Questions and answers with Opinionaided CEO Dan Kurani

May 19, 2011
Tech

Things got a little heated when Dan Kurani and his team at Opinionaided set out to launch their first question and answer application on iOS devices. “There were numerous whiteboard sessions, all-nighters, and almost-fistfights to get the extremely complex early prototypes to something more simplified,” he explained. The virtual blood, sweat and tears have paid […]

Things got a little heated when Dan Kurani and his team at Opinionaided set out to launch their first question and answer application on iOS devices.

“There were numerous whiteboard sessions, all-nighters, and almost-fistfights to get the extremely complex early prototypes to something more simplified,” he explained.

The virtual blood, sweat and tears have paid off. After launching its first iPhone app in June 2010, Opinionaided earlier this year raised $1.2 million in venture capital funding. Recent updates to the app gives Opinionaided the ability to leverage its community intelligence to “get answers instantly” notes Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz.

In this edition of of Meet the Makers, Kurani discusses its soon-to-be released Android application, details the development and marketing advantages (and challenges) of creating apps on iOS and Android platforms, and why he realized more community functionality needed to be deployed after the release of Opinionaided’s first app.

Appolicious: There are a lot of question and answer services online and via mobile applications. What specifically makes Opinionaided jump out from the pack?

Dan Kurani: Real-time responsiveness. We have put as much time in making the question-asking experience as we have into the responding experience. This has driven substantial speed in the time it takes to get responses, because parties are engaged on both sides.

APPO: With tens of millions of responses to hundreds of thousands of questions, your app needs to manage a lot of data. Talk about the process of designing the interface to make it intuitive and accessible to consumers with iOS devices.

DK: The process to get to an intuitive interface to handle this volume of data involved a regular building up and tearing down of the app and backend, even before we released version 1 of the app. There were numerous whiteboard sessions, all-nighters, and almost-fistfights to get the extremely complex early prototypes to something more simplified. We just kept hammering at it until things were ready (aggregating answers, bubbling up recent comments and replies, etc.).

Our work wasn’t over when we launched the first version. We realized we needed to provide more social functionality so we went through the process again and again until we created an app that was both a helpful utility to users while providing an ability to react to comments, connect, and converse.

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APPO: Earlier this year, Opinionaided raised a $1.2 million venture capital round. Walk us through how the proceeds from this round are being invested.

DK: We are using the investment to improve the core experience and functionality of the application while extending the service to other devices and media. One of the most important goals of Opinionaided is to build a loyal user-base and grow the community in a way that allows us to provide a great user experience. So in addition to development of the app, we have been building real-time moderation technology and training a team that can help nurture the growth of a positive community.

APPO: Are there current plans to develop an Opinionaided app for Android devices and other platforms?

DK: We recently launched the website (www.opinionaided.com), mobile web (m.opin

ionaided.com), and are currently polishing up an Android version. The Android version is slated to launch with some new features in concert with an updated iOS version this summer. Other platforms, mobile and tablet, are being considered.

APPO: Why did you decide to develop an app for iOS devices first?

DK: We were users of the device and we fell in love with the iPhone. When the concept for the app was originated, neither iOS nor Android existed. iOS just happened to be the first platform that would support the idea.

APPO: In your opinion, how far apart are iOS and Android in terms of distribution opportunities as well as tools to develop applications.

DK: For us, Android and iOS are pretty far apart. Android requires more rigor in interface design because of the size/device variations. However, Android allows for quicker version releases due to the speed of the submission process. This gives the developer the freedom to iterate quickly, test quickly, go live quickly, and repeat. This also means that Android apps may be less stable, but more exciting with typically newer features. From a distribution standpoint, Android is fragmented and democratized which creates more of an opportunity for a higher number of developers who are willing to work hard.

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iOS makes it easier to design the user interface, because you know exactly what you are going to get—albeit a few functional variations depending on the platform release. The release cycles are a bit longer because you don’t get a second chance to tweak quickly if you don’t get the design right. For instance, let’s say you are testing for three days every time before a release and it takes 7-10 days for approval by Apple. As a developer, you know that it’s going to be 10+ days for every release so you try to make each one worthwhile. We rarely take the risk to put something out quickly without careful testing, because you can’t pull an app back quickly. As far as distribution, it’s one avenue: getting featured in the App Store. If you make it, your road is paved in gold, if you don’t, you have to work at adoption.

APPO: What are the three biggest concerns in the mobile media space that keep you up at night?

DK: The three things that keep me up at night are only partially mobile media driven:

1. Worrying about what things we don’t know. Such as whether we created a new feature that solves the problem in the right way.

2.  Our community. If the feedback is positive I can sleep, if it’s not then I can’t sleep.

3.  A constant stream of ideas to make the product better, and how to implement these ideas.

APPO: When can we expect additional app titles and tell us more about what is next for you and your company.

DK: We want to keep making Opinionaided better, which includes the application and the community. There is so much to do on both counts. We are going to keep adding new features such as user location to the app. We will also extend the service to new platforms, and keep working to make the community more helpful.

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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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