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[E4C7] A Mobile App that Helps Over 600K People Discover Their Planet While Reducing Waste – Steve Echtman of HearPlanet

Can mobile apps save the planet? You bet they can. HearPlanet is the world’s largest audio guide, covering hundreds of thousands of locations around the globe. With over half a million voice files, HearPlanet is like having a professional tour guide always by your side. HearPlanet includes perspectives from different publishers and personalities, and even other visitors like you. Not only does HearPlanet help you discover the world around you, it cuts down on paper waste generated from single use maps, tourist pamphlets, brochures, and guides.

Steve Echtman, Founder of HearPlanet, shares with us:

  • What it takes to build a mobile app that reaches over 600,000 registered iPhone and Android users
  • How to create and acquire content at nominal cost
  • How to attract and work with major content and distribution partners
  • Mobile application monetization strategies that work

Mentioned in this Podcast

Where to Find HearPlanet

Full Episode Transcript

Lorna: Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really excited to have a mobile application covered in one of my case studies for sustainable business. I would love if you could share with us, what exactly is HearPlanet first of all.

Steve: My pleasure Lorna. HearPlanet is an audio guide to the world. We deliver narrative audio information about points of interest all over the planet. We have a platform with over 300,000 points of interests. So the entire world is covered. We have over 650,000 users that have accessed the application.

Lorna: So you are talking about points of interests like national parks, or museums, ancient ruins perhaps, like Machu Pichu?

Steve: Exactly! We have a ton of content on all of those places that we’ve brought into HearPlanet we provide for our users and our users and our partners can actually add content and continue to build out and provide specific information on a specific locations that are really valuable to them and to their customers.

Lorna: Wow, it sounds really cool. So, can you tell us what some of the sustainability attributes are of HearPlanet?

Steve: Well first of all, HearPlanet, is all digital and it exist in the cloud so we don’t print materials. I like to say we don’t do dead trees. Anytime, we can deliver our marketing materials, deliver our communications. Electronic is the best way. We can propagate that more quickly. It’s zero cost, zero impact on the environment to replicate that and to send to one or even a hundred thousand or a million people.

Lorna: I have to say, as much as I try to walk my talk, sometimes is really kind of hard. I mean, when I show up to a national park and I get a trail map, sometimes I’ve gone to the same park and I’ve picked up the same trail maps, multiple times and eventually they all end up getting recycled. So I’m really glad that you are offering people an alternative to basically picking a single use brochures, maps and pamphlets to tourist locations which will then get burned in the trash immediately afterwards.

Steve: Right. And we find that we are working with our partners who are generally in the tourist industry and they print a ton of materials. They have to have these things printed every year if not more frequent basis. They spend tens of thousands of dollars printing these materials that they distribute, stick in card holders and ultimately, either get picked up by users and thrown out, hopefully recycled like you do or when a new batch comes in, they would have to throw the outdated materials.

We replaced all of that. So we can actually create multiple mobile applications for partners less expensively than the cost of their print run.

Lorna: You know I think it’s actually so much cooler too. The kind of content you provide because let’s say you have a pamphlet or a map and it folds out like that. It’s pretty much it. That’s all you’re going to discover about that locale. But if you have something a little more dynamic that maybe other users add around that particular point of interest then you could potentially have other people’s opinions and really cool things you wouldn’t have discovered that some hikers discovered nearby. So it’s so much more versatile and rich, the content that you guys offer.

Steve: That’s right and it’s never stale. Pamphlets, the moment it comes off the printing press, even when you ship the file to the printing press to get it printed, it’s already outdated. You might come up with something you want to change and the only way you can change it is to throw out all of that paper and start again.

With our application, all you need to do is log on and edit your listing or edit the location through our content management system. We make it super easy and changes go live right away.

Lorna: You guys also have a green tour as well in your app right? I remember you mention something about that.

Steve: That’s right. We are building a green channel so HearPlanet has lots of different publisher partners that provide content. And then we have channels that subject matter, almost like a television network that might have different programs. That’s how we organized HearPlanet. We are working on a green channel which will include content from different publishers, especially Bay Area Green Tours where we already have content. We’ve already worked with Green Zebra which has a lot of relationships in the Bay Area and we are looking to expand that out on a national and global level and include all of the green oriented locations, even businesses within this one channel.

