Monday
Jan262015

BTCtrip - Bit coins as a transactional platform...Travel first.

Pete Rizzo (@pete_rizzo_) | Published on August 19, 2014 at 01:20 BST

BTCTrip

 

Travel agency BTCTrip has officially expanded its payment offerings to include litecoin and dogecoin.

The online flight and hotel booking service was one of the first in its industry to serve the bitcoin community, launching in June 2013 as a cryptocurrency-focused alternative to sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.

Speaking to CoinDesk, BTCTrip founder and CEO Martin Fernandez said that he is excited to add the popular altcoins to the company’s payment options because they allow BTCTrip to tap into growing communities in the developing digital currency industry.

In particular, Fernandez cited the high levels of enthusiasm surrounding thedogecoin community as a key motivating factor behind the decision, saying:

“I follow this community and I think they are very fresh. They are trying to do new things, so for us, it was very important to accept dogecoin. [...] For me, BTCTrip is a company, but it is also an experiment in cryptocurrency communities.”

BTCTrip will continue to accept bitcoin through its long-time merchant processing partner BitPay, however, it will integrate processing services provided by GoCoin to facilitate its litecoin and dogecoin transactions.

Diversifying demographics

Throughout the interview, Fernandez stressed his desire to appeal to new digital currency users as the impetus for adding litecoin and dogecoin payments, suggesting he sees the altcoins as a smart, long-term business strategy.

Still, he did indicate sales might have been a motivating factor, noting that his company’s bitcoin conversion levels taper off when bitcoin’s price is on the rise.

Litecoin and dogecoin payments could provide some additional support during these times, as evidenced by the strong buying power reported by at least one major merchant serving both communities.

While Fernandez talked most excitedly about the dogecoin community and its recent progress, he lauded litecoin as well, saying:

“Litecoin was, for me, always the second coin in the market.”

David vs Goliath

Fernandez also addressed how the new payment methods will help BTCTrip better compete against other major travel sites serving the bitcoin space such as CheapAir and Expedia. CheapAir now accepts bitcoin for hotelsflights andAmtrak bookings, while Expedia added bitcoin as a payment option for hotel bookings in June.

Although he evoked classic David vs Goliath imagery when referencing these companies, Fernandez said he feels his company’s emphasis on community will help it find success, saying:

“I always repeat the same sentence, we are not accepting bitcoin [and dogecoin], we are accepting bitcoiners and dogecoiners. We are accepting the cryptocurrency community.”

As a sign of its ability to compete against bigger rivals, Fernandez cited BTCTrip’s recent inclusion as part of PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summitto be held this November.

Notably, BTCTrip won a scholarship to attend and speak at the leading global travel industry conference, one that required it to “demonstrate the greatest potential for success”, among other qualifications.

Tourists image via Shutterstock

dogecoinlitecointravel

Wednesday
Jan072015

The 7 Steps to Get your Startup into an Accelerator

An interesting guide to focus your efforts to get your company to be received positively by an accelerator. Written by Agu De Marco, Co-Founder & CEO of Wideo.co, an NXTPLabs and 500 Startups company.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec182014

NextSociety Raised $1.6M to Help Put Your Social Networks to Work for You

nextSociety

 

You’ve already done the hard part: meeting all of those people, making contact, inputting them into your database. Now it’s time to put them to work for you, and that’s where nextSociety (xS) comes in, helping professionals to quickly identify the most relevant connections in their network based on their relevance, location and travel plans. By filtering connections based on relevance, xS allows users to categorize, organize and focus on staying connected with key contacts, based on their location.

In other words, you can easily find those contacts when you need them, where you need them, in your home town and beyond.

Location, location, location.
And that’s worth a lot. $1.6M, in fact. Especially with their new ping feature, which makes it faster and easier to connect.

