Life at a Start Up

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According to new research by British psychologists, we spend an average of 5 hours a day glaring at the bright lights of our smartphones. Thats nearly two thirds of the working day. The habitual nature of checking our smartphone has become so indoctrinated into our minds that the very making of the things we spend so much of our lives on is never given much thought.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram run flawlessly and without interruption. These multi-billion dollar companies have a dedicated team in the thousands constantly patching bugs and adding new features monthly. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg has an estimated worth of 56 billion dollars, making him the 4th Richest man in America.

An app is a business and just like in the real world, starting one is immensly difficult. So how does an app go from an idea in someones head to a downloadable piece of code on your smartphone?

I spent a month at Wattl, A video sharing platform that is currently in development. Developed by a husband and wife team that are based in Manchester ready and willing to take on the technological giants.

The Idea

Every great business model starts with a great idea. A gap in the market or niche that allows a company to provide something that is not currently available is an invaluable asset.

The idea of Wattl is to revolutionise the way users discover new content. Videos and other images can be discovered using a grid which can be explored with a pinch and zoom mechanic.

The sporadic nature of a grid differentiates Wattl from other video discovery applications because of the ability to access thousands of videos in multiple directions, with no buffering or loading time.

Wattl operates under a reward system in regards to the longevity of videos on the grid. A video that has been interacted with through “pulses” will be available to view for longer. All videos will eventually cycle out, keeping the content on the grid ever changing. This keeps the grid current and changes with the users who use it.

The Working day

Just like many other business across the country, Wattl is run from an office. The Mi-IDEA startup accelerator, funded by tech powerhouse CISCO is the current home of the App. These offices however are not your standard magnolia wall, shirt and tie, grey stone building.

The Mi-IDEA offices are filled with innovation and light. The open plan floors are home to several different business, all of which communicate freely with each other, and often lend expertise to others when needed.

The team is small. One business and one technical. PhD Matthew Ryan is the apps programmer and the majority of his day is adhering to the app. Fixing bugs, making changes to the interface. As a consumer, when an app crashes we have no input to resolving the issue. As a creator, Matthew has to ensure that any problems are resolved working through different problems every day.

Emma Ryan, CEO of Wattl has a more conventional role that is inline with the workings of a small but growing business. Promotion, brand awareness and a structured marketing strategy are all part and parcell of a days work, whilst simultaniously looking for new opportunities to expose the app to as many people as possible. Emma is also responsible for connecting with businesses and people of interest that can accelerate growth of the brand.

Can anyone make an App?

In theory, yes. In practical terms, categorically not. Hard work and an idea will carry you far in many forms of business, but creating an app takes expertise and countless hours. There are many “App creator” programmes that run with an easy to follow graphical user interface (GUI) which do provide limited but nevertheless simple app creations. To create an original app that does not follow a basic structure made by others is something very few can do.

Taking the technical side away, marketing an app is just as difficult. Appealing directly to the consumer may sound like a time saver, cutting out any “middle men’ but the challenges lie in selling a product that is nearly impossible to visually demonstrate other than screen grabs and videos.

Analyst house Gartner projected that the percentage of apps that can be deemed a financial success in 2018 will be around 0.04% due to the hyperactivity in the market place. A small increase of 0.03% from last year, however still a sign that app creation is a labour of time and money that does not always bare fruit.

The rewards that come with creating a successful app are obvious. Despite the risks, this groundbreaking app may just have the legs to run with the industry leaders that came before.