Four #needtoknowmobile tips to grow your mobile business

Growing your own business is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Though it is a challenging roller coaster ride, the highs you’ll achieve when you transform your idea into an organisation you call your own are impossible to replicate.

Mobile is the perfect platform to grow great ideas. Whether you’re building an app, creating new ways of managing mobile infrastructure or exploring new fields like wearables, the rapid growth of the sector in the past decade makes it a fertile field for fantastic ideas.

How, though, can you take an idea and turn it into a business? And more importantly, how can you make the most of your opportunity by cleverly growing your business?

Ann Zitterkopf has worked in communications since the early 1990s, helping to grow Interliant into a multi-billion dollar company. She now works with high growth companies such as Coinfloor, a peer to peer bitcoin market and exchange .

We spoke to her ahead of her appearance at The Mobile Academy in December about growing a business and here are the four things that we learned from her.

1) Is your idea big enough?

Before you think about growing your business, you need to work out if the central idea behind it has enough capacity to become something larger.

“First, you need to make sure you’re not just working with a niche market but have a product or service that is going to have larger appeal. Will it scale? Is the market large enough to justify the investment of time, money and energy,” Ann said.

Though there is nothing wrong with tackling a niche idea, it may result in a niche business that never scales.

Before you build the application or business, test the idea. “Talk to customers, or potential customers, and think about who the likely customer is going to be” Ann told us. “Ask open-ended questions, so that you’re not just encouraging people to tell you what you want to hear.”

You need to overcome their inertia and indecision. “If you solve a major problem, a pain point, they will spend money,” according to Ann, “or make their lives significantly easier or create something they passionately want.”

Investing time upfront helps you save resources later. “You will need to adjust your idea once you launch. Listen to the customers and absorb their feedback.” So you need to spend time researching whether your idea can grow, both to save you time and to help you hone the right opportunity.

2) Create your culture

Culture and philosophy are important for defining your business, the people who work within it and the way you solve problems. And as you’re part of a small company, the definition of what your company’s culture is will be set by one person: you.

“Usually in smaller companies the personality of the founder drives the feel of the business. The other people in the company are going to copy or to emulate the values and the attitudes that the founder has,” sayid Ann. And that means founders need to play to their strengths.

“So, if the founder is incredibly gregarious and enthusiastic, that’s going to be magnetic in terms of attracting other people as well as create an environment where there’s a lot of enthusiasm about the product. And if the founder is someone who is quiet but very driven and hardworking, the culture around it is going to be more subdued but still very dedicated to the initiative.”

But it isn’t just your personality that defines a culture; it’s the way you do things. And to create a positive culture where people want to grow, you have to think carefully about the messages you send out.

“Do you want the office to have a sense of a supportive family? If so, don’t send emails at 10 pm on a Saturday night and expect your team to respond within an hour. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. You want your team to stay motivated and committed for the long term.” Whatever route you take, though, it’s essential to remember that your behaviour and your personality will define the way work is done and it’s important to recognise that early, rather than later.

3) Who is in the company?

When you start out, the chances are your organisation structure will be pretty straightforward and even. “Often when you have a small company, everyone is in the same room and everyone does a little of everything. It’s a very flat organisation,” Ann explained.

But with rapid growth, that doesn’t hold for long. “When you found a company with a few people, the structure that you have is going to be very different from the one that you have when you’re 500 or 2000 people. You can’t get hung up on what the organisational structure will look like. Whatever you envision now, the reality will be different in 5 years. Instead, think about who you want to have as part of your team. Try to hire ahead of where the business is today and have someone who can scale with the company. They don’t need to have done the role before – but be agile and able to grow as the role increases. ”

That means you need to try to create an organisation that both allows for greater specialisation as the company grows and job roles evolve, without losing the cohesion and dedication of the team.

That, according to Ann, can be tricky, particularly when a lot of things are adjusting rapidly. “Most people don’t like change. They don’t like changes to their job description and they don’t like reporting to someone new. It can be scary and distracting to them” she said.

Therefore, you need to make sure you think about multiple facets of your company structure. The first is where you may grow in the industry and what roles may be needed. But the second is about what changes are occurring and how that might shake up your first thought process.

Though that’s a tricky balance to strike, but having the right people is key for long-term success.

4) Prepare for funding

Finally, the key to growth for many businesses is access to finance. Though there are many start ups who have succeeded by boot strapping, the right investment from the right investor can help you push your growth forwards by months and even years.

But how do you go about securing that all important funding? Returning to the point about company culture and how it is driven by you, faith in you on a personal level is a critical aspect of funding.

