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How to build an app in eight steps

12:56AM | Wednesday, 10 December

I wouldn’t have to work another day if I received a dollar for every time someone told me they ‘had an idea for an app’.   And I'd live like a king if I got one for every time an aspiring 'apptrepreneur' buckled when I asked: What is the commercial model, how are you going to finance it, and do you know how to make an app?   Apps are like restaurants, the customer doesn’t see all the prep that happens in the background before they are presented with the final product.   Out the back is the kitchen. It holds all the ingredients and the chef knows how to make the perfect combination, communicate it to the waiter and present the final product. When an order is placed, the kitchen checks the order is in the right format, i.e., the hamburger is on the menu that day and they have the stock to make it. The chef then proceeds to create the product and deliver it in perfect condition.   A patron does not see any of this; ideally, they see a pretty menu at the table in the restaurant and receive the perfect product in a few short minutes from placing the order.   Despite being the founder of two apps, I am not very technical. So I’m going to explain to those who are like me, what it takes to build a good app.   Three tips before we start building:   Apps cost a lot of money to build, maintain and expand functionality. So be prepared to keep funding or find funding very quickly!   You don’t need impressive revenue figures from day one to get the big guys interested, but you do need a clear model on how your app is going to make money. There are some extreme outliers to this, take Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $20 billion as an example. However, this isn’t a definite, so ensure you have a very clear plan on how your app is going to make money!   There are various parts to building an app and you might need several people to do so. You need someone to build the app (an iOS and Android version) and someone to build the ‘backend’. The backend developer builds the database, which is what the app talks to, and works in a specific technical language such as .net or Java.   Steps to building an app   1. Developing the idea Firstly, ask yourself if your app is solving a problem. So many apps I’ve seen have been based on great ideas, but don’t solve a problem anyone has. Test the idea with friends and ask for honest opinions. This can be tricky because your friends don’t want to put down your idea, so honest feedback is key here.   2. Research Imagine you spent thousands of dollars and months of time to develop an app that you soon find already exists. It would suck! Do your research, talk to people in the space, and be sure no one else is doing the same thing.   3. Have a business plan Treat your app like a regular business. What is your business model, plan and strategy on how it’s going to make money?   4. Work out costs You need to be financially prepared, or at least be sure that the cost of building your app can be loaned. You should develop a very detailed handle on how much the app is going to cost to build. Some very basic apps can cost over $100,000.   5. Sketch it Lay out what you anticipate your app to look like and what you want it to do. A road map is a great way to visualise every step of the app and how it interacts. Here is the very first wireframe of Clipp and next to it the version 1.0 of the app.   6. Build the backend Here’s the part you might need to outsource. You can look into app development studios like Project Create. There is also always the option to get an app developer on the team and offer a stake in the company.   7. Develop the consumer-facing skin Once the app’s backend is finalised, it’s time for the fun stuff! What do you want your users to see when they open your app? What is the personality and voice of your brand? It’s a great idea to start with several ideas and develop your favourite from there.   8. Test it and have others test it Your app needs to work, and the best way to find out is by putting it in the hands of people who don’t know a thing about its development. You’ll quickly find out what’s wrong with it! It’s very important you continue to evolve your product, watch people use the app and ensure it’s intuitive, we made some big changes to Clipp 2.0 from 1.0 which made a huge difference to our conversion rate.   Hopefully this will give you a starter’s guide to building your app. If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @mrgregtaylor.   Greg Taylor, creator of eCoffeeCard, and creator and co-founder of Clipp.co, the bar tab app. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What can we learn from Apple’s celebrity leak fail? Five ways to keep data safe

