Meet Ian Naylor Founder of App Institute: Making Mobile Apps Easy

App Institute

The biggest mistake I've made with previous businesses was not to bring in seasoned advice, in the form of a non-executive director/chairman.

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AppInstitute is a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider based in Nottingham, UK and founded in 2011. AppInstitute’s cloud-based service aims to reshape the App market by providing a SaaS platform that allows businesses and individuals with little to no prior technical knowledge to create their own mobile App for iPhone and Android devices. Via its web-based platform, AppInstitute provides its users with a complete solution to enable them to harness the growing demand for mobile apps and the business growth they can facilitate.

 Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is App Institute all about?

Our Business Apps CMS provides an easy to use platform for creative industries, SMEs and individuals to build their own smartphone app for android and apple devices. Using our intuitive drag and drop CMS interface, anyone can build a mobile app for their business without the need for any coding or tech skills, simply select one of our popular business app templates or build an app from scratch in minutes.

We’ve created 20 core modules that can be customized and adapted to suit every business need, from product shopping, secure messaging, custom forms, custom quizzes, geo directory, video and image gallery, food ordering, in-line html browsers, social media integration and loyalty program. Users have the ability to design their own layout, customize colors and brand their app using logos and images so the possibilities are endless.

In addition to this, the cloud-based platform gives users full control to update their content 24/7, send Push Notifications and view and respond to customers’ actions from the App.

Whatever your business type, a mobile app can help you stay connected with your customers, promote services, improve brand perception, enhance communications and increase your sales and bookings.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?

I was working in a tech incubator company in Sydney Australia. One of the ideas we incubated and ended up being very successful with (it was used by clients such as Yahoo Australia) was a web-based Content Management System (CMS), to allow the easy creation of niche, high editorial websites, without any tech skills. This was in 2009, just at the start of the iPhone and AppStore revolution, and one day I had an “Aha moment”, that wouldn’t it be cool if our CMS could build apps, rather than websites. Within three months I left my position (Vice President) of the business and spent the next 12 months hunkered down in Thailand working on concepts. Once the concept was refined and focus refined to the SME market I moved back to the UK to start the business, and haven’t looked back since.

Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?

We’re always looking for ways to improve our product offering for our customers, our core SaaS platform is always the focus of our project improvements. Recently we have implemented GEO fencing, which allows our customers to set location triggers, to send Push Notifications and loyalty offers. For example a business may choose to GEO fence a competitors business, so when an existing customer visits their competitor they can automatically send them a Push Notification, offering a discount, to visit them instead.  Our tech team are incredibly excited about our open API project that we’re working on, which will allow our customers creating apps on our platform to connect their apps to any other system or solution that they’re using.

Q:What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?

We believe by embedding ourselves in the creative industry, working closely with other creative agencies, providing the tools to allow them to help their customers grow we are enabling a win-win-win situation.

The end clients win by getting best in class mobile solutions, that add real benefit to their business, their customers interaction with them, and bottom line.  All at the fraction of the cost of custom app development.

Our partners, the creative agencies using our platform win, as they get to offer a new product line, without having to invest in expensive mobile developers, and can just focus on adding in their own value through creative design.

We win by leveraging our partners customer base, enjoying the benefits of building a platform at scale, and creating best in class solutions.

As a result of the execution plan we have, and continue, to grow 100% year on year in terms of revenue and more than 200% year on year in staff numbers, which has a direct impact on the local ecosystem.

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Q: How do you bring ideas to life?

Stimulation of original ideas begin with our company culture and core values, that gives every employee the freedom to think creatively, without the stigma of failure.  Core values can be seen here: http://appinst.co.uk/site/about – one of our five core values is Be Crazy:

To innovate we need to be a little crazy, think out of the box and be agile. Don’t be afraid to fail – fail fast and learn quick, to find the best solutions for our customers and business.

We believe that by providing in an environment that promotes open communication, supports and nurtures growth and creativity, we will continue striving to deliver, make progress, go live and keep moving forward.

Q: What’s one trend that really excites you?

As a consumer myself, I get really excited about businesses being able to offer just in time loyalty and reward offers, such as the Geo Fencing Push Notification discounts and coupons. I think we all love a bargain, and providing small businesses with the tools that previously have only been made available to big businesses, with big budgets, is extremely gratifying, and of course I love taking advantage of these offers as well.

Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?

  1. The biggest mistake I’ve made with previous businesses was not to bring in seasoned advice, in the form of a non-executive director/chairman. Someone who ideally has industry experience, but more importantly can provide advice from a different advantage point of your business, a step away from the day-to-day. Its all to easy to get sucked into the detail, and not see the wood for the trees, a NED will help with this.
  1. Not scaling quickly enough and taking external funding. Bootstrapping is good whilst you’re proving the model, but once you’ve proven the concept and its time to scale, you really need to look to external investors to grow properly.
  1. Not investing in culture. Any business really is the sum of the people, to attract great people, and make great workers you need to foster core values people can believe in. Expecting employees to get your passion and give their all, without clearly communicating and investing in the business culture, is a hiding to nothing.

Q: How do you go about marketing your business, and what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?

We have created an awesome channel partner network.  We have focused heavily in recruiting partners who understand our product and the value it provides.  Our channel partners provide an important link to our end customers and give us a leverage and scale of a business a 1000x bigger.

Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur – and why?

  • Belief in your own abilities to get things done, and the vision you have.
  • Ability to clearly communicate your vision to others, if you can’t get anyone else to buy into that you’re a one-man-band, not an entrepreneur.
  • Multi-skill. Starting-up and running a business, especially in the early days means where a lot of hats and multi-tasking, the more skill sets you can grasp the easier this will be.

Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?

  • Google App Engine – This gives our SaaS infinite scalability, without having to worry about underlying technical architecture.
  • Adwords/Analytics – Being able to A/B test, throw some traffic at it, and incrementally improve sales funnels, sales copy and such like is incredibly simple, easy and low cost with these tools
  • UserTesting.com – An awesome resource to see what you don’t when people look at your online product/Website.

Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?

Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?

Just do it, ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Q: How can we get in touch with you?

Twitter: @AppInstitute

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/app-institute

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/appinstitute