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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Presenting at the August 2017 Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup

The Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup is an excellent community in the Lehigh Valley that meets monthly at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners incubator within the Lehigh University Mountaintop campus. The community around the meetup is excellent and the building is amazing*.

While the tail-end of my presentation walked through my experience building my first iOS app Summit, the majority of my presentation was focused on helping early stage companies think about their go to market strategies.

I’m currently advising several companies, a few of which are businesses built around mobile apps, and have heard about 11 other start-up pitches this year so far. And during that time I’ve noticed a trend. Entrepreneurs that are attempting to build a business around an app sometimes underestimate the amount of thought that should go into the marketing and sales strategy for the app. It is as if some feel that apps are less thought and work than products that you can touch. So during my presentation at LVTech I hoped to convey that the same “boring” (yet, tried and true) business practices that apply to products also apply to software.

A few questions I urged those thinking about building a business around an app were:

  • Does your idea service a large enough segment of the market? We hear the “scratch your own itch” mantra a lot. However, it won’t always lead to finding hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of customers.
  • How will you reach those customers?
  • Are there ways to expand your idea into other products or services that can be sold to the same segment?
  • How will you sell or package your idea?
  • What will the price be? (free, one-time payment, subscription, service contracts)
  • What channels can you leverage to sell your idea? (App Store, retail, online, conferences, distributorships, via a sales force)

By considering these, and may other questions, you can determine if your idea has enough layers to support an entire business or if you just have an app idea**.

I also briefly discussed three misconceptions I’ve been seeing over the last year dealing with very early stage start-ups. These misconceptions were:

  • Press-based launch strategies: some thing that by being covered by press will be enough to get them to profitability. They have no other strategy. On the contrary, getting press coverage early on will give you very muddy analytics which will make decision marking very difficult. Very seldom are the tech audience your real customers.
  • How long until profitablilty: More and more entrepreneurs begin with the plan of losing money for 3 or more years. I believe this stems from press coverage of other companies getting large rounds of funding. Most businesses should strive for profitability within the first quarter or year of business.
  • ”I’m not technical, I need a technical co-founder”: Don’t be this person. Anyone can learn to code. Geeks are not smarter than you. They’re just interested and relentless. Be the same.

We then did about 10 minutes or so of questions and answers. The questions I got were really great and I appreciate all those in attendance helping me with the answers to the questions I didn’t have much experience in.

Thanks to Tim Lytle for the invitation to speak and to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for the continued support.

* I worked in this same building for years while at Viddler. But when I worked there the back half of the building didn’t exist. In fact, Viddler started in Jordan Hall – the building just beside the new building. And now, they are extending it even further. The building is an amazing place to work and have a meetup of this kind. I’m jealous that our incubator in Scranton feels so dated when compared to this building. Especially comparing the meeting spaces.

** It it totally fine to “just have an app idea”. I do. And I’m loving working on it. But it is also good to have the proper perspective about your app idea.

The State Street Grill, Clarks Summit, PA – August 2017

I had a recent business lunch at The State Street Grill and finally remembered to add anchovies to my Caesar Salad. It was delicious.

Published: August 16, 2017

Field of gold – July 2017

It is easy to take for granted the amazing landscapes that the area I live in affords. Much of what I see during my short hikes would be jaw dropping to lifetime city dwellers. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Published: August 11, 2017

E17: Crickets in a field

In late-July I went for a hike and recorded this audio bit.

Links

Download MP3

Attending the August NEPA.js Meet up

The NEPA.js Meet up is really hitting its stride. Each meet up is pretty well supported – even in the summer – and the camaraderie and general feeling around each event is pretty great. Also, the Slack channel is pretty active.

If you’re within an hour or so of Scranton I’d recommend joining the meet up group, jumping into the Slack channels from time-to-time, and attending at least a few events per year. If you need help with any of these things send me an email.

Also, within the past few weeks we’ve seen a new group spin out of the NEPA.js group. A more general meet-and-work-on-stuff type of group created by Den Temple. This event fills the gaps for when there isn’t a NEPA.js group event.

This month’s presentation was by Ted Mielczarek. Ted works at Mozilla on build and automation tools for Mozilla’s primary product Firefox. He has, though, dabbled in a variety of other things at Mozilla like crash reporting and the gamepad web API. It was his experience building this API that spurred this month’s topic; Web APIs.

I remember jumping onto the web in the 90s and being blown away when I was able to put animated GIFs of X-Wing fighters on my personal Star Wars fan page. Today, web browsers support a variety of Web APIs that make the open web a true software development platform. There are APIs to control audio and video, to connect to MIDI-enabled devices, to connect to Bluetooth, VR and – of course – to allow for game controller input. There are lots of others too.

Ted did a great job showing demos of many of these APIs. Just enough for us to get the idea that the web has matured into a powerful platform upon which just about anything can be made.

Thanks to Ted for the work he put into creating the presentation and to all the attendees for helping the NEPA.js community thrive.

Sunset, Scott Township, PA – August 2017

Earlier last week Eliza and I went to an invite-only wine release tasting event. Posh, I know. But we had a great time and look forward to doing it again. The sunset was lovely that evening – as it has been most of July as afternoon thunderstorms make way for calm colorful evenings.

Published: August 9, 2017

Not a dinosaur egg – July 2017

You have to wonder, though, what amount of water moving at what speed over what duration would it take to make this stone look like this? I’m no geologist but I’d say a lot, fast, and a fair amount of time geologically speaking.

Published: August 8, 2017

Weeds – July 2017

Summertime hikes offer a completely different experience to early spring hikes. Most of this grass was only a few inches high in early spring, about a foot or so in June, and in this photo in late-July it is at least 3-feet high.

Published: August 7, 2017

Turkey, Archbald, PA – July 2017

This young Jake wanted blood. He spotted me from about 50 yards away and decided to come investigate. I crouched behind a bush and got smaller and smaller to try not to intimidate him and he got within a single yard from me. I have it all on video.

Published: August 3, 2017

Grass – July 2017

Published: August 2, 2017

Franklin Court, Scranton, PA – July 2017

I hastily snapped this walking back to my car from July’s NEPA JS after-gathering at Ale Mary’s.

Published: July 19, 2017

Bank Towers, Scranton – July 2017

Published: July 18, 2017

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia – June 2017

Published: July 7, 2017

Top of the World, Dunmore Pine Barrens – June 2017

Published: July 6, 2017

Goslings, Aylesworth Park – June 2017

Published: June 20, 2017

Gravel pile, Archbald, PA – June 2017

Published: June 19, 2017

Electric City Building, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 17, 2017

Osterhout Free Library, Wilkes-Barre, PA – January 2017

Published: June 16, 2017

Pano – South of Aylesworth Park – June 2017

Published: June 15, 2017

Coney Island Lunch, Scranton, PA – December 2016

Published: June 2, 2017