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.

Want a free stand at Apps World 2015?!

The excitement has already started for Apps World 2015 as we officially announce that we (that is The Mobile Academy along with Mobile Monday London) will be returning to host a Startup Village on 18th and 19th November. We will also host a pop up tea party at 3.30pm on the 18th.

It’s an amazing opportunity to get feedback, make connections and grab some attention. So if you are a product or company less than 2 years old; have something demo-able and want to use the 18th and 19th November to the full, make your pitch for a free stand here: http://bit.ly/1Pjvmtv

If you’re in any doubt as to whether to apply for a free stand have a look at the stories below from our alumni who won stands last year:

 

Nana, Gary & Cathleen

Nana, Gary & Cathleen from our 5th Academy – winners of stands at Apps World last year

Chris Michael joined our first course (The Mobile Academy) in 2012 and has been an active member of the community ever since – giving advice to later cohorts and taking the stage at Mobile Monday Demo Nights. We are really excited to let you know that he has now secured funding for Swytch from Neil Hutchinson (Neon Adventures), Yannick Roux (EC1 Capital), James Hilton (CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile) amongst others with the service launching in October 2015. He recounts his experience from winning a stand in our Village at Apps World last year:

“…Over the two days at Apps World we were able to showcase a very early version of the Swytch app to hundreds of people and get their feedback on the service. This was invaluable to us as we were getting first hand contact with potential users at a time where we could take action and build a service that users really wanted. We did get some press exposure too as an interesting upcoming service…”

Gary McDonagh came to The Mobile Academy in 2014 and has told us what a great experience it was for him too and his Startup “Double”. He met journalist Eric Auchard, chief tech correspondent for EMEA at Reuters who wrote about them here: http://reut.rs/1isIykW. He also met the Incubus London team and got on to their pre-accelerator programme as well as Microsoft Ventures where they got to the final.

So, here is the link to apply for a stand – please do that by 6th October and remember that our next academy starts October 1st so grab your place here.

Three #needtoknowmobile tips for taking on the Internet of Things

IoT Picture GreenAt The Mobile Academy this year, we won’t just be taking a look at what’s currently happening in the world of mobile. To help you stay ahead of the mobile world, we’ll be running sessions on topics likely to dominate the sector in the coming years.

One of those topics is the Internet of Things (IoT for short). Encompassing everything from home light sensors to complex safety control systems, it could provide an environment in which the physical world around us is revolutionised by digital additions.

But what do you need to know about the IoT? We caught up with Stuart Revell, who’ll teach the session on it, and we think these are the three things you’ve got to know about the IoT.

1) What the Internet of Things is

It may seem like an obvious place to start, but actually understanding what the Internet of Things is will be essential to making the most of it.

As with many technologies that are new and appear transformative, there is clear interest in the field. “Everyone is interested in the IoT in the way people were interested in mobile Apps in 2008” Stuart explains.

But actually defining what it is while the IoT evolves is difficult. In short, the Internet of Things is the encompassing term for everything that is helping to drive machine to machine and machine to human digital interactions in the physical world.

That includes the devices themselves, which boast sensors, actuators and communications technology to allow them to be monitored and operated remotely. It includes the hardware and software that’ll enable this to happen. And it includes the platforms and infrastructure that helps to support, distribute and maintain the IoT.

And there will be two main categories of application that’ll drive the IoT. The first is non-critical applications, such as light switches and smart thermostats, which will improve the quality of life without requiring constant monitoring in case of a failure.

Then there are the critical applications, which could significantly help us but would need careful control to ensure there isn’t a failure. Stuart told us some examples, “Car sensors used to monitor the position of other traffic is a critical application, while anything involving the transmission and use of sensitive data would also fall into this category”.

The IoT is, therefore, still being defined. But understanding the basic construction and definitions is a big step to making sense of it.

2) Why fragmentation is likely to be the Internet of Things’ biggest challenge

Even at this early stage in the Internet of Things’ history, one big problem is likely to emerge over all others: fragmentation.

It’s true to some extent that all early technologies face problems with fragmentation. As Stuart explained to us, the mobile software market faced a similar problem with developers having to providing multiple versions.

“A good analogy is the App market. It wasn’t until someone took the smartphone and abstracted the complexity and provided common approaches to software development that they could take it globally.”

And the IoT is receiving significant love from the established mobile market players to resolve this problem. Apple, Google and Samsung have each made plays in the sector, as they attempt to create a platform to repeat the growth of the App market.

However, the IoT suffers more from fragmentation problems than apps because it transcends digital and the physical world.

As it exists in the physical world, it is hampered by local infrastructure on a level far deeper than a national level. Selling a solution to, say, one thermostat provider won’t mean you can do a deal with another in the same locale. And that’s before you begin considering how an IoT device made in China might differ to one made in Sweden or India.

This presents a conundrum for anyone wanting to enter the IoT market. “If you want to make an early intervention into the market, you have to make choices but also make sure that you don’t locked into a solution which lacks flexibility to adapt and evolve as the eco-system matures”, Stuart told us.

And what that basically means is that you will have to commit to backing someone without getting caught out if fragmentation does consolidate in a way you don’t expect it to. Easy, eh?

3) How to overcome the challenge of fragmentation with partners

Anyone thinking of creating an out of the box global solution for any Internet of Thing product or service is, in Stuart’s words, “dreaming”. But that doesn’t mean that a savvy company can’t go about constructing partnerships to help overcome this problem.

At a higher level, working with the big players such as Apple and Google will help to give you coverage. But by working with local providers and partners, you can slowly begin to build up a coverage of what Stuart explained would need to be about 50-60% of the world to begin to turn your solution global.