Lorna: That is so awesome! You could have like a city based green tour and every local like for me as a traveler and a tourist, when I arrive some place, I want to figure out where I can go, where I can get organic vegetarian food for example. And not feel like my choices are limited because I don’t know like the layout of the city or what options there are so I think this is going to be a really great service for eco-friendly tourism.

Steve: That’s right. We can highlight the farmers markets every major city and even a lot of the minor cities have regularly scheduled tour at farmer’s market so, how do you find that. It think every traveler has the kind of information that they are looking for so we get to provide that to everyone.

We get to give you what you want as a green tourist. We get to give you the ecologically sound locations to visit and we can do that. Someone else might be interested in architecture, somebody else in history and archaeology, so we actually customize our content automatically to our user based on their preferences.

Lorna: Totally! I mean, I know that like when I travel, I also want to stay in green hotels as well or like places that are yoga friendly. It’s always a challenge to find those places. Just to identify those places, I spend hours, actually, researching on Google. I went through pages and pages for example, just to find a Yoga retreat center in Honduras.

I’m very much looking forward to have that developed. I’m curious, what inspired you to create HearPlanet?

Steve: Well, originally, this was one of those ideas that you have, you see a need and I happen to be in Europe at that time travelling in Berlin and taking walking tours. I was actually travelling through Europe but where I would go, I would want to get the feel for the city and find out about the local culture, get information and do it generally through a walking tour. Everywhere I went there were walking tours scheduled with great guides that

The biggest issue I had with that was the scheduling and the logistics. Generally, they were not given necessarily everyday and necessarily not times when I have chosen and I also have a really inexpensive cellphone that I bought. This was back in 2005 and I picked up an inexpensive Nokia phone and I realized that there’s got to be some way to bring all these knowledge to people electronically through these devices. And this was well before the iPhone came out.

I started building business plans and really looking at it as a viable business model. I ran into some road blocks along the way because of price and specially when I was looking at providing this as a service over the public switch telephone network which was the only way to do it then before we had these data plans.

Lorna: What year was this are we talking about?

Steve: Not that long ago. I guess it’s eight years now, 2005.

Lorna: So you’ve been incubating this idea for eight years.

Steve: Right! It was one of those ideas that was just like the dog that’s got you by the pants leg that it’s just tugging and won’t let go and I was looking for a new business to throw myself into. I have downsized my previous company which was an internet services business. I’ve come from production and commercial production and marketing is my background from before that and I was looking for “what’s the next big thing?” I was looking for something big to throw myself into that I could really birth into the world and hand over to humanity.

This is one of those ideas that I didn’t know was going to be “the idea” at first but it was one of those nagging things that just wouldn’t let go until finally I said, “Okay, I’ve got to do this and really the tipping point was when smartphones came out and we had all you could eat data plans and it was super inexpensive to deliver the information. Then we just had to figure out how to build the service and populate the service with tons of contents.

Wherever you are in the world, you could find relevant information about the places around you.

Lorna: Wow, so you actually had to wait for technology to catch up with this. You have your innovative idea but the rest of us, like the world was not there yet.

Steve: Right, I think it’s Guy Kawasaki who actually taken a liking to HearPlanet who I to quote and said “If you’re early you’re wrong” So I think we are right on time. And I see it this a little surfing metaphor you know, “You need to catch the wave just right. If you’re too early, you’re going to get wiped out in the tunnel. If you’re too late, the wave is going to pass right under you and you’re going to be paddling out there and it’s going to be feudal.” You need to really paddle at the right speed, at the right time. Catch the wave when it hits and then ride it into the shore.

Lorna: That’s absolutely true. I see this a lot too because sustainability can be seen specially in many niches and many even regions. The concept of sustainable business is cutting edge but it’s very difficult if you are the first mover in your particular niche because you are going to incur all the tremendous cost of educating the public.

Steve: That’s exactly right.

Lorna: So, was it kind of easy for you to do this since you had a background that is somewhat techy? Do you know how to develop apps or do you just know in general what it would take to manage a project like that?

Steve: I think both of those things. I’ve always been a project oriented developer. I’m not a programmer myself but I’ve always worked with programmers to achieve the goals of a project. So whether it’s creative goals or technical goals, I can inspect those requirements and find the right resources and work with the best in the industry to build those things.

