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.

BSW1

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!

BSW2

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!

Startup Strava Challenge: Out of Bike Karma

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We had a great time participating in Quick Left’s Startup Strava Challenge last month. We came in fourth place out of 20 teams – congratulations to Radio 360 for their victory!

We loved having the excuse to get outside, make new friends, and get a little competitive thanks to this challenge. But you can’t have a good adventure without some misadventures to balance everything out. Here, software engineer Seth McClaine tells us about an afternoon that made him question his cycling karma:

Doing my typical Saturday ride with the Bicycle Village group and one of my new riding friends I met through the Quick Left Strava Challenge, I finally get my first flat ever on a ride.

Starting from the beginning, I decided to ride from my house and get the extra 5 miles in to put towards the challenge. I get to BV (Bicycle Village) and we are scheduled for a 30 mile ride. We head out, get some coffee in Erie, and start heading back. About 5 miles out from returning to BV a fellow rider blows out her rear tire. I stopped to help. After giving some assistance and leaving her with a ride ambassador, my friend and I continued riding back.

I went on to say “I always try to stop because I feel like it’s good karma. In the four years I’ve been riding I’ve never gotten a flat on a ride…”
About a mile from BV I have a massive blowout. A pop, three whizzes (rotation of the tire while you can hear the air coming out), and my tire is completely flat. So much for karma!

I’m thinking, “Ehh, about a mile out, I could just walk back to BV then drive home… Oh wait, I didn’t drive.” I replace my tire, using CO2 to fill it up, get back on and get back to BV. A couple minutes after I had set my bike in the rack we hear a pop. At first I figured someone else popped their tire throwing it on the rack, as someone was putting their bike on the rack next to mine.

Later I find out, no my tire blew up, blow out number 2! The CO2 must have warmed up and over inflated the tire. Conveniently I brought an extra tube since my friend didn’t have extras. I take my wheel into the shop and replace the tube again.

As I get close to 100PSI BANG! Nothing makes your ears ring like exploding a tube inside a building. I managed to pinch the tube with the tire since I was being hasty replacing the tube and didn’t roll the tire correctly. I was out of tubes and a little frustrated.
Fine, I take it back to the service area and let them fix it. A couple minutes later I get my tire back and start to walk toward the register. Then I notice a small bubble coming out of the side of the tire… Apparently the pinch flat I had just done caused the side of the tire to blow out. Ok, back to service. They set me up with a new tire, and I’m finally good to go after paying.

All in all, at the end of the day, I now have matching red wall tires on my bike for the first time in two years.

We had lots of fun this month, misadventures and all. Thanks to Quick Left for organizing this challenge! It was an excellent way to foster community, get people out and about, and support a wonderful cause. In honor of Radio 360’s win, we’re making a donation to their chosen organization, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

#BSW14 is almost here!

One of our favorite weeks of the year, Boulder Startup Week, is right around the corner! It’s a great opportunity to spend time learning from our fellow startup and tech enthusiasts – and to meet some of the most amazing people the scene has to offer.

Swing by our office on Tuesday at 2 for the “I Moved to Boulder and…” event. A handful of newly-minted Boulderites (including our own Stephanie!) will share what it was like to move to Boulder, from job hunting to relocating a family and scouting out the best happy hours around town. We’ll even have some beer on hand (and we’ll be making it rain with our new stickers.)
But, enough about us – here are a few more events we’re looking forward to:

We’ll also be reppin’ at the sold-out Ignite Boulder. If you see us around, make sure to say hello! And if you’re attending Boulder Startup Week as a job seeker, we’re hiring and would love to meet you.

PerspiringApps and the #startupchallenge

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It’s hard to live in Boulder – the fittest city in the country – without finding your own niche of physical activity. We’re a pretty active bunch here at InspiringApps, with yoga, cycling, swimming, running and even dancing among our favorite pastimes. And while we spend plenty of time at the gym during the winter, our “ActiveIA” selves truly shine when the weather’s nice and we can get outdoors as a team – from participating in the IronMan triathlon relay last year to this summer’s National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.

That’s why we were stoked to learn our friends down the street, Quick Left, had planned the Startup Strava Challenge (#startupchallenge), which kicked off yesterday. It’s the perfect combination of a lot of our favorite things – apps, startups, getting active, community, and supporting great causes. All this month, we’ll be using Strava to track our miles as we compete with 20 of Boulder’s finest startups like PivotDesk and Pearl Izumi. The team with the most miles per capita will have the “pot” of entry fees donated to the organization of their choice. We’re walking, running, hiking and biking on behalf of People for Bikes, a great organization that gets people active and improves cycling conditions in cities across the US.

Follow along as we rack up the miles by checking the Strava widget below – and to see how we compare with the other teams, head on over to the Quick Left blog. We’re small but mighty, and we’re pumped to have another reason to spend some time out and about this month.

Ready, set… GO!

InspiringPeople: Applying Principles to Become Extraordinary

Earlier this week executive coach and author Joseph Logan joined us as part of our ongoing InspiringPeople series. Joseph shared stories from his forthcoming book, Heretic: How Extraordinary Misfits Change the Rules and Change the World, and taught us how ordinary people can become extraordinary leaders through the principles of courage, insight and tenacity.

