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NewCo Boulder 2016 Inspires Us

Boulder had the privilege of hosting its third NewCo festival last Friday, and we were thrilled to be able to participate. With a mission to “identify, celebrate, and connect the engines of positive change in our society,” NewCo provides an opportunity for purpose-driven businesses to share their stories with entrepreneurs, job applicants, and potential customers that want to learn from them. Thanks to the efforts of Engage Colorado, around fifty innovative Boulder companies opened their doors and invited participants to come see for themselves how passion and purpose change “work” from simply a job to an endeavor that can change the world. Read More

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Denver Startup Week 2016 Highlights

We love the energy and passion typically found in any gathering of entrepreneurs, and last week’s Denver Startup Week did not disappoint. Billed as a “summit of entrepreneurial energy, innovation, and connection,” the event began just five years ago with a desire to create a sense of connection among those in the Denver startup community. With this year’s record-setting registration of over 12,000 people, DSW has done just that, while solidly establishing itself as the largest free entrepreneurial event in North America.

Denver has long had a vibrant startup community, but the size of the city doesn’t lend itself to the easy sense of connection found in a place like Boulder. Rather than lament the size, DSW founders leveraged the presence of the larger corporate environment while pulling best practices from events like Boulder Startup Week. The combination resulted in an event that catalyzes connections among those with an entrepreneurial spirit, hopefully building foundations for long-term economic growth in the city and region. Read More

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Key Announcements from Apple WWDC 2016

Apple’s developer conference, WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference), kicked off with a keynote address last week that garnered thunderous applause for CEO Tim Cook’s announcements of all things shiny and new from the tech company. The keynote is designed to appeal to the press and general public as much as (if not more than) developers. And if you watch it, you may find yourself cheering along with the audience as new emojis, animated text messages, and fun music features are demonstrated for the first time.

While those announcements are entertaining, we’re more interested in the improvements made behind the scenes that do not make for splashy headlines and cute demos. This year was full of plenty of such changes on the software front – in fact, for the first time in as long as we can remember, the cool, new things were not in the form of hardware. The Apple software improvements are exciting though, because they will allow us to make apps more quickly, that run more reliably, and perform better at a lower cost for our clients. Here are a few highlights from Apple’s announcements: Read More

Exciting News from Google I/O 2016

Last week brought Google I/O 2016, an annual software developer-focused conference held by Google in San Francisco. Google and Android developers look forward to this with the same enthusiasm that Apple developers anticipate the WWDC conference, and this year we were not disappointed.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked things off with a keynote address that focused mainly on several consumer products, but towards the end he tossed out a few hints about new and upgraded developer tools. In the following days’ breakout sessions those were revealed one-by-one, frequently blowing away the developer attendees. Many of the most exciting developments were new features in the recently released Android Studio 2.2. Here are a few highlights. Read More

SXSW Interactive 2016

We attended many impressive sessions during our time at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference last week. The festival is a showcase for all things tech, and we were inspired by the exhibits, gadgets, and experiences that filled the city of Austin, TX. We focused on sessions in the Design and Development track including: “Fast and Rigorous User Personas,” “Checkbox That Ruined My Life,” and “Designing for Smartwatches.” We found it interesting that several themes emerged from the design sessions, regardless of the session title and topic.

As predicted in our “Tech Innovations to Watch in 2016” blog post from early this year, the Internet of Things was one such theme, specifically in regard to wearables. Most tech users have transitioned from desktop to mobile, and the next transition from mobile to wearable is happening now. Smartwatches and fitness devices remain the most widely-used items in this network of physical objects embedded with technology.

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NewCo Boulder 2015: 8 Lessons Learned

NewCo took Boulder by storm last week and the team at InspiringApps enjoyed participating in the varied presentations around town. We were encouraged at QuickLeft to be intentional about diversity, and glad to see others such as Pivotal Labs committed to lean methodologies. We also enjoyed a tour at eTown, got recruiting tips from Turning the Corner, and one of us even tried brussels sprouts for the first time at the Made in Nature session!

Not only did we learn about our neighbors and the cool and innovative things they’re working on, but we also hosted a session in our office. Our CEO, Brad Weber, presented “8 Lessons Learned in 8 Years of Making Mobile Apps.” As Brad shared a few pivotal stories from our history, he drew out key concepts and provided some salient wisdom for any entrepreneur or business leader:

Don’t partner when you can hire. Although starting alone can feel daunting, hiring may be a better way to begin. A partnership is a serious and long-term relationship and, as the team at TechStars also noted, it’s important to know as much about a potential co-founder as one does about a potential life partner.

Hire with an eye toward the future – but not the distant future. Resources are limited in the early days, so it’s important to be thoughtful about what skills can take the company to the next horizon.

Building a team of employees is hard work, but worth it. Using contractors seems to offer the promise of less risk, but it has its own set of challenges.  Investing in an all-employee team can lead to better cohesion, mutual commitment, and lots of fun!

There is value in working under one (leaky) roof. Flexible out-of-office hours are a key part of our culture, but we gain a lot by also having one space in which to collaborate together.

Without project management, there is chaos. It’s tempting to forego the overhead of project management, but a client-based business benefits greatly from such leadership.

Lean is a better approach to development. A desire to get things just right causes many companies to invest too much and wait too long to release a product. Using small, iterative steps enables a company to be more nimble – and gain better market feedback along the way

Align costs and revenues to bid projects. Instead of fixed bids, we often found it better to use high-level estimates for the whole project, then time and materials for a given sprint.

It’s a delicate balance between product work and custom development work. Client work pays the bills, but it can’t drive all the priorities in resource allocation. Maintaining steady progress toward other goals (in our case, product development) is required to keep the momentum going.