I have a lot of experience from prior projects building things that didn’t really work out right and through that experience I think it takes a very sober eye on what is it going to take to get this done and then focusing on the minimum viable product to get something into the hands of users that’s useful, that’s measurable but that doesn’t try to do too much too soon.

We’ve only developed HearPlanet over the last three years. We’ve developed it in stages. We put together that viable product that was almost more of a proof of concept and we delivered that to users and we got a huge amount of feedback and even press coverage more that we would have expected.

And then, we have continued to build out the vision for the ultimate product, the ultimate platform that anybody can add content, we can segment that content like we are talking about so that if somebody is interested in the green locations we can give that to them. And it was only over time and iteration and really seeing what was in demand, was the original vision still true, where do we need to shift our vision to provide the best application, the best product for our user base. And we are still on that path.

Lorna: So can you help us understand for those of us that want to actually get into mobile applications because that’s like the next big wave, what does it actually take to build a mobile app. Can you walk us through different stages from having your initial concept to deployment? What would an entrepreneur that wants to do create mobile app have to go through.

Steve: So the first and foremost you need to define your product. Most original ideas come with, “Okay, I want to create XYZ and you need to refine that continually and edit that down to what is really the base core feature, what can I get to users first that’s going to have value.”

A lot of times, people will come with grand ideas. Everybody wants my advice, being somebody that’s done it, created something valuable that has a lot of potential out there, everybody that has an app idea sending me an email now, “Can you listen to my story”. And that’s the first thing I’ll tell them. Before I’ll even listen to what somebody has to say about their idea, I’ll say, I’ll them what a minimum viable product is and ask them if they’ve defined it and documented the minimum viable product regardless of what their grand vision is. Because if you can’t define that and achieve that, you are not going anywhere. You’re not at step A, you’re not going to hit step B and step C.

You really have to look at it as an incremental process.

Lorna: I want to highlight too how important that is because I speak to a lot of visionary entrepreneurs that can’t seem to get beyond like the grandiose project idea that becomes more and more big and complex and then it becomes too difficult to implement first of all and it becomes really difficult to raise funds for the project that’s under the sun.

So the viable product is definitely a great starting point.

Steve: Right, look at some of the writings of a book called Lean Startup by Eric Rees and he is on the successful entrepreneur on the speaking circuit. Lots of videos and slideshare presentations that you can download and look at to really get a feel for what we are talking about here.

Lorna: Ok great, it’s called the Lean Startup. I think I have that in my Kindle. Awesome. Ok, so minimum viable product, and then what next?

Steve: And then you figure out who you need to develop that. If you’re not a programmer yourself, you need to learn programming or you’re maybe a developer and that’s great so you can be your own boss and you can get something out the door or you need to find someone who has the technical skills that are specifically suited to what you are trying to achieve. Just like, there’s so many different things out there. You need a different skillset so mobile technology is really an extension of internet and of programming and uses both of those technologies heavily.

Now you can do more with basically what we are calling mobile web applications and there’s a lot of different companies that are building toolkits that allow you to write once in an HTML and a web based platform environment and then deliver that to different applications as native applications. So users might not even know that this is really just under the covers of websites that’s wrapped in a native application so can be put on the store. So you can have it in the Android Market or the iPhone App Store or the Windows Marketplace.

Lorna: So, where do you go about finding that qualified developer person. I think that’s one of the most challenging areas for a lot of entrepreneurs who are not developers or don’t really know how to program or manage a development project. Where do you find first of all that particular talent and how do you assess whether the talent is good?

Steve: That’s really difficult. You’re really starting off with a strike against you, unfortunately. I hate to say that but if you have not managed developers before and you don’t have a working relationship with developers, you really have a hurdle to be able to find specially in this climate were anyone who has worked salt? is very marketable to find somebody that will come on and work with you to develop something that is really going to achieve your objectives.

I would say, a great way to start is to go to meetups. See what meet-ups are in your area. If you don’t use meetup.com get on that service and look for or just search for mobile meet-ups and you’ll find tons of different meet-ups geared to different technologies. And I would start going there, learning the different technologies read up on what the industry standards are.

If you want to build something that is cross platform and you want to do it less expensively and maybe building a mobile web app is the way to go. Look at things like phone gap. Look at the things like app mobi. Look at some of the frameworks out there that will allow you to do that and then go to the meet-ups where developers that are using these toolkits congregate.