“Investors look at the founder’s credibility. Is that person someone whom they will back? Do you know the industry? Are you aware of the competition? Can you balance idealism and pragmatism,” said Ann. And a lot of that will come down to how committed you are to the project, how dedicated you are at staying the course and whether you’re the person to help them achieve an exit or return on investment.

And beyond your own personal stock, you need to show that your company has growth potential. In particular, you need to demonstrate what Ann calls the “hockey stick” of growth which confirms market interest and update.

“It’s key to show some sort of traction. That can be sign-ups, downloads… figuring out what are the KPIs associated with your particular product or service.”

For apps, this might mean figures demonstrating how well your user base monetizes. And for a technology, it might be proof of how it improves performance or sales to an important client.

Whatever it is, securing that funding for growth will rely on you showing you’re well placed to make the most of it. And provided you personally are willing to drive it on and can show that growth, you may well be able to find investors backing your dream with their cash.

Ann will be offering Drop in Surgeries at The Mobile Academy which runs from 3rd October to 1st December. Grab your place here.

The Mobile Academy in Belfast – January 2016

Mobile Monday Belfast and Ulster University are launching The Mobile Academy programme in Belfast, Northern Ireland in January 2016.

MoMoBEL Logo MediumThis is the first time the successful programme elaborated by UCL and MoMo London is being replicated elsewhere in the world. The same course as in London will be delivered by tech professionals and entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland to local participants interested in or impacted by the ongoing embedding of mobile in work and business Printprocesses.

The course will run between 19th January and 22nd March 2016 and cost will be the same as in London. Ulster University accreditation will be possible.

Full details about the Belfast course are here: www.MobileAcademyBelfast.org

You can register for the Belfast course here: https://getinvited.to/momobelfast/mobileacademybelfast/

You can find Mobile Monday Belfast here, on Facebook and Twitter.

iOS development: four #needtoknowmobile trends

Kieran-Gutteridge-100It’s been nearly a decade since the launch of the iPhone and it is fair to say that Apple has transformed the mobile industry. The arrival of iOS, the App Store and the emergence of a global market of device users has made the app economy a key driver of the mobile revolution.

But despite its constant presence, iOS is an ever changing operating system. Updating every year to meet user demands, fix bugs and to outsmart rivals, getting your head around iOS’ role in the mobile industry remains as important as ever.

Kieran Gutteridge, founder and CTO of IntoHand, is running a session at The Mobile Academy about iOS development. And to give us a taster of what to expect, here are four trends for companies running apps or servicing businesses that use iOS to look out for.

1) Privacy is a big concern

For a number of years, privacy has become an area of increasing concern in the mobile space. Whether it is app companies falling foul to the American Federal Trade Commission’s regulations on mobile privacy or Spotify’s terms and conditions PR disaster, users care more than ever about their data.

And Apple is responding in kind to secure their ecosystem. According to Kieran, “Privacy is an area that Apple are really concentrating on. There’s going be some interesting developments. They’re obviously playing to their own strengths, which is being a hardware manufacturer, and looking at things like privacy, like SSL.”

App developers and services providing tools for developers need to spend time securing their users’ data sooner rather than later. And crucially, they need to take responsibility for it, even if they’re using a third party tool.

“If you make the choice as a developer to integrate a third-party SDK you really need to take responsibility for what the third-party SDK is doing with your consumers’ data” warned Kieran. “Within iOS 9, things are going to tighten up because of the security and privacy concerns.”

2) Ad blocking as OS feature

A controversial report into ad blocking suggested that the practice was costing publishers $22bn across the world. And while this is a huge number (perhaps too large), this could potentially get larger as a result of Apple’s latest software update.

“They’re introducing ad blockers into Safari, which is playing to Apple’s strengths”, Kieran told us. “They’re not an advertising company but some of their competitors’ primary source of revenue is advertising.”

Under the cloak of securing user data from unscrupulous mobile web adverts and improving performance, Apple is forcing businesses to reconsider how they advertise to help the Cupertino giants achieve a commercial aim.

So iOS developers may come under pressure to improve advertising SDK integration into apps, code in feed native advertising and work out cross promotion solutions to counter balance the block effect in the future.

3) iOS to extend into cars, watches and beyond

The past two years has seen the iOS tent expand to cover a wide variety of new technologies.

Since the announcement of iOS 8, Apple’s OS tendrils has crept into the home via HomeKit, onto your wrist with the Apple Watch and more recently into your TV with the most recent Apple TV announcement.

