3 Ways to Build an App for Politics [Part 2]

Earlier this week, we talked about an educational app for the active citizen. But there is more than one way to create an app for politics and today we’re going to talk about 2 other ways. One will be from the perspective of our Chief Technical Officer, and the other will be from the perspective of our Design & Marketing lead.

So without further ado, let’s talk about how to build an app to help with local ballots.

How to Build an App for Ballot Info by Sachin Nayak

We’re all busy people here, right? After all, this is a blog for startup CEOs, SMB owners and entrepreneurs. But this doesn’t mean we don’t want to be responsible, informed voters. However it does mean that sitting down and reading our ballots is not exactly a simple task.

So why is there a solution to this problem? We all have it. You don’t even have to be in a startup to be pinched on time. So thinking on this problem led me to thinking how to make an app to fix the issue – perhaps not surprisingly since most of my life revolves around making apps! So let’s talk about some of the technologies I’ve identified as being necessary to this problem:

• It will need spiders capable of collecting ballot information from the actual government website, and will need to display it in a readable format on user’s phone

• The ability to drill down by location. Users need to be able to view what’s on the National or State ballots; but in order to make this app really valuable, it needs to be able to use a phone’s geolocation to provide local, municipal balloting information.

• Audio functionality would be an excellent feature for this app. Often, the only free time I have is on the road, so it would be nice to just have the information read to me on my drive.

So those are some of the coolest features I’d like to see in a voting app – but if you have some more ideas to add, feel free to email us!

Fact Checking App by Heather Stugen

We all know that politicians in general and especially this year have a…let’s call it less than intimate relationship with the truth. As a result, fact checking has become an exceptionally hot topic. And, since I am a UX/UI Designer and a Digital Marketer, I always keep my finger of the pulse of the people.

So I got to thinking about creating an app that I could use to check on the accuracy of political statements made. Something that offered unbiased truth with actual facts. This is actually a pretty monumental project, involving combing multiple databases and creating a way to vet sources. But the value it would provide would be quite exceptional (i.e. it would make you money!)

Additionally, we would need to write an algorithm that searched the web for the trendiest political topics. After all, we want to stay relevant. In order to accomplish that, we will need to keep abreast of the current topics. I envision a home screen presenting the latest topics talked about, with links to check up on the honesty of the statements.

Of course there would also be other features – anything from an honesty rating by politician and the ability to search. But I’m not going to tell you all of my ideas – you’ll have to reach out to us for all of our secrets!

Silicon Valley’s App Development Company

Each one of these ideas, from and Education app, to a Ballot App, to a fact checking app is not only a great Entrepreneurial idea, but a great way to give back to our society. Additionally, There’s no reason these 3 ideas can’t be combined into one jumbo app.

In fact, this is can be turned into an excellent growth strategy. If you were to start just the education portion, you could grow steadily into each other area we discussed. This is not only a way to sustainably and safely add incredible value to your app. Plus, it’s a great way to attract outside investment: VCs and Angel Investors love a solid business plan with clearly identified and obtainable growth goals

Ready to build your own money making app? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 or contact us online now.

3 Ways to Build an App for Politics [Part 1]

The 2016 US Presidential race has changed the political landscape of our country forever. While this race, in all of its ups and downs, highs and [extreme] lows, it is only setting the stage for the future of US Politics. We don’t yet know what that future will be, but it is clear that whatever lies in store it will be tumultuous.

But (not to be profiteering), tumult and change also opens the door to new market opportunities. As an app development company, we’re always searching for new ways to apply our knowledge to modern events – like this presidential race. Over the last year and a half or so, we’ve seen a few problems that can be solved with apps.

While none of them include inducing national amnesia so that we can all forget this entire thing, there are a few opportunities we identified. So we thought we would discuss some of the crossroads between Tech Entrepreneurship and Politics.

To narrow the field even further, we will only discuss openings that have a clear, long term sustainability. Each section is written by a different person in our company to provide a unique perspective – and don’t worry, we made sure to edit the engineers. They may make the best apps we’ve ever seen, but there’s a reason us writers are around!

