Category: Outside the Box

Everything moves in cycles, the overarching themes are predictable – the specifics, not so much. One man who has radically influenced my view on technology is Ray Kurzweil, author or the “Age of Spiritual Machines” and other books. He works for Google as Director of Engineering, is associated with NASA Ames Research Center and the Singularity University. Impressive credentials if nothing else.

Per Wiki – Singularity University Labs is an accelerator and incubator program that aims to “build and launch sustainable organizations that will positively impact one billion people within a decade.”

Heavy duty.

It’s not that his predictions are always accurate so much as the futuristic themes he pushes are coming to life. Computers are becoming faster, stronger, smaller and cheaper. The mobile devices of today are more powerful than the complete systems — the TSR 80, the Apple IIe, PS/2 386, 486 and early Pentiums we had in the 90’s. So, if we look back over the advances of the past 15-20 years and project them 15-20 years forward – what are what we going to have?

Barring something like a catastrophic Coronal Mass Ejection, there will be more people on the Internet and proportionately more of them will be using mobile devices. That means more developers, more apps, more competition.

Concurrently, markets are going to shift, they are shifting now if you are paying attention to the news, financial markets and trade arrangements, especially within BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Add Turkey, too. Equally, peripheral developing markets are shifting, too. Most developing markets are demonstrating long-term growth trends. There are periodic fluctuations, but within a global semi-free market – there is an ongoing trend of osmosis – a very gradual evening out.

country_GDP

I’ve not used some country data simply because I consider it suspicious. Average wages really don’t say a lot unto themselves, but the trend above is sufficiently widespread to be worth pondering. Consider, in 1962, Taiwan had a GDP of $1353 per capita — but $37,000 in 2011. Simply amazing. It does not happen overnight, but little by little until one day you wake up and the world has changed… Well, it has changed already and changes a little bit daily.

So, what is the point here? Plan accordingly.

1. Add your apps to different stores because no one, not even Google, has a market monopoly. For that matter, do you really want to see a mobile monopoly? If you don’t – that serves as even more encouragement to participate in the free market.

2. Get connected – develop relationships with the people and companies in different markets. Consider it an investment – some sour, some grow. The idea with any investment is to be in on the ground floor – before it becomes available to the broader public. Buy low, sell high. It is a lot easier to make headway when interest in a specific market is low. Of course, you could wait until everyone else is in before jumping in…

3. You probably have enough time to learn a new language; hire multilingual employees or develop relationships with others willing to collaborate with you in localizing your mobile apps for each market.

4. Begin implementing payment methods for in app purchases that enable people within a specific market to purchase your upgrades, like Opera has recently announced with Lotaris.

5. If your apps are really good, start connecting with OEMs to have your apps pre-installed on new devices for sale in specific markets.

This could go on at length, each market you attempt to engage is worthy of its own action plan.

One of the big concerns of mobile today is bandwidth, especially for developing markets. That was the same exact thing that everyone in major markets was concerned about back in 1998 even up to 2002-4. Bandwidth… We’ve been through that and we can have fair confidence that the big players involved will make sure (one way or the other) that everyone gets plenty of bandwidth.

Meanwhile, Ray Kurzweil is taking lots of vitamin supplements so that he can live long enough to see the technology that will help him (and maybe some of us) live forever. Laugh, if you like… But, it takes just a little bit of an imagination to have a profound impact on people. You, the developers of today, have at your fingertips an ever expanding amount of diverse technology — and soon, most of the world will only be one link away from seeing what you have to offer.

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One of the best programs for businesses in the United States is called SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives, an extension of the Small Business Administration. It has a volunteer base of over 11,000 volunteers including mentors across 62 industries. The focus here is developing your own CORE to help you develop your business regardless of where you are. I would not be exaggerating to say that the CORE concept can have a major impact on your career and business.

