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Learning from the Best: Calvin Carter

Carter

Mixergy.com had Calvin Carter, founder of Bottle Rocket Apps, for an interview that gives a great insight what made Bottle Rocket the force they are today. Carter candidly shares several amazing points that can help you improve your business as well.

Let me share my notes with you, in case you don’t have an hour to watch the interview in it’s entirety. A transcript is also available.

Before starting Bottle Rocket he ran a successful web business. The day after the first iPhone SDK was announced Carter founded Bottle Rocket.

He always put in some extra work: “Polish the undersides of tables” i.e. made sure a Website also looks great on Mac even though the client might only require Windows.

How Bottle Rocket became Big

They started out with 9 apps simultaneously, he gave one example where they thought the app would be a huge success and it wasn’t and another example vice versa. “If you fill a void you need to make sure your heart is in it.”

There was no seed capital involved, the company grew “organically”. Their first 9 apps were noticed by the media and made them known. “Without the cushion (of seed capital) you don’t get wasteful and make your decisions count.”

As part of their success he mentioned focus: only do mobile apps, learn to say NO if somebody approaches you with some work from your previous area. But you should work with “old business” clients to transition them to somebody who is passionate about your previous area.

There has to be some pressure, some discomfort. If you get a little bit comfortable you become complacent. When you run out of gas, put the throttle down. Don’t get spooked in the first 12 months.

For him it is never “just business”. Business is an extension of yourself of your character.

Bottle Rocket hat a multiple app strategy right from the beginning to “build a shadow” instead of trying a single app and if that fails go with another. This kind of massive approach breeds productivity and consistency. It also allows you to “fail as fast as you can” i.e. learn what the users like and what they don’t. Then you should “own your mistakes” i.e. stand by work that you don’t consider your finest hour but know what you learned from it.

He has noticed that apps that cost more get better ratings, possibility because they attract a different quality of user? You should analyze 1-star reviews to see commonalities to improve in updates.

How to get Big Brands

Bottle Rocket does no RFPs (Request for Proposal) because it goes against their app building methodology. It’s like “putting your worst foot forward”. So they tell clients that they have to respectfully decline because they don’t want to take away time from paying customers.

Instead they show them how they work, their process is published on their website. Their labs page shows the process from paper sketch to finished app.

What to say to these big companies:

  • “This is what WE would like to see.”
  • “We feel that this is not the best use of your brand.”
  • “OUR name is on this to.”
  • “We want this to be the best we can do.”

You should go after brands you feel passionate about and make the app personal. “Put your name in all your apps.” probably means that they never do “white label” apps where the user does not know who really made the app.


Categories: Business

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