Lorna: So what about sites like rentacoder.com which I think is now vworker.com and oDesk?

Steve: You can use these services. You want to be in control of the development environment so it’s really hard. You can get a really inexpensive labor especially if you use some of these services and you outsource overseas to Philippines, to India, the Russia. You can get a lower hourly rate from developers but if you’re not a developer and you’re not needing this perks and then you can’t read the code, you really don’t know what you’re getting. And you’re really taking a huge leap and this is where a lot of people have gone wrong is they’ll engage someone because they’re getting a great deal and it’s most of the time a crap.

If you don’t have somebody that you know somebody you already trust that can supervise and be involved with you in the process to look at what you’re getting to what you’re spending and know if that’s valuable code, you don’t want to get into a situation where somebody takes you down a path, makes lots of promises and then you don’t have shipping product and you don’t have product that you can leverage to bring to the next level.

Lorna: I would completely agree with you. In my experience managing web projects, I’ve burned through six developers. I’ve been left more often than not with half baked projects that were abandoned and had to get that someone else to start from scratch and basically abandon. Like the broken deliverable that I received and it happens quite often to entrepreneurs that are trying to even just create a website or ecommerce site where they’ll hire inexpensive company from a cheaper part of the world and then they’ll actually abandon the whole thing and take a hit at what they spent because it either doesn’t work very well or works but it’s poorly coded and practically impossible to manage.

You’re absolutely right about the importance of finding a good developer and there is indeed a learning curve if you don’t already have the experience because you’re going to need to know how to determine between good code and bad code. (Laughs)

That can really impact your business.

Steve: You’re completely right about a lot of times entrepreneurs will think, “Okay if I have to switch developers, at least I have this code and I’ll just hand it off to the next guy.” But code is not like that.

You’ve got to find somebody else and it’s going to be more efficient and less expensive for them to start by scratch 90% of the time. So 90% of the time, you’re going to throw out all the money and all the code that you developed the first time.

Lorna: Yeah, I noticed the last thing a developer wants to do is to build on top of someone’s crappy code. (Laughs)

Steve: Even if it’s good code, the last person may have been a great coder. The new person may be a great coder and they just might have different languages and toolkits they work with so it’s not an advantage to the new person to come in and start trying to learn and break down how did the last person do this and learn the particular set of tools.

You really have to anticipate. You have to know that the person you are engaging is going to deliver what you want. It’s specified down to a tee. Because the other thing you don’t want to get involved with is someone where you agree on one thing, projects always change midstream, it’s not going to be exactly the same thing that you end up with that you thought you’re going into it because there are decisions to be made along the way and things are going to come up that you decide that you need. Other things will come that you decide that you don’t need. The project’s going to change. And if you don’t have a good understanding with your coder they’re either going to drop the project or they’re going to start charging you for every incremental change regardless of whether or not it’s bigger or smaller than the initial spec concept.

Lorna: Interesting. Very good words of advice. So let’s say you’ve identified a great developer and you’re building the product. What next?

Steve: Well, next hopefully you’ll get a shipping product and then you can actually monitor how it’s being used. You can get it out into the wild. Whether it’s just a proof of concept, you can start to get real users using your product and giving you valuable feedback and that feedback can be any number of ways. You can have phone interviews with your users. You can create surveys online using tools like Google Surveys or Survey Monkey. You can just watch what you’re doing with your analytics.

It’s very important to instrument your analytics and know what you want to measure. Know what the critical things are, what the success points are and what are the metrics that you want to grow. And make sure that you’re measuring those, you have a way to monitor them and you can continually look at that and see. Is you application scaling up? Are you user’s session lengths getting longer and longer? Are your cohorts getting better?

There’s lots of ways that you want to instrument to watch what’s happening with your applications that you can make those incremental changes that increase those metrics that are important to you.

Lorna: Okay, so when you talk about getting it out to the wild, that means listing it in the iPhone apps tore and the Android market for example?

Steve: Right. Publishing it in whatever way you’re planning to publish it. So it could just be a mobile website. It could be a mobile web application that doesn’t need to be put into the store. You just give people a URL and they go there and use it just like they use it on mobile website. And it could also be something that goes into iTunes stores so you’ll publish it into the iTunes store, it’s now available to the public. Same thing with the Android market which Google has just changed the name of. I think it’s called Google Play now if I’m not mistaken.

