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Bradley Brown

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Bradley Brownhttps://plus.google.com/113645004383705849159noreply@blogger.comBlogger144125
Updated: 9 hours 37 min ago

I have an idea for an app, what's next?

Tue, 2014-12-30 18:44
This is a question that I get asked quite often.  My first thoughts are:

1. An app isn't necessarily a business.
2. Can you generate enough revenue to pay for the development?
3. There is usually more to an app than just the app.
4. Which platforms?

I thought I'd take this opportunity to address each of these points in more detail.  Before I do this, I think it's important to say that I don't consider myself to be the world's leading authority on apps, so I should explain why I get asked this question.

In 2008, when I saw my first Android phone, I was very intrigued by the ability to write an app for a phone.  I had this thought - what if I could develop an app that would I would sell and it paid for my lunch every day.  How cool would that be?  I was a Java developer (not a great one, but I could write Java code) and the Android devices used a Java development stack as their base.  So the learning curve wasn't huge for me.  More importantly, I only had to invest time, not money to write an app.

I was very much into Web Services at the time and Yahoo had (still has actually) some really cool Web Services that are available for public use.  These are based on what they call YQL (Yahoo Query Language) and since I'm a SQL (Structured Query Language) guy at heart, YQL and Web Services were right up my alley.

One of the uses of YQL included providing a location and getting all of the local events in a specified radius from that location.  So I thought I should create an app that would allow anyone to find their local events that they were interested in.  I created my first "Local Events" app and put in the market.  Not many people downloaded the app (it wasn't paying for lunch), so I started thinking about how people searched for apps.  I figured they would search for the events they were interested in - singles, beer, crafting, technical, etc.  So I created "Local Beer Events" and "Local Singles Events" and many other apps.

Another YQL search that Yahoo provides is for local businesses - again, from a specific location.  So my "second" app was centered around local businesses.  One again, I thought about how people searched for apps and I created a local Starbucks app, local Panera, local Noodles, etc.  The downside of this app was that Starbucks and many others didn't like me using their name in app name due to trademark infringements.

Back to my story of paying for lunch - I quickly paid for lunch each day and my goal became to generate $100 a day, then $1000 a day.  I did generate over $1000 in many days.  I experimented with pricing and learned a lot.

In the end, I ended up taking all of those apps off the market...or actually Google took them off the market for me.  Likely due to my app names or because I had spammed the market with over 500 apps or who knows why.

I wrote a book for Apress book on the business of writing Android apps and I spoke at numerous conferences on the topic.

It was at that point that I decided to rethink my app strategy.  What could I build that would actually be a business?  Could I charge for the app or did I need to offer an entire service?

So back to my questions above:
An app isn't necessarily a businessIf you're a developer and you can develop 100% of the app with no costs, this may not apply to you.  Most people have to pay for developers and servers to deploy an app.  A business is typically defined as an entity that makes a profit.  So income minus expenses is profit.  What will your income be from your app?  Do people actually pay for apps today?  I believe they do, but not often...i.e. there must be a LOT of value to pay for an app...especially to have enough people paying for your app.  Let's say you price your app at $2.  How many copies do you have to sell just to pay for the development?  What about the ongoing support costs?  If you paid $20k to develop the app, you would have to sell 10,000 copies to "break even."  But...you'll have to support the app, keep it running, upgrade it, etc.  Most apps (like books) never sell 10,000 copies.  So...just creating an app isn't necessarily a business.
Can you generate enough revenue to pay for the developmentLike I said above, generating revenue for an app is tough.  Paying for the development of the app is tough.  Maybe you can generate revenue other ways?  Think about this a LOT before you decide to proceed with developing your app.
There is usually more to an app than just the appMost apps aren't standalone apps.  Sure, my "Local Starbucks" app was "standalone" in some regards, but it wasn't in other regards.  It relied on the Yahoo Web Service to deliver current Starbucks locations.  I had someone approach me about a "Need a Loo" (find a local bathroom in London) app.  They had the data for all of the bathrooms...but this changed frequently.  Could I have built the app and had the data be included in the app?  Yes, but...when the Loo locations changed, I would have had to update the app, which isn't an ideal solution.  So I had to build a database and a Web application that allowed them to maintain Loo locations.  Then I had to build web services that looked up the current Loo locations from the database.  In other words, most apps involve databases, web services, and back end systems to maintain the data.  All of these imply additional costs...which imply additional revenue that must be generated to sustain your business.