CEO and Cofounder Dr. Peter Stebe how a software that helps prioritize one’s contacts became a priority for investors.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

nextSociety (xS) raised an institutional seed round of $1.6 MM USD. The round was led by Mike Ventling, Dr. Axel Meyer and AC & Friends. It also includes a grant from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).

Tell us about your product or service.

nextSociety is a professional networking tool that empowers users to make sense of their existing social networks by organizing and prioritizing their contacts. The network smarter app helps users focus on key social contacts based on their relevance, location and travel plans.

How is it different?

peter

Dr. Peter Stebe

nextSociety is a tool, not a platform. While social networks have enabled us to connect with hundreds of people, it has become harder to focus on the most important contacts. The networking app filters you connections based on interests and location. Initially based on Linkedin, it helps you to connect with the right people at the right time.

Tell us about the new ping feature.

The new ping feature makes it easy to reach out and is following a market trend of a shorter and quicker means of communication. With one tap you can let your most relevant contacts know that you like to meet in a location of choice.

You all presented at the Dublin Web Summit – how did that help your company?

The Web Summit was a great conference to catch up with influencers, investors and our users. Also it helped to see what’s going on in the tech scene, which helps us to position ourselves right. We got valuable feedback on our pitch and some useful inside from influencers, like Robert Scoble and John Sculley. We also got approached by investors who are interested in the space.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

We are targeting professionals with 500+ connections on different social networks. The global addressable market is $2.5 Billion, growing at a double digit growth rate.

What’s your business model?

Freemium. We plan to monetize through premium features.

What was the funding process like?

We are very excited about the new investors. It took us two months to close the round and onboard the new investors. The process itself was straight forward: After we had agreed on the terms, we had a small due diligence with each investor and we signed the contracts a couple of days afterwards.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

The hardest part of raising is painting the picture to the investors how the future of our startup will look like. It’s more of an art than science.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

After the initial seed round, the investor expectations were much higher for this institutional round. Having said that, we continued to focus on doing the right things: First, we listen to our customers and iterated the product based on feedback. Second, we added great new talents to our product and market team. This helped us to gain traction on the consumer side and to improve the app significantly. All of the above convinced our investors.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

In the next six months, we will see a networking app with some very cool premium features. We plan launches in several communities over the next couple of months. Additionally, we are evaluating some new partnerships in 2015 – so stay tuned for some more great updates soon.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

That’s a difficult question, because it depends on the stage of the company, the size and the runway. However, if you built something that people really want, you will find a way to monetize, or investors will come your way. So, focus on your users and customers everything else will follow.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

We will continue to execute on our strategy to rapidly grow our user base. Also, we are going to grow our team here in New York and in Vienna. There are also some interesting collaboration opportunities on the table, which could help us to scale even faster – we are in the middle of discussions and happy to update you in more detail our next interview.

Where’s your favorite NY bar to go to when you’re in the mood for Austrian beer?

We love to go to Café Katja. That’s where we get our Stiegl fresh off the tap.

xS App Screenshots

 

Measure
Measure

Tuesday
Aug192014

PALcapital client BTCTrip Now Accepts Litecoin and Dogecoin for Travel Bookings

PALcapital client BTCTrip Now Accepts Litecoin and Dogecoin for Travel Bookings

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May132014

PALcapital client STROLBY named to Time Inc. “10 Nyc Startups To Watch”

Fourth annual list to be honored during Internet Week New York on May 21st

Last year, PALclient www.Klooff.com was named to this list, as well. :) 

New York City (May 12, 2014) – Ambitious New York-based ventures across ecommerce, manufacturing, retail and gaming are among headliners of Time Inc’s fourth annual “10 Startups to Watch” list, which was unveiled today. Each company was chosen by a team of Time Inc. editors and digital executives for their potential to transform their respective fields of industry.

The “10 Startups to Watch” will be honored at Time Inc.’s annual Internet Week New York celebration scheduled for May 21.  The evening is one of the signature events of IWNY and brings together the leading innovators and entrepreneurs driving New York City's digital renaissance with prominent members of the media and technology industries.