Also, keep in mind this is only part 1 of this post; check back in a few days for the Conclusion!

Back to School by Rob LaPointe, VP of Sales

Remember in Middle and High School when your parents couldn’t remember all 50 US states? I certainly recall being shocked that they didn’t. Fast forward a few decades, and I can barely remember what state I’m currently in, much less 49 others!

But despite this, I still have the desire to be a good citizen and to vote responsibly – as do most people. Which is why I constantly find myself Googling how many electoral votes are needed to win the presidency (270), or how many people are in the House of Representatives (435).

So that’s when I thought, “god it would be great to have an app for this.” So there it is – an app that can answer all my questions about the US government and the electoral process. That’s not enough though. I mean, trivia apps abound and really what I want is something that can anticipate my needs, saving me time.

In order to provide this app a competitive edge and to add value to the service, I figured a three-fold approach would work best:

1. Machine Learning tools that can learn from my queries and eventually learn to anticipate them;

2. Questions relating to current trendy news; and

3. Popular questions being asked by other users and other people on the internet.

All of these features bound in one app would be exceptionally helpful to the busy citizen on the go. Want to build your own information resource app? Click now to get started. Or give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481.

Check back in a few days for part 2 of this post, where our CTO and Chief Designer will have their say!

How to Build a Successful App Marketing Strategy [Part 2]

Recently, we posted part 1 of of this series (read that here) where we talked about the importance of creating a successful app marketing campaign. We covered why you should and what NOT to do. From focusing too much on perfection to unclear messaging, and the proper approach to creating an app marketing campaign, we covered it all.

But this post is going to focus on what you should do, covering the tools and tricks to making a successful strategy. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Tip# 1: ASO and SEO

App Store and Search Engine Optimization are important steps to creating a successful marketing campaign. We’ve talked a lot about both already, so we won’t go into too much detail. But suffice to say, even if you just have an app, creating a live website (even if it’s just a landing page) that is Search Engine friendly is important.

But more important is making sure that your app is App Store friendly. Again, we’ve covered this quite a bit already, but some quick pointers:

• Keywords in titles. While not sexy, having a keyword in your title means that your app is more likely to be retrieved in a search.

• As we mentioned in the previous post, apps are an iterative process that evolves continuously. Use analytics to drive targeted growth and optimize your app for marketing at the same time.

Tip #2: Analytics, Analytics, Analytics…Did We Mention Analytics?

Another thing we talk about often is the importance of data when it comes to growth hacking a tech enterprise. Having superior Big Data analytics is vital to a successful company in the modern world. With improved power and real-time data metrics, a CEO can be in full control of their business.

More importantly though is researching your industry to figure out what metrics you need to be watching. These are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and while some are pretty general and widely applicable, each industry has targeted metrics. SDI can help you identify which ones work best for your company, even showing you how to identify other KPIs as your business grows.

Tip #3: The Message

Yea, we covered this in the “Do Not Do” part of this post, but messaging is important. Out of all the app marketing Triage projects we’ve had, the problem so often revolves around an inconsistent, unclear, or too broad of a message.

For instance, what if Uber had decided their message was “order a car and driver.” How is this different than a taxi? What USP does it highlight that distinguishes it from a competitor? While we made the argument earlier that simplicity is key, this is too simple. It makes no convincing argument to pick up Uber.

Or they could have gone the other way and marketed Uber as a delivery service, which would have thoroughly diluted their message. While now we know that Uber is basically a delivery service (delivering you, food, or anything else these days!), the marketers behind this campaign knew they had a fine line to walk.

So basically, the key to a perfect message is to not go too broad but to avoid being to targeted as well. You need to perfect distillation of your app, stated in a catchy, effective way that catches the eye and tells people what you want.

Tip #4: Hire Experts

Feels like too much to balance with everything else? That’s why you hire people who know what they’re doing and have done this for hundreds of apps. Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

How to Build a Successful App Marketing Strategy [Part 1]

As we’ve stated before, developing awesome apps for android or iOS is only part of a successful app campaign; an equally important part (arguably much more important) is marketing.

