Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with SkyGrid CEO Kevin Pomplun

Aug 20, 2012

Despite the fact that mobile devices and the Internet are making conventional television sets increasingly obsolete, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the television industry. For at least two generations, most television programming was found in printed newspaper listings and TV guides (in addition to random clicking with user-unfriendly remote […]

Despite the fact that mobile devices and the Internet are making conventional television sets increasingly obsolete, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the television industry.

For at least two generations, most television programming was found in printed newspaper listings and TV guides (in addition to random clicking with user-unfriendly remote controls). Today of course there are scores of quality apps, sites, and services that help viewers discover and revisit the shows and video clips that mean the most to them.

SkyGrid is unique in that it is an app development company that has existing relationships with top shelf media producers (ESPN, CBS and National Geographic to name a few). The company’s TouchTV app beautifully showcases brief video clips from these and other providers, and lets users prioritize those programs most meaningful to them.

In the inaugural edition of Developing Minds Want to Know, we speak with SkyGrid CEO and founder Kevin Pomplun about creating media convergent applications, why he is bullish over Facebook Timeline app ecosystem, and why it pays to focus on doing one thing very well.

Key company facts:

Name and Title: Kevin Pomplun, CEO & Founder

Company: SkyGrid

Location: Silicon Valley

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): Under 20 employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: TouchTV (iPad, Facebook, Web), SkyGrid (iOS, Android)

APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

KEVIN POMPLUN: We thought the iPad was special. We thought it’d be great for reading and watching. SkyGrid is all about reading to stay up to date. Because of that we thought the iPad was ideal for SkyGrid. When the iPad launched and we were featured on the Apple iTunes homepage, that let us know we’d designed something people really liked. That felt great.

Then we were re-inspired all over again with TouchTV. We were fortunate and LG asked us “could we do SkyGrid for TV?”

On iPad, you choose the sources you read. On TV, you could choose the channels you watch.  Instead of having to go through all the channels every time, you can have just what you want. Then SkyGrid for TV became TouchTV. After designing TouchTV for LG Smart TV, we all wanted TouchTV for iPad. And we’re excited with the response so far.

[Editor’s Note: Here is a clip of Pomplun showcasing TouchTV at the CEO Showcase for OnMobile 2012]
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APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

KP: Since the launch of iPad in April 2010, design is the big difference. We always tried to build delightful products. But it takes a lot of creativity and focus to do really great design. We’re more excited than ever to keep designing really simple and effortless products. Take TouchTV. The homescreen is one single seamless sheet of glass. The video player is just one swipe. And even if you don’t swipe it just keeps playing. The best apps when iPad launched were the best designed, but even more so now.

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

KP: Maps on iOS 6 looks great. It lets you see cities and landmarks from the air. It’s like flying around in a helicopter and being able to see anywhere in the world. Spotify is exciting too. We all listen to music with friends. But until recently it was kind of isolated. Now getting ideas of what to listen to from what your friends do is great. Aereo is interesting. What you can watch where is certainly changing.

All of these apps change what you can see in the world.

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

KP: Facebook Timeline is a big deal. Let me share how mobile apps show us why that’ll be the case.

With mobile there are a standard set of apps we all expect. Things like Phone, Messages, Browser, etc. Then when an app gets really big it becomes part of that standard set. LikeFacebook/Twitter/LinkedIn for social. Or Instagram for photos. Marc Andreessen wrote a great WSJ article about this time last year. It’s called “Why Software is Eating the World.” It talks about how almost every industry is being reimagined or reinvented with a softwaresolution.

Now connect that back to Facebook Timeline. There are a lot of activities we enjoy with friends. Music, sports, TV, and others. Just like there’s a standard set of mobile apps. There will be a standard set of Timeline apps. And because Timeline apps connect you to more of yourfriends, these apps will grow faster and become bigger than any apps before.

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

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KP: We’re excited about it. TouchTV is a timeline app. TouchTV is all about mobile. TV will be mobile. It will be experienced more and more with friends. With TouchTV we’re focused on taking the first few key steps.

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

KP: Great design and happy users. Whether you’re designing an app for iOS, Android, Facebook, or the Kindle Fire, everyone wants to give their users apps they enjoy. By focusing on great design, it leads to happy users. When users are happy people talk about your app with friends. And when enough friends start talking about your app it creates recognition in the App Store, which leads to more people using what you create.

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

KP: Having been fortunate to design for several platforms, it’s amazing what you can do. We don’t see much limiting us technically on individual platforms. Designing from one platform to the next is key. We focus a lot on a native experience. If you’re on Facebook we want you to feel like you’re on Facebook. If you’re using an iPad, we want you to feel like you’re on an iPad.

When apps try to quickly translate one app to another platform, that can create technical constraints. But that’s not how we’d approach the design.

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

KP: We will offer advertising tailored to the interests of our users. With mobile and social there are a lot of exciting things that haven’t been possible before.

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

KP: Focus on simplicity. Doing one thing really really well makes a big difference. Almost all great apps seem to have one unique and defining capability.

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

KP: A year from now TV everywhere should truly be happening. Many people will watch TV on many different devices. Five years? I’m sure there’s a lot of amazing things that’ll happen.

Five years ago the App Store didn’t even exist! We’re excited for the future.

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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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