Founded in July 2013, Lowdownapp Ltd has been making waves on the startup circuit since the launch of its flagship product Lowdown, an iPhone app and business service that helps busy professionals plan, prepare and navigate to meetings.
The app also pulls in LinkedIn and Twitter profiles to enhance the information presented with the most current data. Other data includes shared connections, contact details, company insights and business profiles. These unique features are driven by the systems narrow AI (artificial intelligence) which improves business processes and efficiency, rather than traditional database insights that depreciate over time.
The startup which was founded in London U.K was the brainchild of Co-founders David Senior and Michael Worley. Both entrepreneurs, the founders have had extensive backgrounds and years of experience in the mobile application technology field. Between them they have provided consulting and development for clients including Ford Motor Company, BBC, O2, Ernst & Young and Jaguar Land Rover and WPP Group.
Lowdown has received a lot of interest and has been growing successfully since its inception, the startup has already received over $500,000 in funding from investors.
So besides helping their users be better prepared and get off to meetings more efficiently the team at Lowdown been keeping themselves busy. In addition to enhancing their core application and expanding services, they have recently launched a brand new app called HERE. What is remarkable about this new app, besides it simplicity, cool design and easy to use features is that it was developed in a record breaking time of around 5 days!
I caught up with David Senior the CEO and Co-Founder for an interview on how they developed their new app HERE in just 5 days
We have all noticed the trend in app unbundling and have seen this with Facbooks messenger app which was unbundled from the core Facebook application, in order to provide more simplified dedicated services, another example is foursquare and their swarm app. There are a gazillion other messaging apps as well as super simple apps that do one thing really well led to the creation of HERE.
Following the success of Lowdown for meetings and at the request of our users we decided to create the companion app HERE v1,2 Photo HERE – a one tap way to take a selfie and notify your arrival – at a business meeting, party, the arrival of a baby or your arrival at an airport. Essentially any way you want to make an announcement that you have arrived.
HERE is designed for iPhone and works by a new user allowing access to native services, Calendar, Location, Contacts, Notifications (securely stored on your iPhone). Then in one tap you can notify your arrival to the attendees of a scheduled meeting. You can tap HERE to announce your arrival at a party, airport or holiday destination using the contacts picker – so no scheduled calendar meeting required.
Q1 David can you tell me a bit more about the idea behind launching “HERE”?
I understand that your core application Lowdown is a mobile app that dynamically pulls together highly relevant, context aware, company, personal, and industry information. Making preparation for meetings, interviews, and conference calls easier to arrange and manage. So where did the idea for HERE come from or was it always part of the equation?
DS: HERE came from two occurrences, one I agreed to meet Michael (co-founder) for a meeting, I arrived outside the Tube station and couldn’t see him, was looking a minute or two, then thought about all the different forms of comms and messaging – txt, Skype, WhatsApp, call, email, Talk etc… then bumped into him and said “I need a one tap way to announce my arrival”, he loved the idea. Then, the other occurrence was – we put an in-app survey out to our 5,000 Lowdown users – a quick yes/no answer – 78% of which said they would also use this service.
We’re user led, tech enabled, so we aim to deliver to our customers what they need, a lot of which based on personal meetings experience having attended thousands over the last 20 years.
Q2 Would you say that HERE is a bit of a pivot or just an extension from your primary application? What advice would you give to young startup running for a year that come up with a new idea off the core business or existing product?
DS: Focus. Focus. Focus, HERE is a fundamental part of the core strategy which is to help professionals prepare for meetings. HERE is a companion app, complementary to Lowdown but with less dependencies – i.e. for Lowdown a user needs a LinkedIn Account, with HERE it’s accessible to anyone with an iPhone globally.
Q3 What type of consumer or market testing did you do before launching HERE if so how was that relevant to reducing the development time? Did you already know who the target market was going to be or was this for a new audience/segment?
DS: For Lowdown we made the assumption that sales and recruitment would use the service, after 10 months we now know we we’re a little off with Lowdown being used by Business Owners and Corporate Execs.
For HERE, we wanted to open up and raise awareness for our startup, every time anyone taps HERE they market the service to a friend/contact, for a startup with little cash (we’ve raised $750k) it’s essential to NOT spend money on marketing/advertising at all. ALL focus should be on creating services that deliver value and looking for the network effect where the service is more powerful with more than one user – like Skype.
Q4 Lunching an app in 5 days is no small task what were the 5 most fundamental parts of the process and what was the most challenging part of the process?
DS: The most fundamental part was compromise and simplicity. Making sure to take the simplest route to creating the functionality (while still maintaining quality) and evaluating what parts weren’t must haves each day to compact the development.
Q5 Lowdown took you 14 months to develop, what lessons learned from your previous build were you able to use in the development of HERE?