An App marketing strategy is what lets people know about your app, to get them excited about it. But apps are a living product, meaning that constant evolution is necessary. It’s needed to both keep existing users and to entice new users.

Consumers today expect a high level of customization for any product, so customizability in and of itself becomes a marketable item – a Unique Selling Point (USP). But there’s a lot more that goes into a successful app marketing strategy; the good news for you is that SDI is here to help.

Part 1 of this topic will take a look at some tactics to avoid, while part 2, to be posted later this week, will cover what app marketing tools you should use.

Mistake #1: Focusing too Much on Perfection

Yea, i know, i know, this is your baby and you want it to be perfect before it goes to launch. Afterall, a poor design has killed many a product. More than have succeeded, surely.

But apps aren’t cars, or TVs, or even phones. They’re a digital service that can be changed, updated, corrected and touched up pretty much instantly. Remember, constant evolution is necessary to a successful app so spending 2 years so you can deliver a perfect product is a death knell. Of course, this doesn’t mean release a crappy product! It just means set yourself up for growth.

Mistake #2: Treating an App as Having Distinct Life Stages

A popular axiom among app developers is that marketing begins with design. Often, SDI is called in to do what we call “app triage,” where someone launched their app but didn’t do their due diligence, or didn’t understand how important marketing from the get-go is.

More often than not, these apps are awesome, but they weren’t approached with marketing in mind. App design, development, and marketing are frequently seen as distinct cycles; in reality, creating a successful app weaves all three of these elements into one distinct product – an app tapestry, if you will.

Mistake #3: Unclear Messaging

You really wouldn’t believe just how many apps and tech services have failed because nobody understood what it was supposed to do (*ahem* Google Wave). There are millions of apps out there. It could have more features, better features, and be 100% superior to any competitor out there.

But if you can’t figure out how to communicate how your app can help people, you will lose to competitors who can. No matter how much better your app is. The best way to figure out your message is to boil your app down to its essence, its most basic service. And then build on it from there, focusing on benefits to your customers over features you think are cool. That will come later. Simplicity is key.

Check back in a few days to read about what you should do to create a successful marketing campaign for apps. Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

Recent Graduates: Seize the Moment [Part 2 of 2]

This is Part 2 of 2 in our Graduate Startup Series. Part 1 can be found here.

So Part 1 of this post covered why recent college graduates are perfectly poised for success. The time is ripe, Investors like recent college students, you’re mind is fresh with current and up-to-date information. Plus you’re part of the hip market – the coveted 18 to 30 year old demographic.

The top 5 highest valued privately held startups (the so-called Unicorn companies, valued at over $1billion) were all founded by recent college graduates; this includes AirBnB (Joe Gebbia & Brian Chesky) and Uber (Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp). Heck, even Facebook was founded by a college graduate.

So the funding is there, the time is ripe, but what about some inspiration? What are some markets that are waiting for a newcomer, a newcomer who can make some money? The rest of this post will sketch out a key market for the up and coming entrepreneur, but first, a clarification:

Sometimes ideas strike like a bolt of lightning. Sometimes, like with Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, it’s just the cold-driven realization that technology provides new solutions. Something like getting a ride can be as simple as tapping a button. For those ideas, you just need a development partner – and SDI can help. Contact us now to get started.

Social Media Websites and Apps

Social media websites and apps may seem overplayed, but this is still a burgeoning market. Often people get turned off by the idea of going up against Facebook or Twitter; but there’s a simple solution to this: don’t go up against them.

Facebook has a very specific market: the planet earth. They try to t cater to everyone, offering services oriented towards a general public. This isn’t to knock Facebook. Obviously they have an excellent service that satisfies the vast majority of its users. But with its wide net, the network tends to miss the little guys, the small niche networks.

Targeting a smaller niche market doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, or that you won’t make money. Take LinkedIn as an example: they targeted a smaller network (business professionals) and have built a successful social media empire out of it.