“The start-up scene in New York City is one of the most dynamic in the world thanks to the city’s role as a capital for industries from finance and fashion to media and marketing,” said Colin Bodell, Time Inc. Chief Technology Officer and member of the selection team. “This year’s honorees include several exciting ventures that we believe are on the verge of their breakout moment in 2014, and some that have already made major strides."

  • StrolbyStrolby sells locally made, limited-production goods from the best small shops in the country in a single online marketplace, enabling customers to shop local from anywhere and to discover innovative, local designers and artisans.

Click here for the rest of the list and the original article.

Since 2010, editors and digital executives from Time Inc. have scoured New York’s technology scene to discover the ten most promising startups of the past year. The selection team this year included 35 editors from across Time Inc.’s portfolio as well as digital leaders, Colin Bodell (Chief Technology Officer), Callie Schweitzer (TIME’s Director of Digital Innovation), and Senior Vice Presidents Scott Havens, Kevin Heery, and George Linardos.

Historically this list has uncovered future tech industry darlings. 2013 honorees that have experienced considerable success over the past year include: Upworthy, which consistently tops 50 million unique monthly visitors; FiftyThree, which launched a print-on-demand product with Moleskine and unveiled a highly-praised iPad stylus; and Hukkster, which recently raised a new round of funding from NPD Group.

Taking place from May 19th to 25th, Internet Week New York is expected to draw more than 45,000 people to 250 events taking place across New York City.

About Time Inc.

Time Inc., a division of Time Warner, is one of the largest branded media companies in the world reaching more than 130 million consumers each month across multiple platforms. With influential brands such as TIME, PEOPLE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, InStyle, REAL SIMPLE, Wallpaper, Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine, Time Inc. is home to celebrated events and franchises including the FORTUNE 500, TIME 100, PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman of the Year, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and the ESSENCE Festival.

#  #  #

For information: Patrick Kowalczyk
patrick@pkpr.com

Kait Smith
kait@pkpr.com

Tuesday
May062014

Plataforma10 - The easiest way to buy a bus ticket in Argentina (and soon Brazil & Chile)

A promotional video from our client www.Plataforma10.com.

 

Friday
May022014

PALcapital client NextSociety Helps You Find Your Most Relevant Connections - TechCrunch

Heading out to TechCrunch Disrupt NYC next week? A newly launched mobile application called nextSociety can help you figure out who to meet there. Using a combination of your iPhone’s contacts and LinkedIn, the app scans through your connections to determine the 150 most relevant people who align most with your current objectives – whether that’s a trip to New York, or just networking in your own city with visiting professionals.

The app is aimed at the peer-to-peer networking crowd, as today it doesn’t offer enough privacy controls for the more sought-after public figures (such as, in the startup industry, VCs, for instance,) to help them limit their exposure. But nextSociety CEO Dr. Peter Stebe says that’s something they’re working on for a later release.

 

small_relppl
He, along with co-founder Alex Tange, both previously of Earnest & Young, came up with the idea for the application after getting frustrated with how difficult it is today to filter through their own personal networks to figure how who was relevant for a particular purpose, like trying to figure out what event or conference they should attend, for example.

 

Last summer, they teamed up with ex-Googler Ben Simsa (CTO), and began working on their idea for a new kind of networking experience.

Explains Dr. Stebe, after logging into the nextSociety, you first type in your interests (like, “startups,” “New York,” etc.). “The app identifies, with a semantic algorithm, who are the 150 most important contacts to you right now, based on your situation,” he says.

That “150″ number was not plucked out of thin air: it’s actually something called “Dunbar’s number,” which is a theory that suggests there’s a cognitive limit to how many relationships a person can maintain within a social group. (The theory has long since been popularized in mainstream media, where it has perhaps been a bit misinterpreted as a figure referencing how many total friends you should have on a social service like Facebook. Not quite – it’s how many people you can keep up with at a given time.)

