founder

Founder Profile: The Founder Building The Squarespace of Apps That You Can Invest In

Summary

Only several years ago, mobile app design was still a hefty and burdensome process that only a fraction of businesses could afford to effectively produce and maintain. The complex architecture design and thousands of lines of code required to create such an app, is limits to an exclusive group of skilled developers.

We are now witnessing the adoption and explosion of automated design builders—popular website services like Wix have opened the way in which businesses and individuals approach their online presence. What used to cost thousands of dollars and months of work, now only requires a mission and a modest eye for design.

It was only a matter of time before this traversed into the mobile app space. As a matter of fact, iGenApps has been excelling in that space for years. Their mobile app platform allows users to create their own apps, whether it be for business or individual purposes, at a relatively negligible cost and effort, right from their own phone. I sat down with iGenApps’ founder and CEO, Norman Ortiz as he expertly translated these complex ideas into very simple ones.

Chris Lustrino

You have an interesting background in pharma and tech. How did you end up founding iGen?

Norman Ortiz

In 2010, I ended up being laid off from a pharmaceutical company. Since 2000 I had been doing consultancy for small and mid-size businesses; as well as online marketing, logo design, branding, and touchscreen dashboard implementation for pharmaceutical companies. I was frequently looking to find a way to offer apps to my customers and complement their websites. Although I used to code before joining the pharmaceutical space, I couldn’t find any viable app development solution I could use that didn’t require learning many different coding languages and methods.

While I was still involved in the pharmaceutical industry, I was often subcontracting developers and took more of a project leadership role. Within these roles, I acquired a great amount of hands-on experience dealing with both, customers and users who were not inherently tech-savvy or could not intuitively learn how to use the technological tools in the industry. Much of my time was spent listening and learning about their troubles and frustrations. I became really adept at both, understanding the basic needs of the end users and translating those needs to developers in a way that was simple for the users to navigate and utilize.

Apart from those skills I developed, my main background is in industrial engineering. I am Six Sigma certified, so I have always paid close attention to the optimization and efficiency of any software or process that I come across. Because of that mindset and my background in design, there was a defining moment when it all came together in order to tackle this need to build apps without the extensive coding work. I wasn’t able to find this service for myself, so I decided to create a prototype in Excel that was generating JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files just by pressing a button after inputting select values and content into certain fields. That’s how it all started and, since 2012, we now have an app that has been live and helping people build their own apps through mobile devices.

Chris Lustrino

For those that don’t know, how do you define iGenApps as a business?

Norman Ortiz

iGenApps is a platform for people, especially celebrities, artists, business owners,  event planners, teams and organizations, that want to create an app without the need of complex coding and having high development costs.

Chris Lustrino

What other options currently exist to service this market?

Norman Ortiz

On the web there are many small and big players. There is a wide range of websites to build apps, and they all vary greatly in terms of quality and pricing. In foreign countries and the millenial generation have shifted from being a PC oriented consumer to be more of a mobile first consumer. That is why iGenApps will end up being the best solution for them on the short and long term.

Chris Lustrino

User growth has been astounding, what marketing tactics have you taken to drive this type of growth?

Norman Ortiz

Most of our user growth has been mostly organic. Early in 2012 I was participating in conferences, pitch events, and a lot of press coverage, and we received a lot of new users early on organically. At that time, our pricing and business model was as refined and polished as it is today, which is subscription-based. When we started out, they were only allowing magazines and digital content to use subscriptions as a method of payment.. I knew it would happen eventually, but people have caught on and began to appreciate the model even though we were slightly early.

Right now we rely on organic growth and word-of-mouth. People are talking about our platform, and since we are an app referred to by Google, our SEO allows us to show up on the first page of Google if users search “how to create a mobile app” or similar phrases from any mobile device.

Chris Lustrino

Are there any industry stats you can provide to give us a sense of the growing opportunity within the mobile app space for businesses?

Norman Ortiz

There are countless industries that can take advantage of building these mobile apps. A specific example could be a wedding planner that offers a wedding app for the event so that they can post and share images. There is a lot of potential in the event management space overall; any sort of conference event can also easily utilize this service to share similar information.

