100% Indie, Samsung Gives Indie Developers More

Samsung’s partnership with Chillingo, 100% Indie, goes live today, as reported by Engadget. The partnership is a program that gives indie developers 100% of sales for the first six months, 90% for the next six, 80% for the second year and then the standard 70% after that.  That could be a great deal of extra revenue if your app takes off.

Since Samsung sells a lot of phones, their market wouldn’t be the worst place to place your app either. Plus the deal is non-exclusive, so you can still sell your apps in the Google Play store or anywhere else you are interested in selling them. You can find out more info on how to join at their site. If you want to watch the video and get excited, check it out below.

Who Are Your Customers?

I Love Data HipsterOne of the most important questions in business has always been: “Who are your customers?” Thousands of years ago, that was pretty easy. You did business with them all personally. That has changed with time. As companies got larger and larger, they started to employ more and more people and the relationships became weaker. With time, companies spanned countries and then continents, making this question even more difficult to answer.

Nowadays, companies often do business with customers online. Sometimes customers pay with a credit card and provide some real customer information, allowing companies to get an accurate picture of them. Other times, they pay through services like PayPal and if the purchase doesn’t require an address in order for the customer to obtain the product, then the company might receive very little information  beyond an email address. That is especially true of customers that turn off cookies on their browsers and use adblockers. Those actions limit the information that companies can collect on them.

Today, I happened across a company called Rapleaf, which purports to have information on 80% of the email addresses in the United States.  I’m not sure how truthful that number is or how useful the information they have collected is, but that does provide another way to gain information on your customers, even if you only have their email addresses. Of course, for you to do something like that, you might need to disclose that in your privacy policy and terms of service. At least, I would. For actual legal advice, please consult your attorney.

Design, Design, Design

Design Letterpress“Design, design, design” is the digital equivalent of the brick and mortar axiom “location, location, location.” In the brick and mortar world you get business opportunities by being in the right place at the right time. That’s what it takes to deliver something when someone needs it. In the digital world, it’s not about where you are. It’s about designing your product so that the person gets the utility they need when they need it.

Well designed apps allow people to quickly and easily do what they need to do.  To deliver that they need to be:

  1. Cleanly built without clutter, so desired features are quickly found
  2. Intuitively designed, so features behave the way the user expects them to without needing instruction
  3. Beautifully designed, so the experience is a joy to the user both visually and emotionally

If you can deliver on those areas, you will get a lot farther than if you build an app that has every feature that a person could want, but doesn’t deliver on those areas. People are not very tolerant about steep learning curves, especially in apps/areas that have large amounts of competition. I know I’m definitely not. An app has to give me a good experience right away or I start to lose interest in it. If I buy an app, the goal is to make my life easier, not harder. If I’m going to pay money for it, the app can’t waste my time or irritate me. There are so many little annoyances in modern day life. Why would I pay to add to them?

Personal Responsibility

There was an article that was getting passed around today from the BBC about a 5 year old boy from Bristol in the UK. His name was Danny Kitchen and he racked up some extraordinary charges in about 15 minutes of play on an iPad. Here’s what happened. Danny was playing on the iPad and his father entered the iTunes password, so that his son could download a free game. Apparently, the boy started making in app purchases, which eventually ended up totaling £1,700 (over $2,500).

Even though the parents received emails about the charges, it wasn’t until they were called by their credit card company that they realized that the charges were real. Luckily for them, Apple refunded them their money after the parents contacted them.

Where to begin? *sigh* People might say that this is the fault of the maker of the app with the in app purchases. Or that it was the fault of Apple. I believe that it is firmly the fault of the parents. Apple devices have the ability to turn off in app purchases and the ability to set it so that purchases require a password all the time. Both of those options can be put behind parental restrictions that are locked behind a password. If either of those things were done or if the parents had turned off wi-fi, they wouldn’t have incurred £1,700 in credit card charges.

My main take away is that people don’t always behave responsibly. They often take the easy way out in a situation. As a parent, I get that kids can sometimes wear you out and that you want a break. So, you hand them an iPad to play some educational games on for awhile. Since it’s a hassle (a very tiny one) to toggle restrictions on and off when appropriate, people might be tempted to not bother. This story is what happens when you do that. Unfortunately, people apply the same sort of laziness and lack of judgement in other areas of their lives. We all have to fight that urge and put in the extra effort to do things the right way. In the end, we’ll all be better off if we do. These parents were lucky. You might not be.

Stupid Things Smart People Do

ChemistAwhile back Quora put out an ebook of the best quora answers of 2010-2012. Being a big fan of the site, I downloaded the book to see what insights I could glean from a compilation of the best the site had to offer. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the ebook was free either. In fact, it still is and you can download it here.

The answer that I’ve enjoyed the most so far was from Lee Semel. It was in response to the question:

What are some stupid things that smart people do?

I thought about compiling my own list and I might at some later date, but I think Lee’s list is a good one for people to read. Luckily, I’m not guilty of many of these, but that’s because I like to dabble in other stupid things instead. Like I said, I’ll write another post on that at a later date. Regardless of it’s applicability to me, this list covers a lot of the transgressions of smart people, so maybe it will help you to be more aware of some things you do or be more understanding of the people that you see do these things. Either way, knowledge is power. So, give it a read and enjoy!

