Viafo reminds us a bit of the old BASF marketing line about “not making the products you buy, just making the products you buy better.” The Seattle upstart is trying to do the same as it relates to mobile applications, helping app developers enhance their offerings by integrating them with Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook. David O’Neill, the founder and CEO of the 5-person startup, chatted with GeekWire about the company’s prospects ahead of its expected launch next month at The Muther of all Hackathons and DevCon event in Silicon Valley. A 42-year-old entrepreneur who previously worked at the anywhereyougo.com mobile internet lab in London, O’Neill also shared some startup lessons on why it’s important to sometimes kill off what you’ve been building.
Explain what you do so our moms can understand it: We make it easy for mobile developers to add and maintain services like Twitter and Facebook in their apps without having to learn the APIs.
Inspiration hit us when: We saw a bunch of people hit by the “Twitpocolaypse” and then had to drop Facebook integration from an app we were building. There HAD to be an easier way to do this.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. But we’re looking. :) We started by working on easier ways to build mobile apps and won some early deals. We also had some early offers to buy us which suggested we were probably on the right track, so we wanted to see how far we could get without taking on funding.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Secret. We’ve all been working in mobile for over a decade and have a lot of insight into things that work and don’t work regardless of the platform they’re built on. Bringing this knowledge and experience to mobile gives us our advantage.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Decide to kill about half our solution. It was a technological dead-end and after months working on it we realized the market didn’t want it and we were getting no where with it. Stopping, taking a critical look at what we do and what the market wanted was the right thing to do no matter how hard it was.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Spending too long going down a dead-end of our own making. When it takes 5 minutes to explain what you do, it’s too complicated. Getting our solution pared down to something that could be explained clearly in 30 seconds took us far too long.
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Gates. Microsoft has proven time and time again they had the ability to keep coming back into the game, and the company he built is surviving his leaving. We want to have that kind of longevity.
Our world domination strategy starts when: Mobile devices and connected devices are a unique way for organizations to communicate with their customers but organizations are not really taking advantage of that. Over the next few months, perhaps a year at the outside, people are going to stop seeing mobile as something unique and separate from the rest of their strategy and realize it’s there with their Web, marketing and social strategies. We want our Services Gateway to be the glue that binds all these different systems together.
Rivals should fear us because: We’ve a deep understanding of mobile and the related technologies gained over years in a variety of fields. It gives us a great edge in knowing how to build something that’s more than just another plug-in for iPhone. We’ve also got a year head-start on them.”
We are truly unique because: We’ve spent so much in and around a huge variety of mobile and wireless technologies.
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Cashflow. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved through bootstrapping, but dealing with cashflow and slow paying lead customers is a daily headache.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: It’ll take longer than you think. We’re coming up on 18 months and we’re only just reaching a point where we can start paying even small salaries. It’s been fantastic, (and) it’s been worth it.