WhereCloud was started in 2006 by Martin Dufort. The company was originally based in Ottawa and focused on driving forward his location-based social network service, Kakiloc. It was early for such a service, years before Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based startups would grow into popularity. It was even before the iPhone hit the market. Turns out Martin and his co-founder at the time were too early and Kakiloc shutdown. Martin did a very detailed and open post-mortem of his experience.
After that effort at running a product startup, WhereCloud switched direction and went into mobile application development, providing services to companies that were warming up to the mobile opportunity. Martin moved the company’s headquarters to Montreal at the end of 2007 and then recruited Frederic Brunel as a partner.
Prior to starting WhereCloud, Martin had a range of experience, from running his own software consulting company for 10 years to working at Ericsson Canada. In 2000 he worked for a software development company in Boulder, Colorado, returning at the end of 2001 to Ottawa.
Today, WhereCloud employs 6 people and is doing very well. “Each team member fits a specific role and we ensure that the fit is perfect,” said Martin. “We are growing in a very controlled state because we are very very picky about who we pick on board. It has worked for us so far but hiring is still very difficult given these requirements.”
The company has had a number of great successes including the Yellow Pages local searching application (iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7), which now boasts over 2 million users. They also build a wall of iPads for a Lole store on St-Denis street. “A cool tidbit that’s unknown about the iPad wall is that everything is controlled from a single iPad that dispatches information to all the other ones,” said Martin. “This is our best solution to date.”
WhereCloud also builds their own apps and this is a direction that the startup is focusing on more and more. Their first product was Reportage (their “Radio Tuner for Twitter”), which Martin describes as, “still a special beast today.” The application was successful and very useful as a portfolio piece, but it did not generate 6-figure revenue for the company. Currently, Martin says that they have an internal product under development targeting the enterprise space. Code name: “Project Reventon.” They’re not sharing any additional information publicly except that the app will be available in Q3 or Q4 this year. Although this is a significant project it does not signal that Wherecloud is abandoning service work. The company remains bootstrapped and is happy to sustain and grow revenue through mobile application development work for startups and large customers alike.
Although WhereCloud focuses heavily on iOS development, they have done Android work). But Martin notes that Android development is much more demanding given the quantity of devices and fragmentation in the market. HTML5 is an option they’re looking at, as well as other similar frameworks. “It’s in our strategic roadmap to provide these solutions to certain customers,” says Martin. “It is always a factor of properly implementing the client’s requirements on given platforms. For some solutions, these technologies makes perfect sense.”
So what are the top 3 keys to making a great mobile application?
According to Martin: (1) Design, (2) User Interaction, and (3) More Design.
“Each project is different but we do a *lot* of product design and internal prototypes to validate our assumptions. All our team members clearly understand the challenges associated with designing and building a product for a mobile device. We put ideas up for validation; we can easily discuss and argue for hours on the color or the placement of specific UI elements until they feel just right. That’s part of making a great app.”
For now, WhereCloud will continue focusing their energy on building the best apps they can – for their own internal products and clients as well.