Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Qello CEO, Brian Lisi

Sep 18, 2012

Qello is a multi-platform digital syndication service that delivers high-definition concert films and entertainment content across a variety of channels including smart TVs, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones. It’s a perfect way for music lovers to enjoy their favorite artists from anywhere. The Qello app topped our iOS Apps of the Week back in March […]

Qello is a multi-platform digital syndication service that delivers high-definition concert films and entertainment content across a variety of channels including smart TVs, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones. It’s a perfect way for music lovers to enjoy their favorite artists from anywhere. The Qello app topped our iOS Apps of the Week back in March and also received a glowing review from Appolicous Advisor Jesse Sposato.

In today’s installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, we talk to Brian Lisi, CEO of Qello, about why he became an app developer, where he sees innovation within the sector, the technical constraints he’s faced, and where he sees the future of the mobile app industry heading.

Key Company Facts:

Name and Title: Brian Lisi, CEO

Company: Qello

Location: New York City

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 33 employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: Qello for iOS and Android (also Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Facebook, Kindle Fire)

APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

BRIAN LISI: The unprecedented access that mobile now provides has allowed us to instantly reach and connect with music fans worldwide in a way that wasn’t possible just a few years ago. As a longtime music fan myself, delivering an innovative music experience and fostering a passionate global community around that experience through mobile apps is what inspires me everyday.

Here’s a brief promo video from Qello outlining the main features of the service:

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

BL: My first app was on Symbian in early 2005, and then I moved to BlackBerry Enterprise Server in 2006, which felt revolutionary. At the time, financial services were leveraging mid-tier platform data through the BES module, which essentially allowed the device to act as a dynamic app.  If only we could have done that on a Motorola StarTAC! Fast forward to now, and consumer phones have essentially become sophisticated handheld computers with more processing power and features than many of the laptops back in 2005. The possibilities of what can be done on today’s mobile app platforms like iOS feels light-years ahead of what was happening even a decade ago.

APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why?

BL: Well, that’s tough. I am not much of a gamer, but respect the immense effort that goes into game development. The apps that inspire me most tend to be the ones that enhance my everyday life, such as productivity and social media apps. I use Evernote and Pulse every day. Both apps deliver required information when I need it and provide efficiency and value to my busy schedule. From a UX/UI design perspective, I was impressed with National Geographic’s National Parks app. In my opinion, the best apps are those that find that perfect balance between visual eye candy and simplified, intuitive design — essential qualities for a satisfying mobile app experience.

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APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

BL: As more and more people are turning to mobile apps and the Internet as a primary source of entertainment and news, I definitely see cross-platform accessibility and capturing a user on a second and third screen as important breakthroughs right now. Of today’s handheld technologies, smartphones may have the shortest viewing sessions, but they are the most used devices and often serve as the gateway for people to learn about new apps and services. From that “lean forward” introduction, one key to long-term adoption is when that content is consumed on additional or sequential screens that provide a more “lean back” experience, such as a tablet or HDTV. This is especially true for video.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

BL: We’ve found that users of Qello often discover the app on a smartphone and when they learn that we’re streaming the video to them in HD quality on broadband Wi-Fi connections, they’re eager to experience that HD video on larger screens, such as tablets and TVs. That’s one of the reasons why we work so hard at making Qello available on all major mobile app platforms, smart TVs, and via AirPlay technology like Apple TV. We pride ourselves on not only offering the Qello experience anytime anywhere, but that cross-platform immersion also encourages music discovery. We like to think of Qello as the “Indiana Jones” of content whereby uncovering and restoring classic music moments like Elvis or Motown that are one-of-a-kind, along with introducing new audiences to emerging indie bands like The Metric or Surfer Blood. Very few (if any) media firms take stock in putting as much effort into this kind of comprehensive music curation.

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APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

BL: Getting downloads is not the problem. It’s filtering the users who are real music fans and making sure they see how special the service is. With regard to awareness, we are fortunate enough to work with artist camps and labels on cross-marketing digital premiers for our content and service that allows for a more focused marketing user acquisition strategy.

APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

BL: Fragmentation is probably the most common among developers and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. For video, it’s the mobile carriers upgrading their networks to handle the demand of usage. If there were more favorable data plans coupled with MPEG-DASH streaming standardization more apps could leverage video.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

BL: We are a monthly subscription service that allows users unlimited consumption on up to five devices. Our business driver is to generate enough subscription revenue so our content partners partake in the profits and produce more content. We support the artists.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

BL: Please don’t try to be another Angry Birds. I would strongly suggest developing a prototype before entering massive development cycle. Create a basic app, give a good funny or whimsical name, description, and test in the market to see if there’s a need. Give a list of features not yet existed; ask for customer’s suggestions and feedback. If needed, create two different versions, keep experimenting and you’ll eventually find a niche.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

BL: I think it’s going to be all about larger screens. We are in the first pitch of the first inning with ubiquitous mobile usage especially pertaining to video consumption. Long-form audio-visual is exponentially increasing month-after-month and if the connected TV space can wrangle enough awareness and well-made platform technology, the experience will be commensurate with the hype. Five years from now I hope I am in Positano, Italy, sending hand-written letters due to no Internet connectivity.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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