Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

You have an idea for an app? Come to Mobile Portland on Monday to learn what it takes.

Out of all the conversations I’ve had with individuals who have had ideas for apps, the one I had with Miloš Jovanović stands out the most. That’s why I’m so pleased he is going to be telling his tale at Mobile Portland on Monday.

Most of the conversations about app ideas have similar characteristics. Someone has an idea for an app. They think it will be a hit. They don’t have the technical abilities to build the app. They don’t know what it will cost. And they’re trying to figure out how to make the app a reality. So they ask me for advice.

I start by sharing some articles that I’ve found that describe how much app development costs.1 We’ll talk about how it isn’t enough to simply build an app. You need to have a business plan. That you need recurring revenue to maintain the app. What happens if you build it and they don’t come?

And that is often the last I see of the individual. The app never gets created. I always feel bad to see their ideas die, but simply having an idea isn’t enough to be successful.

Screenshot of SpaceView appMiloš was different from the beginning. Yes, he had an idea for an app, but he set himself apart in our first meeting by demonstrating how much research he had already done. He had domain expertise. He wanted to learn everything there was about how to build an app and a business.

He had even gone so far as to hire someone to build a crude, throwaway application just so he could see what the process was like.

And Miloš didn’t just distinguish himself during our meeting. He has shown perseverance in his pursuit of his vision like no other person I have met. He has been working on making his vision a reality for two years now.

There are many points where it would have been easy to give up. And even now, I don’t know if SpaceView, that app that Miloš is building, will be successful.

What I have no doubt about is that Miloš will be successful in whatever he does.

And I now have a simple answer when someone asked me what it takes to build an app: you need to be as persistent and dogged in pursuit of your vision as Miloš has been.

If you have an idea for an app and you’re wondering what it takes to build one, I highly encourage you to come listen to Miloš on Monday at Mobile Portland. It’s not to be missed.2


  1. In case you’re curious, here are the articles that I’ve found do a good job of describing how much it costs to build an app.

  2. I realized as I wrote those words how sad I was that I’m going to miss the meeting. I’m going to be in Boston speaking at An Event Apart. I’m always sad when I miss Mobile Portland, but this month is a double whammy. I’m not only missing Miloš, but I’m missing out on an opportunity to see Urban Airship’s new offices. :-(

Welcoming Tyler Sticka to Cloud Four

We’re pleased to announce that Tyler Sticka is joining Cloud Four today.

Tyler is someone whose work I have long admired. His portfolio speaks for itself. He has designed games, created illustrations, guided projects, and teaches a course on web standards.

Most importantly, he is passionate about the web and pushing the boundaries of what it can do. I think he will fit in nicely. :-)

On an unrelated note, when I started to write this post, I searched to see what I had written when Matt Gifford joined Cloud Four back in 2011. I realized that we had been remiss and had forgotten to write something back then.

So in hopes that it is not too late to remedy that oversight, I wanted to belatedly say that like Tyler, Matt was someone we knew and admired from his role in the tech community. Not only has he become a critical member of our team building complex JavaScript applications, but he has stepped up as the primary organizer of Mobile Portland’s monthly meetings.

The best thing about starting Cloud Four has been the opportunity to work with an amazing team. I feel truly privileged to get to work with some of the smartest people I know.

Amazon at Mobile Portland on Monday

AmazonAlmost every month we have great topics and speakers at Mobile Portland, but every so often a meeting comes along that I personally cannot wait to see. This coming Monday, November 12th, we have Amazon here to talk about the Kindle Appstore, and I’m estactic.

Basically, Monday’s meeting is a big freaking deal. Put it on your calendar and RSVP.

Why am I so excited about this meeting?

First, there is the simple matter that I feel many of us have a blind spot to the Kindle Appstore. It’s Android apps, but not Google Play. While the Kindle Fire has sold well, it isn’t as clear to me how many people are buying apps on that platform.

Basically, I’ve got a nagging suspicion that we should be paying closer attention to the Kindle platform and that Amazon represents a really interesting competitor to Apple, Google and Microsoft. But that on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget or to simply treat it as an after thought to Android development.

