Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with the Mark Kasdorf, CEO of Intrepid Pursuits

Sep 20, 2012
Music

Intrepid Pursuits of Boston build great apps for iOS, most recently Timbre a free, location-based band discovery app that finds local music and shows for you. We liked Timbre a lot and included it as one of our daily app pick selections. In today’s Developing Minds Want to Know, we meet the CEO of Intrepid […]

Intrepid Pursuits of Boston build great apps for iOS, most recently Timbre a free, location-based band discovery app that finds local music and shows for you. We liked Timbre a lot and included it as one of our daily app pick selections.

In today’s Developing Minds Want to Know, we meet the CEO of Intrepid Pursuits, Mark Kasdorf, and discover what inspired them to become app developers, where they see innovation in the app sector, how they drive downloads to their apps and what advice they’d give to those wanting to develop their own.


Key Company Facts:

Name and Title: Mark Kasdorf, CEO

Company: Intrepid Pursuits

Location: Boston, MA

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 20 Employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: Timbre on iOS


APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

MARK KASDORF: Here at Intrepid, we are extremely passionate about the mobile space. We believe mobile is going to be the future and will eventually replace personal computers in our daily life. Building beautiful native apps for companies of all sizes is the mission of Intrepid when we were first founded in 2010. While growing as a consulting business, we have strived to maintain our identity as a startup by continually contributing and participating in the vibrant startup community. Over the past few years Intrepid has been one of the fastest growing mobile companies in Boston and we attribute a lot of the success to our belief and passion about mobile.

Here’s a video of Timbre in action:

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

MK: When we first started out in the mobile space in 2010, the mobile app industry was still budding into the behemoth it would soon become. Apps like TweetDeck and Doodle Jump reigned supreme.

Intrepid Pursuits started out as a very Lean mobile consulting company, working from home offices and even out of Starbucks from time to time. We had set out with a mission of building beautiful apps for companies of all sizes. Over the past two years we have continually focused on establishing a solid reputation and client base while growing from a two employees to a full-service mobile dev shop with 20 full time employees consisting of developers, designers, and now even a marketing team!

The most significant development over the past few years is our drive to innovate and contribute to the app community with internal projects. We have managed to maintain an 80/20 split between contracting and our own creations. We feel it is very important not to overlook the creative juices which flow through our developers. By challenging and continuing to attempt to innovate, everyone from our clients to our users to our organization benefits.

Timbre is the first polished app to be commercially released, but this is just the beginning! We have many new projects in the pipeline so stay tuned.

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

MK: As an app developer we tend to idolize developers and products can funnel complex functionality into a simple, clean design that is both intuitive and beautiful. Apps like Flipboard, Path, and Pay with Square are all awe inspiring in their ability to provide a seamless user experience.

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

MK: This is an extremely tough question to answer because we have seen beauty in both UX/UI in a multitude of fields ranging from weather apps, to accounting software. Games seem to push the limit of managing a buttonless environment, however the most successful experiences often are something as simple as Instagram or Band of the Day.

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The marketplace is constantly shifting and those apps which manage to stay on top of certain trends regardless of their initial intended functionality seem to be the ones who constantly thrive. Oh… and native development is key. HTML5 while a great pipe dream is still years away from being able to compete in a performance and functionality setting.

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

MK: A good amount of our ‘innovation’ stems from working in an office with so many amazing people with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. However you also must challenge yourself and your teammates to push beyond what has already been done. By working with artificially created constraints or barriers allows for the creative juices to flow.

We attempt to participate in a number of competitions and ‘hackathons’ which generate a great environment to think outside the box in order to solve problems and generate origional ideas.

Take Timbre for example: We initially developed it at the Boston Innovation Challenge back in June. The theme was “Connecting disconnected communities” which is about as broad as it can get. Thus we decided music was a great avenue to start with.

We sat down and quickly collaborated on what it takes to truly discover new music and distilled it down to two factors. Location, and quality of the music. By only focusing on these two experiences we were able to craft a truly unique experience that wasn’t bloated with the normal feature-set that plagues a lot of apps in this genre. Getting people to listen to a band in their area, that’s it, no logging in, no need to manage your favorites, just a simple easy way to hear some great local music.

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

TIMBRE: This has been our first experience with preparing a rather traditional PR campaign, and so far we are more than happy with the results! Like most app developers who are bootstrapping their projects, we have had to pick and choose where to invest our time and resources.

With that said being in a city like Boston, where the startup scene is wonderful collective of supportive companies and people, a product like Timbre can truly thrive on a modest budget.

We have been actively involved in a wide range of product launch events, startup showcases, and mobile exhibitions in the Boston area. In addition, our marketing team and PR partner have managed to generate great presence on major technology websites, blogs and press for Timbre. We are still working hard at reaching out to our core audience which is music lovers and the bands we help promote, but we feel with a little elbow grease we will generate the results we are seeking.

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

MK: ‘HTML5 vs. Native’ seems to be a well-discussed topic recently. Mark Zuckerberg stated that “the biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native”. We are deep believers in native apps and we don’t think there is any chance that platforms like HTML5 will be able to compete for years to come.

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

MK: At the moment we are not actively looking for direct ways to monetize Timbre. We are seeking at this time to just grow awareness of not only the app but how important it is to fill seats in concert venues. Ticket and merchandise sales are the lifeblood of the music scene and many bands and artists depend upon it to keep doing what they love to do.

With that said, the next 6 months will be a great judging factor for the future of Timbre.At that time we will have a much better understanding of the music space, along with the ability and user base to begin working on a revenue strategy.

We have made plans to expand the coverage to Europe, Asia and other continents in the future as well as releasing on Android. Also on our roadmap, we are considering implementing music streaming functionalities (could be Spotify) into Timbre to transform it into a live music discovery/streaming app. We are really excited about the future of this app.

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

MK: For everyone working on your first application, the number one piece of advice is to not be afraid to show it off. The more feedback you can collect about what you are working on, the better off you are. Many clients and other developers have come to us demanding a signed NDA before any notion of what they are working on. We caution against this in most cases for the following reasons:

1. No matter how talented or smart you are, you are still too stupid to know what your clients/users truly want. You need to ask them and see how they react to your ideas as much as possible.

2. The longer you develop features in the dark the more time you could end up wasting in developing a product people don’t want or need.

3. Networking and showing off your project is a great way to raise awareness not only with your product but you as a developer. This can lead to easier PR, additional deals, acquisitions, etc…

4. Be proud of what you develop, it’s hard to work on something you aren’t truly passionate about.

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

TIMBRE: The app marketplace is a continually changing sector and it is almost impossible to predict how the sector will handle itself over the next five years. However if we take a look a year into the future we feel that we will see a rise in the amount of smart products that enable applications to run on them. One growing sector we’ve pinpointed is the medical tech sector. Pretty soon you will see tablet devices popping up in hospitals and care centers, schools are overhauling their curriculums to accommodate a more dynamic educational style, and location based applications are just getting started.

While this may not provide a clear picture of the fate of the app community, we are very excited to be a part of it!

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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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