If you want to get in front of your customers and prospects today, you’ve got to be where they are, which is on their mobile device. And Jeff Haynie believes that to build a great company, it’s about people and relationships. “People aren’t just employees, they are partners, investors and the whole ecosystem that it takes to build a successful, fast-growing company.”
In this interview, Brent Leary spoke with Jeff Haynie, whose platform and services company enables Web developers to build applications for mobile, tablet and desktop platforms, to learn how smart entrepreneurs are tapping into the power of mobile apps to transform their businesses.
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Jeff Haynie: This is my third venture-backed startup. We are focused on mobile app platforms and helping companies build mobile and tablet solutions.
Small Business Trends: Speaking of mobility from a different perspective, you moved from Atlanta to Silicon Valley to start Appcelerator. Why did you have to make the move? There are a lot of folks starting technology businesses outside of Silicon Valley.
Jeff Haynie: You can start a business pretty much anywhere today. For me, having raised money before, building a great company is about people and relationships. As much as social networks help us amplify relationships, it’s no replacement from sitting across from somebody and having a heart-to-heart discussion.
I felt the best place for our business was being in the heart of where disruption and innovation and capital happen. A wise investor told me a while back, if you want to be an actor, you go to Hollywood. If you want to be a stockbroker, you go to New York. If you want to be a technology entrepreneur, you come to Silicon Valley.
Small Business Trends: Do you think you could have created Appcelerator in Atlanta, or would it just take a lot longer?
Jeff Haynie: I don’t think every business needs to follow these rules, but for our company, I don’t think we would have been able to do [in Atlanta] what we have done [in Silicon Valley]. Often in new companies, it’s about getting great people that are experienced and understand how to build high-gross companies. Those people aren’t just employees, they are partners, investors and the whole ecosystem that it takes to build a successful, fast-growing company.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the main trends businesses should be aware of in creating mobile applications to engage with their customers?
Jeff Haynie: It’s increasingly about getting in front of alternate screen devices–smartphones, tablets, smart televisions. We are going to see a lot more of that with surface computing and telematic and wall-based computing. People are calling this the post-PC era.
The PC’s not dead, but we are seeing that more and more capabilities and opportunities exist with the devices in your pocket that are always available and always on. And the ability to build mobile applications that enable companies and their employees is low-cost and available today.
That is the big opportunity businesses have to expand both their business, especially if they are a SaaS or a software company, and their productivity.
Small Business Trends: Are you surprised at the speed of acceptance of tablet devices?
Jeff Haynie: On one hand, yes, if you look at how fast the iPad resonated. They are now selling in revenue terms more in iPads than in their existing desktop and laptop line. That’s in less than 18 months of a product’s introduction into the market.
But on the other hand, no, in the sense that we in the technology community have always imagined these devices. We have always talked about ebooks and tablets and slates. The costs have dramatically come down, and combined with high-speed data networks and the widespread use of public Wi-Fi, that is a perfect storm for these devices to dramatically change the way we work, the way we consume content and the way we interact with business and consumer-based systems.
Small Business Trends: What about the adoption of app marketplaces?
Jeff Haynie: Again, there’s a perfect storm from external factors. Apple has helped the world understand how to buy things digitally. Apps have been somewhat removed from the traditional process of [software] distribution and maintenance, which has really helped oil the machine.
When you see the richness of what you can do with apps, it doesn’t mean Web content is going to get killed. It just means a lot of new opportunities for businesses.
Small Business Trends: What does the Amazon Android Marketplace mean for the way we embrace applications on mobile devices?
Jeff Haynie: It’s a great opportunity for everybody. Amazon has a phenomenal consumer transaction engine, combined with Web services infrastructures, which is a bigger and bigger part of their core business. That is going to propel the adoption of applications, and it provides a great community from a distribution and marketing standpoint.
In the early days, the Internet was great because anybody could produce a web page. It was problematic because it was impossible to find all of the websites in the world, until Google came along and created a business model to make money through driving search.
That’s what is happening in the marketplace right now. It’s still a little messy, but I think mobility [is going to create new] business models.
Small Business Trends: For companies that are just starting to think about creating mobile apps aimed at engaging customers, what are some things they should be aware of?
Jeff Haynie: We recommend companies start with strategy and understanding the mobile way. Mobility is not just taking your website or content and miniaturizing it. You have to ask, How does mobility impact my business and what can I do to take advantage of that?
Think about the insurance industry. All the insurance companies are making reporting accidents using mobile devices much better. The impact is driving costs down from a call center standpoint and faster turnaround in capturing all of the necessary data. That transforms the business, creates a much better relationship with the customer and ultimately creates efficiency and top-line capabilities you don’t have with a call center or with the traditional process.
[They] are not just thinking about, OK, I just look up where my closest agent is or how to find the website of my insurance provider. Businesses small and large need to look at mobility as a tool for transforming their business.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what you are up?
Jeff Haynie: Our website, Appcelerator.com.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.
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