You can then browse through this “people stream” in nextSociety, which shows you how many networking opportunities you have with a given person, represented by their round profile photo. The number of opportunities is indicated by a small, red badge – similar to the badges for notifications on iPhone apps. You can tap on those profile photos where networking opportunities exist, and reach out to that person directly.

small_gsw

The app seems to be more useful for those times when you’re traveling to a city, rather than for local networking opportunities.

 

For instance, you can “pre-checkin” to places by adding trips to the app, which will help you find relevant connections in a new city. But to some extent, the app is limited by the data it has accesses to – your phone contacts, and basic profile data from LinkedIn.

“But we’re going to onboard all the other social networks that are most important to you,” Dr. Strebe promises.

And while using Dunbar’s number makes sense, in my tests, the app seems to miss finding people I’d call “relevant” connections for my upcoming trip to New York, indicating that the algorithms themselves need some tweaking.

Competing apps like Connect or newly launched Weave (from Decide.com founder Brian Ma), may not offer the same context as nextSociety does, but they offer a wider set of individuals to browse through – something that hardcore networkers may prefer.

Longer term, the company may choose to generate revenue through a premium model or a version for alumni networks, from schools and businesses alike. The company, based in both Austria and New York, has under a million in seed funding from angels in the U.S., U.K., Israel and Austria.

nextSociety is a free download here on iTunes.

Thursday
Feb062014

PAL client nextSociety raises $700K in seed round

 

 

PALcpaital client NextSociety is on a roll, having raised $700k and garner ing positive attention from the press and a growing user base. Below is a piece from Inventures.eu covering the company by Stefanie Rauchegger (Thu, 02/06/2014 - 12:00).

Business trips are stressful: conferences, events and meetings in a short period of time so you want to make the most of it and create meaningful relationships. But how do you know who is in town and can be a good connection for your business? Meet nextSociety, the “ultimate networking tool”.

The New York-based venture with its development office in Vienna has closed their first seed round, raising some 700.000 dollars. Details about the shares given in exchange have not been disclosed. Twelve investors from Liechtenstein, Austria, Israel and the United States participated in the round.

The lead investor of the seed round works for JP Morgan, whose co-founder Alexander Tange met over lunch. “I told him about our tool and he could totally identify with the problem we are trying to solve,” Tange told inventures.eu. “I mentioned the seed round to him and he wanted to invest as well.” Originally aiming for 500.000 dollars, Tange believes that the businessman’s reputation helped their credibility.

nextSociety is an activity-based networking tool for busy professionals, who want to make the most out of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media platforms. That is to say nextSociety will notify you – “You should have lunch with XY”, “There are three contacts in town that you should definitely meet during your trip”, “You are in Vienna so you should attend this event”, or “It’s Monday, time to call XY and catch up”.

Although the iOS and Android apps are still in beta, there have been almost 2.000 pre-signups. The team plans their official launch for May 2014. 

For now, “about 80 percent of the raised money will be used to further develop the product,” said Tange. “So we will hire talents for the development office in Vienna.” The better the product, the more the team will put emphasis on marketing so the remaining 20 percent are going to be used for promotion, advertising, and distribution. For now, the team will focus on the US market. “The idea for nextSociety was born in NYC and it has the greatest density of businesspeople,” Tange explained.

Vienna remains their development hub for now. Because of a previous deal, they were provided free office space in Austria’s capital city. The team members are regularly traveling back and forth and have embraced networking. Attending big events such as last year’s Pioneers Festival, The Next Web conference in NYC, and more have helped them draw attention. “That’s how you spread the word about yourself,” said Tange. Next stop: SXSW Interactive Startup Spotlight in Austin, Texas in March to present their tool.

Now go mix and mingle with the most relevant connections!

