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  • By Luke Stephenson
Luke Stephenson

Apps World promised great things this year: 10,000 attendees, 350 exhibitors and 300 speakers. Naturally, we didn’t want to miss out on all of this action, so we made our way down to the event for half a day on Wednesday 18th November.

We went with three key intentions: 

1) Scope out potential partnering opportunities (or to see if these companies could help us better the service we provide to our customers).
2) Learn something new about apps
3) See if it’s the kind of event that would be suitable for us to attend as exhibitors in future years.

As you might expect, the expo was full of digital agencies offering app creation, analytical data insights, and app promotion services. There were also separate sections dedicated to gaming, VR/AR technology, indie development, and start-ups, all of which provided a welcome break from the sales focussed enterprise stands. It’s safe to say that this side of the hall was noticeably busier than the enterprise side.

An unprecedented number of stands seemed to lack investment on the enterprise side of the expo, which meant that there was a distinct lack of eye candy for people like us who are attracted to the gizmos and gadgets. Despite that, we talked with a few different companies and found out a little more about how they might be able to help us at 3chillies, which ticked off one of our aims for the day.

A number of speaking areas were located throughout the hall with a mixture of marketing and technical talks put on throughout the day. Some of these talks provided interesting statistics on the app market, but the real value appeared to be behind closed doors in the gold members presentation areas (available to paying customers). Unfortunately, since we were only there for the afternoon, we didn’t want to pay for a full day’s ticket to all of the paid talks, but we sense that we missed out there. In my opinion, providing access to all of the seminars for free would make the event much more valuable as an attendee. In terms of learning anything new about apps, we struggled to hit this target. Okay, stats are great, but we didn’t find anything new that could or would revolutionise the way we currently do things, so we’ll count mission objective as a failure.

Slightly off topic, I will say this. One gripe I had was with the Apps World App, an App the event organisers had built for the day's happenings. At 3chillies we regularly beat the “customer experience” drum, and everyone who uses apps knows that over use of push notifications results in a very bad user experience. Unfortunately the Apps World App hadn’t grasped that concept, and I counted over 30 notifications on my phone in the space of a few hours. Needless to say, I uninstalled.

That left one final aim: determining whether or not this event was somewhere 3chillies should advertise next year. This was an easy one, because whether the answer was yes or no, we’d meet our objective. Unfortunately the answer that we came to was “No, its not right for us”, and here’s why:

1. To make your booth stand out you need to put a high level of investment into creating eye candy that can be used to attract the correct people to talk to you. That’s fine, but I’m not convinced the right people were there to talk to in the first place – our Spidey senses were telling us that a high proportion of attendees were developers, rather than businesses seeking business solutions. 

2. Not all talks were free / open to everyone, and very few were targeted towards helping the enterprise market. This needs to happen in order to increase more relevant footfall for the event in our opinion.

So despite all of the hype and build-up to the event, we found the overall experience of Apps World 2015 somewhat disappointing. This is a difficult for us to write given that we want to help support the industry as much as possible, but we hope that this honest review helps the organisers to make improvements for next year.

Having said all of this, one particular part of the day redeemed it for us: before attending the event we learnt about a meetup planned by the Windows App London user group to take place when all of the exhibition stands had closed for the day. Set in one of the designated speaking areas, roughly 40 Microsoft fanatics met up to listen to two entrepreneurs talk about the success they’ve had developing an App for Windows Phone.

The talks started with a brief introduction from Matt Lacey, the organizer of the event. He talked about how success is relative, and how the metrics we use to measure success can differ a lot from person to person: some people may consider success as having 100 downloads, while others may think in terms of money, such as when they hit their first million or pay off their mortgage. Matt went on to share a few of his successes from developing Windows apps before handing over to the first speaker.

David Hamilton, founder of DAM Good Media, kicked off with the first presentation telling the story of how he started the Pepper app to let people discover nearby gigs and music concerts. What started as an ambitious idea for a mobile platform with very low market share kept growing and pivoting – expanding to the US market first and then releasing an iOS version. It was a very interesting talk, as he spoke about almost everything the company had gone through in the past four years: about outgrowing the data sources for obtaining gig information and developing their own data acquisition service, getting into talks with big music firms to sublicense their massive content databases, and finally pivoting into a Big Data company – making the management of gig related data their primary focus. All of this started from a Windows Phone App. Amazing!

The second talk was given by James Mundy, founder of Foundbite, a social network and content sharing type app with an innovative approach: you take a photo with your phone but at the same time record an ambient sound of up to five minutes. When other users look at the photo, they can hear what was happening at the scene of the photo – so you get both the advantage of a high resolution photo (instead of a wobbly, blurry video) and the audio feed. It was a tale of low cost bootstrapping, how the project got its first funding via grants and competition prizes, how it was accepted on the (now defunct) AppCampus acceleration program, and the first founding round. Again, it was a real inspiration to hear that all of this had been achieved through releasing on Windows Phone first. James now has over 180,000 downloads on Windows Phone alone!

Both talks also mentioned the bad things they have encountered – hiring developers that were inadequate, running out of money, trying to parallelize development of new products that didn’t have traction… In the end, they were really interesting and provided a lot of insight on the full process, from starting on square one to having an actual product delivered and adopted by a big userbase.

Whilst our entrepreneurial brains were fully stimulated by these presentations, the key thing that we took away from both talks was that a Windows Phone First strategy is a perfectly viable business proposition. So much focus is set upon catering for the larger Android and iOS market that we often forget the benefits of the smaller markets, including more discoverability through less app store dilution, and more chance of being featured in the store.

Many companies are able to develop apps for iOS and Android devices, but very few can cater for windows devices too. This is where 3chillies excel. With our specialist knowledge in Microsoft technologies, our expert windows development services give us an edge over many of our competitors who are unable to cater for all three major platforms.”
If you are considering developing an app for your business we would love to chat. Call 01189 314196 now. 

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