If you’d like to learn more details about what Brad shared, contact us and we’d be happy to share. 

Chat with the Google Small Business Community

Brad led a lively online discussion with the Google Small Business community, fielding questions ranging in topic from the “app graveyard” to a frequently asked question about the cost to build an app.

It was a first for InspiringApps to participate in this type of forum and we had a lot of fun with it. The Google moderator, Berrak, started the discussion off with a question to distinguish between a mobile app and a mobile website and we kept rolling from there. Participation from the community included questions about the Upbeat Workouts app to “going big” with your app right out of the gate.

Thank you to all who participated and to our Google moderator, Berrak Sarikaya. You can read the full hour’s worth of discussion here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cenmae20j1522psnqvifhs2idd0

Boulder Startup Week: Event Recap

The “I Moved to Boulder and…” event at our office this week attracted some veteran Boulderites in addition to those newer to the area. The four panelists discussed their jobs, where they live, and the things they like to do including disc golf, enjoying the night life on Pearl Street, hiking in the snow, running, and listening to live music.

One panelist, Courtney, described how she was surprised by the friendliness of Boulderites after moving here from New York City. She had a brace on her leg due to an injury, and it seemed that everywhere she went in Boulder, concerned passers-by were curious about her injury, how she was doing, and quick to offer help.

Sean, also familiar with east coast life, illustrated the difference between a typical business encounter in New Jersey (unfriendly secretary rudely asking “Whaddya want?”) and one in Boulder (outgoing business prospect inviting “Want to talk about it over a beer?”).

Another panelist, Julian, talked about his move from Florida, and how he loves living near Pearl Street and the ability to walk almost anywhere he wants to be.

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In addition to the panel discussion, we enjoyed a large variety of soda flavors from Rocket Fizz. The most disgusting, by far, was the ranch dressing flavor. We have plenty of left over bottles of that one, if you’d like to stop by and pick one up!

Thanks for attending and we’ll see you next year!

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Boulder Startup Week at InspiringApps

Boulder Startup Week is next week! InspiringApps will again host the always entertaining and tremendously popular “I Moved to Boulder and….” event on Monday, May 11th from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Do you wonder what happens when you move to Boulder? What do people wish they knew before moving here? Instead of just reading about it, come meet people who have moved here in the last year and hear how they’ve integrated into the community. They’ll talk about jobs, housing, social life and more. This small panel of recent Boulder transplants will tell their stories and answer your questions.

Sound like the perfect event for you? Register here to join in the fun. It’s free! Already been here awhile? Come anyway and offer your expertise to the newbies. We’ll have plenty of time for networking as well.

Beyond learning more about Boulder, you’ll also get a chance to explore Boulder’s finest soda scene. We’ll be offering a curated selection of sodas from Boulder’s own Rocket Fizz for guests to enjoy. InspiringApps software engineer, Will Helling, drank EVERY ONE of the offerings from Rocket Fizz over the past months. We’ll have his favorites for you to sample, including Blueberry Birch. Also available will be a few of the less mainstream (uh, gross?) flavors like Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing.

If your taste buds aren’t adventurous enough to take a swig based on soda name alone, we’ll share Will’s reviews of all the sodas so you can decide if you want to give it a try. Here’s a sampling:

Blueberry Birch: This says blueberry, but it really tastes more like grape. In any case, if you’ve ever been curious what a marriage of grape and root beer might be, look no further. As any Reading Draft, this soda tastes fantastic, and the unique grape-rootbeer flavor is unique and exceptional. This was exactly the type of soda I was hoping to find when I started this soda tour. 8.5/10

Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing: Stop the presses, this one surprises as being one of the best I’ve had on this whole list. Just kidding. It’s gross. It tastes like rotten cheese and the ranch-esque aftertaste just does not go away. Make sure you have something else to wash this one down with otherwise you’ll be tasting spoiled sour cream for the rest of the day. 2/10

Don’t wait!  Join us by registering to attend this fun event.

CIMCN: NFORS Project & More

Our Senior Project Manager, Stacy Griffin, hosted an event this week in our office for the Colorado International Media and Communication Network (CIMCN). Stacy spoke about the NFORS project that InspiringApps is working on (http://911perform.org/n-fors/) and provided details about our development process.

Stacy then welcomed Dr. Revi Sterling, Founding Director of the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Graduate Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The program is part of the Atlas Institute in the College of Engineering (http://atlas.colorado.edu).

Dr. Sterling spoke about the work she does with graduate students and her impressions of how the International Communication Technology (ICT) space is impacting international development work. She offered some ideas and insights for how companies, non-governmental organizations, and universities can work more closely together to engage in fruitful partnerships.

Specifically, Revi talked about:

  • The importance of understanding the culture where a project is taking place. As an example, she discussed a student who solved a communication problem between hill towns by using OCHA Symbols via SMS to communicate weather shifts rather than phone conversations. This solution skirted cultural biases that would not allow unmarried men and women to communicate and allowed the hill towns to better conserve water.
  • The focus on field work in her program. She noted other programs around the country that focus on policy and research. She discussed the process she goes through when assigning students to internship positions. It is vital that students work where they are passionate, but she also urges them to step out of their comfort zone.
  • The importance of technology in what her students deliver. She has a mix of students with strong technical backgrounds and not so strong. She likes the idea of her students understanding the problems first and then finding the best technology.

The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of the pros and cons of using open source technology. For example, Open Data Kit (ODK: http://opendatakit.org) offers the ability for users to build data collection forms, but has stability issues. Stacy discussed the reasons InspiringApps created our own cloud-syncing solution rather than relying on third-party options.

Thank you Revi and the CIMCN group!

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