Tuesday
Jan282014

The Five Mistakes Startups Make When Building for Mobile  

In 2009, Farhan Thawar joined mobile development firm Xtreme Labs as VP of Engineering. At the time, it handled accounts for some of the biggest brands in the world — a roster including the largest social networks and popular sports organizations. And they all had one thing in common: They all sensed the urgency to break into mobile in a big way.

This trend has borne itself out. Facebook reported last year that 78% of its daily users in the U.S. access the site from their phones. For Twitter, the figure is 75%, with mobile representing 65% of its ad revenues.

Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions around mobile development that many newer startups end up squandering time and money they simply can’t afford, says Thawar. Today he helms engineering for Pivotal Labs Canada following Xtreme’s acquisition, and after years observing what works and what doesn’t, he’s honed in on the top five myths that startups must bust to do mobile right.


MYTH #1: Building apps natively per platform is a waste of time and money.

REALITY: If you want a five-star app, build natively. Period.

The benefits of building a cross-platform app seem clear. You only have to code something once and you can push it out to everyone using any device. Sounds simple. Logical. Facebook thought so initially, as did LinkedIn and Southwest Airlines. But the ease was countered by some pretty dramatic downsides. In later times, Mark Zuckerberg called the company’s over-reliance on HTML5 once of its biggest mistakes.

Initially, Southwest used a cross-platform toolkit to code and distribute its app across devices. Thawar remembers distinctly, at every conference he attended, people would continually use it as the example of the worst app in the App Store.

“It was horrible across every metric: functionality, performance, UI,” he says.

“When companies go the easy route, they don’t realize that all they're doing is creating a crappy experience for everyone everywhere.” 

Southwest has since re-developed its app to create a much better experience, as did Facebook and LinkedIn. But cross-platform approaches still lure startups that don’t want to invest more time and money developing separately for every OS. Instead, they rely on HTML5, hybrid applications and cross-platform toolkits, but none of these work well enough to build the high-end mobile experiences users expect, Thawar says. They will eventually, but they don’t right now.

Each of these solutions comes with its own set of drawbacks:

  • HTML5: Cross-browser compatibility issues are difficult to resolve, and you end up needing to optimize for each platform anyway.
  • Hybrid Apps: There’s a leaky abstraction layer (an example being the URL bar shows up every time you refresh), and the communication layer between the app and web view is complex and littered with errors.
  • Cross-Platform Toolkits: They require large amounts of custom code per platform, making it easier and faster to write native code for each.

“In every case when you create a prototype on any of these tools, and you compare them from a speed and polish perspective against doing it natively, native wins every time,” Thawar says. “It’s the fastest way to build apps that look and feel great, and the easiest way to customize them after you launch.”

The takeaway: Instead of going broad and writing something once, spend the time and go deeper on your most popular platform first. Then expand from there. “You want to pick the platform that resonates most with your users — it might be iOS or Android — but you’d be surprised how often it isn’t.” Thawar has worked with a number of clients who realized, only after doing their research, that their key platforms were Blackberry or Windows Phone. It all depends on what you want the app to do and the audience it’s designed to reach.

Figuring out your optimal platform means you need to dig into the demographics of your user base. You need to see firsthand that different users’ habits are largely driven by the platforms they use. Android users look for functionality in different places than iOS users, and so on.

“Spend the time developing deeply on one platform,” Thawar advises. “Then, once you’ve nailed that, you can branch out. From both a speed and quality perspective this is the only way to go.”

———

MYTH #2: My backend infrastructure is ready to support mobile apps.

REALITY: You will need to change, upgrade, or completely rebuild your backend to create the best mobile experience.

“Most engineering companies aren’t used to building the type of backend infrastructure that creates top mobile apps,” says Thawar. “Without the right API design and implementation, an app will perform poorly in the real world.” Some companies see increases in mobile traffic that are 200% higher — or more — than their website. Take banks as an example: Whereas customers would check their account weekly online, they now check it 50 times a day on their phone. Your infrastructure needs to be able to handle that kind of workload.

