Appifier is a service that builds native iPhone apps for WordPress sites, in minutes, without requiring you to write a single line of code.
The company was founded about a year ago by two cousins: Mike Gozzo and Steve Panetta. Mike is an electrical engineer with an MBA, who previously worked at Matrox and Radialpoint. Steve is a graphic designer who runs a graphic/print/web design stuio. He sold his company in order to start Appifier.
Appifier launched last week, and got instant attention with a Hacker News post that went to the top of the popular site. TechCrunch picked up on the story and wrote an article as well. That’s led to a lot of traffic and leads for the company.
We spoke with Mike to learn more about Appifier and the launch experience.
NextMontreal: Why did you decide to start Appifier? What’s the market opportunity that you see?
Mike: Steve owned a design studio where he was getting a lot of demand for iPhone apps from the small business clients he was building WordPress sites for. After doing some research he realized that apps are very expensive and time consuming to produce. His clients couldn’t pay and wait for an app. That’s when we began to think of a solution to this problem and ideas led to Appifier.
NextMontreal: What makes it different from all the others out there is that we make it easy to build either mobile apps or web apps?
Mike: Much of our differentiation is due to the fact that we’ve chosen to implement a solution that is based on native technologies and doesn’t just wrap a web page:
- Our apps are distributed on the App Store.You can even charge for these apps and/or choose to have mobile ads and we won’t take a penny from your earnings.
- We support push notifications. You can send messages to users of an app as long as they have it installed on their phone.
- All content is available offline, even when the phone is in airplane mode.
- We offer Analytics, which lets you understand exactly how your users are interacting with your app. Find out where your users are located, when they use the app, what they’re looking for and more.
- Our architecture opens up the possibility of more interesting native features (text-to-speech, among other things).
- Using our free Sandbox App you can preview your app on your phone and get a really good feel for how it will look and operate once deployed. The app is available for preview immediately after it has been created on our website.
- When your app is deployed, you can change its parameters and branding at any time. Changes are updated across your installed base instantly.
NextMontreal: Appifier was featured on Hacker News. You (or someone else?) posted the launch there and the post went right to the top of Hacker News. What did that do for traffic? Did it drive any good leads?
Mike: It was kind of accidental really. I woke up, made myself an english muffin with Nutella (breakfast of champions!) and was reading Hacker News as I do every morning. We were planning to send out a newsletter to our beta users, letting them know we launched later in the day and I thought that I might as well drop a link on HN too. Somehow we got picked up and made it to the front page for the entire day. The traffic has been ridiculous. We’ve seen over 35,000 unique visitors so far and have signed up thousands of users. At the moment, over 700 apps have been created and tested on iPhones. We even saw our first revenue.
NextMontreal: Then TechCrunch picked up on the story and wrote an article — how was traffic and leads from that?
Mike: Believe it or not, direct TC referrals are less than 10% of the referrals we’ve seen from HN. However, TC is interesting because it seems as if dozens of blogs around the world picked up the story and helped us go viral. It’s hard for us to measure exactly what this extended effect of TC has been.
NextMontreal: Do sites/blogs really need native apps? What’s the advantage of that vs. a mobile site?
Mike: I like to think that we’re seeing an effect in the mobile market that we last saw in the 90’s when everyone suddenly needed to get on the web. Some big players emerged to make that possible and a lot of really awesome ideas came about. Today, we’re seeing that again, at least among our customers. However, it’s on mobile, instead of the web. When the big brands have an app store presence and deliver an engaging user experience to their mobile users, it’s only a matter of time until other players in the market look for a method to try to level the playing field. We hope to help them achieve that.
NextMontreal: Do you think businesses need a mobile web presence AND a native app? Or just a native app will suffice?
Mike: I think both methods solve the problems they are intended to fairly well. At a minimum, every business should have a mobile web presence, and some of our competitors such as WPTouch do an amazing job at this. However, there are businesses who want to maintain stronger relationships with their clients than what is possible on the web by offering an enhanced user experience. These businesses benefit by including a native app in their mobile marketing strategy.
NextMontreal: Who is the ideal customer / target market?
Mike: We’re really focussed on optimizing our app for web designers and other freelancers who work with WordPress so that they can include apps built by Appifier (which are completely white label) into their sales. That said, anyone with a WordPress site and the ability to install a plugin on it can be a customer and we’d be happy to work with them.
NextMontreal: How did you decide on the pricing model and price point?
Mike: The price point was relatively easy, we spoke to local designers and freelancers to get a sense of what they felt their clients were willing to pay them to develop the functionality. Once we had this, we worked with them to determine a level of revenue share that they would find acceptable.
The development of the pricing model was really fueled by the realities of subscription-based businesses Mike was exposed to at Radialpoint. Money-managers love subscription services with regular and predictable cash-flows but there are very good reasons to understand what the customer really wants to do with the product and how to provide early revenue to re-invest into a program.
NextMontreal: What have been your top lessons learned jumping into starting a company?
- If someone tells you that you need to spend 100$ to do X, you can probably find a great way of doing X for 10$ and nobody will be the wiser.
- Don’t solve all problems for all people, be embarassed by your MVP but make sure it does enough to make your first target customer fall in love.
- Make sure your servers can handle a torrent of requests when you least expect it. Then make doubly sure.
- You need to accept the changes in your life that such a commitment brings about. Pray, meditate, do whatever you need to do to stay focused on your big, hairy, audacious goals.
NextMontreal: Any mistakes you’d like to share that others can learn from?
Mike: We got some really weird looks the first time we articulated the product among WordPress enthusiasts. It set us on a path of introspection and brainstorming that took way too long. Never forget that your peers are not necessarily your customers and ultimately it’s your market that validates your hypothesis not your friends.
NextMontreal: What can we expect from Appifier in the next 6 months?
Mike: An enhanced offer and some interesting partnerships are being worked on relentlessly.