Learn stuff

I swear to you all I am not going to turn this into an app review blog. Lord knows we have enough of those already. But from time to time, a great app will come along with a clear vision, great functionality, and a wicked cool website promoting their wares. And I’m not going to dismiss such creativity; I plan on learning from it.

Winston Churchill once said, “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”


We are taught lessons and concepts and facts in school and college, from parents hopefully, and possibly a mentor. For me personally, it’s way more fun to be an astute observer, and learn from real life experiences. I’ve learned quite a bit from app developers and designers, and picked up a few more things from the good folks at Busy Cursor Software, the makers of Minneapolis’ Train Brain App. The app was developed by Andy Atkinson and designer Nate Kadlac.

Essentially the app brings the Minneapolis Light Rail schedule to life, with a very slick User Interface. It’s hard to make train schedules look sexy, but these guys came pretty close.

Most importantly , it works. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned was just how important a promotional website specific to the app is. Train Brain’s is clear and concise, looks sharp, and has a couple effective and simple features. The site basically consists of 4 sections: 1) Features, 2) Screenshots, 3) Support, 4) FAQs. That’s it. I think one of the coolest parts is their support/feedback section powered by User Voice. This allows all of their users to provide feedback or suggest ideas, and quite a few have. It’s an excellent way to stay connected with your users , so you can continually provide a rich and meaningful user experience.

With that said, we’ve secured our app domain for two years from GoDaddy for $21.74.
Now we just need content and design…

App Website – $21.74



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How we Google

Google and its offerings continue to grow and expand every day. Almost all of its product offerings are free, which Frypan loves. It’s an interesting model, and one we won’t get too deep into here (though we all have a lot to learn from Google.) They’re able to offer these free products, because 99% of its revenue is generated from its advertising programs; roughly $10 Billion a year (only $112 Million in licensing).

Some of Google’s best products have come from what they call “Innovation Time Off.” All of their engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time (1 day a week) on projects that have significant interest to them. Luckily for us, almost 50% of Google’s new launches, and some of its most popular services were hatched under this program; Gmail, Adsense, Google News, etc. In my mind, Innovation Time Off looks a bit like this:


But whatever – they make real, useful, cool stuff without using the term “cloud.” (yet)

Our needs are pretty basic. Since my business partner and I live 55 miles away from each other, we’ve leaned on Google Apps to stay in touch and collaborate online often.

We email on Gmail

We chat on Google Talk

We use Google Maps to find out where we’re going to have our next Fulton Beer

I use Google Reader to catch up on all my blogs so I can get smart …Sidenote – My Favorites:

Mobile Orchard
Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategist
No Identity Blog

And most importantly we use Google Docs

We have spent many a night collaborating on “documents” to shape our ideas, and compiling data on “spreadsheets” to help realize those ideas. It’s a wonderful tool, the real-time collaboration features are fantastic, and the in-document chat has been invaluable. Essentially we can both work on the same project, at the same time, share it with our developer, and talk about it all while watching 30 Rock from the comfort of our own homes. Pretty sweet. By comparison, Microsoft Office Small Business is about $450.

Business Software – $0.00


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7 Thank you notes in 7 Days – The iPhone Developer Program Enrollment!

Steve Jobs must have had fantastic parents. I’m assuming a lot of his commitment, will power, and unwavering dedication to his craft are intrinsic, but Mom and Dad are no doubt responsible for showing us how to ride a bike, chew with our mouth closed, and write a thank-you note. Well, seven days have passed, and I just received seven thank you notes from Apple (by email). My mother would have certainly made me hand write them and post them by mail, so I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. But it is 2009, so at the very least an email will suffice.


We recently enrolled in the iPhone Developer Program, and I’d like to briefly show you how it all went down.
We decided to enroll in the Standard Program, under our company Frypan Digital.

November 20, 2009 – Day 1

I went to the iPhone Developer Program website, chose our program, typed in some stuff, and clicked “Enroll Now.” Seconds later I received my first Thank You note, with our Enrollment ID.

Thank you for your interest in the iPhone Developer Program. Your enrollment request has been received and is being processed

7.5 hours later I recieved my second Thank You note, asking me to fax our articles of incorporation. No problem.

Thank you for your assistance.

Thank you,

iPhone Developer Program

Feeling good, I fax our articles of incorporation

November 23, 2009 – Day 3

On the third day we receive our third Thank You from Apple.

Thank you for submitting the information we requested to continue with your iPhone Developer Program enrollment

November 24, 2009 – Day 4
Day 4 we start off with a phone call from Apple verifying our phone numbers. Dude finished convo with “Thank you.” Thanks , dude.
Then we promptly receive another Thank you.

Thank you for applying to the iPhone Developer Program.
We have reviewed the information you submitted when you initiated your enrollment request and are now ready to instruct you on the steps required to continue with the enrollment process.

We are instructed to click thru and agree to some stuff. Cool.

November 26, 2009 – Day 6

Thank you for applying to the iPhone Developer Program. To activate, simply click on the Activation code link below

Umm….ok, it’s Thanksgiving…we get it. I click thru to pay for it.

Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for shopping at the Apple Store!

November 27, 2009 – Day 7
Done! Enrolled! Finished! Thank you?
Sure, one more for good measure…give it to me…

Thank you for joining the iPhone Developer Program.

All told: 7 days, $106.21

You’re Welcome,


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Open for Business, Officially.

Just in case any of you thought you were gonna cash in on the name Frypan Digital, we got dibbs. I now, for the first time have the honor of introducing to you, Frypan Digital, LLC! For better or worse, we have officially begun. Not only have we begun, but we have done so staying consistant with Frypan’s budget.