Thawar remembers one client that had great infrastructure supporting its website. But once they started hitting the backend from the mobile app, they realized the server was sending back 1.4 MB of data per request. Even over wi-fi and a powerful smartphone, it’s nearly impossible to get a great mobile experience with that magnitude of data being exchanged.

To avoid these issues, Thawar has a checklist of items he recommends companies consider when refactoring their server APIs:

Maximum payload size: In mobile, the best experiences are the ones where the minimum amount of data is sent. A good API for mobile should allow the client to specify the maximum payload size returned from the server (4 KB is usually enough).

Pagination: Data should never be returned en masse. Any sort of list return type should allow cursor-type and paginated results (e.g. I want 25 results, starting at page 4).

Retry: Given the flakiness of network connectivity, the client should be allowed to send the same API call to the server multiple times for certainty. Retrying the same API call should not mean two calls on the same server end (e.g. posting the same Facebook status message twice).

Low latency: Bandwidth isn’t the only networking issue when dealing with mobile devices. The lower the latency on each API call, the snappier your app will feel.

Single API call per screen: This requires tighter coupling between the client and the server, but can make for a very compelling mobile experience. Ideally, every screen on mobile would make at most one API call to the backend. To loosen the coupling, the API could be designed to allow variable return data, with much of the heavy lifting done on the server side.

API version number in parameters: It may be routine to update the server environment, but given that many mobile operating systems do not update applications in the background, it’s possible for some very old clients to be hitting the server. Having an API version number in the parameters can prevent the experience from breaking for those users.

———

MYTH #3: You can build your mobile app internally as fast as an outside firm. 

REALITY: Building your app yourself will take 4x the time.

Thawar is a data guy. Over the many years he’s been helping companies define their mobile presence, he’s recorded and catalogued their various experiences — even for companies that have chosen not to work with his team.

“Lots of folks come to us and ask how long something will take to make. We might come back and say it'll take us a month, or three months for one platform. Then they’d come back to us and say they had decided to build internally. We’d keep tabs on these companies to see when they finally launched in the App Store, and typically we’d see a 4x delay.”

Farhan Thawar is VP of Engineering for Pivotal Labs Canada. He held the same post at Xtreme Labs, acquired last year, where he grew the engineering team from 10 to 200. 

“If we said an app would take us three months to build, it would usually take the company a year.” 

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you have HTML, CSS and JavaScript capabilities on your team that mobile will be plug-and-play for you. Unless you have a dedicated, built-out mobile team, this will probably not be the case,” Thawar says. And very few startups have this luxury. When they decide to go internal, they’re essentially choosing to pay with time instead of money.

Why does it take startups so much longer to do it on their own? They don’t anticipate their most critical need: Hiring.

Thawar has followed up with a number of companies that decided not to use Pivotal Labs’ services, and this is the challenge that popped up the most. “They didn’t account for the time it takes to ramp up folks with the skills they needed. In terms of salary alone, this route represents significant sunk costs.”

So, if you are planning to build internally, you want to be confident that you already have the people and skill sets you need to execute, Thawar says. This isn’t just about engineering talent either. You need to have people with mobile product experience, mobile QA, and mobile design chops. “You need all of these people working together with tight feedback loops to put out a great product. Otherwise your engineers may head down one road only to discover they had the wrong product vision, or they hadn’t even thought of QA,” he says.

When you bring in a development firm, you essentially inherit experts in all of these areas who can work in parallel to iterate quickly, deploy internally, and iterate some more.

You get designers who know how and why things need to be different from the web, who have experience building for smaller screens and different user interactions. Having a mobile product manager keeps you focused on the three to five (maximum!) core functionalities an app should have. And having mobile engineering expertise is critical.

“Someone once asked me if I would get my auto mechanic to fix my washing machine. Of course not! So then why would I ask my server-side Java engineer to write an Android app? They have to deal with lower power conditions, less memory, a less reliable network stack. You need someone specialized.”