DS: Lessons learned from Lowdown for HERE was mostly execution. We had developed a vast experience, including trial and error, in this area of development which allowed us to plan, adjust, and execute HERE swiftly. Also, Lowdown is a highly sophisticated service – The Blurb – From a simple calendar invite, using artificial intelligence, a custom built user interface, API mashups and complex algorithms, the app functions as a meetings assistant/planner by automatically collating information for professionals who host/attend meetings; helping them be on time, know who they are meeting, where the meeting is located and how to get there, company info from websites and company profiles and recent emails, Faster than Search.
Q6 How were you able to maintain and keep costs low during the HERE development process, Were you able to leverage some of the tech/code from Lowdown?
DS: The premise for creating this app, and needing to do it fast, was wholly based on the idea of reusing the code, learning’s, and effort put into Lowdown. There is a lot of well programmed and complex work in Lowdown, it’s possibilities extend much further than sum of its parts.
Q7 Were there any risks you faced before deciding to launch HERE or was it a fairly safe move to roll it out? If so how did you minimize them?
DS: Super safe and easy based on our background in Mobile Apps, Mobile Strategy www.spark33.co.uk and experience with Lowdown. Michael has consulted on over 1,000 apps over 6 years in Mobile (before we founded Spark33 – which is now on the shelf as we focus 100% on Lowdown.
Q8 What marketing planning did you do before the soft launch of HERE, and what’s next for driving the user base up (social media, advertising interviews etc?)
DS: I would recommend Startup/Product website to list your idea first – see this list: https://www.wunderlist.com/lists/127133662
Create a Landing page with a subscribe system and share on all these sites and on all social services for at least 2 months, you’ll then know if you have a market for the idea/product/concept.
Q9 For entrepreneurs keen to startup and develop their own app idea what advice can you offer to launching in a small time frame based on the following 3 principles
1) Lean development – Low cost,
DS: Personally, I’ve studied Lean to the full extend and have differing opinions… Other than the above to verify an MVP its mostly redundant for iOS app development, you can’t iterate fast enough, it’s ok for web but for apps, you need real users, with anonymous analytics to review then reverse engineering a service takes loads of time, so you need loads of money, which you can’t get until you’ve proven the idea, its Catch22.
2 Efficiency, Save time
DS: Small teams have to be efficient, communicate very well and clearly. I spent most of my career looking for faster ways to get things done, which was one of the reasons Lowdown was born, it’s the fastest way on the planet to be prepared for meetings. I used to spend up to an hour preparing for each meeting, researching where is was and how to get there, who I was meeting, the company they worked for and researching previous emails and notes. With Lowdown you don’t have to, it’s done for you. You HAVE to act swiftly in apps and software development in general, or someone else will overtake you.
3) Build Things That Matter
DS: Was it Paul Graham who said this? think so, this is probably obvious to most people, I’d focus on building things that matter to large markets.
So you can develop quality products that serve a purpose efficiently and retain good quality functionality. Here are the key points to consider when you are developing your idea for an app fast.
Analyze how you use things around you to perform existing tasks, is there a way to make something easier or more efficient. The example here is when David wanted a simple one tap way to announce he had arrived to meet his business partner.
Stay focused and keep to the original development or idea you are building for, you will have time to make enhancements down the line. Keep your product in line with your core business. Set a good and clear plan in advance so you know what you and your team are going to be working on from day to day.
Network effect through value services
Market assumptions are not always accurate so create services that deliver value. Look for the network effect where the service is more powerful with more than one user, think Skype.
Compromise and simplicity
Making sure to take the simplest route to creating functionality.
Leverage your experience
If you have been involved in app development before or understand the fundamental development process you will be at an advantage. Use any prerequisite knowledge to help you improve and increase your productivity or bring in those that have to your team to get it done.
Reuse your code and reduce your costs
You don’t have to build everything from scratch, you may have already developed some complex and clever pieces of code or worked on an existing core application, you may be able to reuse portions of the code for your new app and reduce the development time, costs and overall process significantly. You might also consider licensing or purchasing and redeveloping existing codes and scripts or even purchase an existing app for redevelopment and extension. However these options can be far more costly than doing it yourself or reusing your own.
Reduce your risk
Before considering what to develop or how to launch, think about your industry, your network, your experience and the market. If you know there is a potential space for your app better still adding a second product into your existing market then you know this will be a far safer move with less risk. Rule of thumb, always do your research before you dive in.
Test market your product before you even build
You can build low cost landing pages, websites or registration lists to see if here is an interest before you actually begin building. You can use social media to also begin discussion around your new product and get a buzz going to build up support.
You could try using Thunderclap, a “crowdspeaking” platform. It allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of your standard social networks. It’s had mixed results from the feedback I have heard and depends a lot on the strengths of your friends and network, who are willing to get on board.
Build for large networks and act quickly
Your team will need to communicate effectively, if you going to build you might as well go for the largest networks rather than just a very small niche group. Get your app developed fast otherwise someone else might come up with a similar idea and launch it before you.
Have you developed or launched an app or other product in a short window of time and what other ways were effective in getting it to market quickly?
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