Businesses that are more oriented to providing content can very effectively take advantage of this opportunity. It would be incredibly useful for a surgeon, for example, that wants to showcase their work, and the same applies for professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants, realtors, etc.. Businesses like radio stations, dealerships, DJs, restaurants, and any other small enterprises can use the platform to connect customers with their content. Yet it’s not only optimized for businesses building their own app; developers can also create apps for other people in their area. If someone is interested in generating extra money or begin a new business, they can download our app and start charging whatever they want to build apps for their local businesses.

Chris Lustrino

How do you charge customers for your service?

Norman Ortiz

The latest monetization we have is based on subscription. The model has been changing since our inception, though. We connected with people at our booth in South by Southwest and collected first-hand feedback from people in order to know if they were understanding the model we had at the time.

Thanks to that feedback, people can now understand what we offer, how to get what they need and find it affordable. They can also request premium services that will allow them to convert their app into a native format  or we can develop custom screens for them. Custom screens could consist of something like connecting to salesforce data or a login screen at a very low cost.

Chris Lustrino

Why did you choose to utilize the WeFunder platform, and can you talk a bit about your experience?

Norman Ortiz

My experience with WeFunder has been amazing. They quickly understood our priorities and goals that we were trying to achieve; I didn’t do much fine-tuning to put together our campaign. Overall, it has been great experience.

Chris Lustrino

Can you speak to some of the feedback you have received from customers and some of the success stories with businesses having major successes via the apps they build?

Norman Ortiz

Off the top of my head, I can tell you two instances that have embodied our mission and purpose. One was a gentleman, around 55 years old, who signed up 5 years ago. He wanted to stop working as a handyman and decided to build apps for other organizations around his local Houston area. He began by building an app for his church, and then built apps via our platform for local restaurants and other local business and individuals. This shows you that people can start building apps at any age. We also have 8 year old kids using our app to create their own apps.

Another great story is about a local AM radio station in Puerto Rico called WAPA radio. They were very early adopters of our platform and have been our customers ever since. The designed it so that their audience could stay informed and listen to their live streaming through their app.

Chris Lustrino

You provide a solution that is available globally. How does a global solution cause challenges for the business?

Norman Ortiz

It certainly is a challenge, but it’s something I wanted to do from the beginning. Because of that, we have the architecture in place to make it easier. One of the challenges you need to think we supporting multi-languages, is how to effectively translate the content. For example, the Russian language has very long words, which can potentially alter the design if not properly adapted and formatted. Once you create the app, there are also certain things like dates and time that have to be adaptive depending on the user’s country. Dates and time in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, for example, will not be formatted the same way as they are in US, so we need to make sure we manage that effectively.

Chris Lustrino

What do you plan to utilize this capital for to grow the business?

Norman Ortiz

It depends on how much capital we raise. One of our big plans is to expand our business into the Chinese market. We are just getting our app in 6 different Chinese marketplaces, but still need capital to get the momentum going by updating the app language to Mandarin and getting it advertised in Chinese. The other plan is creating a web version of the platform which can allow users to build or complement their building experience from a PC or a mobile device. We need the capital to grow our development efforts and team.

Chris Lustrino

What is your vision for the company moving forward?

Norman Ortiz

I can see iGenApps evolving into something like Wix, a very well known platform for building apps. It would also be exciting to see joint ventures with other companies in similar spaces, such as hosting services and website builders like Weebly and others. It would be immensely beneficial both for us and other larger companies to develop these partnerships or collaborations in the future.

Trends in the mobile app space change faster than anyone can anticipate, yet I can’t help but feel enthusiastic for iGenApps’ future to come. Norman has an invaluable mix of proactivity and experience that complement his seamless engineering mentality. I can be certain that he has both iGenApps’ and its competitors’ moves planned out far in advance.

What seems like a simple and somewhat obvious advance in technology is far from such; in a mobile app design market where reliability and efficiency mean everything, only those with a near-perfect track record can realistically come out alive. iGenApps seems to be on the right track, and possibly have been there for some time.

New technology and our growing collective online presence is far too often seen as exclusive by nature, especially for those not having grown up with the technological know-how to understand these new trends. Say what you will about our virtual interconnection as a society, but bridging the gap to those who want and need it is worth every effort.

Many thanks to Norman for our fantastic conversation. I wish nothing but the best for him and the whole iGenApps team in their exciting future to come.

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About: Chris Lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

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