In addition to all this manpower, an external firm gives you the ability to test your app on different form factors, chipsets, and carriers. According to Thawar, it’s not uncommon for top mobile firms to have over 1,000 test devices with 50+ port USB hubs automatically running test cases for every build. You end up with something much better much faster.

Speed isn’t just important for its own sake either. The sooner you get your app into the App Store or on Google Play, the sooner you get to see people’s reactions to it. The faster you can gather that feedback, the closer you are to your next release.

There’s also the chance that you’ll realize halfway through that your company simply doesn’t have the people or resources to finish an app it’s started. Then you have to call in a firm for what Thawar calls “a rescue.” It doesn’t sound good — because it isn’t.

“Imagine building a house on an empty lot. You hire a builder and they can get to work right away. Now imagine bringing someone in to finish a half-built house. That’s much harder. You have to determine what you can salvage, what you can re-use. People get attached to certain pieces of code, or there’s an API they’ve developed on the backend. But, honestly, it’s almost always easier to tear things down and start over. That’s why most times a rescue can take longer than starting from scratch. Suddenly you’re paying more when your goal was to save money.”

This doesn’t mean that working with any outside developer will do, says Thawar — even Pivotal Labs isn’t going to be right for everyone. When choosing a firm, you’re really choosing a partner. You need to look at:

  • Culture fit: Does the firm share your values and goals? 
  • Communication style: Can the firm offer you tight feedback loops to make sure development stays on the right path? 
  • Track record: Have they developed successful and popular apps before? If so, have they done it in your sector?

All of these attributes are critical — especially, in Thawar’s experience, the ability to communicate rapidly.

“Developing an app with an outside firm is like sitting in an optometrist’s chair,” he says. “Neither of you know your prescription at the start, but then they ask you to read through a lens. They ask you what’s clearer — lens A or lens B? Lens C or lend D? Through rapid feedback, you both get enough data to arrive at the right prescription. When you work with a mobile development firm, you want this type of speed. You can’t wait two weeks between every feedback loop.”

Thawar has heard of companies working with firms that toil on something for months before asking for feedback. “If this is the case, it could take you years to develop a coherent app strategy,” he says.

He gives Chipotle’s app as a prime example. The restaurant released the first iteration of its app in 2009, and didn’t release a follow-up until early 2013 — a four year delay. “It happens to the biggest names out there, but users expect to see a really quick turnaround, especially from brands they respect. Especially now with automatic updates, people are used to seeing constant improvements in functionality and performance."

To make sure you end up working with the right partner, Thawar suggests asking every firm a series of probing questions:

  • How do they learn as they develop new mobile capabilities? 
  • How do they capture and leverage the data from their previous projects and experiences? What have they learned from working with other clients?
  • Do they offer the ability to co-innovate (pairing their own staff with the client’s to develop, design, and test)?
  • Do they follow agile methodologies (test driven development, quick iterations, constant communication)? 
  • What was their number one mistake?

This last one is especially helpful, Thawar says. “Whenever you’re evaluating a vendor, you should make them tell you about a project that went completely sideways. How did they recover? Ask them if they ever made a mistake they couldn’t recover from. It’s a test of honesty and transparency and will represent the type of feedback loop you can expect from them.”

For all of these questions, the “right” answer is not a one-size-fits-all, but the one that best suits your business. At agile development firms, internal knowledge sharing is accomplished through a combination of human and technical means: lunch and learns, demos, company-wide standups, wikis, an internal Quora-like site, and rotating staff across projects to expose them to a wide range of experiences. You want answers that make it clear that it's easy and encouraged for clients to participate.

———

MYTH #4: If I outsource to a mobile development firm, I won't have to do any work.

REALITY: For the best outcomes, clients need to be heavily involved with the firms they've contracted.

“Sometimes we have clients who just say, ‘Hey, pretend to be me and make the decisions you think I would make,’” Thawar says. “They just want to hand the whole project over. But what we’ve found is that to do the best work, we need as much information as we can get as fast as we can get it, and that requires client participation.”

