A Guided Experience to SXSW V2V 2013

A Guided Experience to SXSW V2V 2013

“South by South West Version 2 Vegas”  at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas


SXSW V2V offers innovators and entrepreneurs across all creative industries a space to learn the skills, make the connections and find the inspiration to take their ideas and talents to the next level. Join over 1500 thought leaders for this first ever SXSW event in Las Vegas.

The startup and venture capital space is of major interest to all the creative industries that are at the core of the SXSW family of events. Featuring four days of informative panels and workshops, inspirational speakers, intensive mentor and coaching programs, networking events and receptions, pitch competitions and startup showcases. If you are involved in building an app, a service, a business, a brand or a community, then this event is for you.

Join SXSWv2v August 11 through August 14, 2013 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada for extension and re-imagining of the legendary SXSW Austin experience with an emphasis on the creative spark that drives entrepreneurial innovation. Learn more about this exciting event at sxswv2v.com. ($895.00 +travel & meals)

If you are interested in a guided experience by an industry leading technologist, reach out to jratkins@SomethingDifferentCompanies.com. You will have a personal escort to panel discussions, workshops and other events who will add context to the discussion, who can relate the topics and technology to your business, as well as help you make the most of your time and interest. (call for pricing, 214-707-1705)

Schedule Overview

SXSW v2v, J.R. Atkins, guided experience

Are You Getting Your Share of the $25B in Mobile App Sales

The Wall Street Journal today summed it up well stating that the Mobile App business is booming 5 years after Apple launched the App Store. Read the some of the details below or see the full article at the Wall Steet Journal.

Apps Rocket Toward $25 Billion in Sales

Players in Quickly Growing Business Scramble to Figure Out Best Ways to Attract Users and Turn a Profit


The mobile apps industry is booming, with Google and Apple now offering more than 700,000 applications each in their respective stores. But for every Instagram, there are thousands of duds. The WSJ’s Jessica Lessin tells us what makes an app successful in today’s competitive market.

Nearly five years after Apple Inc. AAPL -2.42% kicked off the mobile-apps craze, the industry is booming.

App stores run by Apple and Google Inc. GOOG +1.90% now offer more than 700,000 apps each. With so many apps to choose from, consumers are estimated to spend on average about two hours a day with apps. Global revenue from app stores is expected to rise 62% this year to $25 billion, according to Gartner Inc. IT +2.27%

The apps industry has matured in some respects. Some of the Wild West tactics of five years ago—like scams to accrue more downloads—have given way to more order as Apple and others tighten their rules. App developers are more methodical about marketing their apps and focusing on the few apps that work best.

What’s Your App?

Business leaders, athletes and entertainers share their favorite smartphone and tablet apps.

WSJ’s Spencer Ante takes a look at the explosive growth of smartphone, tablet and smart TV apps and how Google’s Android apps have given Apple a run for its money. Photo: Google, Inc.

How big of a money maker are apps? What country’s GDP is the size of the global app economy? How does app use compare to TV in terms of time spent per day? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has answers.

For every Instagram, the wildly popular photo sharing app that Facebook Inc. FB -0.22% bought for $1 billion last year, there are hundreds of thousands of apps that don’t catch on.

As the battlefield shifts to new geographies, new categories and new devices, developers are still trying to figure out which business models are the most profitable.

The apps industry “is like cars at the turn of the last century,” said Simon Khalaf, chief executive of mobile analytics firm Flurry Inc. “You see the growth of roads and know they’re going to be big. But it is still early days.”

TinyCo Inc., a San Francisco-based game maker that released its first mobile game in 2010, is experiencing both the promise and the perils of the apps industry. Today it has 13 mobile games and revenue is doubling. But every day is a battle to acquire users, said Michael Sandwick, manager of strategic partnerships.

The cost of acquiring users through advertising continues to rise by double digits year-over-year, he said, sometimes more sharply when bigger companies seek to introduce a new game. That has forced the startup to better tune its spending based on data about how people are discovering their games.

“There’s an incredible amount of saturation,” said Mr. Sandwick.

Just a few years ago, the apps industry was simpler. In early 2010, Apple’s App Store had a commanding lead with around 140,000 apps for phones. The market was heavily focused on the U.S.