Joseph said he’s always been drawn to people who do the impossible – to people who are extraordinary. Even from a young age, he admired “people who found something in themselves and took a journey to become something more.”

Having extraordinary people in his life inspired Joseph to start helping other people find that certain something within themselves. “I believe every person has the seed of something extraordinary in them,” he said. “I also believe not everyone will nurture and grow that seed. But the people who do? They’re the ones who change the world.” For local examples, Joseph listed Ashoka U, the Unreasonable Institute, and even Avery Brewing as groups of extraordinary people who have changed the world.

During an interactive portion of the talk, Joseph had a few people share a time they did something they thought was impossible. From major lifestyle changes to overcoming huge challenges at work, the people who shared their stories revealed how ordinary people can do extraordinary things every single day. “Extraordinary can be large-scale, or it can be personal,” Joseph said. “What matters is taking the journey to change your world.” As one attendee said, an extraordinary act “changes not only your perspective but that of those around you.”

It’s no secret people in Boulder are doing extraordinary things every day. But what is it about Boulder that’s different? Is someone’s ability to be extraordinary tied to where they live?

While resources like a vibrant, helpful and powerful community certainly play a part in nurturing extraordinary people, Joseph believes the most important keys to being extraordinary are a person’s principles and how they’re applied: “Extraordinary people all follow the principles of courage, insight and tenacity,” he explained.

InspiringPeople crowd

Courage
Joseph told us the story of Ian Ayres, a law professor at Yale who had the courage to speak up. Ayres did a study on 401(k) plans and discovered many employers offer high-fee plans that would end up producing negative interest over time. He sent letters to more than six thousand employers letting them know what he found and informed them he’d soon release the results of his study.

In Joseph’s words, “all hell broke loose.” Ayres received death threats, countless people called Yale to demand his termination… people were furious. When Joseph spoke with Ayres, he said “You don’t seem like one to stir the pot… how’d you find the courage to do this?”

Ayres laughed. “I’ve always stirred the pot,” he said. “And I had no idea so many people would be this upset.” Joseph said Ayres didn’t think anyone cared about their 401(k), that he didn’t initially act out of courage. “He doubled down when he felt threatened, though,” Joseph explained. “He got energized from the fallout and had the courage to take it further.”

At its core, the principle of courage is embodied by people who say, “Why does it have to be that way?” Extraordinary people see a fundamental injustice or challenge somewhere – whether it’s in their personal lives or on a grand scale – and they have the courage to overcome it.

Insight
Once you’ve found the courage to make a change, it’s important to examine the situation to see what you can leave alone and what you need to do in order to make things different.

When gathering insight, the first step is to determine where there are implicit rules and opportunities for change. Joseph identified five areas that come into play in forming extraordinary insight:

  • Strategy – What plan is currently being followed? Why was it created?
  • Politics – What power structures currently exist? Who are the key players?
  • Affinities – What role do relationships play?
  • Culture – How do values and norms shape the situation?
  • Economics – How does money affect the situation?

Joseph ensured the areas to examine were memorable – the first letters of each area become SPACE (he knows it’s corny, but it works.)

The principle of insight is basically determining what the change you want to make is really about, and what factors are at play that will either help or challenge you as you work to accomplish it. Joseph said insight starts with the self – where are you strong, and where could you grow?

Tenacity
What would it take to get you to quit something you’re happily engaged in and passionate about?

Probably a lot, right? What if everything you’ve worked for literally burned to the ground, right at what you considered the peak of your success? Would you give up then?

Bryan Dayton, co-owner of OAK at fourteenth, refused to give up after a devastating fire at the upscale Boulder restaurant shortly after its critically acclaimed opening in 2010. Even though OAK’s investors argued it’d be better to cut their losses and accept the insurance money – or at least move to a new space – Dayton made the choice to rebuild the restaurant in its original location. OAK is now one of Boulder’s most renowned restaurants, and Dayton was featured on a cover of GQ Magazine’s 2011 “Men of the Year” issue.

Joseph explained how tenacity is essential to becoming extraordinary. Even after gathering the courage and insight necessary to make a change, challenges will still arise. Major complications and derailments will still occur, and giving up will become an increasingly appealing option.

But the extraordinary person, the one who has the tenacity to hold on a little bit longer than anyone else, is the one who can eke out a win.

The Process
So, how do we become extraordinary people? Are these principles learned, or are they limited to the lucky few who were born with them? To Joseph, becoming extraordinary is all about the process – it’s about finding that seed within us, and cultivating it so it can grow. These principles aren’t limited to bestowment upon birth; they are all things we learn. Joseph said he believes insight can be taught in a classroom, but courage and tenacity are learned through experience – good experiences and bad. “Success is a lousy teacher,” he said. “Failure is the teacher; success is the lesson.”

Joseph’s presentation was engaging and inspiring, giving us the opportunity to examine which aspects of our lives can become extraordinary. To close, he read from the final chapter of Heretic, due for release in early 2015. To learn more about Joseph, visit his website at josephlogan.com.

InspiringPeople is InspiringApps’ speaker series featuring people we think are, well… inspiring! These informal lunch gatherings allow members of the Boulder community to hear from their peers about their work, hobbies and passions. Interested in speaking or attending? Email jess@inspiringapps.com to be added to the list!

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