9:39AM | Wednesday, 3 September

The internet exploded this week with a cache of private photos taken from the devices or online accounts of several high-profile celebrities.   Beyond the ethical and social questions raised by this incident are the technology questions and risks that have been exposed through this leak. There are lessons here on what businesses can do to better secure their information and that of their customers.   From what we know so far, the photos were claimed to have been taken from the iCloud accounts of the celebrities involved. It’s recently been revealed that Apple’s Find My iPhone service was vulnerable to password brute-forcing.   Brute-forcing is a password analysing technique which works by testing a large number of passwords until one is shown to be the correct one. Because Apple didn’t block repeated incorrect login attempts, it was vulnerable to this technique.   This recent iCloud vulnerability, whether or not it’s how the photos were gained, is terrifyingly easy to exploit. It’s not a stretch to believe this vulnerability could have also been behind the iPhone ransom incident from a few months ago.   As data continues to move to the cloud, it’s important to implement good security practices to reduce the risk of exposure. If you operate a business that involves handling sensitive or personal information, you are responsible for the security measures that keep that information out of the wrong hands.   Here are five things businesses can do to prevent unauthorised access to their online information:   1. Perform regular security audits on any online applications that store personal data.   Even a fairly rudimentary security audit would have revealed the brute-force vulnerability that Apple was exposed to. You can perform your own security audits using software such as WebSecurify, or hire a “penetration testing” consultant.   2. Ensure all software developers that work on your online applications have adequate knowledge and training in computer security.   This one can be tricky to measure, but most software developers are quick to learn when made aware of hacking techniques and how to protect against them. Resources such as the “Security Now” podcast help increase awareness. Depending on the technologies your company relies on, following related technical blogs is a great way for your developers to stay abreast of any security developments they need to react to.   3. Do not reuse passwords across multiple applications and do not use easily guessable passwords.   The Find My iPhone vulnerability still required a fairly rudimentary password to successfully gain access to an account. Remembering passwords (and creating strong ones!) is a tough process, look to software tools that make it easier and also remember the passwords for you. My personal recommendation would be AgileBits' 1Password, but many software applications exist that do this well.    4. Keep software up-to-date by installing updates as promptly as possible.   This applies to everything from your operating system, to your browser, to the plugins it may rely on (Java and Flash updates in particular are crucial). Modern operating systems (Windows, OSX, iOS, Android) all display prompts for security updates. Mobile operating systems in particular prompt for updates often, don’t ignore them! If you’ve had a particular software package that doesn’t have auto-update or update prompts, be sure to periodically check online for updated versions of that particular software. Never run unsupported software, or software with known security issues.   5. Finally, if you ever have a security breach, make diagnosing and patching it your number one priority.   Depending on the breach, this is a task that can be performed by your developers, although in some cases you may wish to consult an expert with background in computer forensics or computer security to help diagnose and rectify the problem. Notify your customers if you have a vulnerability that concerns the integrity of their data, and give them the information they need to secure it again.   Remember, your customers might not be happy about the breach, but they’ll be furious if they find out you covered it up or failed to try your best to prevent it.   Farid Wardan is a lead software engineer at Terem Technologies, an Australian company that specialises in developing custom software and technology solutions for corporate innovations and high-tech ventures.

Enterprise app market booms, while 69% of all smartphone developers earn less than $US1000 per month

7:02AM | Tuesday, 22 July

Nearly 70% of all app developers worldwide are earning less than $US1000 ($A1066) per month, according to a global survey of 10,000 app developers compiled by analytics firm Vision Mobile.   The alarming figures show 47% of all app developers who are interested in earning revenue take home less than $100 per month, including 35% of Apple iPhone (iOS) developers and 49% of developers for Google Android.   At the other end of the spectrum, the 1.6% of developers earning more than $US500,000 per month make more than the other 98.4% of app developers combined.   The figures show Android controls 79% of the smartphone market globally, ahead of Apple iOS (16%) and Windows Phone (3%), with BlackBerry (1%) trailing.   “On a global level, the platform wars are ending with iOS claiming the majority of the high-end device market and Android winning almost everywhere else,” the report states.   Despite this, but perhaps because of the poor earnings generated by the platform, Android is a priority for just 42% of developers, followed by iOS (32%), Windows Phone (10%) and BlackBerry (3%).   However, the preferred platform of choice for developers varies markedly from continent to continent. For example, in North America, iOS narrowly edges out Android development, 36% to 35%. In contrast, Android is dominant in South Asia (55% to 19%), the Middle East (62% to 22%) and Latin America (49% to 34%), while iOS dominates Oceania (43% to 20%).   “Android is pulling significantly ahead of iOS as a primary platform globally,” the report states.   “This is despite the fact that Android-first development is not very common amongst the high-profile startups that attract all of the media attention in the West.”   The figures also show 67% of app developers primarily target consumers, compared to 16% targeting enterprises and 11% targeting professionals.   However, enterprise-targeted apps are far more lucrative for developers, with 57% of enterprise app developers earning at least $500 per month, compared to just 26% for consumer apps.   “Today, app stores are so completely jam packed with consumer apps that an overwhelming majority of them struggle to get noticed or make any significant revenue,” the report states.   “Now a growing number of enterprises are adopting mobile technology; this is all businesses, governmental and non-profit organisations, not just large corporations with IT departments.”   The survey also examined the programming languages developers used. It showed 26% of mobile app developers primarily use Java, followed by Objective-C (17%), HTML/CSS/JavaScript (17%), C# (14%), C/C++ (10%), JavaScript (3%), PHP (1%) and Ruby (0.5%).