Apple and Google Inc.’s Play store are today neck-in-neck in terms of smartphone apps catalogs and usage, said analysts. Apple still dominates in terms of money made by more than three to one, according to App Annie.

And there are others also offering app stores—to different degrees of success—including Microsoft Corp., MSFT +0.72%BlackBerryBB.T -3.60% -maker Research In Motion Ltd., and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +2.77%

The app boom has spread to markets such as China, Japan and South Korea. That has led to some apps like social-networking service NHN Corp.’s Line leapfrogging U.S. app-makers in revenue by selling virtual items like stickers.


And apps are expanding their reach on devices. They’re no longer just for phones, but tablets and televisions too. The apps are taking advantage of hardware improvements like sensors that can tell an app how fast a person is moving.

In the past two years, consumers have doubled the time spent with apps to about two hours a day, according to Flurry. Yet people churn through apps fairly frequently, making it hard for developers to retain users.

About 63% of the apps used daily now differ from those used daily a year ago. Moreover, consumers focus on a handful—roughly eight apps—at a time.

Michael Duda, a New York-based marketing consultant and investor, said he regularly uses about 12 of the 70 or so apps on his Android smartphone that make his life easier, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Sonos, AmericanExpress and J.P. Morgan ChaseJPM +0.39% .

“A bunch of the apps I downloaded sounded cool,” but he said but most don’t add “utility to my day-to-day life.”

App makers can have a difficult time breaking into a business dominated by incumbents.

Only 2% of the top 250 publishers in Apple’s App Store are “newcomers,” versus 3% in Google’s Play store for Android apps, according to research firm Distimo.

“The bar is so high to build something that is special and valuable and easy to use,” said Jake Mintz, co-founder Bump Technologies Inc., a four-year-old app that lets people share media across phones by touching them. To be more useful, the Mountain View, Calif., company has branched out to share media across laptops too, he said.

Others app makers are coping with the shifting landscape by being more selective about what they build and how they promote their apps.

Michael Bayle, senior vice president and general manager of mobile at Walt Disney Co.’s DIS +0.85% ESPN, said the company recently decommissioned 23 of its 30 Apple apps it had been maintaining, and kept alive its most popular ones.

ESPN dropped an app for Los Angeles sports but kept its popular ScoreCenter app that publishes scores, news and standings from sports leagues, teams and players world-wide.

“It’s easy to make an app but the real expense is in maintaining it,” Mr. Bayle said.

Some app companies are scrambling for new revenue streams and expanding beyond the current leading money pots: ads and in-app purchases.

When music-discovery app Shazam Entertainment Ltd, introduced its first cellphone app about seven years ago, its main revenue came from deals with mobile operators and licensing its audio-recognition technology.

Today it has five revenue streams, including selling ads in apps, a paid premium version of its app and charging television advertisers to integrate Shazam campaigns.

“We have seen revenue drivers change over the years,” said chief revenue officer Doug Garland, declining to comment on its results. “We are figuring out where the best opportunities are and doubling down.”

Write to Jessica E. Lessin at jessica.lessin@wsj.com and Spencer E. Ante at spencer.ante@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared March 4, 2013, on page B1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Apps Explode Into Industry Ready to Hit$25 Billion

How Successful Startups Hire

Check out this short video on “One Minute MBA” on how to hire people for your successful start up. Thanks to Emily Stewart for shaing the content. Please add your comments below.


The Dallas Startup Scene

Author of Success Simplified J.R. Atkins is a fan of Startup DFWMy friends and I often lament because Dallas does not get the attention and press for a Startup community like Silicon Valley, Boston or event Austin. One reason could be because we are so spread out and another could be because not enough people know what is going on in the Dallas Startup community. Over the last few years I have been consulting on a few Startups and have observed many Dallas startups, so I thought I would mention a few sources for information, funding, incubators and current startups.

In March, I traveled to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, to specifically observe the Startup activities. One floor of meeting rooms in the Hilton Hotel was dedicated to Startups and on Thursday night before SXSW began there was a “Startup Crawl” or a tour of some 50+ Austin based Startups. I’d like to see us do this in Dallas but we’d need buses to haul us around town.

While in Austin, I got to know the people with “Startup America” a kind of clearing house for information and resources for Startups. We have a local group called Startup Texas that is part of the national group. As it grows we will see more localized “chapters” such as Startup Dallas.

