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[Editor’s note: GeekWire is running a series of profiles on the startups participating in this year’s class in the TechStars Seattle incubator program. Check back each day at 1:30 p.m. for a new profile, leading up to Demo Day on Nov. 1]

Mobile app developers usually publish their apps, and then hope and pray that customers use them. But Apptentive, a Seattle startup led by entrepreneur Robi Ganguly, thinks developers can do much more to engage with their customers along the way. The company has developed tools to allow app users to offer real-time feedback — bug fixes, new features, etc. — to app developers inside the app. We caught up with Ganguly, a former Yahoo manager, for this installment of Startup Spotlight.

The Apptentive team

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it“We make it easy for app publishers and customers to talk to one another in the app, creating stronger relationships and customer love.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We started building apps in 2008 and it became obvious that while app stores are great for distribution, they’re really the last place you want to have a customer conversation. As the app publisher, we wanted to own the relationships with our customers instead of Apple or Google. The fact that we couldn’t easily do this didn’t seem right to us, so we thought a lot about how to solve this problem for the long run.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap (Why): “Angel – we’ve raised a small amount of money and are moving as fast as possible. We’re focused on making our customers successful and building the right product and right now we’ve got the resources to do so.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Customer obsession. We’ve walked in the shoes of app developers and try to stay as close to our customers’ businesses as possible. We’re at the beginning of a revolution in software development and the better we understand our customers, the more successful we’ll be.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Just getting it built and having something to show prospective customers. Nothing beats a working product, no matter how basic.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Waiting. We could have been working on this earlier. We saw the problem in 2008 but didn’t really get focused on the solution that would become Apptentive until 2011.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: 
“Bezos because Amazon is customer obsessed, like us. We could learn a lot from how he’s built a company and culture that is very customer-focused. Also, we think Apptentive’s services could really mesh well with the Amazon app store, so we’d love to work with him on that.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Every company realizes that they’re in the relationship business. In a very noisy world, customer relationships are the most important asset a company can have and earning a customer’s love is the only way to ensure that those relationships are truly solid and lasting.”

Rivals should fear us because: “We’re focused, committed and relentless. We’re on a mission to make consumer communication more dynamic, effective and personalized. Our team has known one another and worked together for years and we’re building a company that uniquely capitalizes on our talents to build something that will improve the world in a meaningful way.”

We are truly unique because: “We believe in love – customer love. In a very noisy, competitive world, the only loyal customer you have is a customer who loves you. This is particularly true for app publishers, because there are well over a million apps today and there’s no sign of the growth slowing. Our product roadmap is all about empowering app publishers to engage with their customers in a way that engenders love and long-term relationships.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Working virtually. It takes practice to be productive, as a team, when you’re not all in the same place. Thanks to TechStars, we’re all in one office and it’s amazing.”

What is the most important thing you learned at TechStars? “No matter what anyone says, no matter how many people are interested in what you’re doing, no matter how many times you hear no, it’s YOUR company. Embrace it and do everything you need to do to build YOUR company and YOUR vision.”

What was your most memorable moment in TechStars? “Glenn Kelman’s mentor talk. The clarity of his thinking, his honesty and his humility were inspiring for our entire team and gave us something to aspire to as leaders.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just
starting out: 
“Just go and do it. Don’t stop until you have something to share. Hold your vision in your head, believe in it and make it come alive so others can start to touch and play with it.”

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