In his experience, some of the greatest apps his team has built resulted from Pivotal Labs’ team working very closely with the client’s engineering, design and QA teams. Ideally, they have the opportunity to interview key stakeholders at the client to see what everyone wants and envisions. “We can make some guesses and use tools to help us get closer to what we think the end user might want, but it’s much better not to guess,” he says.

“The best case scenario is actually having our client sit with us every day to work toward building a solution — not just trading emails or checking in every so often over Skype. We call this co-innovation. We want to build together.”

This doesn’t just make life and work easier for the mobile development firm, either, Thawar says. It’s an enormous mentorship opportunity for a client who wants to branch increasingly into mobile.

“We prioritize this tight feedback loop because we want to learn all about their business, but at the same time they get to learn about what it takes to build something great for mobile. That way, they’ll have more capabilities internally next time. The client has the chance to learn things they can only get from firsthand experience.”

Sometimes clients are so small that they simply don’t have the human resources to spare. In this case, Thawar says, you want to work with a mobile development firm that will help you hire the right people and scale up your own mobile team. Either that, or a firm who can embed people with your company to facilitate quick, in-person communication.

“The ability to be co-located with someone and to co-invent is the biggest factor for success.” 

“When you work side by side with someone, trust forms so much faster. It’s so much easier and faster to make decisions and work through issues.”

———

MYTH #5: Once I start working with a development firm, I'll be stuck with them forever.

REALITY: Working with an external firm at first can make it even easier to build internally in the future.

Ironically, the best mobile development firms are the ones that eventually make themselves obsolete. These are the firms that help clients hire skilled mobile teams of their own. The firms that use pair programming to bring existing engineers up to speed. When this happens, “At some point, clients gain the capability to not need their firm anymore — which is great. When that happens to us, it’s like we’ve enabled someone to do what they weren’t able to do before," Thawar says.

A lot of clients resist outsourcing because they’re afraid they won’t be able to maintain the relationship, mostly because of cost. Justifiably, if you don’t know when that next round of funding will hit the bank, it’s daunting to enter a long-term partnership. But this shouldn’t be as big a concern as it is.

“An external firm’s goal should never be to make a client feel like they have to work with them forever,” he says. “Pair programming between firm and client engineers is one way to empower a client to feel like they can eventually go out on their own. You want to work with a firm that is committed to this approach, because it facilitates a seamless transition if and when the firm has to hand the work back to the internal team.”

Thawar doesn’t just recommend pairing between engineers. If possible designers should work with designers, product managers with product managers, QA with QA. Sometimes in the process, the client will hire people into the company who can immediately be put to work under the mentorship of someone at the external firm. In this way, the two companies are not only building the product together, but also building up capabilities.

“We do all of this so that when we leave, it’s very easy for our former client to know where everything is, how to test everything, and what needs to happen next on the roadmap,” Thawar says. “We can agree that everyone is up to speed, that from here on out they have everything they need to scale up people on their side. Suddenly, we’ll see them putting out whole new releases of their app on their own.”

Ultimately, busting all of these myths depends on finding the right partner. You want someone who gets you, gets your app, and is just as invested in your success as their own. Especially if you’re at a smaller startup, or a company that is only beginning to invest in mobile — especially given the increasing importance of these platforms — finding this exact fit could not only make or break your mobile strategy, but your entire business.



Read more: http://firstround.com/article/What-you-think-you-know-about-mobile-engineering-is-wrong?#ixzz2rimyufVC

Thursday
Jan162014

Starting up down under: The ultimate guide to Australia’s growing startup scene

From The Next Web:

Mentions PALcapital clients www.App.io and www.AngelCube.com

Starting up down under: The ultimate guide to Australia’s growing startup scene - The Next Web:

Starting up down under: The ultimate guide to Australia’s growing startup scene