Tech Wildcatters has been named one of the Top 15 Incubators/Accelerators in the US and serves as “a mentorship-driven microseed fund and startup accelerator.” Tech Wildcatters companies receive $10K per company and an additional $5K per founder, up to a total of $25K. You can learn more at the FAQ section of their website. A few of the Startups that have been through the program include Proxomo, MemoryReel, and RentSavey.

J.R. Atkins consultatn to Startups for Marketing likes TechCocktailsTech Cocktail “is a literal “cocktail” of emerging technology and startup events, news, resources and reports for the entrepreneurial minded, tech enthusiast.            “ In May, Tech Cocktail came to Dallas and hosted a Startup showcase at Tech Wildcatters. Here are a few of the Startup companies I visited with at the event:

Rethink Books “is a technology company focused on helping readers buy, interact, and share more books.” Or as I like to say, as you read a book on a tablet, you can interact with others on your social networks, the author or other readers; a real interactive experience. I met the co-founder Jason Illian in 2010 at a kick-off event at the Park Cities Club and have been watching the company and platform grow and mature. The product is solid and the publishing industry is slowly coming around. This is a good company to keep your eye on.

Blurtt is an iPhone App that allows you to share pictures with funny captions. Or put another way, Blurtt helps you add images to your messages to better express yourself. I met the co-founder, Jeanette Cajide, in 2010 and have watched the App go from concept to full function. Check out the Tech Crunch interview with Janette.

Mobile App Consultant J.R. Atkins likes the Meta Watch platformMeta Watch is a watch “platform” that can connect to any Bluetooth enabled device. It has a similar appeal as my iPod Nano I wear in a LunaTik watchband. The difference, the Nano does not have an open API and you have to press a button to see the time and other functions. Meta Watch highlights the “touch free” access to time and more. Meta Watch is also a development system that allows developers to quickly and easily extend the interfaces of devices and applications to the wrist. CEO Bill Geiser is proud to point out the Meta Watch works with both iOS and Android mobile phone platforms.

Clubster is a social networking platform for private clubs. This timely App serves the elite and private person very well as they too want to share and communicate using social media but they do not want the details of their life spread beyond their intimate friends and associates. COO William King says they have set up several clubs and are looking for more.

Climapak, by Kewl Innovations, is a portable temperature control device for carrying insulin. As a diabetic, I know how hard it is to be compliant with your insulin regiment when you need to carry insulin with you all the time. The heat and cold can ruin the insulin. Founder and Chairman, Mike Wilkinson, saw the need and was committed to bring the product to market.

Qwigg is a social sharing site designed with the restaurateur or retailer in mind. It is so simple to use: snap a picture, post a price, and share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. When someone comes in for the advertised special, complete the transaction. Simple and effective. In time, the restaurateur or retailer can see metrics and track the effectiveness of different specials. Co-founder Jack Wrigley’s  goal is to start with a tool that is simple and delivers results for his customers. “Once they see the results, they are willing to learn more about the details; until then, they are too busy running their business.”

Fancorps is a word of mouth marketing platform using social media. It works for big or small companies and brands. “Fancorps brings structure, performance tracking & actionable guidance to today’s stream of social media, which has become even more important than traditional marketing.” CEO and co-founder G.I. Sanders  tells me that “Fancorps has been used across all facets of social media, for focus groups and survey feedback, consumer product reviews and recommendations, live events, and virtually anywhere else a valuable impression is needed.”

Social Media speaker J.R. Atkins like BookShout book platformGravity Centre “is a place for Entrepreneurs in the Dallas Metro area to have the tools necessary for success, and to enable an ecosystem of incredible Startups that are impactful and relevant globally.” You can rent permanent spaces for full-time residents are available or flexible office spaces are available for the drop-in types; gain access to world-class technology, devices and resources that will help your Startup and product become successful. Jennifer Conley, the Director of Operations, says “Gravity Center community is made up of early-stage startup companies, innovators, investors, mentors and Universities. Housing more than 20 startups since its opening, the incubator has produced a significant number of entrepreneurs and developers who actively participate and engage with key sponsors.”

