Two app developers lay building blocks to success
So you have a great idea for a smartphone app. Who doesn’t?
Turning that idea into a sustainable company takes know-how from technology to finance to pitching to investors.
Two local entrepreneurs believe they have viable apps and are working to attract investors.
Miramar-based music producer Erik Mendelson has developed uRemix, an app that enables users to remix parts of Top 100 songs with their own voice.
The app “allows you to take Lady Gaga’s voice and Metallica’s instrumental and mix it into an original song,” Mendelson said.
His business partners include Platinum selling rapper Mims and Winston “Blackout” Thomas, a Grammy award-winning movie producer.
uRemix is still in beta testing, but Mendelson said he knows there is consumer demand for remixing and sharing. He points to SoundCloud, an application that allows users to upload and share sounds, which is valued at about $700 million.
“Unlike SoundCloud, our software allows for the creation of music,” Mendelson said.
He’s also developing a second app, RecordGram, which he describes as “a free studio in the palm of your hand.” Users can buy music, record music or voice, add video and share it on their phone.
In Coconut Creek, construction company owner Jaysen Lima has developed an app called DL Alert Pro, which monitors a driver’s license to make sure it has not been suspended.
Lima said many people are unaware that their licenses have been suspended, because they miss the notification in the mail or they’ve moved. For Lima, a forgotten 30-cent road toll turned into nearly a $700 expense due to fines, towing and license renewal fees.
The suspension “came as a shock,” Lima said. But it also gave him the idea for the app.
Florida drivers also can find their license suspended for other reasons, such as non-payment of child support, he said.
His company has been monitoring drivers’ licenses in Florida and recently added Minnesota and Missouri. The app has been available for about three months at the Apple store and Google Play and has about 1,200 users.
DL Alert Pro costs $5.99 a year on Apple devices and 99 cents a month for Android users. A free version is available that enables you to check your license manually.
Now Lima envisions a more lucrative market for his app: companies that hire drivers for their fleets of truck or cars. Advice to address that market came from John Kemp, a mentor at DSX Labs in Boca Raton.
Kemp said a big moving company, for example, would want to know for liability and insurance reasons whether their drivers’ licenses had been suspended.
DL Alert Pro “is a nice tool. I think it will go places,” he said.
These two app startups stand out because they have products ready to go, with an identified target market, local experts say.
That’s often not the case, said Dan Gudema, a partner in DSX Labs. “Most of the time we talk with ventures and they’re just a theory. Even with a lot of capital, they don’t have a product or a service.”
Like any business, app developers need to start their businesses by defining their market.
“You want a market looking for a technology, not a technology looking for a market,” Gudema said.
Rob Strandberg, chief executive of Enterprise Development Corp. in South Florida, who often reviews business plans for “angel” investor groups, said the sizable mobile app market is attractive to would-be entrepreneurs. U.S. mobile app downloads and purchases in 2014 were $6 billion, or 20 percent of all worldwide spending, according to Forrester Research.
“Every month these groups are looking at 40 business plans just in Florida, and at any point in time 30 percent are mobile apps,” he said.
Strandberg said app developers need to demonstrate they have followers, downloads and a business model that makes money. He said developing several streams of revenue is often the best approach.
Gudema said he asks startups that come to DSX Labs how they can make money — today. “Find a way to make money. Is there a way you can make money right now? If there isn’t, the [venture] won’t get off the ground,” he tells them.
The entrepreneurs said they’re finding help in developing their companies through a growing network of incubators, accelerators and technology events in South Florida.
“The technology scene in South Florida has really matured. In the past, I would have to go to New York or San Francisco to meet people in my space,” Mendelson said.
uRemix, whose business plan won the Miami Music Summit in 2014, is one of 32 start-up companies that will vy for investor attention Tuesday at the Gold Coast Venture Capital Expo in Boca Raton.
Lima recently make a presentation of his driver’s license app at DSX Labs. Gudema said DL Alert Pro has a “personalized story with it that seemed to get a lot of attention from investors.”
He said uRemix has a unique product that has solid backing from people in the music industry.
“It’s all about the connections,” Gudema said. “If you make the right connection, you can get your application sold.”
Entrepreneurs who don’t have technology backgrounds have to rely on others to develop their apps. Mendelson outsourced development to engineers in India and Pakistan, while Lima works with an IT developer in Honduras.
“I have no problem with going offshore — it’s very low cost. But you have to reference them,” Strandberg said.
Entrepreneurs should be careful about their choice, even if they have the money to blow.
Gudema said he has seen startups spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on development and not end up with a product.
“This is very common in Boca. There’s always a Svengali — I know what I’m doing, give me this money. A year later they’ve spent $300,000 and they have nothing,” he said.