And generally, we can expect to see mobile operating systems powering more devices in the future.

“What’s exciting is actually augmenting with other things, such as automotive”, Kieran explained. “So, Intohand were lucky enough to work with JustPark and do their BMW and Mini integration, and I think going forward we’ll see far more opportunities where the phone becomes just the intelligence for another device – whether that’s TVs, cars, wearables or whatever.”

And the good news is that it’s an exciting space to enter. “There’s quite a lot of opportunity coming forward in the next one to five years” Kieran reckons, which means there is plenty of time to clamber aboard the mobile powered band wagon.

4) Testing will remain as important as ever

And finally, you’ll be pleased to hear that testing and iterating within an iOS app will remain more important than ever.

At the most basic level, it remains essential to test whether people actually want to download your app. As Kieran told us “I’ve always recommended if people are bootstrapping a project is actually to do simple things and see whether it moves the needle.”

“A simple example that I’ve done for the last five courses at The Mobile Academy is just translate the App Store description of your application before you translate the entire application. It’s usually a lot easier to do, and you can just see whether actually people want a localised version of your application.”

From a technical perspective, testing is more important than ever for avoiding those unforgiveable user experience no nos. Whether it is too many pop ups, crashes or user interface design that doesn’t allow users to find what they want, testing is still the simplest way to make the most of your mobile app.

And fortunately it is getting easier than ever in iOS. “The fact that they [Apple] do give you access to the betas for things like iOS 9 does mean you can stay slightly ahead of the curve” said Kieran. “And they announced that you would be able to get the hardware before the users which, again, is really useful.”

So by using a service like TestFlight or Hockey, building a good group of beta testers and by building analytics into your final app, you’ll help future proof your app with the help of the timeless trend of testing.

Kieran will be running a full session about iOS development at The Mobile Academy. Covering the frameworks available, how to use Apple’s tooling, advice for using tools such as Unity or Corona and general tips, it’s an essential starting point for anyone interested in honing or developing iOS skills. 

Tickets for the next course, which starts 1st October, are available here, with discounts for start-ups and students. 

Start Up Advice from @jewl

Yesterday I returned for an afternoon of mentoring on the first day of the new FFWD London Pre-Accelerator cohort.

Here are six themes that recurred:

1). Where is it you personally are trying to go?
I asked a number of founders where they actually wanted to go with their product – what was their personal vision? Some were after an exit and others wanted to be the CEOs of their business seeing their roadmap through to highly profitable businesses.

The responses were interesting in that not many had considered this question and once we played out the various answers, the relevance of asking the question early on became apparent. For example, take a business offering software packages to automate accounting processes: If they were building to sell out to one of the big four, they are more likely to focus their product set and proposition to client and personnel within those large organisations. If they were to be a self-managed independent business, they might be more likely to adopt a licence fee business model that caters for smaller sized firms and even to consider targeting the end clients / companies who employ the accountants, with offers that could reduce their accounting fees.

2. The Gift of a Physical Offering in a Digital Space
If your offering has a physical element to it there are a whole range of opportunities open for you to engage with and market to your end customer. Example: a “find a flatmate” business – why not set up a Meet Up group that invites those looking for flatmates to get together and meet each other? What a great way to find out what questions they ask each other – informing the questions you are going to build in to your online / mobile form. You will also be able to spot trends that help you to identify your market segments – as an example, perhaps this is very attractive to females of a particular age and situation?

It is interesting to draw a parallel with Match.com, who started fully online and have now integrated physical meetups and events to bolster their offering. As an ongoing strategy, having a physical element to your offering helps people to engage more deeply with your brand as they meet you, feel the atmosphere that you create and at the same time, help you to develop your offering. Win Win!

3. Understanding all the People in your Universe: People Centred Innovation
As we try to identify our target user and customer, we also come across different people that are in our scene / our “universe”. I tried out a quick exercise where some of the founders listed out the different groups of people that are in their universe. These are not necessarily customers or users, but potential collaborators, influencers and people in the value chain. Understanding all of these different people is incredibly useful. Profiling who is in your scene is an important piece of research – it can challenge what category you have put them in to – perhaps you discover new distribution channels or new end customers. This really can only be carried out in person. Look in to the eyes of people; feel their emotion; see their response; understand their motivation; then you can talk from a position of knowledge rather than assumption. I guarantee you will always find out something that you didn’t know.

Example: A discussion around the accounting landscape identified that a group initially thought of as potential customers could actually be a distribution channel.