Co-Habitat Dallas is a co-working space for developers, creatives and entrepreneurs. As co-founder Blake Burris puts it “We’ve got great coffee, Wi-Fi, a variety of workspaces and best of all, a vibrant community of creative thinkers, coders, designers, and entrepreneurs.”                                                                                                                               

Events worth Considering

Changes in Worker / Business Models

The cover story on the February issues of Fast Company Magazine discusses Generation Flux and addresses the changing work model; specifically to be successful Dallas Marketing Concultant J.R. Atkins disucces Gen Fluxwe must learn to thrive in chaos. They describe Generation Flux as “… less a demographic designation than a psychographic one…a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions.“ One of my favorite quotes in the article comes from the CMO at GE, Beth Comstock, who says “our traditional teams are too slow. We’re not innovating fast enough. We need to systematize change.” This is validated by the success that small nimble companies are having in the area of Social Media and Mobile App Development. I hear terms like lean start-up, pivot, and crowd sourcing associated with new companies, not the Fortune 1000. This got me to thinking. Is the traditional, large corporate model losing its footing as “the way to do business” or “the ideal kind of company to work for.”?  Below I have identified a find few other trends and shifts in business and employment models. I welcome your observations and comments.

Trend #1 – If you are over 45, someone can do your job cheaper. Since wisdom and experience do not show up on the corporate balance sheet, it’s easy to look at this group as an unnecessary expense; their salary and benefit packages cost too much. Many in this group have been laid off and will not find the same job in another company. They will be forced to learn new skills and work for an SMB – Small Medium Business as the large corporate structures retool and redefine themselves with a younger workforce. (See “Age Discrimination”)

Trend #2 – The 24 hour work day. With proliferation of technology and low cost global communication it is getting easier for people to do their critical work duties far beyond 8:00am Eastern time to 5:00pm Pacific time. As a result, business culture will shift from rewarding those who put in extra hours for the “team” to those that can get better results in less time. When it is easy for anyone to work 12+ hour days I hope we quit wearing it like a badge of honor. The badge of honor goes to the people who get more results with less time. Besides, putting in long hours is an idea associated with the industrial era, not the knowledge era. (See “Sleepless in Silicon Valley”)

Trend #3 – Value for multiple jobs on your resume. Do you recall being warned not to “job hop?” This has changed to where employers look for skill building that may take the form of several different companies on your work history. According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, “the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.4 in January 2010.”

With this trend, I hope we see a change in employer language and expectations about “permanent positions.” What is a permanent position in today’s climate; 3 to 5 years? Who are we kidding? How can an employer say “we’re looking for someone for the long hall” when they know they need someone now and have no idea what the future holds.

Professional Speaker J.R. Atkins recommends Linchpin by Seth GodinTrend #4 –Become a Linchpin. In his book Lynchpin, Seth Godin describes changes in the corporate business model as the industrial age gives way to the digital age. He tells us that the person that is most employable is either an artist (creative), innovative, a connector of people or a combination of the three. With these skills you are often the key person (linchpin) on projects as you are indispensible. Leadership comes to you for the big important projects because you are very valuable (and you get results).

Trend #5 – I am responsible. For my healthcare, retirement, career path, and continuing education. How will we prepare the workforce for this? Some will take to it, but many others will need help. What kind of new business model will spring up? Or, do we have an existing model to fill the gap? I see staffing firms as a part of the solution. These firms can help many of us get the next project as our current project winds down. They can also be a source of benefits such as healthcare, retirement, paid vacation and continuing education. If we are not associated with a staffing firm then we must think like a contractor and always be looking for our next project within the company.

Events worth Attending

3/1/12 Tech Execs Discuss Steve Jobs Biography

3/2/12 Social Media & Leadership

3/2/12 Cultural Intelligence for Leaders

3/6/12 HBO Premier “Game Change”

3/8/12 Angel Investing Trends

3/8/12 The Coming Invasion; Drug Wars

3/9-3/12 South by Southwest Interactive

3/11-6/17 The Age of Impressionism

3/13/12 The Rivalry between Biz & Gov

3/20/12 Career Pathing in ’12 & Beyond

3/21/12 Membership in the Digital Age

3/21/12 SXSW Recap @DigitalDallas

3/22/12 Creatives in DFW Event

3/23/12 Dev Your Biz Social Media Strategy

3/27/12 Mobile Apps, the Next Big Wave

3/27/12 Last Tuesday @ The Ritz

3/31/12 Membership in the Digital Age

Can your Smart phone serve as your PC?