I wrote 5 books for Oracle press on the topic of web applications, web services and the like.  I know how to build the backend of apps, this was the easy part for me!
Which Platforms?When you think about an app, you might be thinking of an iPhone app if you have an iPhone or an iPad.  You might be thinking of an Android app if you have an Android phone or tablet.  There are SO many development platforms today.  iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Apple TV, Kindle Fire TV, and literally about 100 more.  There are cross platform development tools, but they tend to be what I call "least common denominator" solutions.  In other words, they will alienate someone.  If it looks like an iOS (iPhone/iPad) app, it's going to alienate the Android users...or visa-versa.  For this reason, native apps are in vogue now.

Every platform is about $30k or more in our world.  Again, all of these are expenses...that must be recouped.
Why InteliVideo?I thought long and hard about my next generation of apps that I wanted to create.  That's when I determined that I needed to create a business...that had apps, not an app that was a business.  The video business was a natural progression for me.  I wanted to have the ability to sell my educational material (Oracle training) and deliver it in an app.  We have a LOT more than an app.  We have an entire business - that has apps.  So when you think about developing an app...think about the business, not the app.

eDVD

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:27
We've struggled to figure out what to call this next generation of video delivery.  Is it "video on demand?"  The industry insiders are very specific in calling it TVOD and SVOD, which stands for transactional and subscription video on demand respectively.  Transactional video on demand means that consumers can buy or rent a video and watch it on their device.  Subscription video on demand means that consumers buy a subscription and they can watch a grouping of videos as a part of their subscription.

But what does all of this have to do with consumers and how they talk about "video on demand?"  I certainly don't hear consumers using that term.  In fact, when my son recently posted a video on Facebook, my mother-in-law (his grandma) said "that was a really cool DVD Austin."  Later she asked "that was a DVD, right?"  You could hear her questioning herself about the use of the term DVD.  Austin was a little taken back by the question, paused and said "yes grandma."  He didn't want to get into the details that a DVD is a physical implementation of storage, not a method of playing a video on Facebook.

That got me thinking about what I originally labelled this new technology as - i.e. an eDVD.  This would allow people to continue to referring to online videos as DVDs - specifically eDVDs.  So how do we change the world's view of these terms and get everyone to start calling them eDVDs?  Now that I've declare it, the world knows, right?  Well...not quite yet, but I'm sure very soon :)  Spread the word!

Digital Delivery "Badge"

Sun, 2014-12-21 00:44
At InteliVideo we have come to understand that we need to do everything we can to help our clients sell more digital content. It seems obvious that consumers want to watch videos on devices like their phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs, but it's not so obvious to the everyone. They have been using DVDs for a number of years - and likely VHS tapes before that. We believe it’s important for your customers to understand why they would want to purchase a digital product rather than a physical product (i.e. a DVD).
Better buttons drive sales.  Across all our apps and clients we know we are going to need to really nail our asset delivery process with split tests and our button and banner catalog.  We've simplified the addition of a badge on a client's page. They effectively have to add 4 lines of HTML in order to add our digital delivery badge.
Our clients can use any of the images that InteliVideo provides or we’re happy to provide an editable image file (EPS format) so they can make their own image.  Here are some of our badges that we created:
Screenshot 2014-12-16 19.39.25.png
On our client's web page, it looks something like this:
Screenshot 2014-12-17 14.01.11.png
The image above (Watch Now on Any Device) is the important component.  This is the component that our clients are placing somewhere on their web page(s).  When this is clicked, the existing page will be dimmed and the lightbox will popup and display the “Why Digital” message:
Screenshot 2014-12-17 16.31.54.png
What do your client's customers need to know about in order to help you sell more?