So I’m keenly interested in learning more about what Amazon is doing and what opportunities looks like. I want to learn more about what Amazon can do for developers and entrepreneurs that other platforms don’t. I want to understand how to maximize our potential on the Amazon Kindle platform.

We’ve got a great speaker

Aaron RubensonThat would be enough, but we’ve got some other amazing things happening this month. First, our speaker is top notch. Aaron Rubenson is in charge of the Amazon Appstore for Android. This is a testament to how much Mobile Portland has grown that Amazon is sending down a senior member of the team just to speak to the group.

I’ve also heard from members of our community that Aaron is an exceptional speaker. His talk entitled Monetization Trends for Mobile Games is available on YouTube if you want a sneak peek.

New location and catered event

We’re also in a great space this month. Ziba Design has graciously offered to host the event and is providing beverages. They have a beautiful auditorium that they designed themselves including an innovative seat design that you have to see. It is truly something to behold. And if you like the space, they’re hiring right now. :-)

We also have MetroMile sponsoring catering for the event. MetroMile is new type of insurance that rewards people who drive less. So the idea is pretty cool, but what’s more interesting to me is that they’ve got some technology for tracking miles you’ve driven that connects to your phone. How they do it? I don’t know. I’m really curious to find out.

This is a meeting you don’t want to miss

Seriously, this meeting is going to be a big deal. Hell, we’ve even got professional event staff this month. Big times I tell ya!

You’re not going to want to miss it. Make sure to RVSP today.

A Big Day for Lucid Meetings

Last year, John Keith, one of the founders of Cloud Four, started a side venture called Lucid Meeting. John doesn’t like Lucid Meetings to impinge on Cloud Four which is why you haven’t heard much about it on our blog. It is also the reason why I’m writing this post without his knowledge (sorry John!).

John and his co-founders at Lucid Meetings set out to make meetings that don’t suck. We’ve complained for years about rudderless meetings with no agenda, no leader and no follow up.

They decided to do something about it.

So Lucid Meetings started out focused on providing a way for people to set agendas, focus meetings, and take action items out of the meeting. Over the last year, it has grown into much more than that including:

  • Meeting minutes
  • Screen sharing and pdf presentations
  • Time tracking to keep people on task
  • Voting on motions and recording of decisions
  • Integrated conference calling

It is the last one that they’ve made big improvements on today. They’ve just shipped:

  • Free toll calling for every room up to 50 participants
  • Volume discounts for businesses that want to switch over

Those may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but the changes are huge because the combined solution is better than current web sharing and collaboration software at a price that is significantly cheaper.

Basically, you get something better and save money. Pretty much a no brainer if you’re doing any web conferencing or running remote meetings. Check it out.

What’s even more exciting for me is that all of this has been built by a small team with hard work and passion. They’ve had no outside investment. And they’ve built something that I think will have a big impact.

I’m very excited by what they’ve done thus far and what they’ve got planned on their roadmap. Congratulations to John and the Lucid Meetings team!

Mentoring at PIE, Your Start Up Opportunity

I am honored to be a mentor for the next version of the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE). It is a great organization and the next version of it promises to be something really special. If you’re thinking of creating a start up, you should apply to be part of the program.

I’ll admit it. When PIE was first announced in 2009, I didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what Wieden and Kennedy was doing or why.

But despite not getting it, I still had a strong affinity for PIE. When my friends started Urban Airship, PIE was its first home. When Mobile Portland outgrew the space at About Us, PIE hosted our meetings.

PIE was attractive because it was vibrant and full of smart people. But until I read Rick’s history of PIE, I still didn’t get it.

All of that time, I couldn’t believe the W+K and others would donate space to a big experiment. I thought there had to be some master plan that I just didn’t get. They said it was an experiment from day one, but it took me reading about the various versions of PIE to finally get that yes indeed, it was a grand experiment.

Which is why I’m so excited about what PIE has now become. The experiment had results. And those results include:

That’s an amazing list. The three other companies in our building—Bank Simple, Uncorked Studios and Urban Airship—all spent time at PIE. We owe a lot to PIE.

Which is why I’m so happy that PIE is getting serious about its role as an incubator. They are taking applications for startups right now—the deadline is August 1st so apply soon.

And mostly, I’m looking forward to mentoring some fantastic new startups and helping PIE add them to the list above.