A few months ago, after feeling the initial rush of getting a million users of our Facebook app We’re Related in just 29 days, I set up a Facebook group with an admittedly dumb name: Utah CEOs With a Facebook Strategy. It now has 488 members. We met a couple of times in Provo earlier this year. Jason McGowan and Michael Jensen from our team at FamilyLink.com shared with about 30-40 attendees how to build an app that is viral and can scale, and I tried to pump the Facebook opportunity as well as I could. I’m a true believer in what Facebook did with their Platform, as you will see from my original blog post the day they announced it, back in May 2007, when I predicted that Facebook would become the world’s leading social network. It only took a year for that to happen, as recent Comscore data shows Facebook with more worldwide users and page views than MySpace.
In the ensuing months we have tried to find other Facebook applications developed in Utah that had more than say 50,000 users, so we could invite other developers to share their learning with the group, but we haven’t been able to find any other Utah company with a successful Facebook app–so this group has kind of stagnated.
I don’t understand why we don’t see more Utah entrepreneurs anticipating and catching these amazing waves of opportunities, as new platforms open up for software developers. After all, Utah once boasted the world’s leading word processing company (WordPerfect) and the world’s leading networking company (Novell). And we still have the world’s best web analytics company (Omniture) and the world’s best online video delivery platform (Move Networks.)
Of course today the world celebrates the launch of another new platform, which might end up being far bigger and more important than the Facebook platform. Apple’s iPhone, despite today’s launch problems, will be purchased by tens of millions of consumers in the next year and hundreds of millions after that. Back in March, Apple announced the SDK that allows developers to build applications for the iPhone. Tens of thousands of developers were accepted into the official beta developers program. Today, hundreds of applications premiered in the app store. I’ve downloaded six or seven, including the ridiculous PhoneSaber app, and the silly Light app (turns the iphone into a really lame flashlight), but a few others with some promise. The iPhone is definitely the most amazing consumer device I’ve ever owned from a design standpoint (although I am more addicted to my Blackberry for its utility and more in love with my Kindle for the fact that it just does books, and I love books.) That it is now a platform for software developers makes it even more amazing.
This time I know at least a few Utah based companies that are planning iPhone apps, including one that I think will be wildly successful. And so, once again, I’ve organized a Facebook group, again with a dumb name: Utah Executives Creating iPhone Apps. We aren’t targeted developers only, as much as business people and entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of this new platform. But maybe we should focus on developers, since they are often way more into technology and are sometimes looking for the next new thing. Who knows? Only 10 members have joined this group, but maybe after this blog post we’ll get a few dozen members and organize our first get together in the next month.
If you are from Utah, and work for a company that ought to have an iPhone app, or after that an app for phones based on Google Android (read this incredible Wired article about what Google Android is all about) or the Symbian OS which Nokia recently purchased and announced plans to open source (this is really big news, since Symbian phones still have the most market share, I believe) then join this Facebook group, and help me rally some support for companies to invest in mobile software.
I’d love to see some entrepreneurs/developers from Utah coming up with some killer mobile software applications, and then showing up in the Deal Flow report on SiliconSlopes.com, the web site that best covers the Utah high-tech economy.
I sometimes miss running the Provo Labs incubator, because with each new platform there are a myriad of opportunities, but then I remember how much I love running FamilyLink.com, where we actually get to take advantage of every new platform that makes sense for families (which may exclude Google’s new Lively virtual world as well as other virtual world’s that have recently been announced) and build applications, widgets, or full-functioning software for these platforms. Our Facebook apps now have 6.8 million users and nearly 150,000 daily active users. And we actually launched on that platform about five months later than we had hoped. (We were really in bootstrap mode back then.) We may be a few months late with our iPhone apps as well, but the opportunity will be so vast in the long run, that it probably won’t matter too much.
Sign up for the Utah iPhone group, and let’s get together to brainstorm and fan the flames of excitement about mobile platforms and how Utah companies can participate in where the high-tech economy is heading.