With hundreds of thousands of iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Mac apps to choose from today how do you know what the best apps are? You could search through multiple review sites but wouldn’t it be great if one site aggregated all the reviews into one score – making it easy for you to make informed decisions?
AppMyWorld does just that! They comb prominent app review sites and aggregate the review scores into that we call an AppScore.
The Block Island Organics mission is to give everyone access to safe, effective, and lovable non-toxic sun care products. They believe in living outside and enjoying the sun and not hiding from it.
MO: Can you expand on how you came to launch two totally different types of companies?
Will: Certainly, I’d first add that running two businesses at once is a definite challenge but it also lets you diversify a bit so all your eggs aren’t in one basket. I’d say the key is a strong co-founder and team.
AppMyWorld came about after looking for solutions to a common marketplace problem: app discoverability. There is a lot of hub-bub in the press about how difficult it is to find great apps. The App Store is the main place to find them but while its discoverability tools (search, Top Charts, featured apps) are good, I thought there was room for improvement. So I looked around for other successful discoverability models and thought Rotten Tomatoes did a great job of it for movies. Thus the idea was born to adapt that model, aggregating professional reviews, as a way to enhance app discoverability.
Block Island Organics came about through my sister and co-founder Lauren von Bernuth. She owns an eco spa (Koru Eco Spa) on Block Island, RI and in sourcing products for her spa had a difficult time finding suncare products that met her needs. Specifically she wanted a product that was organic yet still had a great feel, texture and quality to it. There are a number of organic labeled products out there but she found it difficult to find one that wasn’t overly thick, greasy or contained questionable ingredients despite the organic label. Thus the idea was born and she reached out to me to be a partner. She knew I used sunscreen on a daily basis, it really is the best way to protect against premature aging, and since I use it so much I loved the idea of organic non-chemical based suncare products I could use on a daily basis.
MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Will: You know I’d like to say I have. Prior to AppMyWorld and Block Island Organics I worked for a number of start-ups and developed my own Facebook game and iPhone app. For the Facebook game and iPhone app I did the programming and some of the art and audio work. The Facebook game was a collaborative effort but the iPhone app was pretty much a one man job (it’s an older app called bSmart Pre-K and teaches kids letters, numbers, shapes and colors).
That said, my full entrepreneurial spirit really took off in the past two years. I’d been working for Activision Blizzard for a while and was let go when the entire Guitar Hero division was shut down. At that point I was looking for a new job and started working on these projects on the side. Eventually the projects bloomed into full blown start-ups and I just continued from there.
MO: What apps are you most excited about in 2013?
Will: That’s hard to say. There are so many out there, ha! For me the cool thing about my business is that I find out about aps I’d otherwise never have heard of. We add hundreds of new professional reviews to our database every day and thus I hear about a ton of small apps that otherwise don’t get a lot of publicity.
So for me the cool thing is when one of these unknown apps piques my interest. Thus I can’t say I’m looking forward to them because I don’t know they are there yet! Some past examples are 1Password (so I don’t have to memorize all my passwords), HabitSeed (I’m trying to learn to draw and this app helps you stick to new daily habits), GoComics (I love Calvin and Hobbes and with this I can get a daily dose) and V1 Golf (it lets me record my golf swing and even upload it to a coach, if I had one). Of course there are more well known apps I love as well like Flipboard, Zite, Field Trip, Yahoo! Weather (it’s beautiful), GroupMe and a bunch more.
MO: Do you think that there are any general misconceptions about sunscreen? What are your top tips for staying safe in the sun this summer?
Will: I’d say one of the biggest misconceptions is “buy the highest SPF you can get.” While it is definitely true that a higher SPF sunscreen provides more protection (at least from certain UV rays, more on that in a minute) it’s also true that after you get to SPF 30 and above the protective gains decrease rapidly. For example SPF 15 protects against 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 protects against 97% and SPF 50 protects against 98%. On top of that, no matter what SPF you choose, you always need to re-apply it. Sunscreen can come off for a myriad of reasons like swimming, sweating, toweling off or even a dog lick. So the first tip is one I’m sure you’ve heard before, re-apply every two hours!
Now, to the point about UV rays and SPF. SPF is only a measure of protection for UVB rays, not UVA rays. Why do you need protection from UVA rays too? Because both UVA and UVB rays cause skin damage, early signs of aging, and appear to lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, being a mineral sunscreen Block Island Organics products protect against both UVA and UVB. In fact, the FDA created new labeling requirements where a sunscreen can be labeled “Broad Spectrum” to indicate it protects against both. Thus my second tip is when buying a sunscreen, not only do you want to consider the SPF level but also make sure it’s broad spectrum.
MO: AppMyWorld is a site dedicated to reviewing apps and you are working on turning your service into an app for iPhones and iPads. Can you talk about the challenges that you’ve encountered in getting approved by Apple and what you’re doing to remedy the situation?
Will: Yeah, it’s definitely been a challenge for us. We submitted our app a few weeks ago and were unfortunately rejected by Apple due to clause 2.25:
“2.25 Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.”
So now we are trying to figure out how to revise the app to comply with this but it’s a bit difficult. For one, Apple doesn’t give much feedback on what to change. We’re in a situation where we are left to guess at what might be the problem – layout, color scheme, features, something else. There’s also been a bit of noise on the tech blogs about this issue as a well established app, AppGratis, was recently pulled from the App Store by Apple for the same reason yet there are still a number of apps that provide app recommendation services (although not by aggregating professional reviews like AppMyWorld does) on the App Store.
This adds a bit more confusion for us as it’s not clear if this is a trend Apple is going to accelerate and remove more apps or if we just need to change a few things in our app. As I mentioned, it’s basically a guessing game at the moment.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Will: Two things. One is getting our app launched as discussed previously. If we can get the app approved, it will be a big win for AppMyWorld.
The second is this summer season Block Island Organics. Over the winter we went through a complete rebranding process. We really felt the need to enhance our brand to convey the idea of having fun in the sun in a safe manner. While we certainly want to advise our customers on all the issues related to suncare, we don’t believe in scaring people into avoiding the sun altogether. Rather, we advocate embracing an active outdoor lifestyle but doing it with suncare in mind. Thus we wanted to re-brand to really emphasize this. So far we’ve updated our logo and website to reflect this belief. We’re also working on our packaging and will have some product announcements too. So all that combined makes this summer season a really interesting time for the company.
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