Choosing a technology is choosing a culture

5:42AM | Wednesday, 7 May

Which technology is best to use in launching a new site or web application? There was a time when I would answer this question by getting into the details of the various features and performance characteristics of a given platform, but over the years I’ve realised it’s really not a technology question; it’s a people question.   The issues are: who is going to build it, and who are you going to want to hire to continue to build it?   Anyone who has been around software engineers (or any engineers) knows that a truly great engineer is worth many mediocre engineers, so if you’re starting a technology-intensive business, it’s critical that you be able to attract high calibre people.   For instance, Adobe ColdFusion (formerly Macromedia ColdFusion, formerly Allaire ColdFusion) is an extremely productive platform for building web applications — in terms of getting something done quickly it’s great, but good luck finding great engineers who want to work with ColdFusion.   Deserved or not, ColdFusion has a reputation in the industry for not being a “real” programming environment (there’s a whole other discussion to be had about the perversely inverse relationship between the ease-of-use and productivity of a programming environment and the credibility it receives in engineering communities).   Most software developers wouldn’t want to be forced to work with ColdFusion for fear their other skills would atrophy. This is not a statement about how good ColdFusion is as a technology; it is a statement about the realities of putting together a team.   This is a nuance lost on a lot of entrepreneurs and managers who haven’t done hands-on coding before — the tools you choose define the nature of the team you will build moving forward, and in most cases it’s extremely difficult to switch gears.   To be fair, this nuance is also usually lost on engineers, who can easily burn a lot of cycles debating the merits of Ruby vs PHP vs Java vs ColdFusion vs every other thing. In the end, the tools listed here, among many others, are mature enough that they can all serve well to create web-based applications.   Some might take longer, some might not scale as readily, some might not integrate with other technologies as easily, but from the standpoint of “can it be built in a reasonable amount of time and be production-ready and reasonably scalable” the answer is yes in all cases.   The best technology to choose is the one that creates the culture you want.   Nathan Dintenfass is a product executive living in San Francisco.

The entrepreneur’s trust fund: Why building up your trust bank is so important

7:48AM | Wednesday, 10 July

In Australia, we live in what I call a ‘high trust’ society. We tend to take people at their word.   For example, imagine you are at a social gathering where you do not know anyone. Someone asks you “What do you do for a living?”   You could say, “I am an airline pilot with Virgin Australia” and most people will accept what you say immediately. In fact, you could make almost anything up!   This model will, of course, fail immediately if the person you are talking with says, “I am too, which route do you fly?” or if they know someone in the room who is also a pilot.   The lesson here is, in Australia and many Western countries, people tend to trust first and ask questions later. In most of the rest of world, however, business is transacted in a low trust environment where trust must first be earned, sometimes with every call you make.   We work with those we trust to solve our problems   If I want someone to make a buying decision with me, I need them to trust that what I say will happen when they buy my product or service. The bigger the decision, the larger the level of trust required.   Trust comes in three stages:   Stage one: This is a good person   I was talking with an older person just listening to their stories. After a while, out of the blue, she said, “Greg, you are a good boy.” I was so surprised, I said, “Why don’t you put that in writing”, which she did. I now have a signed piece of paper, which I treasure, stating: “Greg is a good boy.”   Getting to the point where someone thinks you are a good person is just a matter of listening while asking open, reflecting and probing questions. The fact you take the time to listen tells the other person you are someone they can trust.   Stage two: This person has good ideas   A fellow business coach asked for a minute of time to discuss a client of theirs they were having trouble with.   At the end of this discussion, she said: “Greg, you always have great ideas. Do you mind if I use you on an ongoing basis?”   All I had done was listen to the problem and reflected ideas back in the same format as she stated them.   For example, she said: “The person I am coaching has achieved all the goals we set out to achieve. I do not know where to go from here.”   “Have you reset the goals in light of the way the person has developed?” I asked.   What I did was reflect back her words in a new way. While this was not rocket science, it did give her an ‘a-ha moment’ and cemented in her mind that I have good ideas and moved me to the next level of trust.   Stage three: This person can do what they say they can do   “You can change all that COBOL into JAVA using an automated tool?” one incredulous programmer asked me. I could see this multimillion dollar project was going nowhere despite the level of trust we had developed.   I asked: “John, if I can show you this working will you authorise a pilot program?”   What John wanted was evidence for himself and others of his team that I was a trustworthy person. We set up the demonstration and won the pilot program. They believed because we showed we could do what we promised on a small scale, then a large scale.   Your trust bank account   When you meet someone for the first time you automatically open a ‘trust bank account’ with a small, but positive, balance.   Every time you promise to deliver a result (to get more, to save more, to look good, to feel good, to eliminate pain, or to be loved) and you do it, you add to your trust bank account. Every time you fail you make a withdrawal.   Can you be trusted before you can prove it? Yes, in most situations people will take you at face value. When it comes to decision that will impact their business or life you can be sure it will only be made when you trust bank balance is substantial.   Today’s question and actions:   This week, when you meet with your clients ask this simple question: “How could purchasing this product or service change the way you do business?”   You may be surprised by the answer. What are you doing to make deposits into your trust bank account?   Every time you make a promise, no matter how small, if you do not deliver it counts as a withdrawal. Send an unexpected handwritten card or thank-you note and you add to your trust account. Do you listen attentively? Do you share ideas?   Nothing will establish trust and increase sales better than becoming an expert in asking the right questions, following up with ideas and showing how these ideas work with other organisations.   Email me to set up a time to talk about opening a trust account with your team.   Have a great week!   Reprint permission: Permission is granted to reprint this article with the condition it is republished unedited and in full with full attribution to the author and the authors bio. Please provide a link to the reprint to the following email; greg.ferrett@exceptionalsales.com.au