What does an App Cost?

Sat, 2014-12-20 17:59
People will commonly ask me this question, which has a very wide range as the answer.  You can get an app build on oDesk for nearly free - i.e. $2000 or less.  Will it provide the functionality you need?  It might!  Do you need a website that does the same thing?  Do you need a database (i.e. something beyond the app) to store your data for your customers?

Our first round of apps at InteliVideo cost us $2,000-10,000 to develop each of them.  We spent a LOT of money on the backend server code.  Our first versions were pretty fragile (i.e. broke fairly easily) and we're very sexy.  We decided that we needed to revamp our apps from stem to stern...APIs to easy branding to UI.

Here's a look at our prior version.  Our customers (people who buy videos) aren't typically buying from more than 1 of our clients - yet.  But in the prior version I saw a list of all of the products I had purchased.  It's not a very sexy UI - just a simple list of videos:


When I drilled into a specific product, again I see a list of videos within the product:

I can download or play a video in a product:


Here's what it looks like for The Dailey Method:



Here's the new version demonstrating the branding for Chris Burandt.  I've purchased a yearly subscription that currently includes 73 videos.  I scroll (right not down) through those 73 videos here:


Or if I click on the title, I get to see a list of the videos in more detail:


Notice the colors (branding) is shown everywhere here.  I scrolled up to look through those videos:


Here's a specific video that talked about a technique to set your sled unstuck:


Here's what the app looks like when I'm a The Dailey Method customer.  Again, notice the branding everywhere:

Looking at a specific video and it's details:


We built a native app for iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod), Android, Windows and Mac that has all of the same look, feel, functionality, etc.  This was a MAJOR undertaking!

The good news is that if you want to start a business and build an MVP (Minimally Viable Product) to see if there is actually a market for your product, you don't have to spend hundreds of thousands to do so...but you might have to later!


Do You Really Need a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

Fri, 2014-12-19 10:39
When I first heard about Amazon's offering called CloudFront I really didn't understand what it offered and who would want to use it.  I don't think they initially called it a content delivery network (CDN), but I could be wrong about that.  Maybe it was just something I didn't think I needed at that time.

Amazon states it well today (as you might expect).  The offering "gives developers and businesses an easy way to distribute content to end users with low latency, and high data transfer speeds."

So when you hear the word "content" what is it that you think about?  What is content?  First off, it's digital content.  So...website pages?  That's what I initially thought of.  But it's really any digital content.  Audio books, videos, PDFs - files of any time, any size.

When it comes to distributing this digital content, why would you need to do this with low latency and/or high transfer speeds?  Sure, this is important if your website traffic scales up from 1-10 concurrent viewers to millions overnight.  How realistic is that for your business?  What about the other types of content - such as videos?  Yep, now I'm referring to what we do at InteliVideo!

A CDN allows you to scale up to any number of customers viewing or downloading your content concurrently.  Latency can be translated to "slowness" when you're trying to download a video when you're in Japan because it's moving the file across the ocean.  The way that Amazon handles this is that they move the file across the ocean using their fast pipes (high speed internet) between their data centers and then the customer downloads the file effectively directly from Japan.

Imagine that you have this amazing set of videos that you want to bundle up and sell to millions of people.  You don't know when your sales will go viral, but when it happens you want to be ready!  So how do you implement a CDN for your videos, audios, and other content?  Leave that to us!

So back to the original question.  Do you really need a content delivery network?  Well...what if you could get all of the benefits of having one without having to lift a finger?  Would you do it then?  Of course you would!  That's exactly what we do for you.  We make it SUPER simple - i.e. it's done 100% automatically for our clients and their customers.  Do you really need a CDN?  It depends on how many concurrent people are viewing your content and where they are located.

For my Oracle training classes that I offer through BDB Software, I have customers from around the world, which I personally find so cool!  Does BDB Software need a CDN?  It absolutely makes for a better customer experience and I have to do NOTHING to get this benefit!