Lorna: So, build it and they will come not. Lots of people build apps, they list them in all the right places. The iPhone app store, the Android market, etc.. but how do you go from being a one app floating out there in the see of apps to one that reaches over 600,000 registered iPhone and Android users?

Steve: I’d say marketing and PR. Just building it. It’s a very crowded space out there. If you build something and you’re sitting out on the desert and you have no traffic, you can’t expect anybody to find it.

Just your initial family you might get a slew of downloads of 20-30 people that you have in your circle that are willing to spend the time to go and download your application. But that’s not going to get you traction. So you need to go market strategy.

Just like any other business, your marketing to your users and you need people to download and use the application. So that’s a whole, another conversation that we can get into but I think it comes down to, go to market strategy, how are you going to achieve that, how are you going to break through the noise and in a sea of over half a billion applications, I believe.

How many are exactly in the store right now. But there’s quite a few applications out there in all of these markets and you need to be able to cut through the noise.

Lorna: So what are some of the marketing strategies that you found really effective for HearPlanet?

Steve: Mostly PR and getting our partners to promote our application as well as our promotions. So we don’t do a lot of paid advertising but we use guerilla marketing tactics. We use co-marketing strategies.

We use point of presence marketing and we use a mix of these things that were also measuring the success of because we can see where people are downloading, using our applications on a geographic basis.

One really good thing about mobile applications, specially like websites. But now you have a geographic component and if that’s something that you are tracking, where are my users coming from, you can actually see what your hits are based on your media achievements are.

Today for instance, I just received a google alert that we are covered on CTV and I’ll look at our metrics later on today and see what kind of response we have from both their television coverage and their online component to that.

Lorna: Very cool. When you’re talking about points of sight, you’re talking about having a little advertisement in a touristic attraction area that says, instead of getting our pamphlet, download HearPlanet, is that what we’re talking about?

Steve: Right, that could be a window sticker that could be another brochure that we don’t go through as many of them. Hopefully, if we print up brochures, people share and they just need to see the name, they download it and leave brochures for the next person to take. But we do point of sale, point of presence. So if somebody’s already out travelling and this is something that’s going to be interesting to them, they get the message.

We get a lot of partners that have created listings in HearPlanet and we look to them to promote HearPlanet so that their neighbors are also promoted. It’s a little bit like cooperative marketing.

Lorna: I want to ask you about our partners, but my question about content and partners is very much link.

So, first you have launched, you released your application and first you’re kind of a nobody like no one knows who you are. And then at certain point, people start taking you seriously. And then after certain point, you start hooking the wells, attracting really big content and distribution partners.

I’m sure a lot of that is tied to your content as well. So first you have no content and then you have tons of content. And the more content you have, the more interested the big partners are to work with you. So, I guess maybe we can start this question from the very beginning which is, what it did take to populate your app with your initial library of content. And then, how did you get it to scale to attract more and more content virally on its own through users, etc.. And then at what point did you start to be able to sign on some major content and distribution partners?

Steve: From the beginning, we knew that we needed to have content on our application for it to be useful. So the very first thing we did is we spent a lot of time working with OpenSource or licensable content that we could leverage. We looked into some of the big content stores.

Obviously, Wikipedia is something that came to mind really early and what we need to do to leverage that community to providing content that we could deliver within those licensing restrictions and we went ahead and we did that. And probably that was were we spent early on, spent the most time initially so that we could launch a product that we have real relevance that people could use wherever they were.

Lorna: So did you hire people then to basically pull content off of Wikipedia or did you engage the Wikipedia editors to upload content into your app?

Steve: Well, it was done in-house. But we had to spent a lot of time and algorithms and normalizing content and data. That’s not normalized and formatted in the way that would be useful to us or somebody else doing what we’re doing.

Because we were providing this in an audio fashion, we had to make sure that we could provide it in a way that it was a really good user experience that we wouldn’t be voicing things that really are not relevant to the users.

That took significant amount of time.

Lorna: How long did it take for you guys a to get a notable and attractive content base to them start to attract other partners to start doing that for you?

