By now you’ve probably chosen your favourite iPhone apps on the App Store, rated several and spent a fortune on the latest games, utilities and time-wasters for your iPhone. Have you ever thought about the people providing these apps though? What does it take to get an app on iTunes and, more importantly, how do you make it successful?
Formed as a limited company in November 2008, the team at GreatApps is made up of Kostas Eleftheriou (Co-Founder, Managing Director, Programmer), Vassilis Samolis (Co-Founder & Business Developer) and Bill Rappos (Art Designer & Community Manager). Their apps to date include Comet Buster, GoSanta and iSteam, the latter becoming a runaway success with over a million downloads in the first week of release and has netted the company $60,000 in revenue this January alone - not bad for an app that took just a week to code!
Having launched our own “iKungFu” app in January, we’ve seen our share of the behind-the-scenes action that goes into producing software for the platform and so found it interesting to catch up with our friends at GreatApps, to talk candidly about their experience on the App Store so far, crazy rejections and steamy offers from adult magazines…
How did you get into writing apps for the iPhone?
VS: Before I answer this question, it is important to note that none of the team members had any knowledge in the mobile market area. Even Kostas (our Managing Director & Co-Founder) bought his first Mac, a Mac mini, when we began our venture in November. So, why apps? Why the iPhone? Kostas observed there was a very interesting business opportunity for independent developers. The growth of the App Store was amazing, the initial investment was insignificant and the potential revenue was immense. I must say that I was almost immediately convinced … and in November 2008, GreatApps was born.
VS: The really interesting thing about the App Store is that it offers you all the infrastructure plus clients willing to pay. The users are not reluctant to give away their credit cards because they pay Apple, not us!
BR: Plus, they already are set with their iTunes account, credit card linked etc. It is a market that wants to pay to have cool apps on their iPhones/iPod touches.
KE: Because it is a very young venture (the App Store began in July) it is not yet properly organized. For example if you want to get some information from them, you might have to wait weeks just to get a “please forward this email to that address” reply. And weeks in internet time are years.
BR: Sometimes we feel like we are dealing with a special kind of bureaucracy, one that has many capabilities, but none tells you what you have to do to get its full potential.
What’s the strangest reason Apple has given you for rejecting an app?
KE: The strangest reason we have been rejected so far is in fact really strange. We had developed an application that had to do with charity. We submitted it and after a couple of weeks somebody from Apple called saying that “…we have no protocol for charity Apps, thus I cannot approve it…try again in the future”. Oh thank you…
What is your business model in terms of planning new apps and reinvesting revenue?
VS: Currently the team consists of three members Kostas Eleftheriou, Vassilis Samolis and Bill Rappos. We have just turned into a limited company based in London (GREATAPPS LTD) and we intend to reinvest most of our profits in order recruit mostly staff so we can, in the future, run two or three applications simultaneously. Also we believe that having a proper infrastructure will help us attract investors.
We hear you’ve had an approach from a major adult magazine in the US. That sounds intriguing, any more details available?
VS: Unfortunately we cant give out any information for the time being because we are still negotiating, but we can promise that the result is going to be really interesting and probably not safe for work!
How did you come up with iSteam?
KE: After the limited success of our first two games (Comet Buster & GoSanta) we decided to take another “path”. But what would that be? So, after two weeks of brainstorming sessions and 150 ideas we developed asorting mechanism in order to choose the winner. We had criteria such as development time, projected revenues etc. The most important criterion we wanted was the “viral effect”. We wanted our next application to be something you can show to your friends, hence the show your friends button in the main menu. Anyway after the aforementioned fortnight of brainstorming and disputing we came up with iSteam which, in turn, took only 7 days to develop.
VS: We didn’t carry out the common marketing tactics you have in mind. We told our friends, sent out “stemies”, postings on our website etc. Here I must stress again the point Kostas mentioned in the previous question: it was the viral aspect of the application alone that worked as our marketing. We did, in other words, our marketing when we engineered the app and after its release with accompanying YouTube media and promotional blog posts and emails. Also please note that we never paid one cent to advertise our application.
Can you tell us about any upcoming apps you’re working on?
VS: Currently we are working on our next application which will hopefully be ready (for YouTube at least) next week. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose you the idea, because of the App Store being such a competitive market. By the time a unique idea comes out in less than a week you can see numerous copycats.
If you could change one thing about the App Store or iPhone, what would it be?
BR: Apart from everyone’s request, that is the copy & paste function, we’d really love it for the iPhone to have applications run in the background. It really is weird having a smartphone that has Multi-Touch, but can’t multi-task!
Do you see the iPhone app market growing or eventually burning out?
VS: Well, we certainly can’t predict the future, but the App Store maintains an amazing growth rate every week. I believe that this rate might at some point slow down… but the App Store is here to stay and so are we…
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