I saw this on “the Next Web Apps” RSS Feed and thought it was worth sharing.

What if you could run around town with your Android phone using it like you normally do and when you get to the office all you have to do is dock it and start your day? That’s exactly what Ubuntu wants to do with its pitch to Android handset manufacturers to embed the operating system into its devices.

Ubuntu for Android
is a full-featured operating system for desktop computing and all you would have to do is dock your phone to use it.

In addition to a desktop operating system, all of the functionality from the phone would be available to you at the click of a mouse. If your phone gets a call or text message, it would pop up on the external monitor you’ve set up to use it. As we noted yesterday, Apple is taking a unification approach to its mobile and desktop operating systems, and this Ubuntu solution would be even better since it doesn’t require two devices:

Dallas Mobile App Strategist J.R. Atkins comments on Ubuntu for Android 

While the operating system isn’t available right now, Ubuntu wants to get consumers excited about it so the pitch to handset creators will go that much smoother for it. Ubuntu states that a desktop environment hosted only on the web on devices such as netbooks haven’t gone over well with consumers since the desktop requires horsepower and storage for optimal productivity.

The approach makes total sense and I could see Android handsets jumping on this bandwagon. One device that provides multiple functions, especially business functions, could become extremely attractive to IT professionals who are looking to control the costs within their organization. Instead of providing each employee with a desktop machine and a mobile device, all they’d have to do is provide them with a phone. Since employees would only be using one device, there would be less security concerns as well as issues with syncing things like calendars and contact information.

As mobile phones get more computing power, the one device approach is becoming a reality and it’s one that I’d be interesting in giving a try. Even though Google does a great job at syncing information, I’d much rather only have to worry about having one device that could replace my laptop with nothing more than a few peripherals that I can leave behind when I’m on the road.

There’s no time-frame for when we could see Android handsets with this capability but if the company can prove that consumers want something like this, it’s a no-brainer for handset manufacturers.

See the original article “the Next Web Apps”

Breaking Patterns for Improved Results

As I look forward to 2012, I realize I must discontinue some of my current activities and habits and start new habits to Seth Godin and J.R. Atkins are fellow authors & speakersachieve different, better results. Authors from Seth Godin to Zig Ziglar have written about how our habits and goals must align for us to be successful.  I thought of a few ideas that might help you and I make the most of 2012. Let me know if you try these or other ideas to break old patterns and create new and improved habits.                                                          

Learn something new: My friend Steve is learning to drive a motorcycle as his new goal for 2012. Considering he is not the risk taking type, this is a stretch for him. It will put him out of his comfort zone and cause him to grow. What could you learn; a new language, a new technology, photography, how to ride a horse… and how might it help you grow? Check out the book “Learn Something Every Day” by Robert Young. 

Zig Ziglar is a mentor of J.R. AtkinsSee something different: I went to a movie in the middle of a weekday recently. It felt odd and “wrong.” I got to examine my beliefs about the right and wrong times to see a movie. What other “rules” was I holding on to? Do I follow some rules that no longer support my vision of who I am? What could you see differently? Art, an old car, behavior of your children,… and how might letting go of a view help you? Check out photographer Kat Miller’s website “See Things differently.”


Be a different person: What would it mean to do absolutely nothing for one hour; or one day? As an entrepreneur I look at the ROI of my time so at first my reaction is “why would anyone do that?” But, I hear that once you quiet your mind, you are able to see life and issues more clearly and this is the payoff for quiet time. Check out “The Critical Role Quiet Time Plays in the Achievement of our goals.


