Sramana Mitra: How did you bring this product to market? This is a very interesting case study. You are speaking to somebody who loves stuff that you can charge serious amounts of money for.
Alex Bratton: For years I knew this problem had existed because of some of the work we had been doing at Lextech, working on defense, homeland security and enterprise systems with digital video, and things similar to that. Those systems would live in a command center. You couldn’t get to the information when you were mobile and that was a problem. When the iPhone came out, we knew that the platform existed to make it easy and compelling. So we created it. On May 27, 2008, we released a simple YouTube video showing video and the iPhone, somebody touching the screen, and the camera itself sitting behind and moving around.
That video had 100,000 people look at it in two weeks. Then we started having people from that industry reach out to us wanting to talk. That told us that we were on to something. People wanted to mobilize this kind of information. From there we created the applications, built some great relationships with partner organizations, and brought in people who knew what they were doing.
SM: Even though you were charging $900 for the app, to actually bring this to market you needed systems integration.
AB: Yes. Someone already had the system, and they could do it by themselves. If somebody didn’t have the system, it was a part of a broader solution that one of these integrators could take to market.
SM: That kind of stuff is much more interesting than the $0.99 games.
AB: Every time I see a business application at $0.99, I see another software developer going out of business. If you are trying to bring out an application that is worth anything, you need to charge for it. I respect some of the organizations that charge $50, $60, or $70 for their iPhone or iPad applications.
SM: We have a company in 1M/1M that has an iPad autism communication app they charge $99 for.
AB: That is perfect. And it is probably less expensive than the custom hardware or software on your laptop or desktop.
SM: That kind of stuff has really taken off in the tablet world. As the entrepreneur has built this company, I have always guided them to stay focused on charging serious amounts of money and not giving things away free.
AB: That is absolutely it. As an advice to that entrepreneur – whether it is a mobile app or any other service, find something where you provide a lot of value and then charge for that value. That is exactly what people want.
SM: That is exactly how you build successful businesses – not by giving a lot of freebies out. On that note, you are absolutely speaking to my heart.
AB: I appreciate the validation. This is something I have tried to live for a long time with my businesses and any of the businesses I am helping. In any case, I appreciate it and it was great talking with you. I am looking forward to talking more in the future. I like finding like-minded folks who get it and who are helping entrepreneurs make things happen.
SM: That sounds good. I am looking forward to it.