You can have the best ideas in the world, heck we’ve drawn up at least a dozen top 100 apps on scratch paper, but if you don’t act on them, someone else likely will. I am not sure that this idea is genius, and it probably has been thought of before, in fact I am sure it has in one form or another thanks to Google Alerts, but we’re still destined to give it a try. So what to do? Where do we start? Well we needed a bank account, and in order for that we needed an official organization. Enter, the government and the great state of Minnesota.

EXTRA EXTRA, Government Works Quickly?

EXTRA EXTRA, Read all about it; “government is efficient!” Within one business day, online through the Secretary of State, we filed for our company name, gained LLC status and received our Federal Tax ID or EIN. Get this, we did it all for $170. Online legal document companies were upwards of $600 for attaining organizational status, and having started another business a few years ago using “actual” lawyers I am sure I racked up nearly $2,000 in bills by the time all the paperwork was complete. So just a little sniffing around on the web saved Frypan hundreds of startup dollars, money that can be better spent on our next round of beer (If you enjoy IPAs, and haven’t tried Rush River’s BubbleJack, give it a shot) and brilliant napkin sketched ideas…or maybe just the beer.

The key for us was jumping in and getting our feet wet. We might drown, but what’s the most we lose? A few hours on the internet, a few bucks? What do we have to gain? Maybe a great business idea, knowledge, friendship, and maybe most importantly a headstart on launching our next great idea.


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Social Media Push

Wikipedia defines the Niche Market as “the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing on.” Our utility iPhone App certainly will be a niche app (more on the app later,) focusing on a large subset of the Minneapolis Market. We’re certainly not creating hits like the dudes at TapTapTap. By the way, you should really buy their latest app Voices. It’s the most fun I’ve had for 99 cents in a long time.


According to Positive Space our app has to be one of two things; Scarce or Ubiquitous. “For scarcity to work, you need to be the only application that solves the problem of your users,” says Positive Space. While companies like Smule and TapTapTap excel at Ubiquity, Frypan must find a marriage between relevance and scarcity.


The importance of a keen marketing strategy for a niche product started to become more clear to me by the day. We’re not going to shoot to the top of the App Store by catching fire and going viral like Voices (though that’d be super sweet). There’s clearly an inherent risk is trying to produce something for a niche market, yet you can limit some of the downside with a sharp focus on the marketing.

Since I’m not actually developing the application, my time is better utilized exploring social media marketing. It’s time consuming, but it’s also free. And right now, we love free. Marketing Profs is an incredible resource for any developer, entrepreneur, or human. Their FREE Social Media Marketing Kit has been invaluable to me as I try to filter through all of the filth online regarding the topic. Since we have no advertising budget, I’ve decided to use four common Social Media outlets to market our app; Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN.

According to Business Wired, measuring the ROI of Social Media is the “million dollar question.” I’ll do my best to follow our progress using these tools, and will welcome any and all feedback or thoughts about the Social Media outlets in question. If you came to this blog as a result of social media, then we’re off to a good start.

WordPress Blog: $0.00
Facebook: $0.00
Linkedin: $0.00
Twitter: $0.00

Total Marketing Cost: $0.00


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The Internet has Websites

When Al Gore invented the Internet in 1969, it was a jumbled mess of binary code, X.25 networks, bionics, and Google. At least that’s my understanding. In reality, the first internet “connection” was made through ARPANET on October 29th, 1969 between UCLA and Stanford Research Institute. There was one dude present to witness the event…and he looked like this:


1969 was full of historical moments; The Beatles perform their last live show, Phil Esposito becomes the first NHL Player to score 100 points in a season, Nixon becomes president, and Donald and Doris Fisher founded the GAP in San Francisco. I’m sure the importance of the ARPANET success fell somewhere between The Mayo Clinic’s first hip replacement and Seiko’s production of the first quartz watch.


The web didn’t really stumble along until about the 80s, with a website that many will remember as Cern.

Today, according to Royal Pingdom, there are almost 200 Million websites, with 31 Million new websites added alone in 2008. Well, the web just got one more (probably 35,321 more since I typed that last sentence).

Frypan Digital launched with probably the same fanfare as 1969’s Men’s Figure Skating Championship performance by Tim Wood. Obviously if you plan on building a product to sell, you must have a face for your business on the internet. I already own iWeb on the Mac, so all that was really needed was some time and $7.69 to secure a web domain from GoDaddy. I didn’t know how to use MobileMe to host multiple iWeb sites, but the fellas at New Mac User had excellent detailed steps on how to get it done.

Clearly a large company branding and marketing push is not in our budget, so I had to dig deep in the nether regions of my brain to pull out the design for the web site. The goal – a brief explanation of the business and contact information. Done.

And as you can clearly see, in comparison to Cern’s first website –


Frypan’s is way cooler –

Total Annual Expenses:


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Some Direction

I spent a lot of time researching before we made a real push to build a mobile app. One of the many sites that gave me great motivation, and was certainly inspirational, was from the fellas at GLSoft who put out Gifter. Gifter is a shopping app that allows you to send a gift (birthday, anniversary, etc) to almost anyone right from the phone. Pretty cool. But what was more interesting to me was how these guys built an iPhone app for $4873.92.

The transparency was insightful, and gave us a few things to think about. There were some cool links that led to details I hadn’t previously thought about; design, icons, hosting, etc. Now, they also happen to be excellent developers, so the only development cost was their time.

They did spend 62% of their “budget” on the Apple World Wide Developer Conference, which I’d like to think they probably could have done without. But maybe they can chime in here to expound on that decision. They probably could have titled the blog, “How We built an iPhone App for $1873.92” .

Either way, they went from this


to this


And that’s really the goal. There is clearly more than one way to do this. I hope to show you our way.

Now, first things first….a website?


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