How PointAbout helps companies get mobile

Technology 500 finalist PointAbout shares insight into the mobile app industry

Entrepreneur interview by Susan Payton
December 7, 2010
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/1485

He’s big in Germany (or rather his company is), and he’s not David Hasselhoff. His company spent virtually zero dollars on advertising in 2009, and yet raked in $2.3 million in revenues for the year. His company has won Webbys, and Seth Godin is a fan.

Meet Scott Suhy, CEO of PointAbout Inc.

PointAbout is one of the finalists in Lead411’s Technology 500 roundup, and we wanted to get inside the head of this mastermind of mobile phone apps to see what makes him and his company tick.

Suhy’s actually got two businesses in one: on the services side, PointAbout Inc. provides end-to-end mobile application development. On the product side, AppMakr lets people DIY their own apps at a reasonable price. Both have thrived over the past several years (and though AppMakr has only been around since January, it’s growing like wildfire) in a burgeoning mobile app market.

Clearly PointAbout’s doing something right in this space that is currently inundated with “garage shop" mobile app developers that are happy to quickly turn around an app at an unbelievably low price, but then offer nothing beyond in terms of consulting or advising on what to do with that app next. And it’s becoming clear that most businesses don’t know what to do with their apps. That’s where PointAbout is really shining: by providing services for the entire life cycle of the app, which includes planning, building, strategy, goals, measurement and marketing.

PointAbout sees a lot of companies who feel they’ve “got to get in the game with mobile,” says Suhy, yet don’t have a clue what their strategy or goals for the app are. Will they sell it? Make it free but have advertising on it? Use it to garner more eyeballs on their websites? These are questions PointAbout works to help the client answer, as well as help them establish goals and how to achieve them.

“We’ve got the customers’ business goals in mind, end to end,” explains Suhy. That’s why the company has such a high number of repeat customers.

From Obama to Disney

PointAbout has seen a wide range of clientele, including many government divisions, the Obama Inauguration (it won a Webby for that one),  The Washington Post, Kaplan University and ShopLocal, to name a few.

Suhy gets excited when talking about the company’s diverse projects. He’s especially proud of the iPhone app they built for Cars.com. Thanks to a SuperBowl ad, the app had millions of downloads within days of launching.

AppMakr, too, has seen a slew of different industries as clients. While Suhy first presumed the demographic for the do-it-yourself mobile app designer would be smaller businesses with smaller budgets, he’s been surprised to see larger corporations like Inc. Magazine and Accenture using the product. Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Newsweek are also users.

The exciting thing about AppMakr, says Suhy, is that businesses “who could not afford to build an app in the past can now do so and make a revenue stream” from the app. Of the thousands of apps designed through AppMakr, most have recouped their expenses through sales or advertising.

Word of Mouth That Works

Suhy says the two companies spent little to no money on advertising in 2009. Their primary driver has been word of mouth. When AppMakr launched in January, TechCrunch, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble all wrote about the product, resulting in more press pickups.

Then when news websites started creating their own apps, users would see it was designed using AppMakr, and use the service themselves. It became, says Suhy, a “self perpetuating viral model.”

The company also makes it part of its culture to have its employees participate in blogging, social media and writing whitepapers.  This too has helped spread the word about PointAbout to new clients.

“If you add value to your audience, they’ll appreciate it and return the favor,” says Suhy.

What’s Next?

Having just opened an office in Silicon Valley, Suhy is optimistic about both PointAbout and AppMakr. Revenues are about 50/50 between the two parts of the company, and 30% or more of the revenues have come from clients overseas, especially in Germany, Japan and China.

PointAbout wants to focus on helping clients with mobile strategy in the future. For late 2010, expect to see new features and functionality for Android, iPad and Windows phones apps. Suhy is also excited about several new “secret features” the company will be announcing in 2011.  As for AppMakr, Suhy sees more companies using the product for enterprise capacity and internal use. He’s seeing more companies developing apps to use internally in their own app stores. Between the two companies, Suhy expects to see five times the returns in what his companies produce as well as in revenue in 2011 from what they saw in 2010.

Given the fantastic success of PointAbout and AppMakr, I asked Suhy for his advice to startups. His advice:

1. Have a presence in Silicon Valley. The productivity increase you get from being in Silicon Valley is huge.
2. Make sure you have people surrounding you that can help with your long-term business strategy. They can assist in guiding you to what your strategy should be. He’s got a Board of Directors and angel investors that add value to his companies daily.
3. Have a really good team in place that’s dedicated to what you’re trying to do.

Interview from Lead411's blog.