Core means heart and corps means group of people devoted to something. To take a little liberty with the idea, we can call this your Corps of Real Experts. They don’t have to be retired, just very good at what they do and willing to help you. They can be friends, college alumni, associates from any number of fraternal organizations or sororities. Finding your CORE gets back to old fashioned social networking, the way it used to be without the Internet, or even phones.

There are special advantages in developing relationships with the retired and nearly retired, as mentors. They have years of experience, a broader operational picture, industry contacts, likely won’t need to be put on the payroll and probably have free time to spare. While retired people may not be helpful on the technical aspects of coding mobile apps, they may know a thing or two about marketing, business development, finances, how to form strategic partnerships, etc.

Warren Buffet had a mentor (Benjamin Graham), Bill Gates had a mentor, too (Warren Buffett). Steve Jobs had a mentor (Robert Friedland). Not in the same league, but Dick Cheney had Ronald Rumsfeld. The list could go on and on. Having a good mentor, not simply someone who knows your job, but who understands business increases your chances for success immeasurably – whether for your career or your company.

Similarly, having friends who are specialists – accounting, graphics design, marketing, etc. only add to the package. From time to time, they may turn to you for your programming or technical hardware skills. This is the sharing of skills, experience and contacts – because of ONE MAXIMThe Best Way to Get to Where YOU Want to Be is by Helping OTHERS get to Where They Want to Be. That goes for customers, for employees, for employers and for everyone else, too.

The logic and cause effect components of the process are acute.

But how – how do you find people like this to help you? There are a few ways…

1. Immersion. Jump into your market with the intention of knowing everything and everyone. You actively publish about the market, try to meet with people, supporting their efforts where possible. In the process of meeting with different people, you let it be known that you are looking for a mentor.

2. Join business clubs, participate in Chamber of Commerce events, fraternal organizations, or all three. Each gets you into personal contact with other like-minded people and business professionals.

3. For more alternative pursuits, you might consider non-profit organizations, college professors, think tanks, journalists and embassies.

It can take a while to find the right people, so consistency is important. In the past, much of the mentoring process was handled through apprenticeships. A young person learning a trade would work under the direct supervision of a “master”. The same, but much looser idea is inherent within a mentoring relationship.

I know this swings wide from the matter of mobile app development and advertising; but this matter stands as the #1 piece of advise I would have for any entrepreneur, ambitious solo developer, business owner – large or small. Yet, it remains one topic that I see very rarely written about, especially in consideration for simply how powerful a Mentor or CORE can be – for a career, for a business.

Questions are welcome!

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Back when we used to walk barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, we used 56k dial up modems. There were text-only browsers like Lynx. Designers optimized gifs and jpgs to save an extra 50kb, 5kb and even 500 bytes. “Safe colors” were important for CGA and EGA screens as not everyone had a VGA monitor. We had DOS and Windows 3.1, some customers even tried to fit 5.25 inch disks into 3.25 inch drives.

The Mobile of Today is a lot like the Internet when it was just a fad, except for the floppy drive thing. The mobile devices of today have more computing power and download speeds than the computers we had 15 years ago, in fact, more. While a lot of design parameters have evened out for PCs, Mobile still contends with a variety of screen sizes, variations in device support in addition to the main platforms, quality of connections in a much more globalized environment.

So who has or had it harder? The software and web designers of the mid-1990’s or the mobile developers of today? Well, having been in the first group, I would say Mobile Developers have it much more difficult in most respects, but not all. The three most difficult elements (not in any order) for developers today are:

  1. Small screens – As managers of the final frontier, space — in this case, pixels are even more precious than on a 640×480 screen.
  2. Interface – All the way around… in the 90’s, if you had an interface more engaging than Zork, you were doing really good.
  3. Marketing – There were so few games, so little software, that even if all you could produce was a game like Zork, you could get on the store shelves… and sell.