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Suitcase Startup – Raising Financing

I checked back in to see how Chris Bradley was doing with his web show Suitcase Startup and his company Publicate. This week the focus was on raising financing. It was a moderately interesting episode to watch if you haven’t heard many VC’s speak about how they choose who they invest in. Unfortunately, I’d already heard all the tips given. Here’s a short list for anyone interested.

  1. They invest in teams not ideas.
  2. They invest in people they feel like they could work with.
  3. Ideas aren’t important. Execution is important.
  4. It’s best to get an introduction from someone the VC trusts.
  5. Meeting VC’s at events can often be better than calling to get a meeting because they can get a better feel of who you are in a more social/less business setting.

If you’re really interested in how VC’s think, I recommend checking out Jason Calacanis’s podcast This Week In Startups, or Mark Suster’s blog, Both Sides of the Table.

Getting Discovered

Facebook Prototype – Conceptional Approach from Fred Nerby on Vimeo.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the pretty girl that is walking down the street or shopping at the mall and is discovered by someone and becomes a world famous model. All she did was go about her life being beautiful and luck just put her in the right place at the right time.  Well, the story of designer Fred Nerby of Australia is a bit like that. Except that he put in a lot of work redesigning Facebook’s UI and posted it up on online portfolio site Behance where over 300,000 people viewed it in about a month and according to TNW, over a million people have seen that work on various sites.

To be fair, this is not the first piece of work that Mr. Nerby has done. Far from it. If you head to his site, you will see that he has done a lot of very high profile work. This project though has gained him some extra notoriety that has resulted in him being called by firms from around the world and even being flown out to Facebook to talk to them.

My key takeaway here (pardon my terminology, I used to be a consultant) is that you need to do high quality work all the time and that you need to put it out there where people can see it. If you can combine those two things, you have a chance of something great happening. Will it be easy? Probably not? Will success happen quickly? Nope. You might just become an overnight success years in the making though and that’s a lot better than a never was.

More Coffee Anyone?

Cup of coffeeThe common wisdom out there seems to be that we all drink too much coffee and that we should all drink less of it. I personally, don’t drink coffee everyday, but that’s for personal reasons. I prefer the taste of tea and at the rate I drink beverages, coffee starts to really hit me after awhile. I can just feel the caffeine humming in my veins. So, rather than drink less beverages or alternate beverages, I keep my insulated cup filled with loose leaf tea.

If your coffee drinking is less because of perceived health reasons, I stumbled across an article on Lifehacker that references multiple studies that their might actually be a lot of health benefits to drinking coffee. The article is careful to make it known that a lot of the data is purely correlative and not necessarily causative, but it’s still an interesting read. I don’t suggest using it as a reason to drink more coffee, but maybe it’s a reason for some people not to give up on it altogether. Or maybe it’s just a reason to feel a little better about the coffee habit you already have.

Momentum Is Everything!

Newtons cradleYou know how people seem to see everything in their life through the lens of their passion or career? How engineers want to solve everything analytically, economists want to determine the motivations and rewards that cause people to behave a certain way or how doctors think that medicine can fix any ailment? Well, I must have been a physicist in a previous life because I’ve boiled down almost every problem I have ever encountered to Newton’s Laws of Motion. For most people the law that seems to have the greatest relevance is Newton’s First Law:

Newton’s First Law

  • An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force.
  • An object in motion will not change its velocity unless acted upon by an external force.

The first part of the law is borne out by how people rarely take the initiative to do something unless something forces them to. That’s why a lot of people start exercising after a heart attack or start a business after they are laid off and can’t find a job. For entrepreneurs, that’s a good thing(the lack of motivation in others, not the heart attack or being laid off). While others continue doing the same thing day in and day out, we keep changing direction and velocity and take opportunities that others pass by.

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Would You Use It?

Garden Shears Shaving LegsWhenever you’re building a company, you should always ask yourself: “Would I use this?” I don’t mean, would you use the product/service if you were your intended target market. I mean would you use this product if you weren’t building it? If you wouldn’t, what makes you think you’re the best person to figure out the features or to know when you’re going in the wrong direction?

That isn’t to say that you can’t build a product that you wouldn’t normally use. It’s just much harder and more likely that you will fail without the right experiences and insights into the problem you are trying to solve. Without intimate knowledge of the problem, you could arrive at a solution that would sound good in theory, but prove to be nearly unworkable in practice. Or maybe it is workable, but maybe not in the way your customers would be comfortable using it.

If you’re convinced that you have to solve a problem that you don’t currently have, make sure you research the problem thoroughly and speak to and take the advice of your target audience all through the process. Better yet, find a co-founder or team that has the problem that you are attempting to solve. That will give you a much better perspective on what you are building and prevent you from going down the wrong path for too long before making a correction.  Don’t let hubris cloud your judgement and make you think you are the right person to solve every problem.