Steve: Once we had that, once we had a populated product then it’s about users. So if we’re talking about content partners they’re really interested in our user base. If you don’t have users, it’s going to be really difficult to get people to bring content because they’re going to put effort and time into creating contents and then adding it to your site or your application and if there’s nobody listening to it, then I can feel like I took an investment and time.

So by having an initial content, we were able to get a real large initial user base. HearPlanet’s objective is to scale both users and distribution. And they are inter-dependent. But more users begets more distribution. Equally, more users gets more content and vice versa. Users come for content and content comes for distribution.

Lorna: Okay, so how many users you need to have before a big respected organization like a national geographic who wants to work with you?

Steve: I think for each organization that might be different. It really depends. Our conversations with major distribution partners and major content partners that’s part of the conversation. Not only where we are now, but what is the partnership bringing both partners. So we need to look at what are the values, I can’t say there’s any one number that if you have x users then you can get this partner or that partner. It doesn’t really equate like that. You need to have your interests aligned and then the partnership realize that this is something we’re both partners need to benefit to a greater degree and the cost involved in executing the partnership.

Lorna: So what is your monetization strategy with HearPlanet?

Steve: Right now we have a premium application. We have a free application so anybody can download the product and get the content that we and our publishing partners want to distribute for free. Beyond that, users can pay for HearPlanet and they get more features. They get more control over which content partners they are being exposed to. They can choose to eliminate some of the paid content and they have more control over their experience.

We also have other monetization plans that we’re beginning to play with. But we don’t want to go too far into those. We are still in the testing phase. And we have a really interesting plan for that but the question is it’s really about when do we move forward with that. When is the right time based on our life cycle and when we are choosing to drive, we are looking to build value first and capture most of our value after that.

Lorna: Okay, so you have freemium and then you have premium. How much is your premium application cost?

Steve: Right now, for iPhone application it’s priced at $3.99 and Android application is priced at $2.99

Lorna: So in terms of other mobile application monetization strategies in general, which one typically works? I’m sure you’ve looked at several models and depending on where you are. You may be considering some versus others, but generally speaking, if an entrepreneur want to begin to mobile app development, what types of monetization strategies typically work well in that market?

Steve: There are a lot of different companies that you can align with, that you can add their SDKs to your application so that you can serve advertising within your application. We don’t serve banner ads in our paid or free applications. It’s just not the way that we feel. We don’t feel that it’s good for the user experience and we don’t think we’d generate enough monetization out of it to make it worth the reduction in the experience to the user. But a lot of big companies go that way. It really depends on how large your user base is going to be.

If you want to make any reasonable amount of money off of banner advertising on mobile, you need to have a lot of traffic. A successful news site might be able drive all of their revenue off of that sort of advertising. It really depends on the application.

You’ve heard of Apple has iAd. There’s different more immersive type advertising. HearPlanet sees itself really working more with monetizable content in the long run than with selling incidental banner advertising.

Lorna: So after you actually developed your content based which I imagine cost some kind of initial amount of investment, pretty much now, your content is merely user generated these days?

Steve: It’s a mix of content so we have anybody can go to our website and they can add content about their location. They can add action buttons as we call them where users can see that content, they can tap to call, they can visit your website, they can send you an email directly. Any user can share the content that they find in an electronic post card either in Facebook, email, text message.

Our content now is coming from our content partners and our users and anyone else that wants to add content. We are not out aggressively marketing.

The ability for people to use the application to spread their own messages. We will start to do a little bit more of that and we want to retain a quality experience for the users so we’re always looking at the balance of that. We have to give the users a great experience and let locations and people express themselves using the platform.

Lorna: So, I imagine that bootstrap in viral marketing, it was very important to you as a scrappy startup entrepreneur. And that’s pretty much what we have to do when we don’t have a big budget, big marketing budgets that come with large enterprises. I’m curious about some of the marketing strategies that you found that worked best for you?

Do you have moments when you’re like “Wow, that really got us a lot of attention!?

Steve: We do a lot of guerilla marketing. That’s something I really love because it’s challenged and the questions, “How do you rise above the noise?”

Anybody can buy advertising and it takes a lot of money to buy advertising billboards. With enough money, you can put yourself on the map. But how do you do it without and I think that’s exactly it, it’s viral marketing.

How do you build the relationships to get you noticed? How do you get other people talking about what you’re doing.

We had a very successful launch event that put us on the map early on. We continue to do interesting relationships where we are adding value to someone else who is going to deliver the message about HearPlanet become an evangelist for us.

