How to stay 5Degrees ahead in creating an app for professional social networking

Aug 19, 2011
Tech

While LinkedIn made some noise this week with significant updates to its iOS and Android applications, a recently launched app-conceived service called 5Degrees is making a play for mobile professionals. As Appolicious Advisor Phil Hornshaw detailed in his Fresh Apps column: “The app lets you import Contacts from your iOS device and access their online […]

While LinkedIn made some noise this week with significant updates to its iOS and Android applications, a recently launched app-conceived service called 5Degrees is making a play for mobile professionals.

As Appolicious Advisor Phil Hornshaw detailed in his Fresh Apps column:

“The app lets you import Contacts from your iOS device and access their online profiles and social networking feeds so you can keep track of what they’re saying, what they’re up to and how you can engage with them.”

In this edition of Meet The Makers, we check-in with 5Degrees founder Jeb Ory to discuss his company’s plans on syncing with additional social networks, the upcoming launch on Android, and how he hopes to use channel partners like Intuit and Salesforce to drive discoverability.

Appolicious: In 50 words or less, explain the value proposition of 5Degrees and who the target audience is for the app.

Jeb Ory: 5Degrees is the contact management platform designed for the busy, mobile professional. We built 5Degrees to help us move offline relationships with people into our active network. 5Degrees will allow people to manage all of their relationships across their social graph, email accounts, and their entire personal and professional world in one place, on-the-go, and back at the desk.

APPO: The app currently integrates native contacts found on the device. What is standing in the way of syncing with Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn and other networks and what is your timetable for doing so?

JO: Just time! To do the integration correctly, we have to do things right. We launched our MVP–minimum viable product–at the Chicago TechWeek–which was about 3 weeks ago. Native contacts were just a great place to start. We will be launching version 2.0, which will allow you to import your contacts from LinkedIn, Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook around September 12th. Down the line, we will allow for integration with a dozen or so networks over the next few months.

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APPO: The app was released a few weeks ago. What are you doing to increase visibility and drive downloads?

JO: We have already released 2 updates, thrown a launch party, and we are in the process of acting on feedback that is coming in directly from users, both from direct conversations and from our CrowdSavvy feedback survey within the app. I blog on a regular basis at the 5Degrees Blog and contribute regularly to Tech.Li and Built in Chicago.

APPO: How do you plan on driving downloads over time?

JO: We have already seen strong early metrics on usage and update downloads, and we are just getting started. We will be employing a variety of techniques to gain visibility, including SEO, SEM, vertical focus among a few key industries, and channel partnerships with companies such as Intuit and Salesforce. For example, we are eager to integrate with the Intuit Quickbooks API so we can offer our app suite on their Intuit Partner Platform. We attended Intuit’s CloudJam developer week and we are attending Dreamforce, Salesforce’s developer event in two weeks. We live blog from these events, which helps increase our exposure among key influences in the small business community.

APPO: Are there plans to develop the app for Android devices and other mobile platforms?

JO: Glad you asked! Yes, we are planning on launching version 1.0 of our Android app on September 12th as well… plus our 1.0 web portal and a dedicated iPad app. So circle that date!

APPO: Tell us about your company, including number of employees, products and amount of money raised or generated to date.

JO: 5Degrees was spun out of The App House. We realized that there was a much bigger opportunity staring us in the face, just waiting to be solved. We have four partners, including a CTO, Kilton Hopkins, that codes (like crazy), two full-time developers, and some awesome interns. We launched an earlier version of 5Degrees, called GitBax, in April of this year to test the concept and to determine if it made sense to pursue. A cohort of heavy users convinced us of the opportunity. We have raised $150k in partners capital and friends and family funding, and we are targeting a Series A in late fall.

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APPO: What are the three biggest challenges and opportunities in the mobile media industry keeping you up at night?

The biggest challenge is also the biggest opportunity. Things are moving so fast in mobile that a few key insights in development can put you light years (in mobile, that’s about a month) ahead of the competition. That can lead to more exposure, traffic, and ultimately revenue. Of course, if a competitor beats you to something, then they get the first-mover bump.

Another huge opportunity: Translating the greatest developments in social networking and mobile gaming into business applications. We feel that business applications have a long way to go to become as usable as some of the top games. We are building a business around this opportunity.

A final challenge is discoverability. While we can count our direct competitors on one hand, we are also competing for blogtime and share of mind against hundreds of thousands of other apps. Platforms such as Appolicious help address this challenge, but we are always on the look out for ways to increase our visibility in the most cost-effective manner–which is why we are very interested in channel partners such as Intuit and Force.com (Salesforce).

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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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