining things to people in a way that not everybody can understand. There's a lot of tutorials which say, "You follow step 1-2-3, which is super simple. Then step 3, you just simply set up your cloud database", and then people are like, "What?" [laughter] It was a bit of a jump there, right?

So we tried to make something that has really clear explanation, uses a lot of animations, and sort of explains things in ways that normal people can understand. That's basically in a nutshell what we're trying to do at the London App Brewery.

Paul: Right. Now, I know that you've been working on something that you're extremely excited about. You mentioned about the NHS and how prehistoric it is with tech, and we always on this show look at these opportunities. So you're doing something that helps save 800 million pounds a year, or something? Tell us about that.

Angela: Yes, so that was one of my larger apps that I've built, before starting the London App Brewery. It's [unintelligible 00:06:21.04] The problem at the moment is that we have a shortage of medical nursing staff in the NHS, and the NHS as a whole spends about 1.7 billion pounds on temporary medical staffing - so part time work -  per year. The crazy thing is about 20 to 30% of that goes towards private agencies as commission. What they do is incredibly low-tech. They are headhunters, so they call you up on Monday and say, "Hey, Dr. Angela, can you do a shift?" and I say, "No." They call you back on Tuesday, "Can you do a shift on another day?" I say, "No", and it goes again and again. Some days I have a call log of eight or nine calls from them. So I basically created an app with a designer and a backend developer which automates the entire process. It has notifications for jobs as they come up. You CV is sent straight to medical staffing in the hospitals, and you also have a track record of your performance on the job. So that's being pushed through the NHS... But obviously, the NHS being the NHS, it will take a while to spread from hospital to hospital.

Paul: Yes, I know. In fact, you've just inspired someone, I'm sure, who's working in their own industry. What I've learned from you is to simply keep your eyes open for problems that could be solved through tech.

Angela: Yes. I think this kind of "scratch your own itch" kind of app or product is the best, because you have real frustrations, and I was really upset about getting ten million calls from this medical staffing agency, and I'm sure everybody else has these kind of frustrations which they can address.

Paul: So why do you think that others... You are a doctor, you've learned and taught yourself to code - why is that important?

Angela: So in the future, I think not being able to communicate with technology or computers will become a hindrance. I think as we're moving towards this kind of tech-first society, not being able to talk to a computer is going to be a hindrance, if not a disability. So I think being able to have a degree of understanding of code is really essential. Even if you're not going to become a founder, even if you're not going to make a tech product, it's still important to understand how code words. But that's my opinion.

Paul: So what we're learning from you is that it is important to have that skill set even if you may not be the one who's developing the product. I would love to know... You were a doctor, it's incredibly long hours... How on earth did you find time to start your side projects, which ultimately lead you to this path?

Angela: [laughs] So the good thing about being a doctor is that you have a block of night shifts; sometimes it could be 14 days of night shifts in a row, where you work 12 hours per day. But after that block you get maybe 4 or 5 days to recuperate and get back into normal life, and during that time, being relatively young, it would only take me maybe 24 hours to bounce back into a good time cycle, so I would spend the four days coding, essentially. And also, being on night shifts, being in this sort of night mode, it's good for the coding as well, because it's quiet and dark. [laughter]

I had a lot of tricks that I would use... For example there's this app that I think some scientists made from Penn State University, which is called the Caffeine [unintelligible 00:10:28.25] where you can actually measure the half-life of coffee, and you figure out how much caffeine you've consumed, and it plots a decay curve of how much is coming out of your bloodstream. And once it hits a critical level, it prompts you, it gives you a notification to drink a bit more coffee, so that you always stay within the production zone.

Paul: I love that. We had an episode last year with the founder of