Article: Local App Competitions Fuel Tech Startups
Small Steps Labs is just getting started. In January, as I built out our first set of tests and ideas as a company, and as a couple of us work towards our first product, Fitabase, there was also an opportunity that led to some good news and good fun in the last few months. As a result of winning the San Diego Apps Challenge, and 2 prizes (including grand prize), Small Steps Labs got an unexpected set of boosts:
An introduction as a new company to watch.
The first months of a new company are an adjustment no matter if you're a startup veteran, or totally green. Getting to a first minimally viable product (MVP) is our goal, but we got an introduction even before that point which has already created some great connections, mentors, and potential collaborations that are currently being discussed!
$20,000 in unexpected seed funding
This money is going straight back in to the company. Nothing flashy -- it buys us piece of mind and time to keep crunching away, testing, building out our first few steps as a company poised to build many tools and ideas to help us, and others, start to chip away at how to get people further in their goals of healthy habits.
Code we can re-use across Steptopia and Fitabase
When I was interviewed for this article, I was asked what #1 piece of advice for other entrepreneurs thinking about entering an app contest. It was this: Know that this is a risk of your time. Lots of good apps and good developers will enter. Use this as a good opportunity to build skills or write code you need elsewhere. That way, at least you have done some good by releasing an app for the public, and you have code and technical skills that you needed to learn anyways. In our case, we now have a coding standard for how to write iPhone / Android / Windows Phone in C# using the Xamarin tools.
From the winning app, San Diego Street Report, we have infrastructure set up to build cloud-connected apps on top of the Azure infrastructure, with photo and GPS data as part of that communication. For San Diego Transit, we have code to build native interactive maps, in-app purchasing, connecting to external APIs and integrate those in to a client phone app, and local database logic that makes it super quick to build cross-platform local databases that sync with remote ones.
An Unexpected Consolation Prize
While San Diego Transit app didn't win anything in the contest, it has won in public opinion. It is currently the #1 public transportation app for San Diego on the iTunes store. In the first 4 months it has been used nearly 45,000 times, by over 4,000 users. While this isn't the core business of Small Steps Labs, helping people get around their city with great tools to help them understand public transportation is something I can get behind. San Diego Transit is currently the only app that combines route maps and the realtime data streams of MTS. It's free with a premium version available via in-app purchase for $1.99. Another win for a company in early exploration stage.
Big thanks to Neil Parmar and the staff of Entrepreneur.com for reaching out and writing the article.