App Partner is a Brooklyn-based app development firm that works with Fortune 500 brands, leading retailers, funded startups and more to craft digital products and strategies that solve business problems and drive measurable results.
There’s a reason “Partner” is in our name. We exist to help organizations achieve sustainable, long-term success. That means acting like part of the team, not just a vendor. That means offering insight and candid counsel at every stage of the engagement. And that means continuing to provide strategic value in the days, weeks and years after an
BusinessInterviews.com: What inspired you to launch your business?
Drew Johnson: In 2008, my college roommate (now business partner) developed a simple app and released it to the public via the brand new Xbox Live Indie Game Portal. It was one of the first platforms to make it incredibly easy for the casual developer to connect with a large audience. Six months later, much to his surprise, the app had gone viral with hundreds of thousands of downloads and tens of thousands in revenue.
I was the Econ Major / “Business Guy”, so he asked if I would take a look at the data. Based on that research, we were quickly convinced that the app was just a taste of the potential opportunity the transition from boxed software to digital downloads would create in the coming years. It wasn’t exactly a rare insight, but sometimes timing is everything, and being in college gave us the perfect environment to recruit our founding team, hone our craft, create some early products, and eventually launch a business.
BusinessInterviews.com: What issue does your core product help solve and how so?
Drew Johnson: Today, we’re a full-service app development firm working with Fortune 500 brands, leading retailers, funded startups, and more to create digital products that drive measurable business results.
What’s most important to us, though, is being a partner to our clients (hence the name). We’ve helped startup clients hire their first employees and pitch to investors. When a client needed office space, we offered them desks at our office. We’ve even handled customer support for a client during a hectic promotional event. Being a partner to our clients doesn’t end once a product is launched, it’s just the beginning.
BusinessInterviews.com: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?
Drew Johnson: For our first few years, cash flow was always the biggest challenge. We had no entrepreneurial or professional experience of any kind, other than internships, which limited our ability to raise funding of any kind.
We had no choice but to bootstrap it. We got a credit line, used down payments on new projects to cover current operating losses, and even turned to personal credit cards. It was a vicious cycle that was stressful, high-risk, and likely stunted our growth relative to a well-funded competitor. However, we were able to make it through those early years and are proud of where we are today.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your Company?
Drew Johnson: We pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of industry trends, so we’re always looking forward to something new. One opportunity is the explosion of platforms beyond mobile and web. These days, brands are always on the lookout for new ways to connect with their audience, be it wearables, AR, VR– you name it. The challenge is making these experiences all work together seamlessly– but that’s the part that’s incredibly exciting for us.
Now that we have 8+ years of experience and a proven portfolio, we’re also excited about the opportunity to tackle bigger projects. For example, we recently developed a companion app for the first smart scale, a collaboration between Conair and Weight Watchers. In these types of projects, the standards for v1 are high, the integration with existing systems is often complex, and the circumstances are often exciting (big stage, large audience, etc.). These types of projects are challenging, but equally rewarding.
BusinessInterviews.com: Where do you envision your company in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Drew Johnson: In five years, we’ll still be helping our clients find new, more exciting avenues for connecting with their customers while tackling increasingly complex issues along the way. In ten years, we can see ourselves branching out across the U.S. and providing more complementary services like marketing, which will provide our clients with a more holistic, comprehensive partner experience. We’re not sure of what will be in store for us in twenty years, but we’re excited to see what the future holds!
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Drew Johnson: We used to measure our success with headcounts and revenues. Now we’re focused on how many successful projects we’ve delivered and the quality of our relationships with clients, employees, and community. In both respects, I think we consider ourselves successful, but now it’s about maintaining that success long-term–something we are always focused on.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do your competitors view you?
Drew Johnson: We work hard to be honest and reputable partners to our clients, not just competitive with our peers. That said, I hope they view us as a positive reflection on our industry. And a threat! Our reputation for quality and collaboration is hard to beat.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?
Drew Johnson: My dad was a small business owner and always used to tell me, “You never get an easy night’s sleep because no matter how successful you are, you’re still going to be concerned about what lies ahead.” I’ve found that this only rings truer as time goes on. If you’re thinking about taking the leap, make sure you can live with that type of lifestyle.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Drew Johnson: The biggest risk that I’ve ever taken was definitely bootstrapping App Partner. We took out a pretty large amount of personally-guaranteed credit lines and credit cards to finance our early growth, and for a while, it seemed like we wouldn’t have anything to show for it. However, Justin and I believed in our vision and knew that we had something special here, so we kept going. While it was a stressful few years for the both of us, we’re completely debt-free today and have no regrets.
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