Do a different task: Have you been on a Habitat House Build? I like it because I’m not in charge, I’m part of a team, I’m making a difference and I meet people from different walks of life. This different task helps me break the habit of doing the same things, the same way. What is a different task for you? How could you benefit? Check out this video on YouTube “Doing things differently leads to something exceptional”

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Events worth looking into:

2/07/12 Dallas SEO/SEM Meet up – Hardcore Video SEO

2/08/12 Social Media & Your Career in 2012

2/08/12 “From Made in China, to Made for China”

2/09/12 Membership in the Current Age – Executive Briefing

2/09/12 AAF Dallas Presents the Addy’s

2/10/12 Author of “Paper Promises” Philip Coggan to Speak in Dallas

2/11/12 7th Annual Career Symposium

2/13/12 Arts Markets and Management Research Initiatives

2/14/12 The 2012 Economic Forcast with Alan Murray

2/15/12 Membership in the Digital Age

2/15/12 The state of the World by Former PM of Canada, Jean Chretien

2/16/12 Top 5 Pitfalls of Building a Fin./Acct.Team,…

2/17/12 Membership in the Digital Age

2/24/12 DFW BeMyApp Competition

2/28/12 Last Tuesday Happy Hour at The Ritz-Carlton

3/9-12/12 South by Southwest interactive – SXSWi

What are you seeing in Palestine?

Social Media Speaker & Trainer J.R. Atkins meeting with techies in Palestine
J.R. Atkins meeting with techies in Palestine

In addition to the many Biblical sites I have seen while traveling in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt, I have been meeting with Social/Mobile/Tech people along the way. Here is a short list of some of the topics of conversation so far.

Brain Drain” is the trend of smart, young people, leaving Palestine for other countries where they don’t have to live as second class citizens.  They move to the US, Jordan, Dubai, Lebanon and other places where they can create a better life for their families.

Maktoob” was a popular search engine developed in Jordan and recently purchased by Yahoo. This is the dream of every young Palestinian Technologist just like Americans; to develop a start up that goes viral and is purchased by a larger company.

TEDx Ramallah” occurred in April ’11 in Ramallah and was simulcast in Beirut and Amman. For those who attended in person or on line it represented a watershed event where people could share, collaborate, develop ideas and build the Palestinian community. TED has grown from Technology, Entertainment and Design to include a broader range of topics as indicated by the 28 videos from TEDx Ramallah.

Pal Connect” was the first-ever Palestinian conference for social media, held in Ramallah in December 2011.  The event attracted social media professionals, journalists, traditional media professionals, academics, students, and civil society representatives. The folks I spoke to said they expect next year’s event to be bigger and better.

Palestine ICT Incubator” PICTI assists tech entrepreneurs take their ideas to market by helping with designing, developing, implementing, and promoting those initiatives to business ventures. A Start Up weekend was held in 2011 and another one is planned for 2012. Spark is another business and technology incubator program being developed at Birzet University.

MARKAVIP” is another example of a tech success story. Similar to Living Social or Group On, the web site offers daily deals on select merchandise at a substantial discount.

I hope you have found these as interesting as I have. Please offer your thoughts in the comment section of the blog.

Have you heard about the new “Verizon LTE Innovation Center?”

Similar to the AT&T Foundry concept, Verizon has opened a creative technology space to showcase their latest and greatest tech toys. The Verizon LTE Innovation Center is located in Waltham, MA about 10 miles from Boston with a future site in San Francisco, CA.

Verizon is saying that they will provide support to developers to foster app development and free of charge to developers. The center will host app development on a platform- and device-agnostic basis, and Verizon says that developers are not obligated to just releasing apps for Verizon devices.

Dallas social media speaker J.R. Atkins writes about the Verizon LTE Innovation Center

However, it is anything like the AT&T Foundry, what they really mean is the Innovation center is for large corporate partners not the small independents or startup companies that are the hallmark of innovation. Only time will tell.

Dallas social media speaker J.R. Atkins writes about the AT&T Foundry

From Mashable: How to create a “Blockbuster Mobile App”

Whenever I find a good article, I like to share it with my friends. Such is the case in this post on creating “Blockbuster Mobile Apps”. Jeana Lee Tahnk with Mashable does a great job as usual.

Dallas Social Media Speaker J.R. Atkins recommends MashableIn an ever expanding and increasingly competitive mobile app marketplace, it’s becoming harder for developers to create apps that stand out for being more entertaining, engaging and worthy of consumers’ attention and money. There are approximately 350,000 apps in iTunes, 65,000 in the Android marketplace, and thousands more being developed as we speak. Whether an app is the brainchild of two parents who want to entertain their daughter, or a creation from a huge developing house, there’s no telling exactly how an app will fare once it hits the open market.

