Tag Archives: development

Image Is Everything

Isn’t that what Andre Agassi used to say, somewhere between Brooke Shields and a crystal meth habit?

Well, we needed to find an image. An image for which to build the Minneapolis Skyway App. Initial research left much to be desired, but gave us a building block. At the very least we needed a primitive guide to the eight mile maze in order to begin logging the hundreds of businesses…..and one public bathroom. Seriously, if you don’t want to have swing into Arby’s to buy a French Dip and Swiss Combo for $5.01 in order to get a bathroom token, you might want to check out the Minneapolis Skyway App. If not, you can pick up the App later and map your workout in order to burn off the 1100 calories you just slammed to get into the john. Back to the image, here is where we started. Our initial image we were running with was this one from the University of St Thomas.

Not exactly our everything, but free and good enough to get us logging some mileage and familiarizing ourselves with the belly of the beast.
We discovered the skyway has some maps of its own that were updated in July 2009. It really only complicates matters, especially when blocks are divided into buildings that aren’t clearly designated or marked. Where are you in that circle? Do they think you are the State Puff Marshmallow Man? Are you at the Orchestra Hall? Convention Center? or maybe you are somewhere at then end of the dotted line where it reads, “you are here.”

As we continued to log data through the skyway we stumbled upon Minneapolis Geographical Information Systems, or GIS. Destiny? I think so. They provided us with an image that is everything we needed to make a custom map fit and feel right for our mobile application. Check out our little preview of it below, and check the full version on the soon-to-be Minneapolis Skyway App.

Cost of Cartography: $135.79


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Minneapolis Skyway App – For the iPhone

We are very pleased to introduce the Minneapolis Skyway app for the iPhone. Not in the AppStore yet, but we’re darn close. Coding is 90% complete, Design is 90% complete, and a large part of it rests on Apple’s shoulders once we officially submit it.


The very talented Jane Mitchell of Rainbow Rabbit, having lived and worked in Minneapolis for a number of years, quickly grasped our vision. She knocked out a perfect design, and we’re pretty pumped to release this thing. Jane’s designed a number of other cool apps too; Shopaholic, Pet the Cow, gScale, and my favorite, eMaze.


The Minneapolis Skyway first opened in 1962, connecting the city’s first mixed-use building, the Northstar Center, with Northwestern National Bank across Marquette Avenue.


It has often been compared to a “habitrail for humans,” very similar to habitrail for hamsters. Every day hundreds of thousands of people use the Minneapolis Skyway; business professionals, travelers, vagabonds, street performers, and sometimes even Prince.


Most professionals know how to get from their parking spot to their desk, and a few favorite lunch spots. Most suburban shoppers know even less than that. And out-of-towners are almost completely in the dark. The few maps scattered about are few and far between, not to mention dated. I mean, is the Target Center even still there? But at its very core, the Minneapolis Skyway is a thriving pedestrian, socio-economic ecosystem, replete with banks, clothiers, hotels, art, music, jewelers (LOTS of jewelers for some reason), food, and of course, PEOPLE! Oh, and our favorite hot dog stand, Franks a Million.

We hope our App will help you explore this crazy second story world with ease, whether you’re just looking for a super sweet gold chain, or want to browse the permanent Dale Chihuly Macchia exhibit at 225 South Sixth.


The Skyway – By the numbers

Blocks : 70
Miles: 8
Bridges: 78
Businesses : 1000
Condos: 2000
Hotel Rooms: 4000
Pedestrians/Day : 200,000

Skyway Apps: 1



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Networking in 3 Steps – Landing a Developer

Step 1: Network

I’ve been working in the IT industry for a little over 5 years, primarily as a recruiter, for a company in Minneapolis called Concord USA (be sure to contact Concord for any of your Data Management, Integration, or Enterprise Architecture needs!!).


As a commissioned employee, I learned early on the importance of a strong network. Networking 101 in my book is defined as such: Reach out and connect with as many good people as humanly possible, establish a good relationship, and they’ll want to hopefully do business with you in the future.* Concord has given me an opportunity to do that every single day. It was through this work that I met the developer of our iPhone App, Jason Blood.

Step 2: Engage

Jason is one of the best .NET resources in the Twin Cities, and worked for us at Concord’s largest client at the time. The project was a huge success and Jason continued to land cool contracts at great clients around the Twin Cities. I’d reach out to him from time to time, just to stay in touch. Luckily, it was our connection on LinkedIN that informed me he was building iPhone Apps; he just finished developing uCook.

I called him to share our idea, and asked him if he’d like to be involved.

Step 3:
Do Deals

As a local Minnesotan, Jason quickly understood the vision for our app, and expressed interest in the development. Since we didn’t have a bunch of dough to throw at a developer, it was important for us to find a local resource with intimate knowledge of Minneapolis, and to structure a deal that could reap nice rewards for all parties involved, with minimal initial investment. For Jason’s fee, he agreed to a profit share, essentially a 50/50 split of all sales revenue.


This seemed more than fair to us, we didn’t have to pay a large sum up-front, and it assured us that Jason would give the development close attention, as he had vested interest in the success of the app.

*A common side-effect of networking = Getting connected to more cool and talented resources. Jason introduced me to Jane Mitchell of Rainbow Rabbit, who I’ll write more on later, and who is finishing up the design of our app.

Total development Cost to date – $0.00


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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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