4. Start on your Doorstep
The start up London scene is immense – with so many accelerators, courses, incubators and so on. If you are lucky enough to have a proposition where your target user is in this scene already, then it is somewhat of a gift – you are already on the inside! For example, the people that run the FFWD London programme are linked with a lot of the other players on the scene and no doubt have ways to get to the various co-ordinators of the many programmes and their databases. So, use it!

Another variation on this theme of doorstep starting with a fashion duo working on a new idea to offer affordable but high end dresses. They suspect their prime segment to be working women in their early 30s – many of whom you will find in this scene – a great place to start. An interesting follow on question came from this fashion duo – they knew that it was not a great idea to carry out early concept testing with their friends – although they are target market. The advice in this case is to ask friends and colleagues to introduce you to someone that fits their particular profile, so you are quite rightly more removed from the respondent.

5. Opening the Kimono
Creating an MVP is critical to getting your product out of the door. As we all know, it enables you to gather early feedback, create an early adopter base who will help co-design your future product and it starts your brand journey. I found myself encouraging some of the founders to be bolder in their brand vision. I think that it is good to sell a vision as long as you are not making promises to deliver particular functionality in specific timeframes.

Example: An App that enables restaurant go-ers to find out more about the menu is part of a broader vision to bring smaller restaurateurs the kind of analytics that are available to larger establishments, without the accompanying price tag. The business model is that the restaurant will be paying to be on the system. So why not sell them the broader vision; they are an early adopter of the first feature set and the intention is that they are in for the long haul journey.

Open the kimono – give them a flash of what you have – there is a strong marketing message associated with being the first in. Often benefits (usually price related) will follow for them in the longer term. Again, these early adopters will be the ones that inform your future product. Stay close to them. There is no harm with labelling your MVP – “BETA” is a known and accepted label for example – it means that there may well be clunks and a limited product set as this is an early stage of the product.

6. Don’t hide your Light under a Bushel
I met three founders who were building products based on their own insider-industry experience. With so much digital innovation out there, it is really important to show credibility and not be afraid to shout about it!

Example: One of the founders is 25 and is building an online training offering for entrepreneurs of “lifestyle” businesses. It sounded initially clichéd, with concepts like “gamification”. I boldly asked his age and what experience he had that qualified him to be coaching others. He went on to tell me (in a very modest way) how he had built up three successful offerings all profit-generating. I suggested that part of his elevator pitch would be to start with a bio of his top three successes (I don’t apologise for always thinking in threes!). Instant credibility. Not just another online training platform: a business built around sharing his personal experience.

Julia is Product Doctor and Course Director at The Mobile Academy.

Finding developers #needtoknowmobile from Alastair Moore

Here is a question that I seem to get asked regularly. I picked up this list from Alastair @latticecut (our Course Founder) and thought it was too good to keep to myself!

and remember to post on your own website, and “Jobs” link in your company email footers…

Alastair (right) pictured here with chum & fellow tutor  John Spindler, of Capital Enterprise.

Alastair (right) pictured here with chum & fellow tutor John Spindler, of Capital Enterprise.

Thanks Alastair – you are truly #needtoknowmobile!  The next academy runs from 25th March – 27th May – you can register here

What leads…people or technology? #needtoknowmobile musings by Product Doctor, Julia Shalet

Is there such a thing as a totally new idea, or is everything a “better” way of doing what you already do?

When you strip it back to basics, technology can give us a faster, better quality, more fun way of doing something that we already do. Take flying for example, people always travelled and taking a plane enables them to get to their destination faster.

I was musing on this hypothesis during a Mobile Data Association / ICT KTN event and a number of salient points came up:

We should not be technology-led, but people-led – right? People’s need must come before the technology solution… I suggest not always – if you put the technology out there, without being too prescriptive, people will show you what they use it for. That is being user-led too.A recent survey by Deloitte asked UK users “What is the killer app for 4G?” They all said that it would improve what they already do – with watching video ranking as the obvious highest answer.

SMS – perfect case in point; Twitter, created as an internal tool is now used for all sorts of things: a better way for celebs to create relationships with their fans; a faster and personalised news channel; a fast and cheap way to market an event … the list goes on.

And now, the buzz is wearable technology. Technologists will tell you that microprocessors have been embedded in rings for decades. So they cry – “Google glass – what are the user cases?” Why do I want to see augmented reality as I am walking down the road? How will it make my life better?