Calling all coders: The Codehire Cup is on again

5:57AM | Friday, 31 May

Computer coders all over the country are signing up to take part in this year’s Codehire Cup.   The team at Codehire are expecting almost 1000 entries when the at-home heats commence on June 8.   Codehire chief executive Dan Draper told StartupSmart that creating community and showcasing new talent to employers were the objectives of the event.   “We’re connecting people who are secret or hidden talents to employers. There is a big issue at the moment with companies like Google and Microsoft that are trying to find great talent and they’re starting to exhaust their traditional channels,” says Draper.   Draper estimates about 10% of the 450 current signups are based in rural Australia, and that many of the registrations are from undergraduates.   The heats will go for 11 days. The finals will be at Fishburners, a tech co-working space in Sydney, on July 13. There is $10,000 worth of cash and prizes to be won.   This employment-focus influences the activities in each heat.   “It’s not a hackathon,” says Draper. “We’re aiming for real world, business-focused challenges, rather than academic and abstract issues. There will be a bit of hard-core algorithmic stuff, but mostly we’re focusing on problem solving.”   Coders will be grouped into heats based on the coding language they use. “Coding languages aren’t created equal and some solutions will take longer to write in certain languages,” says Draper.   Coders will be able to create and compete using C, C++, C#, Ruby, Python, Java, JavaScript and PHP.   This is the second time the competition has been run. It was launched last year in Adelaide, with almost 200 registrations.   “To be honest that blew us away to get that much interest in the Adelaide scene. This year it’s a national event and ultimately we’d like to go global,” says Draper.   For the 100 or so coders who make it through to the live-final, those who can’t attend in Sydney will be able to compete remotely.   “In Sydney, we want to make it a bit of a spectacle, with people watching and a big screen out the front with scores and updates,” says Draper. “We want to make software creating more accessible. We’re trying to make people aware of what coding is and why it’s so important to our economy.”   Codehire recently launched a jobs aggregator for code jobs. It has been operating in beta since December 2012.

Five Aussie start-ups to watch in 2013

3:39AM | Friday, 15 March

Given the sheer volume of public hand-wringing by traditional players such as the resources industry and large retailers over threats to their revenue, it seems that some view innovation as something to be wary of, rather than enthusiastically embraced.

Mobile app venture biNu adds $4.3 million to money pool

3:31AM | Monday, 11 March

Sydney-based start-up biNu has snagged $4.3 million from investors including 500 Startups, having already received funds from Google’s Eric Schmidt and Seek co-founder Paul Bassat.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF – seven start-ups to watch

9:37AM | Friday, 14 September

Californian start-up YourMechanic took out the top title at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012, while other standouts included a self-balancing bicycle and a predictive database for app developers.

THE NEWS WRAP: Global issues loom as Swan prepares budget speech

5:18AM | Wednesday, 9 May

Wayne Swan is to deliver his Budget speech to a backdrop of a share market slump in Australia, with investors concerned over the eurozone economic situation and jobs data from the US.

How much experience do you need?

3:02PM | Tuesday, 13 March

Some people foolishly measure experience in years, rather than achievements. Yet the quickest way to garner high quality experience is to work in a fast growing start-up.

Google, Microsoft entice start-ups via self-promotion

3:43AM | Friday, 15 March

Tech giants Google and Microsoft have offered new incentives to start-ups and small businesses in an attempt to increase the user numbers for their respective technologies.

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