Posted on Wednesday 11 April 2012 by Ulster Business
The strong local presence at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive conference can be taken as proof that more and more of the province’s rising stars are thinking global in their outlook to business.
SXSW is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring, with the interactive element gaining a reputation for attracting many of the key players in the global tech scene.
Crossing the Atlantic to join them this year were local companies including gogamingo, sensormind, WorldDesk, Seed Ups, Kainos, Frank, CITZN, Kabosh, Hubb.it and iglu media, to name but a few.
But perhaps the firm that gained most visibility from the event were JamPot, the mobile software developer based on the Hollywood Road in Belfast.
That was partly because UK Trade & Investment chose its flagship mobile solution, TheAppBuilder, to represent the UK mobile industry at its UK Demo Day, which let the JamPot team demo its product to key industry contacts ahead of the main event.
TheAppBuilder (www.theappbuilder.com) enables anyone to build apps in minutes for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone, for a fraction of the cost of traditional app development. It can be downloaded for free to a desktop computer, and when the user is ready to publish an app, they can purchase a low-cost, monthly subscription to have the app published to iTunes App Store, Android Market and Windows Phone Marketplace.
JamPot CEO James Scott told Ulster Business TheAppBuilder is such a simple concept to grasp that his team came back from SXSW with around 500 business cards from interested investors and fellow innovators from tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Spotify. Traffic to its website has also spiked following favourable coverage on US sites Engadget and Fast Company.
From a soft launch in January the company is now seeing several hundred apps being built on its system every day, about half of the business coming from the US.
“We’ve come pretty far pretty quickly. The whole idea is to allow anyone to create and maintain their own mobile app. At the moment you have to be quite a techie person to create an iphone or android app. We are basically letting people publish their owns apps and update them very easily,” he explained.
While JamPot has competition, Scott believes there is no leader in this space as yet, leaving it wide open for anyone to grab.
“A lot of the other people out there have come from the bottom up and tried to solve the problem for developers, to make their lives a little bit easier, and then worked their way up to end users. We opted for a model that was for end users so that it becomes so easy your mum or dad or sister can have their own mobile app, and made it as quick and simple as possible for people to create them. That makes us stand out. On our website you can go there and in about two or three minutes you can have an app on your phone that you’ve designed. We’ve gone for instant gratification,” he adds.
Demonstrating its wide appeal he reveals that the first customer for TheAppBuilder was a wedding planner from Hong Kong, the second a car garage in Illinois and the third an e-learning company in Florida.
With a product that can be sold online to anyone in the world, there’s clearly huge export potential for JamPot and it is approaching the future with an international mindset. Invest NI is funding a follow up visit to the US for the company shortly.
“We launched in January and we’ve had a lot of interest on the back of these trade shows. Now we are growing the business and we can either grow organically and a bit slower or get a bit more money behind us. We’re coming to that crossroads where we decide do we want to push big quicker and go for it. We have been in touch with angel investors, mostly in Silicon Valley. That’s where there seems to be a big appetite for getting small companies in this space funded quickly,” says James.
“The key thing is that this is a new market, people haven’t had their own apps before and there’s no clear leader in it. That creates a big opportunity for us.”