Josh Guest spotted the trend towards apps when he was writing about them. Now he’s turning over $1.5 million a year at B2Cloud by building apps as well as dealing with dodgy cheap apps that have been made offshore.
He talks to SmartCompany about how the app sector is changing and why useful apps are the way forward instead of fart apps.
Owner and founder: B2Cloud
It seems like B2Cloud’s timing has been fantastic in terms of getting into the app market, how did you spot there was going to be a real opportunity back in 2009?
I was working for a company and my position was made redundant and I spent a couple of months starting a blog. So B2Cloud started off as a blog and the idea was it was a place where people could write about technology. In the course of that, apps kept coming up every week. We kept writing about this app revolution and mobile revolution. At that point we got onto our first app and I had a developer that could help me out and that was app number one. That’s how it started. It was from hearing what was out there and paying close attention to what was happening in technology.
You turned a blog into a company, how did you go about doing that?
When you’re a start-up, the hardest thing is getting orders and getting other businesses to pay you money, or customers to pay you. We were able to find somebody who wanted an app and we were able to get them to pay upfront. Once you get the deal done, you work out how you’re going to do it afterwards.
So how did you find that first customer?
I think it was in the course of networks, and in the course of writing a blog, being in the right place in the right time. So the first app was the Melbourne Coffee Review, it was an app for the top 100 cafes in Melbourne. At the time it made a lot of sense, there was a magazine and the people who were running that said “We’d like to build an app” because people don’t carry the magazine when they’re looking for cafes, they tend to have their mobile phone. So I thought, “That’s really interesting, that insight”, and it just happened from there. I met a developer, got introduced to a developer and we started working on that app.
So is your background in IT or in journalism?
I’ve got a full nerd background. I started a web design company when I was at high school, building websites when I was in year nine and 10 at school. Everyone else was working at Maccas and I was building websites, which was pretty cool because you make more money building websites than working a part-time job. I’ve always loved tech and I’ve always loved anything to do with technology.
What was difficult about those early years?
It was really stressful. When you are in a start-up, having the uncertainty and all the responsibility on your shoulders can be really stressful. When you are working in a job where you get paid a salary every week you don’t really have to worry about not getting paid. But when you’ve got a start-up at certain times you worry about what if you don’t have a customer, what if you don’t have a cashflow, how do you manage those things. It’s a lot of pressure and you need a lot of skill as well. You need more than just tech, you need to understand accounting and the law and branding and marketing. In the early days when all you’ve got is yourself, you’ve got to put on all hats and it’s quite stressful.
When you were founded in 2009 there were 60,000 apps available, now that number’s grown exponentially – what difference has that made?
There is this enormous demand and limited supply in our space. A lot of the developers know each other and we sort of help each other out. We’re in a unique situation where there’s a lot more demand for apps than supply for app development. It’s quite a unique scenario.
How are you different to your competitors?
We’ve actually got all the skill you need to build an app in-house. We’ve got a design team, a user experience team, a coding team, an Android team, an iPhone team. It’s all under the one roof. The reason why that’s important is that when you’re designing for an iPhone or a little screen, it’s different to designing for a website where you’ve got a really big area. A phone is something you touch, you use your fingers, and you’ve also not got much space, so it makes things really good having everyone under the same roof.
The second thing that makes us different, and something that we’ve championed from very, very early on in the business, is that in the end the stuff we build is going into a customer’s hands. Everything we build needs to be useful to the end user. It’s not what our customer, who might be The Australian Good Food Guide or something for health insurance, it’s not about what they want, it’s what their customers want. When we think about what we’re going to build, and when we’re brainstorming, we’re always thinking about the end user and how they’re going to use the app, and that’s definitely a difference for us.