Jordan Edelson, CEO and founder of Appetizer Mobile, talks entrepreneurial motivation, creating with tools that evolve almost as fast as you can use them, and how brands can get and hold people’s attention. That little computer in your pocket might have something to do with it, but “just slapping your logo onto an app doesn’t make it successful,” he says. “You have to fight for the mind-share.”
How’d you land upon the name “Appetizer”?
It came from the concept of apps being little compact ways of accessing information, like little servings of information. My father, a dentist, landed on the name when we all were brainstorming.
Would you describe Appetizer’s creative process?
A lot of clients will come in and pitch concepts that are broad and general. They want to do something but don’t know what it is. We help them with their process and ideation, deciding what’s important with their brand, their goals–it’s crucial for companies to figure out their goals. Other clients who approach us have something very specific in mind. They have direct deliverables and a checklist from X to Y to Z.
After our initial consultations, we make sure they understand our deliverables and figure out what’s involved. We sign off on the agreements, then move onto an organic development process. That’s different than a lot of developers–most just go off of their SOW. But we all know that the app and mobile market is a hugely evolving space. It’s changing monthly. So instead, we go through the dev process and build a back-and-forth with our client. That way, as new technology comes out, we can move that into the process. We can change mid-course. We have an open process. We’re about partnership and long-term retention of the client. If they’re successful, they’ll come back.
The average app shelf life is something like six months. To give your app longevity, you have to think about other features. First, we help our clients focus on core pieces of their application. Then we focus on three or four key features that are different and help them scale to other ideations of their app.
We first understand their app’s brand, logo, look and feel, and then we move onto the interface. We make sure things look good, have the right color scheme and right feel. The average process takes around a month, or a little longer for games. Once we’ve gotten out of that, we start work on user interface and programming, building modules, illustration and animations, things like that. Then we move to the coding process, and after that, we deliver an internal build. We get feedback, adjust accordingly, make tweaks, do QA, and then we come up with a more-or-less final build.
What advice can you give pre-entrepreneurs who, for financial or other reasons, need a push to launch?
You have to find ways to self-motivate, keep focused, commit to your concept. If you’re not passionate, chances are, you weren’t meant to do it. You have to have drive. Financially, you’ll meet people. You’ll partner with someone. You’ll get creative. There are other ways to raise money than VCs. You can crowd-source. If you believe and you’re passionate, it’ll be easier. You can’t go it alone. Find people who believe in you and use them as support. But if you can self-motivate, that’s best.
What principles guide your daily decision-making process?
Good ethics are crucial. What’s important is not selling out. That means being careful taking money. Just because someone waves money in your face, it doesn’t always mean that it’s the right money. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then I wouldn’t move forward with it.
What branding trends do you think are most effective now?
Mobile is where it’s at–taking digital initiatives and moving them to the mobile space. Being on the forefront of digital doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the forefront of mobile, and even those who have embraced mobile haven’t always done it well.
Integrating effective campaigns with social media isn’t enough anymore. Everybody has a Facebook or Twitter account. Maybe a year ago, that was cutting-edge. But now that’s really not enough. Brands have to find other ways to engage their consumers. Mobile phones are the way to do that, and you have to offer some sort of utility and purpose. There are some companies who’ve done a good job with that. Nike is one, with their pedometer app. What they’ve tried to do is integrate themselves into how people live. From the moment you get up in the morning and put on your shoes, they’re integrated into your life.
Just slapping your logo onto an app doesn’t make it successful. You have to fight for the mind-share.
How do you predict the digital relationship between brands and consumers will evolve over the next five years?
At this point, a lot of interfacing is still via manual entry into phones. Over the next five years, you’ll see smarter ways of interfacing, along with smarter data mining. Your habits and behavior will be mined more seamlessly. We’ll see more wearable technology that’s going to be smart and directly feed sites like Google and Facebook. There’ll be just a wealth of info over the next five years. If you have the technology on your phones, you can’t escape it. It’ll be almost overwhelming; that balance of privacy and hardware getting smarter will be one of the biggest issues we’ll be facing.
What do you love most about your job?
I love being able to innovate and change things in the world by using apps. I like being a leader and thinking outside the box and being lucky enough to do that. I have good partners supporting me in that process. And I love being myself through my company.