And how do we build those relationships? For us, one of our major events was having a tour bus and plastering it with HearPlanet banners and bringing it to a big convention center for Mac World and giving people a different kind of experience. So when people came up to us and said, “Where is your booth, we want to come visit your booth?” I would just say bus. We don’t have a booth. We have a bus.

That just blew people away. It wasn’t something that anybody else was doing. How can you do something that breaks through the noise and gets you noticed.

Lorna: So the bus was cheaper than the booth?

Steve: Bus was cheaper than with the booth. We had a partnership. So we partnered with a tour company and they provided a bus. So through partnerships, you can get in kind donations that could blow you away.

There’s a lot of beverage companies that will for a little bit of a mention, if you create what’s called a buzz or whatever that vehicle is for you to launch your product and get it out there. A lot of people can create meet-ups.

What if you create a meet-up around that thing that you’re trying to create and invited your partners to present?

One of the things that you could position yourself as a center-point for something going on and then just like what you’re doing right here. I think everybody can do that for their business. Create themselves as the hub then bring in a lot of spokes where they bring traffic to what you’re doing.

Lorna: I think you deserve an award for your Mac World publicity stunt here. You got the party bus donated to you and you save thousands of dollars in not having to pay for conference booth.

Steve: Exactly. You pay for printing and we paid for beer.

Lorna: That’s awesome. So, we’re about coming to the end of our interview. I want to ask you in your journey as a mobile app developer/entrepreneur, what mistakes did you make along the way that you wish you did differently?

Steve: I try not to look back and have any regrets. I think there’s always ways that you think, “Okay, well, you’re not sure, you look back and you say, if I went down path A instead of path B or vice versa what would the outcome of it?

You can never say with certainty, well that was the better choice or that was the worse choice because you don’t know where that path may have taken you. So it’s not really a great exercise to live in the past.

I find it very valuable to continue to be and exist as the possibility of HearPlanet being the de facto standard for getting audio information when you’re on the go about the things that interest them. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I’m doing.

As long as I continue to do that, I think I’ll make the right choices. I think I always have to look at and try to be realistic with I think, some of the mistakes may be in believing that something is easier to do than it actually is. Thinking that you have the resources to achieve something so you may go out and say “Okay we’re going to add a feature.” And that feature may seem small. This gets back to the minimum viable product. But you don’t know what kind of bailiwick going to evolve necessarily from that one decision to add this one thing that seems like a really easy feature.

At times we’ve had gone down a path and we’ve said “Okay, let’s just nip it in the bud and stop doing that now.” A lot of times it’s more important to decide what to not do than it is to decide what to do.

I can’t really stress that enough. And then, take it incrementally and where is the next place where I can deliver value and I can measure that value?

Lorna: Wow, that’s really great advice. I have to say that I think specially for a lot of entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s so important to know when it’s time to fail quickly but you don’t spend hours and weeks and months like on developing some part of your business or project that’s not necessarily going to create a good amount of value for what it’s worth.

And yeah, absolutely, being able to know what not to focus on is as important as knowing what to focus on.

Steve: Exactly.

Lorna: Thank you so much for joining us today. This is an awesome story. I love hearing about your experience and all the really great words of wisdom that you have.

How do we find out more about HearPlanet?

Steve: Well, best thing is to go to our website. Go to www.hearplanet.com and look around. We try to be really straightforward right there with what you can do.

You can go to the news page. There’s a tab to find out what’s been written about us. Watch videos. You can search on YouTube. I think there’s quite a bit there.

Maybe it’s good time to repost, since we’re talking about the bus and the launch party, repost some of those because it’s always fun to relive and you can get in touch with us. There’s a contact form right on the website.

So if you want to get in touch with us in terms of some sort of partnership or ask questions and explore how you can work with a company like HearPlanet. Maybe you are a green location and you want to list your business, please come to the website. Look at how to add. Go to the about page and follow the instructions on how to add your location.

Just reach out directly. We have people to answer almost every piece of content communication that comes through our website. Don’t be shy. Come say hello.

Lorna: Absolutely. So all you eco-hotels and organic restaurants, please list yourselves on HearPlanet so we can find you easily.

Thanks Steve.

Steve: Thank you so much Lorna. Great pleasure.

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