So, what exactly does it take to create a killer app? A good idea, focus, determination and lots of luck certainly help. But there are other factors that up-and-comers can glean from seasoned developers who have been there, done that, and done it well.

I had the opportunity to speak with a handful of leading app developers in the mobile marketplace — established leaders whose products in iTunes consistently top either the highest-grossing or most-downloaded lists. These developers know their stuff, and generously gave a sneak peek into what it takes to create a blockbuster app. Remember, to be the best, you have to learn from the best. Here’s what they had to say.

Customize for the Device


bejeweled image


The experience that a gamer has on an iPhone compared to a gaming console is dramatically different. Developers need to be aware of the limitations a smaller screen has on the overall experience and create apps that are designed for the particular device. Engaging with a game should be easy and seamless for users, and according to Jason Kapalka, co-founder and chief creative officer at PopCap Games, Inc., it’s important to remember that “iPhones aren’t PCs or consoles.” Seems glaringly obvious, but what developers often overlook is that people use apps on their mobile devices much differently than they do on a more interactive gaming device like the Wii or Xbox.

“When we built Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies for the iPhone, we spent a lot of time making sure the controls felt right on the touchscreen. There are lots of iPhone and iPad games that have amazing graphics and great depth, but if the controls are awkward or frustrating on a touchscreen device, none of that matters.”

See the Potential for the Platform


flight control image


Rob Murray, CEO of Firemint Pty Ltd and developer of Flight Control, urges developers to not only take the platform’s limitations into consideration, but more importantly, look beyond the limitations to see where the potential lies. “Why do people want to play a particular type of game on this device? What makes it more compelling than a desktop or console?”

Murray is a huge proponent of identifying what the device can do for your app and not the other way around. “Take Flight Control and the iPhone. We embraced the touch screen and used it to great effect. The control scheme is intuitive, elegant and accessible and takes advantage of the ability to interact directly with the game.” Taking a feature like the touch screen and maximizing its ability to add to the user experience can make engagement that much more profound. Murray adds, “With each advance in mobile technology comes the potential to do something unique.”

Make it Personal


pocket god image


Most great inventions are born from a personal need or desire, and Dave Castelnuovo, from Bolt Creative and co-creator of Pocket God, thinks that app development is no different. In many cases, developers are so focused on filling a niche in the market or creating something that they think will be successful, but don’t take into consideration what they personally would seek in an app experience. “The game industry is a hit-driven business and requires you to make a connection with the audience,” Castelnuovo says. “You can make that connection much stronger by creating something that you naturally respond to instead of guessing how someone else will receive it.”

Once you have something that hits you on a personal level, you can have more confidence in putting it on the market. If it speaks to you, there’s a good chance that it will for others as well. At the same time, Castelnuovo advises developers against agonizing over every single decision. Create a good quality product and set the bar high, but leave room for adaptability and know when to move on. “The original Pocket God app only took us one week to develop and was only meant to be a stepping stone onto bigger and better things. Since we didn’t have expectations for it, I think it freed us to do something unique.”

Get Feedback Early On


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Semyon Voinov, a creative director at ZeptoLab and one of the creators of the wildly successful Cut the Rope apps, stresses the importance of getting the app out to as many people as possible from the early stages of development. Once the app is in their hands, observe how they interact with it and analyze what doesn’t seem to be working. “When you notice your friend is not in a hurry to return your device, you are on a good track,” adds Voinov.

Prototype, prototype, prototype. Don’t keep development under cloak and dagger. Showing the app to friends and family from the get-go will give you a better sense of the collective feedback, and you can tweak the app as it is being developed and come out with a more refined product in the end. The key is to customize the process at every stage, expose it to everyone you know and get the feedback before it is released to the public.

Think Big


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Go big or go home is the decree of Bart Decrem, SVP and General Manager of Disney Mobile, and co-founder of Tapulous. Building an app with a big audience in mind positions it well for wider adoption and greater chance for success. What worked for Decrem and his Tap Tap Revenge team was creating an app that they thought was fun, engaging and would appeal to a huge potential fan base. Offering interactive experiences on-the-go, appealing to both iOS and Android users and building an inherently intuitive interface made the team confident in their chances for success.