Elephants and Tigers - V8 of the Website

Thu, 2014-12-18 21:54
It's amazing how much work goes into a one page website these days!  We've been working on our new version of our website (which is basically one page) for the last month or so.  The content is "easy" part on one hand and the look and feel / experience is the time consuming part.  To put it another way, it's all about the entire experience, not just the text/content.

Since we're a video company, it's important that they first page show some video...which required production and editing.  We're hunting elephants, so we need to tell the full story of the implementations that we've done for our large clients.  What all can you sell on our platform?  A video?  Audio books?  Movies?  TV Shows?  What else?  We needed to talk about our onboarding process for the big guys.  What's the shopping cart integration look like?  We have an entirely new round of apps coming out soon, so we need to show those off.  We need to answer that question of "What do our apps look like?"    Everybody wants analytics right?  You want to know who watched what - for how long, when and where!  What about all of the ways you can monetize - subscriptions (SVOD), transactional (TVOD) - rentals and purchases, credit-based purchases, and more.  What about those enterprises who need to restrict (or allow) viewing based on location?
Yes, it's quite a story that we've learned over the past few years.  Enterprises (a.k.a. Elephants) need it all.  We're "enterprise guys" after all.  It's natural for us to hunt Elephants.
Let's walk through this step-by-step.  In some ways it's like producing movie.  A lot of moving parts, a lot of post editing and ultimately comes down to the final cut.
What is that you want to deliver?  Spoken word?  TV Shows?  Training?  Workouts?  Maybe you want to jump right into why digital, how to customize or other topics...

Let's talk about why go digital?  Does it seem obvious to you?  It's not obvious to everyone.  Companies are still selling a lot of DVDs.

Any device, anywhere, any time!  That's how your customers want the content.

We have everything from APIs to Single Sign On, and SO much more...we are in fact an enterprise solution.


It's time to talk about the benefits.  We have these awesome apps that we've spent a fortune developing and allowing our clients to have full branding experience as you see here for UFC FIT.


We integrate to most of our large customers existing shopping carts.  We simply receive an instant payment notification from them to authorize a new customer.


I'm a data guy at heart, so we track everything about who's watching what, where they are watching from and so much more.  Our analytics reporting shows you this data.  Ultimately this leads to strategic upsell to existing customers.  It's always easier to sell someone who's already purchased over a new customer.


What website would be complete without a full list of client testimonials?


If you can dream up a way to monetize your content, we can implement it.  Credit based subscription systems to straight out purchase...we have it all!

What if you want to sell through affiliates?  How about selling the InteliVideo platform as an affiliate?  Our founders came from ClickBank, so we understand Affiliate payments and how to process them.


Do you need a step-by-step guide to our implementation process?  Well...if so, here you have it!  It's as simple as 5 steps.  For some customers this is a matter of hours and for others it's months.  The first step is simply signing up for an InteliVideo account at: http://intelivideo.com/sign-up/ 

We handle payment processing for you if you would like.  But...most big companies have already negotiated their merchant processing rates AND they typically already have a shopping cart.  So we integrate as needed.

Loading up your content is pretty easy with our platform.  Then again, we have customers with as few as one product and others with thousands of products and 10s of thousands of assets (videos, audio files, etc.).  Most of our big customers simply send us a drive.  We have a bulk upload process where you give us your drive and all of the metadata (descriptions) and the mapping of each...and we load it all up for you.

Our customers can use our own sales pages and/or membership area...or we have a template engine that allows for comprehensive redesign of the entire look and feel.  Out of the box implementations are simple...


Once our clients sign off on everything and our implementation team does as well...it's time to buy your media, promote your products and start selling.  We handle the delivery.


For those who would like to sign up or need more information, what website would be complete without a contact me page?  There are other pages (like our blog, about us, etc), but this page has a lot of information.  It's a story.  At the bottom of the page there is a "Small Business" link, which takes you to the prior version of our website...for small businesses.