The key to a successful social media app or website is to find an underserved market. Maybe you played College Football; that gives you an in with an interested population (for marketing) and subject expertise (for brand imaging). All you need now is the help of an expert development team!

But let’s cut to the chase: why Social Media? First off, social media sites covering subjects you love are fun. Passion is the most crucial element to the success of any startup or enterprise venture. Secondly (and most importantly!) they can make a god awful amount of money.

Social media companies focusing on niche markets provide a tantalizing morsel for retailers and brand builders. One of the hardest parts of selling speciality items or services is researching a market. With niche social media companies, there’s an interested and engaged market, all ready to go. Monetization can happen in 2 fundamental ways:

1. By driving in-app or website purchases for applicable products. In our football example, this can be everything from memorabilia (i.e. jerseys) to equipment (especially for kids, since it won’t be too long before your old buddies all have families!);

2. Marketing for other companies. Say you’re a football training camp for kids, or even for adults looking to have some fun. You probably don’t have the time or the funds to research and organize a whole marketing campaign. But a Social Media website like our example; well that’s a guaranteed market, instantly accessible for not all that much.

So social media, far from being dead, actually represents a burgeoning market waiting for the right disruptive startup. Want to talk more about this (or any other idea!)? Get in touch now! Call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 or click to contact us!

Recent Graduates: Seize the Moment [Part 1 of 2]

This is Part 1 of 2 in our Graduate Startup Series. Please check back later for Part 2.

“Youth is wasted on the Young” is a phrase often uttered by those wizened and long in the teeth. They often look back on their own early days with wistful longing, wishing that they had taken a hold of the reins when they had the energy, or the time.

The truth is that those early days after college is the best time for us to strike out on our own, to found our own business. Why not afterall? Most of us are kid-free, our brains are still packed full of fresh knowledge, and we think like most coveted market out there (because we are that market!) 18 to 30 year olds.

Not only that, but recent university graduates, especially those coming from a school with an emphasis in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or STEM), are startup founder machines. This is especially true for those colleges near big funding sources, like Silicon Valley (locals perk up!).

Venture Capitalism

Stanford and Berkeley rank number 1 and 3, respectively, with the most Startup founders for 2016. Stanford alums also have launched over 400 Startups that raised over $10 million since 2012. More telling, the 5 most valuable startups in the US funded by VCs (and privately owned) were all founded by recent graduates – and 2 of them were from Stanford!

Investors specifically look for a few things that are inherent in young college graduates: Passion, trendiness, and recent, cutting edge knowledge. Add to that a perfect pitch plus an awesome demo and you’re golden!

This makes another point why College Graduates need to launch their Startup now, rather than in 10 years: VCs and Angel Investors love recent college graduates. So why wait until it’s too late?

App and Website Development

But there’s another reason to found your own Startup now: apps and websites are easy and inexpensive to build, compared to pre-internet businesses. Plus, despite how prevalent apps and websites are, both technologies are in their infancy (especially apps).

As entrepreneurs, we’re still learning all the different ways we can turn ideas into a money making tech products. More than that, we’re realizing that seemingly simple things can be made into cash generating monsters. What we’re seeing with the tech world is that the marketing game is changing a little.

This is to say that when creating a business is that you have to figure out what problem you’re trying to solve. But we’re dealing with new, exceptionally advanced technologies. Often they can address things people never even realized were a problem.

For instance, people never realized that there would be a massive demand for Uber-style services. App technology like Uber’s algorithm was so vastly different from technologies even 20 years ago that such instantaneous services couldn’t even be conceived.

Today? Uber is one of the world’s biggest companies. Along with Airbnb, another similarly clever tech Startup, were on that list of the most valuable startups discussed earlier, by the way.

So need some Entrepreneurial inspiration? We’ll you will just have to tune in later this week for Part 2, where we will discuss what makes a good app or website, with some specific examples.

Don’t want to wait for Part 2 to continue the conversation? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 for a free consultation with our CTO and Marketing experts- or click to contact us!

