Apps are cultures.
Here is a photo of some Socialize Founders jumping in an alley. The bald guy is Daniel Odio. I met Daniel at a Turner MediaCamp dinner that we did with them in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Daniel's team is working on what I see as a marketing intelligence app that allows brand managers (especially of games and certain procedural apps) to truly gain information and intellgience on the ways people are using the apps. They do it by making it easier to socialize with people inside any app. When he first talked about it, my mind clicked. Exactly, I thought, these apps are actually mini-cultures, but what's missing with all the games and the other things (aside from apps like Instagram), is a way to really get to know the people who are using the app you are using.
Well, Get Socialize.
And the picture. They are a fun group. We asked them a few questions about their experience in building an app, and here are Daniel's answers.
What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
Become technical. When I was in college in the 90’s, getting a business degree was OK. In fact, I attended the business school of the University of Virginia. Many of my peers went on to get MBAs. But out here in the Valley, that’s not worth much. It’s fine if you want to work in Corporate America, but if you really want to innovate, if you really want to create something from nothing, you need to be able to use the tools of the trade to make that happen. Learn short-cycle scrum (http://go.DanielOdio.com/scrum). Learn to play your computer like an instrument (http://go.DanielOdio.com/instrument). Become a developer in at least one language, even if it’s an easy web language. Having object oriented programming chops will make you invaluable. Even if you’re a marketing person, learn to hack a scripting language so you can automate manual processes.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
The signal is easy and obvious when it happens: They care. Until you have customers that care about what you’re doing, you haven’t found your product/market fit. Paul Graham drills this into Y Combinator startups: Make something people want. It doesn’t matter if the scale is small to start – it’s better to have a dozen passionate customers than 1,000 that don’t care that much. And Dave McClure has a great take on it as well: It doesn’t matter if the customer loves or hates your product – as long as they care. If they hate it, then it means they care enough to tell you. Being irrelevant is the real killer of new product companies. Dave McClure’s words have comforted me on many occasions when we haven’t executed as well as we’ve wanted to, and we have upset customers. I see it as a signal of validation. Once you have customers that care, iterate like hell to create a world-class product that a larger audience will care about.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
This is such an easy answer for me: I rely on CloudApp (www.GetCloudApp) over 50 times per day. It’s a massive productivity booster. Almost nobody knows about CloudApp, and even when they hear about it, they have a hard time understanding what it is. But once you “get it,” you wonder how you lived without it. I won’t even try to explain why it’s so amazing here, but I did do a detailed blog post about it at http://go.DanielOdio.com/massive
Is the lean startup process a type of marketing, or is marketing different from customer and product development? How does your company utilize next generation marketing techniques?
Marketing for startups isn’t even called marketing. It’s called “user acquisition.” Startups are all about creating tremendous growth, and being able to efficiently acquire users is a huge part of that. If you want to do marketing at a startup, learn about SEO & SEM techniques. Learn how to talk to developers – technical folks hate marketing-speak. They want you to be real with them. What’s the value they’ll get by spending their time integrating your product. Why should they pick it over others? Learn how to showcase small wins with case studies that you can parlay into bigger wins. Learn to build your personal brand by becoming a subject matter expert (http://go.DanielOdio.com/brand). If you’re in the service industry, learn to become a superstar by productizing your expertise (http://go.DanielOdio.com/superstar).
Added this question: What’s the #1 tip you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Creating something from nothing is incredibly hard. Most people can never get themselves to work outside of a box that’s defined by others. It’s easy to romanticize being an entrepreneur, but it’s back-breaking work. If you think you want to be an entrepreneur, do it around something you’re incredibly passionate about. At the beginning, nobody will listen to you. You’ll feel like you’re the only one who believes in your idea – and you’ll be right, because if others believed in it, they’d already be doing it themselves. Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to be a star employee at a large company, but I respect the hot dog vendor standing in front of the tall corporate skyscraper more because he doesn’t know where his next paycheck is coming from. He has to create value every day and really earn it. You have it in you, even if you may not realize it. If you’re passionate enough about something, go do it. No regrets.