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Jonathan began his career in the startup community as the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper. There, he made a name for himself by nearly doubling the amount of signups via word of mouth as well as helping land over 600 press mentions in just 2.5 years. He then decided to spread his knowledge by writing Learn2Buzz so that any small business could create their own “Buzz Department.”
Since leaving Grasshopper he has risked it all to start his own business as the COO & Founder of Apptopia. Apptopia is the marketplace for buying and selling mobile app ownership and within months of the site’s launch, Mark Cuban led the company’s $1 million round of funding. Now Jonathan leads the daily operation and strategic direction at Apptopia, working with both buyers and sellers to help people invest and make money through mobile app acquisitions.
MO: How did you come up with the idea for Apptopia? What problem are you solving?
Jonathan: We realized that just like all of the other markets (that needed second markets), the app world was quickly becoming over saturated. Seeing all of the “apps to help you discover other apps,” was just the icing on the cake that helped us pull the trigger. It’s something Eli (my partner) and I wanted to do for a while since back in 2009 Eli built a very successful app (top 17 paid) called GPush. He experienced first hand the issue of having a great app and 1. Not knowing or understanding its value and 2. Having no exit strategy. Now that more and more venture capital money is going into mobile, that exit strategy is more important than ever.
MO: What were some of the challenges you faced when first developing the concept for Apptopia and how did you overcome them?
Jonathan: Pretty simply, we were doing something that had not been done before. So, really everything we faced was a challenge. There was no precedent, no APIs documented, nothing. We probably lost a solid 5-6 weeks of development, just doing R & D when we first started. So I would say the biggest challenge was really figuring out what was possible, what wasn’t possible, and what we needed to make sure was possible in order to build a sustainable business. All of the other challenges simply required hustle. But technical / logistical blockers are very important to know up front.
MO: Can you talk about the journey from being a bootstrapped start-up to securing one million in seed funding?
Jonathan: It’s funny; most of my experience came from my time at Grasshopper. And when you are around those inspirational guys, you quickly start to believe that anyone can Bootstrap a business, just work really hard and really smart. Turns out that is not actually the case. Money is really important, especially when you are spending 14-15 hours a day working. It’s important to not add financial worries into the mix. In our case specifically, it actually made more sense than normal to raise funding. I say that because we were trying to be first to market for a big idea. So there was immense value in getting to market quicker, and building a very strong brand around Apptopia. That way if competitors came in, not only would they have to catch up to our technology (3-4 month head start), but they would have to break through our brand association. There is a reason people do not try and compete with eBay right? And it’s certainly not because of their design or functionality. Brand is everything with marketplaces.
MO: What features of Apptopia are you most proud of?
Jonathan: We’re most proud and excited about the amount of data we provide on Apptopia, so that buyers can make highly informed decisions before purchasing an app. By integrating with Flurry, we are able to show stats about each app that no other website provides publicly today. This is also just the start, as we plan to integrate with more platforms and tools moving forward.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Jonathan: Admittedly, my personal and professional lives are really the same thing right now. All I can say is, we figured out a more genuine, more intuitive way to help people find and work with app developers (something we have a lot of experience in). I am really excited to help with this, and make the barrier for entry that much lower in mobile. That is something my partner and I are really passionate about.
MO: What tips would pass onto an app developer to make their apps more attractive to buyers?
Jonathan: We evaluate how much an app is worth based on tons of different factors. It depends on the buyers’ needs, but for the most part, apps that are most appealing to buyers either have a great design & function, have generated a substantial amount of revenue, or maintain a high level of traction. The best piece of advice I can give to an app developer looking to sell their app is to price it appropriately. As long as an app’s valuation is within the right price range, buyers will be able to see the app’s potential and make a purchase. That being said, a lot of app developers may not know how much their app is worth – that’s where we love to step in and help. We encourage developers to reach out and ask us for help with valuations any time. Just shoot us an email!
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