Guide: How to Create the Best Kickstarter Campaign

One of our jobs as a tech development partner is to keep know all of the ways to help our clients and not just the newest updates to SDKs and programming languages. We also keep on top of the best ways to attract investment funding, whether that’s from VCs or Angel Investors, or from newer crowdsourced methods, such as Kickstarter.

KickStarter is a new type of funding, but it has helped successfully launch almost 113,000 projects. With such a substantial number, it’s important that this is something we, as entrepreneurs, examine closely.

Here are some other numbers that demonstrably show that Kickstarter is, and will continue to be, a huge source of funding (for the full list, see their website):

    • Over $2.6 billion pledged;

    • Almost 11.7 million people who have pledged money;

    • 3.6 million people who have invested in multiple projects; and

    • 33 million total pledges.

Obviously, KickStarter cannot be ignored; while crowdsourcing may not provide all the funding you need, it will provide a substantial portion. With projects that really hit it out of the park, you can blow past your goals: Just check out the M3D Pro, which asked for $100,00 from pledgers; as of writing this, they just past $486,600 with 16 hours still left in their campaign!

At this point you maybe asking yourself about other Crowdsourcing options, such as IndieGoGo. We are specifically focusing on Kickstarter in this post. We personally believe that Kickstarter campaigns have the highest possibility of success, including nearly 3 times as many monthly visitors (at about 27 million to IndieGoGo’s 9).

That being said, IndieGoGo has some unique features (including better options for cash strapped ventures and immediate cash in the bank) we are looking at in more detail, and will probably discuss in another post. For a more in depth discussion on the difference, check out this post.

So, how does one go about starting a successful KickStarter campaign? The same way you start anything else – with the first step.

Step 1: Identifying Your Audience

Hopefully this was something you did from the get go. Researching your target audience is an essential part to creating an excellent design. But even if you have, there are some specific considerations for creating a good campaign: including where your audience hangs out (digitally) and the best way to get their attention.

See many KickStarter noobs think that you can just roll out of bed and start a campaign. In fact, a successful project generally ends with the campaign launch. Before you get going on the campaign, you need to generate a buzz, figure out a way to make people look at your project.

As always, the best way to do this is to identify and target gatekeepers to your target market. If you get them excited, they will get others excited. So identify your audience and figure out how to make your project even more attractive to them.

Step 2: Hook Your audience

Creating a story that draws in your audience is a necessary part to a successful KickStarter Campaign. This is basically a pitch, but the story should be more about why you are launching this project; what it means to you, why you’re doing it and why your target audience should be interested in it.

The story can be told to your audience in many ways, but one of the most successful is through a compelling video, often called explainer videos. An Explainer Video is a fun way to inform your audience of the benefits of your product or service. But you have about 10 seconds to get people engaged; in other words, start with a bang.

This type of video is not only good for drumming up some excitement, but also for putting right smack dab on your landing page (aka campaign page). Your campaign page is very important, because it’s the first thing people will see when visiting your Kickstarter page. While the video will do most of the…talking… your Campaign page has to hook people – so make it awesome!

Step #3: Asking for the Right Amount

Honestly deciding how much money to ask for is one of the hardest tasks. If you ask for too little, you won’t have enough money to do what you need to do. If you ask too much, well you won’t hit your KickStarter goal. Which means you get none of the money given to you.

So figure out the bare minimum your company needs to survive and ask for that. Afterall, if people love your product or service, they can give more than the amount you are requesting. But again, if you don’t meet your goal, you get diddley. And you end up with less cash!