“The only way you can do this is with co-creation of multiple partners to work across the different silos of business, service and technologies” Stuart told us. The sheer scale of the IoT blank canvas means it is worth aiming for. “If you’re working with critical solutions on social economic issues such as ageing population, energy and transport, those are always going to present opportunities. You need to do more with less money, so technology is needed to solve the problem”.

So if you’re looking to solve one of those big universal problems, the IoT really does present an opportunity. The key then is to learn how you can begin to think about providing a solution that works as well for Apple aficionados in America as it does for Korean consumers using their Samsung devices.

Stuart’s session on the Internet of Things at The Mobile Academy will explore in detail what it is, what’s interesting about it, the technology and business models that are emerging to support it and an interactive session to explain the topologies and architecture of it.

You can secure your place at The Mobile Academy, which starts on the 1st October 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. 

#needtoknowmobile tips to help your product go global

Stuart Revell - in interview with The Mobile Academy

Stuart Revell – in interview with The Mobile Academy

Mobile has taken over the world. Whether you’re in Surrey or Shanghai, Busan or Barnet or Rio de Janeiro or Rochdale, the mobile revolution has successfully connected consumers and businesses across the Earth.

Which means there is an unprecedented opportunity to grow a small local business into a globally operating entity. But how can you make the mobile world your oyster?

We caught up with The Mobile Academy tutor Stuart Revell, and he gave us some #needtoknowmobile tips ahead of his session on the topic.

1) Recognise the scale of the opportunity

Mobile penetration is a genuinely global phenomenon. According to a GSMA report released in October 2014, there are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people. And although half the people in the world still don’t have a device, that still means there are over 3 billion potential consumers in the world for you to tap into.

This is a serious opportunity for everyone operating in the sector. For app developers in particular, the proliferation of global distribution platforms has helped them to reach markets abroad with ease.

“You have markets all around the world and there are differences and niches you need to think about, but the economies of scale are huge” said Stuart. “Leveraging the app stores, like Apple’s, Google Play and Amazon’s can get you quite a long way without needing to have businesses located around the world”

And though there aren’t out of the box solutions for creators of other products, such as physical infrastructure or software as a service, the sheer size of the mobile market is enough to encourage providers to look at distributing globally.

2) Appreciate national and regional differences

That said, thinking of a global market as a uniform entity is a mistake. Despite the fact that you can distribute globally, you still need to appreciate how different regions and nations operate.

This happens on two levels. The first is on the product level. Adapting your product to suit the differing needs of audiences in Asia, the U.S. and Europe won’t just require localisation of text; it’ll require you to adapt to unique marketing channels, different artistic tastes and cultural sensitivities.

Second, you’ll need to deal with different legal landscapes, business models and the headaches that could come with them. As Stuart told us, the scale of problem depends on what sort of product or service you’re releasing.

“I chaired a session at CeBIT 2014 on the Internet of Things in Germany and I couldn’t believe the push back from the attendees on things like cameras and privacy” he said. Similarly, mobile products supporting sectors like healthcare can be quickly tied up in all sorts of red tape depending on which countries you operate in. Selecting the right opportunities in the appropriate markets is essential for building a sustainable business.

3) Take advantage of your national institutions and brands

Expanding globally can be difficult to do. Even if your proposition is being distributed with the help of international virtual channels, you’ll need to find a way to physically get on the ground in certain countries to help market your product further.

And for most businesses, whether big or small, it can be difficult to know how to do that effectively. Which is why you should be thinking about leveraging national bodies to help you extend your reach.

“If you’re prepared and your proposition is ready, then you can go through UKTI (UK Trade and Investment), as they’re always looking out for good stories from UK companies,” said Stuart.

But beyond bodies, national brands can also help you to cut through the noise. According to Stuart, “In certain markets the UK has a good brand on security, privacy and data. It’s a difficult topic but our ability to collaborate and work together and solve these challenges provides us with a unique differentiator”.

And with the UK boasting a great reputation as a provider of mobile innovation, financial services, games and design, there are likely to be other angles you can explore to take advantage of the national brand for your product.

4) Perfect the pitch

Finally, when you are heading abroad on that expensive international trip, you want to make sure that you perfect your pitch to make every meeting matter.

“The main reason [that it is important to pitch well] is that you have snapshots of opportunities”, said Stuart. “If you don’t take them and you’re not prepared, you’ll miss your chances. If you get the pitch right, it may turn into business.”

That means you need to be doing two things. First, you need to be honing your company pitch down to the essentials to help you confidently tell people about your business.

Second, you’ll need to learn to adapt it for different people. “I’ll be getting them [The Mobile Academy attendees] to prepare thirty second and 2 minute pitches, with different pitches for different people.” Stuart explained. “Most people don’t want to hear about the technology, they want to hear about the outcome and the value.”

By shaping up your pitch as sharply as possible, you can ensure you get value for money from those potentially costly expeditions abroad.

Learn more about these tips and the making the most of going global from Stuart by attending the The Mobile Academy, which starts on the 1st October. Tickets for the next course are available here, with discounts available for start-ups and students

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

Tim Green’s #needtoknowmobile payments

20131022_184718Tim delivered his mobile payments session for us at Apps World and gave us top tips in this interview with Mark Bridge at The Fonecast.

HTML5 #needtoknowmobile with Bruce Lawson

Bruce is now a serial tutor at our academy and this time around we got him all the way over to Earls Court to deliver his session to our participants plus a rather large number of droppers-by.

Here is an interview that our buddy Mark Bridge at The Fonecast carried out in honour of our #needtoknowmobile series. Huge thanks to Bruce and to Mark for the insights.

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