On the other hand, mobile developers of today don’t have to worry about how many floppy disks their program needs. Some programs of yestermillenia required 30+ diskettes. If you remember these as a customer, you probably remember spending hours trying to find diskette #28 – and the exasperation (and time) that meant. Today, size and bandwidth is still an issue, but in most cases you’re dealing with something better than an old dial up modem.

Lots of things have changed over the years… and yet, in many cases – remain the same. For Mobile Developers, that is actually good news, because history usually does find a way of repeating itself. Where comparisons to the state of the web in 1996 are concerned — there are two things you can be thankful for — A) The Internet and Mobile are probably not fads anymore – you don’t need to convince your customers that either will shut down tomorrow; and B ) Convergence. That was the buzz word for 1998.

Oh, and you won’t have to worry about that pesky Y2K problem.

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With Kickstarter and new crowdfunding platforms like Appsplit for crowdfunding mobile apps, developers have “new” sources of funding. For freelancers and small companies, crowdfunding can help raise the revenue to push your app toward a great release. Everything involved with marketing applies equally to many crowdfunding efforts, and vice versa. In focus here are some tips to help you successfully raise money for your app.

1. Be Realistic. What can you reasonably expect to raise from your personal network of friends and associates? This circle is responsible for 70% or more of most crowdfunding revenue targets. Trying to raise $50k when $10k would be sufficient will be seen for what it is.

2. Cool “Prizes”. Shy away from the post cards. Of course, you can and should offer first copies of your app to your contributors. In app and web site credits plus backlinks are good mid-range options to office business level contributors. You can develop cross-promotional opportunities with other companies, offering their products as prizes in exchange for including them in your promotional mailings.

3. Have something for all budgets: low ($1 – $10); mid-range ($11 – 100); high-end ($101 – $250) and very high end (over $250). Remember the Pareto Principle, 80% of your revenue is likely to come from 20% of your contacts, 4% of which will be your super supporters.

4. Crowdsourcing. There are dozens of sites like DesignCrowd.com where you can get low cost support for any component of development you may need. Other developers may work with you for cross-promotional purposes. Real help is out there, you simply need to look for it and be willing to ask for it.

5. Research. Make a study of crowdfunding and get started in setting up your own infrastructure long before you need it. A full-fledged crowdfunding campaign can require several weeks to set up depending upon how much support and how organized you are. You have many, many options at your disposal when it comes to sites that offer crowdfunding services. There are instances where it could be more advantageous to run your crowdfunding campaign internally, on your own ecommerce enabled web site (especially if it includes subscriptions or memberships).

Crowdfunding platforms are relatively new, but the funding methods are much older. They apply to the same principles used in many charity drives and equally by business in promoting products that have yet to go into production. Your credibility is on the line with crowdfunding, so you want to make sure you deliver all that you promise in a very timely manner to those who have supported your app.

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Your goal is to accelerate the penetration of your app within your audience. You are likely competing with many other developers, many other apps. Your means to success is based upon a simple process – get two of your friends to show your app to two of their friends. If you managed to repeat this every day for a month, you would literally achieve global domination.

But, nothing works that simply or that consistently.

While it takes extra effort, developing relationships with groups and organizations can help you accelerate your marketing efforts.

What are these groups? They could be:

  • individual businesses,
  • blogs and media venues of all types,
  • membership sites,
  • clubs and professional associations,
  • non-profit organizations,
  • non-government organizations,
  • gaming guilds and sports teams,
  • you get the idea?

This starts with having something to offer and a friendly or professional relationship with a decision maker in the group. This is the old fashioned way of networking. Obviously, you want to approach groups that would have a specific interest in your app.

Consider that the recommendation of a respected professional within an organization is likely to be followed by many others. There’s the potential for guest articles, backlinks, reviews, interviews, collaborative projects of all sorts. This is directly in line with building “authority alliances” and grassroots networking.

Social networking is good. Approaching people one on one can take a lot of energy. Approaching leaders and advocates who are able to influence groups of people helps maximize your effectiveness.

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