There are many more tricks to crafting the perfect KickStarter campaign, but you’re going to have to reach out to us for more secrets! After all, if we give our expertise away, we’ll be out of a job! Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

Rock Bottom to Sky High: How Being Laid Off Can Be the Best Thing For You

Layoffs are an unfortunate reality in a volatile workforce, especially in the years since 2008. While the US job market is on the rise, there’s been a recent spike in tech layoffs. Here’s just a short list of some of the major tech companies that have experienced layoffs in 2016:

    • Dell (January): 10,000 jobs, with more to come following its $67 billion acquisition EMC Corp;

    • Intel (April): 12,000 jobs and multiple factories shut down;

    • Microsoft (May); 5,000 jobs, staggered over 18 months. But still the tech giant’s deepest cut ever;

    • Cisco (August): 5,500 jobs, or a full 11% of its workforce. This follows layoffs in 2013 AND 2014, both shallower cuts, but significant nonetheless (5% and 8%, respectively);

    • Sony also should be on this list; no layoffs yet but this company suffered a $1.65 billion operating loss (the first time it has suffered a deficit in almost a decade in a half). Layoffs are expected

The well known tech Consultancy Firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, INC estimated in August that the tech industry in the US had lost about 63k jobs. More pointedly, Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry estimates that the industry may lose as many as 370,000 jobs by the end of 2016.

Part of these cuts are due to changes in the Tech Hardware market, but we’re not here to get into that. We’re not even here to paint a dire picture of the future. No we’re here to talk about how getting laid off can be one of the greatest things to ever happen to you.

First, let’s talk about why the SDI team is qualified to talk about this subject. First, we’re a company founded by people who know how to be successful tech entrepreneurs. They have this knowledge because that’s what our company is: we started as a twinkle in the eye of our founder nearly 20 years ago. Today, we help other tech entrepreneurs realize their dreams – plus make some of that sweet sweet cash!

Many of us also speak from the position of having been laid off from jobs ourselves; in other words we know how it feels, but we also know how to pull ourselves out of that pit of despair! Most importantly, our team has helped more than 10,000 clients launch their own entrepreneurial ventures.

How to Be a Successful Tech Entrepreneur

Honestly there are really only two things that make a successful entrepreneur of any stripe. Sure, some funding is great. An idea or two never hurt. But really, just there are just two main characteristics needed: Passion and Dedication.

No joke. In fact, most VCs and Angel Investors agree. Most newbie entrepreneurs think that it’s your idea, or pitch, or demo that are the most important. And don’t get me wrong, those are all essential to attracting investors. But most Investors want to know that you are in love with your company – almost literally.

They also want to know that when the going gets tough (and it will) you won’t just give up. So there it is in a nutshell folks: Dedication and passion. If you have those (what Mattie Ross would call “True Grit”), you can make it! But what does this have to do with being laid off?

Well, let’s face it: you don’t have too much else on your plate right now, so dedication isn’t a problem. As for passion; well if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’ve been secretly nursing your entrepreneurial idea for years – to the point of obsession! Even if you haven’t, who can’t get excited about making some money? So passion – check!

Being laid off is an opportunity for growth. It gives you the chance to dedicate yourself to your own project, and should not be taken as a mark of failure. Here’s a great summation of our point, from someone who was once laid off himself:

“It’s not about money or connections–it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone.”

Who said that? Mark Cuban, legendary entrepreneur turned billionaire investor. And also fellow sufferer who was laid off. How did he respond? Started his first major company. Or Take Michael Bloomberg, legendary business man and the 15th richest person in the US. He was laid off in 1998.

But he didn’t let that get him down. Instead he took a severance check and used to fund his first company, the very foundations to his billions. The good news is that most tech layoffs do receive a nice severance package (though probably not as nice as Bloomberg’s $10 million check…). A severance package can be easily leveraged into early seed money for your company.

Look. these stories are everywhere: Oprah got fired and was told TV wasn’t for her; JK Rowling got fired (and used her severance check to support her writing for a number of years); Madonna, fired from Dunkin Donuts in less than 24 hours after a…jelly…incident.

The point is that there is one truth you can divine from all of these stories: Success comes from our lowest points. Personal strength isn’t derived from not getting knocked down. It comes from getting back up.

Want to give it a go? SDI offers a free hour long consultation and quote, Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us! We’ll help you unleash your true, inner entrepreneur, turning your idea into a viable, functional company, bound for success.