As I said at the beginning of this blog post...it's amazing how much thought goes into a new web page!  We're very excited about our business.  Hopefully this post helped you think through how you want to tell the stories about your business.  How should you focus on your elephants and tigers?  How often should you update your website?  Go forth and crush it!
This new version of our website should be live in the next day or so...as always, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Elephant Hunting

Wed, 2014-12-17 11:00
Most every startup that I've watched (and been part of) has grand plans of virality.  Build it and they will not just come to you, but they will flock to you!  There is a dream that what you have built is going to change the world and it's going to be so obvious to everyone that they will want to share the news with all of their friends.  It's a good dream and there is a dose of reality that hits you dead in the face at some point.

When I started InteliVideo, it seemed SO clear to me that we had developed an amazing offering that everyone would tell all of their friends about us.  It was also clear to me that all of my friends who were in the training business (doing training in person or virtually - via WebEx) would choose to start offering their training through our platform.  After all, they have a brand, they have a customer base and they want to provide their training to their customers.  They certainly don't want to put their training into YouTube and serve it up for free.  They certainly don't want their customer to watch their training and then at the end of the video for them to see 10 of their competitors videos to choose from.  This seemed so obvious to me.  But...it clearly wasn't clear to them because they didn't flock to our platform - even though I offered it to them repeatedly.

After all, I knew just how easy it was for me to create my content (i.e. record a video lesson), bundle up a series of lessons into a product, set a price and away I went, selling my training online.  I knew just how excited and energized many of my students were to be able to watch my training.  They could watch it one time or 1000 times - at their own learning pace.  I could see their progress!  In fact, I knew that many of students came to me and asked for additional custom lessons, which I charged them a consulting fee to produce for them (i.e. $200 for one lesson).  I set up the lesson at $200 in the platform (without any videos in it), asked them to pay for the lesson, then I recorded it and attached it to the product...and reduced the price of the lesson for future purchasers to $15-25.  In other words, I created new content for a fee AND I was able to sell it time and time again.

You see, I've written 6 technical books (on average about 1000 pages each) that took 6-12 month of my life to write.  Sure, it generates credibility in a subject area, but it doesn't generate a lot of direct revenue.  Whereas recording and then selling a video-based course requires less than one one hundredth of the effort of writing a book for the same, actually better output.

Where am I going with all of this?  Well...after trying to convince 1000s of small business owners that they should use our platform, offering them free trials to see just how easy it is, talking endlessly about what's in it for them, we concluded that this futile effort of virality is insanity.  The common definition I hear for insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  We continued to try to convince people - sure with more convincing messages - but the "conversion rate" (the number of people who signed up and were successful) was not good.

When we stopped and looked at who are real customers are that generate real revenue, we quickly discovered that they are what we might refer to as elephants.  Big companies who completely understand how to develop, curate, sell, and ultimately deliver valuable content to their customers...who buy from them time and time again.

So we changed our approach and our website to communicate to the elephants.  This new approach will go live today.  The "old approach" will show up as a "Small Business" link at the bottom of the page.  The new approach explains the deeper details of integration, APIs and things that are important to the larger companies who know to sell their valuable content.

We've had GREAT success with our elephants and we're VERY excited about where they are taking us!  We have a TON of new functionality that we continue to roll out each week.  We have integrated with a number of shopping carts.  We've created a new template system that will allow us to create a completely different look and feel for each of our clients.  We're launching a whole new series of brandable apps in the next few weeks.  We completely understand just how important our apps are to our success and have spent a fortune recreating our apps from the ground up.

It's been an exceptionally gifted ride over the last year.  We finalized our series A round this summer. Startups are an adrenaline junkie's dream job.  One day you're riding high on your laurels of success and the next day you're wondering how you're going to get to a cash flow positive position.  All the while, life, real life goes on.  Your family continues to age, grow up, build their own businesses and maybe you're not out having as much "fun" as you might like to.  For me that translates to not riding my dirt bike or snowmobile as much as I would like.  But I'm having fun in the business - that's the tradeoff.

That's what I call opportunity cost.  Each day you could be doing what you're doing or something else.  Take a minute to think about the cost of what you're doing right now.  Should you be hunting virality or elephants?