And what about smart watches? As one of the speakers from Quocirca pointed out, it can’t just be a smaller screen version of what I already have… so let’s think about the practicalities of screen size – and of being able to get information by looking at your wrist rather than getting your phone out. So it smacks of convenience and I for one, do not use my phone on the street any more, since my brand new Samsung was taken out of my hand. So will it be good for notifications? Reminders? Delays on your train / next train leaving in 5 mins? A new Email from someone important? Is a watch face big enough to see photographs? Weather warnings – expect a downpour in 5 minutes, special offers from retail you are walking past, oh and games of course…well we had those in the 1980s….

Martin Garner of CCS Insight gave us a great statement based on their Mobile Internet User Report research they carried out “People grow in to their smartphones” – so they have shown that before buying a smartphone people don’t have a full idea of what they’ll do with it– within the first 18 months, their usage grows as they discover more they can do with it. Exactly my point.

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Most of us now have an “orgy” of devices (one of the speaker’s terms, not mine!) and we were given some great insight around how people are using multiple devices. Two terms were offered to describe user behaviour on multiple devices:
1. “Multi-tasking” – we are doing different things on different devices at the same time.
2. “Media-meshing” – where there is real time link between the different things that you are doing – they are related activities.
With multiple connected devices, behaviour is changing and expectations are rising; in the morning, the mobile phone is predominant as people travel to work; during the day it is the laptop and at evening, the tablet.

So here it is – technology advances – we have multiple devices and our behaviour is changing – so what opportunities are created by this? People are showing us what they are doing with new technology…so we backtrack and now can work out ways to proliferate …

Another great concept was introduced, this time by CSS Insight: “Appification” early indications that users are now expecting an App to be supplied with a purchase. It is now assumed that most people have a smartphone and digital natives that have grown up with a smartphone are now moving in to senior jobs – so their first thought will be to create an app for a loyalty scheme, expenses systems and so on – it is a natural way for them to think. So we are hitting a tipping point? Will we have an App for everything? There was also the suggestion that users are starting to expect when they buy things that they come with an app.

So here’s where I end up: People are showing us how they are using technology. We have to put it out there in order to see what people will do with it. The trick is in getting close enough to users to identify changes in behaviour that give us, as innovators, the clues on what we should do next.

Top 3 DIY PR tips from tutor @LisaDevaney

3rd in our #needtoknowmobile series

1. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Spend a day brainstorming and writing up your company’s key messages. Once you decide on what you want to say to the world, begin incorporating the key points into your communications material. Practice saying your key messages, asking colleagues to interview you. With every press interview you give, weave in your key messages. Repeat your messages with every new press interview. It may seem boring and repetitive, but you want to say the same key messages over and over to clearly build your company’s visibility and tell everyone about your mission. Also remember to put your key words into every blog post you write and check that these are part of the metadata on your website.

2. Google Alerts is your BFF. Use Google Alerts to monitor your competitors, your company and yourself. Also, you can use it to monitor key topics of relevance to your business. You’ll get to see the discussion happening around these key topics, and can then jump into the conversations by leaving comments on blog posts. You can also tweet any helpful articles or blog posts that Google Alerts finds for you, to your followers. This activity will help position you as a thought leader in your chosen industry.

3. Showcase your press. Often I find that companies fail to showcase the coverage they have gotten in the media. You worked hard to earn a headline, so show it off! In addition to sharing coverage around your social network channels, if you have an app, make sure that you include excerpts of reviews in the appropriate area. When people look at your app, you want them to see the positive press reviews, to encourage them to download it. On your website, consider having an “As Seen In” area on the homepage, where you display all the news coverage your company received. You can post the publication’s logo, share a link to the article, and give positive excerpts from the review. Think about how rock stars and films display reviews – short clips from the write-up, that demonstrates something positive. Even a generally bad review may have a word or line that makes you sound fantastic. Press coverage is your best testimonial, so maximize your use of it. But be aware of copyright requirements. Unless you have permission from the publication, which usually requires you to purchase usage rights, you cannot reproduce an entire article. You aren’t even supposed to photocopy an article without permission. You can link to articles or use snippets of the review, but if you dis-respect copyright laws then you could get fined, or embarrassed.

You can catch Lisa’s full session on 21st November at The Mobile Academy. 

LisaLisa Devaney is a PR and social media consultant. She works with many startup technology clients from Silicon Valley and Tech City. Three of her clients have been sold for millions. She has a track record of producing hundreds of headlines for clients throughout her career. Email her at lisa@lisadevaney.com.

Get involved on Twitter with #need­to­know­mobile and copy us in @Moblacad. Our next programme starts on 1st October — you can sign up here: http://bit.ly/1bsgOa2