Forget the typical two-minute drills you’d find at Cowboys Stadium. On Friday, another kind took over the arena.
Entrepreneurs around Texas delivered rapid-fire two-minute business pitches before well-known business leaders and supporters at a competition organized by Startup Texas, one of the many regional and state chapters under Startup America Partnership, a national umbrella group promoting entrepreneurship.
So instead of the faces of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on the stadium’s mega Jumbotron, the screen featured the presentations of eight startups representing different parts of the state: HeyRide and LDEngine in Austin; iLumi, Pay Tap and Socialyzer in the Dallas area; Sweb Development in San Antonio; and Recycle Match and Hurl in Houston.
“It seems like there is tremendous momentum across Texas and certainly in Dallas in supporting the next generation of startups,” said Steve Case, founder of AOL and chairman of Startup America Partnership, whose board members met with local leaders and entrepreneurs in Dallas.
Magaly Chocano, CEO of Sweb Development, knows success sometimes requires reinvention, whether it’s of herself or her business. After coming to San Antonio from Spain to get her college degree in communications, Chocano saw her first iPhone and realized communications was about to move in an entirely new direction.
“I lived in San Antonio for four years and then left and came back in 2004,” the Madrid native explains. “I didn’t really have a specific career path or trajectory.
“I worked at Bromley Communications for about four-and-a-half years and I learned a tremendous amount there. But I wanted to get out on my own. I thought, ‘If I don’t try to do something now, then when?’ So I resigned and started my website development business in late summer of 2008. No sooner did I get the doors open, than the economy tanked. My timing couldn’t have been worse. I had to really think fast and make a quick turn.”
Chocano credits a three-day weekend startup workshop with the brainstorm that saved Sweb.
“I had my iPhone and I was as tech-savvy as the average consumer. I liked what mobile technology could do but I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I was first introduced to Twitter in 2008 at a startup workshop. When I saw what was possible I was thinking, ‘This is nuts. I really need to understand this.’ There were aspects of mobile communications I hadn’t even begun to realize but I felt like we were just on the tip of the iceberg and I wanted to dive in. I could see mobile apps were going to be huge. That opened up a whole new area of marketing for most companies.”
There’s quite a list of people who are interested in creating iPhone/iPad and Android apps these days. Big publishers, indie developers, small businesses, advertising agencies, app enthusiasts/hobbyists/wannabe developers–the list goes on. No matter who you are this post has everything you need to develop, test, market, monetize, analyze, enhance and refine your next hit app. Get ready for some great tools that can help you create a more polished app with the biggest chance of meeting your goals (like making money or engaging users).
There’s truly something for everyone here. For the big guys I’ve included links to powerful and scalable cross-platform SDKs. For the indies out there I’ve included tools to help acquire traffic and promote apps to keep you competitive. For small businesses I’ve included some great services that let you create an app on your own with no coding required. If you’re a developer and you use this list to create an app, let me know! I’d be happy to help promote it if it’s good.
Magaly Chocano, founder of app creator SwebApps, said the creation process should begin with entrepreneurs defining their goals. Businesses need to ask themselves whether the app will be an extension of a product or a tool for their consumers to stay connected, she said.
“Once the business determines the level of complexity they are seeking, then you can decide whether a build-your-own platform suffices or if you need to have a custom app built,” Chocano said. SwebApps’ basic service costs $29 per month, with a one-time development fee of $399, for iPhone and Verizon Android.
Do-it-yourself websites provide extensive step-by-step tutorials to guide entrepreneurs, who need only to sign up for an account and pay the service fees to get started. Once they sign up on one of these sites, businesses create tabs by choosing icons, naming those icons and assigning the icons’ functions.
Mobile applications have exploded in popularity and although the list to choose from keeps expanding, the latest trend is to make your own. One telltale: the growth of small businesses that help businesses build their mobile applications. They’re all too happy to explain why.
