Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Randall Cross, president of Ethervision

by Brad Spirrison

Randall CrossEven if the name Ethervision is not familiar to you, you probably know their apps. Their track record is strong, and the company has created and published over 50 apps. When it first went live in July 2008, Ethervision had three of the very first iPhone apps available to customers in the iTunes App Store

Ethervision’s portfolio includes apps like WWTouch, iSign, Scriblist, the RC Heli and RC Plane franchises, and plenty more. In this installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, we talk to the company’s president, Randall Cross, about what inspires him, how he harnesses innovation, and what advice he offers new developers.


Key Company Facts:

Name and Title: Randall Cross / President

Company: Ethervision

Location: Chicago

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): Boutique of 7

Primary Apps/Platforms: iOS primary; Android secondary


APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

RANDALL CROSS: When the iPhone first came out in 2007, we knew that this was the beginning of a whole, new world. We loved the apps on the iPhone and how much they helped make our lives easier. We downloaded the SDK as soon as Apple made it available and the rest is history.

Here’s a video of Scriblist, a great way to manage your handwritten notes and lists on your iPhone:

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

RC: We developed three of the first 50 aps on the App Store when it opened in July 2008. So, we date to the very beginning. The biggest difference is that there are now almost 700,000 apps and so now you must have a solid marketing plan in order to get noticed and get your app downloaded.

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

RC: The apps that inspire us the most are the ones that are the simplest and most intuitive to use. Most devs try and keep adding feature while the best simplify and remove excess UI. Clear is a good example.

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

RC: Oh wow... where isn't there innovation going on? I think games always push the limits on how to best monetize apps. Also, the real time sign translation apps using AR are pretty mind blowing.

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

RC: We harness innovation by building prototypes with the core functionality early in the process and then we all play with it over and over to see how we can simplify the app and how we can lay it out for the user so that a 3-year old can figure it out.

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

RC: Our biggest mode of promotion is through our own marketing channels starting with our Twitter account, @iPhoneteam, of 260,000+ iPhone followers. We then have a network of other influential Tweeters and we also promote from within our other apps. Without this voice, we would have no chance of getting noticed. We now help other companies market their apps.

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

RC: We are lucky. Aaron [Basil], our lead developer is as creative a coder as you can get. If it can be done, he can do it. We see no constraints, only endless opportunity.

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

RC: We have tried every monetization method out there. We structure the app monetization differently in every app. We are currently leaning towards in-app purchase model and pay upfront methodologies.

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

RC: Set aside money right away for marketing. This ecosystem is mature, you will NOT be magically discovered without getting seen. Also, ask yourself everyday not "what feature can I add to make the app better?", but "how can I refine and simplify this app so that the core one or two features are as fun and intuitive to use as possible?"

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

RC: Five years from now? The hobbyists and real players will further be stratified by marketing budget and apps that genuinely have a deep understanding of what people really want and how they are most likely to pay up.

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