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About the Episode
Coming up is a story of how an indie app developer who left a family business went on to build an app that contributes to a worthy cause. Also, you have to hear the story of how he formed his previous company with a homeless electrician.
Michael Epp had his future mapped out for him and on that map, there was this highway leading directly to a life in the manufacturing business his father had built. He just could not visualize himself in this business so he decided to leave to make his own way. It was a hard decision but Michael believes that hard decisions are sometimes the right decisions.
Michael’s first company, an electrical contracting company, was a team up with a homeless electrician. Michael had just finished reading the autobiography of Guy Laliberte, the creator of Cirque du Soleil and he was so inspired by the man that he decided to take a chance on this homeless guy who showed such skill as an electrician. This admirable act of magnanimity, though admittedly a risky move by Michael, was validated 4 years later because he sold the company to this homeless man.
Tips for Anyone Looking to Make an App for a Social Cause
Michael’s app, Hightail Whale, has only been on the market for 2 months. It is a game with a cause. He built an app around a favorite and popular theme – how man’s destructive ways threaten the survival of the whales. The endless runner is running against water pollution, global warming and overfishing. Michael has been sending feelers to a lot of people about his app. So far, he has been lucky, he says. 30% of those emailed had actually answered. But looking deeper, Michael’s luck is the kind that involves some hard thinking and educated guesses, such as:
- Having a clear target or audience. Whale conservationists and their ilk who are potential investors of the app
- Knowing your target and audience to pick effective keywords or subject lines. Ex. Michael uses the subject line “ unique awareness opportunity” because his target is specific – whale conservationists
- Finding the right business partners. Make sure to get people who are supportive of your cause or passion
The Value of Friends in the World of App Building
The process of choosing an app developer for Hightail Whales was through friends. A group of friends working for a coding and design studio recommended the developer to Michael Epp. Just like with his strategy for a successful app, Michael summed it up as “taking a chance on them.” What is not verbalized by Michael but a spot on observation is that friends are people one trusts. They will recommend friends they trust. So never discount the value of a friendly recommendation. I have validated this observation when I responded to Michael’s email because he mentioned he was recommended by a mutual friend.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to build an app?
Avoid cold emails. Whenever possible, get a referral. The chance of success is better.