“Apps are becoming an essential part of the mobile experience,” said Michael Schneider, CEO of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Mobile Roadie, which offers an online, do-it-yourself mobile application platform. “It you have customers, you could use an app. It isn’t enough to have just a website or Facebook fan page anymore. An app gives customers the sense that a business has credibility.”
Since Mobile Roadie’s launch in March 2009, big name entertainers such as Madonna and Taylor Swift have created their own applications using the company’s online interface and while the company started off in the music business, it has expanded rapidly.
“We now have author apps, comedian and restaurant apps, even the Wynn Las Vegas has an app,” Schneider said. Prices range from $499 to $29 per month for hosting and other services.
While big name celebrities and large-scale enterprises have bought into the rise of applications, small businesses aren’t far behind.
In August 2009, after a few years of development, San Antonio, Texas-based SwebApps was launched for small business owners.
Similar to Mobile Roadie, SwebApps offers an online, self-service platform for application development starting at $399 and $29 per month.
“For the do-it-yourselfer, we have 16 different features clients can choose from to build an app based on their needs,” said Magaly Chocano, CEO of SwebApps, adding that the company’s revenues have grown 700 percent since its launch.
Chocano said it is important to consider three things when conceptualizing a small business application.
Today Google launched “App Inventor,” a do-it-yourself mobile app creation tool that lets anyone build their own Android applications without needing to know how to program or even write a line of code. Instead, using an online interface, would-be developers visually design the app’s interface and interactions, using drag-and-drop blocks that specify what the app should look like and how it should behave.
Want your app to talk to Twitter? There’s a button for that. Want your app to use text-to-speech? No problem. Use the GPS? Piece of cake. Or so says Google, who had tested the app for a year prior to launch with groups that included “sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergrads who are not computer science majors,” reports The New York Times, who broke the story this morning.
Does that list of testers sound a little odd to you? “It’s so easy a high school girl can use it!” Or a nursing student! (A profession still dominated by women, mind you.) In any event, the point The New York Times was making is that Google App Inventor is so easy anyone can use it; they just came about that point in a somewhat sexist way.
Heath’s Web-based entrepreneurship certainly is nothing new, but as technology expands, so do the opportunities for people who are separated by great distances to collaborate on business ventures, said Magaly Chocano, founder and CEO of San Antonio-based app developer SwebApps.
The company makes custom apps and has a website that allows for quicker but more formulaic app development. Right now it provides iPhone apps, but will begin developing apps for Google’s Android operating system in July.
“Actually, we have very few San Antonio clients,” Chocano said “Our clients are from London, Paris, even Saudi Arabia. We have clients all over the world. People have incredible ideas, and they come to developers, companies that strategize with them.”
A bold concept perfectly in sync with the moment: It’s what great companies are built on. It’s what shapes the future. It’s entrepreneurship at its best.
Where can you find that kind of thinking now?
We looked at 10 areas that are growing fast–from mobile technology and outsourcing to fitness and pets–and found 10 companies in each that bring jaw-dropping ingenuity to the table.
Read on, great things lie ahead.
Between documenting expenses and processing credit cards from just about anywhere in the U.S., smartphone applications have changed the way many small businesses operate. Now, more firms are turning to these apps to enhance the way customers interact with their products and services–and even boost their bottom lines.
“People nowadays want everything to be at their fingertips, and if companies are not finding ways to provide these tools [they] will soon see drop-off from their customers,” says Jennifer Shaheen, a small business technology consultant in White Plains, N.Y. Providing an app also offers a tremendous marketing opportunity, she says. Securing a placeholder in customers’ smartphones can help keep a company on the brain, which is especially important in this rocky economy, Shaheen says.
Building a simple app can be affordable for most companies. Although a developer might charge $6,000 to $8,000 to create a typical app, a modest app with fewer features could cost a company less than $2,000, says Jarin Udom, a developer in San Diego. The website iPhoneAppQuotes.com allows users to compare lowest rate quotes from developers.