“Not only is the app [Tap Tap Revenge 4] free, but when we pick the music for the game and launch new music on an ongoing basis, we match it with what’s hot on the iTunes charts so we can have the biggest reach possible. At the end of the day, the most important thing to consider when developing a mobile app is your audience.”

Start Free


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Nothing in life is free, but au contraire, sometimes a really good app is. To get maximum exposure, you need to make your app available to the masses early on to get the early adoption rates and word-of-mouth buzz off the ground. You know you have a killer app on your hands, but no one else does, so you have to spread the word. They say that money talks, but in the app world, free talks.

Michael Bevin, co-founder of CandyCane LLC, and designer of top-selling games Fling! and Fuzzlefully supports the freemium model, at least initially. “Having made a great game, you still need to get it exposure somehow — whether by doing some kind of deal, giving it away for free initially, or at least having a free version.” You can eventually add more features and put a price on the app, but having a free version makes it more available to consumers to at least test out and see if it’s worth putting the money down.

Listen to Your Customers


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You may have serious designs for what you want your app to be, but along with that must come flexibility and adaptability to your customers’ needs. If you look in iTunes and read ratings for apps, time and time again, customers get irritated when common complaints about the app are not addressed in subsequent version upgrades. That is a sure fire way to lose customers and quickly fall into iTunes oblivion.

Philippe Kahn, CEO of Fullpower Technologies, Inc., the maker of MotionX GPS, states that the company “spends considerable energy to differentiate, and focus on quality and customer support.” When you are dedicated to constantly innovating your technology and incorporating feedback, consumers respond and appreciate the concerted effort, which in turn creates a more loyal customer.

Delight the User


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Among the hundreds and thousands of apps available in iTunes, there has to be something unique about yours that makes it stand out. For Dave Lieb, co-founder and CEO of Bump Technologies, Inc., and creator of the ever popular Bump application, offering something amazing is a primary criterion for creating a killer app. “The app has to delight the user in some way, it has to provide real value or entertainment in a way that isn’t transient.”

When users are delighted, they will tell their friends about it and word-of-mouth is a crucial part of any app’s success. Bump is the eighth most downloaded iOS app of all time in the U.S. and Lieb credits its users as having everything to do with that level of success. “We spent a total of $42 on marketing to create our original YouTube demo video: $22 for black felt for a backdrop and $20 for a pack of video tapes for a borrowed camera.” That’s a true testament to how powerful a delighted user can be in extending your brand for you.

Have a Vision


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You may have a great idea, but you need to think beyond it and anticipate how the app will change behavior in a real-world setting. When SoundHound, Inc. began creating its innovative eponymoussound recognition app, they applied the need to an everyday occurrence and envisioned how users would interact with the technology they wanted to unleash.

“How many times have you hoped a radio DJ would repeat the name of the song you just heard, or have had a song stuck in your head that you didn’t know the name of?” asks Kathleen McMahon, vice president at SoundHound. The team envisioned these scenarios and set out to create a mobile solution and set a new bar for music recognition.

Creating an app that has a useful context and provides utility, in addition to entertainment, is SoundHound’s driving success. It’s all about vision. McMahon states clearly, “Know what you are trying to achieve. Are you going to be a one-hit wonder or tour de force? You can be either. However, if you answer, ‘I’m not sure,’ then question getting into the game at all. Killer apps are built on vision, not passivity.”

Never Give Up


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Tenacity, persistence and never giving up are big reasons why these developers have achieved their stratospheric levels of success. Not surprisingly, nearly all of them included this likely, yet important piece of advice in their responses: Developers need to have the patience to continually ask themselves what is going to make their app better. In this crowded marketplace, an app needs to somehow stand out to get recognized. “Emphasize design and functionality. Quality cannot be overstated. Savvy consumers quickly identify the best products and if you truly offer something outstanding, the market will react,” says Jenny Kang, lead designer at AllAboutApps and creator ofAppBox Pro.

Ed Williams, VP of mobile applications at Excelltech Inc., the maker of the clever Fake-A-Call app concurs. “Don’t give up. Refine your idea until it can be easily implemented, and have a list of advanced features you can add with updates if your first release is well-received.” And although he never anticipated Fake-A-Call having such mass appeal, Williams is intent on releasing frequent updates, addressing customer concerns, always keeping the app relevant — and never giving up.

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