Dan Burcaw, a former Apple employee, started Double Encore in Denver to help iPhone developers bring their product to market. We chatted with him at WWDC along with his new partner, Joe Pezzillo, with whom he has started a second company, Push.IO.
TMO: We're here on the second level of Moscone West, in front of the giant windows, chatting with CEO Dan Burcaw and his new partner, Joe Pezzillo from Boulder, Colorado. Dan, I'll start with you. How many companies do you work with at Double Encore?
Dan Burcaw, CEO of Double Encore
Burcaw: It's about a dozen. That includes clients we've already worked with and have continuing relationship with and also new clients. It's a fairly small group, but the good news is that it's not just new blood, but helping people who already have something on the [App] Store that we built for them and then iterating it through a road map.
TMO: So do you actually build the app for clients.
Burcaw: We do. We consult with clients who have the idea and our engineers build the app. Right now, these are primarily start ups and enterprises companies who don't have the in-house expertise to write iPhone apps. Nor do they want it. For some, it's too unique of a skill set to have in the head count.
TMO: You mentioned before we started recording that you have been shying away from people "who have a dream."
Burcaw: Right. The individual. In this iPhone Gold Rush, everybody has an idea for an iPhone app. So we're just not equipped to help on that.
TMO: But there might be a major company that comes to you, like a newspaper, and says, "We need help with an iPhone app to access our product."
Burcaw: That's right. They have marketing budgets. They actually can afford iPhone development. Without outsourcing to India.
TMO: What happens when the app is ready to launch? Do you help them with that process as well?
Burcaw: Absolutely. Because they don't want anything to do with that. In fact, they don't know how to market an iPhone app.
TMO: It's like ... they're not plugged into the aether of the Apple universe.
Burcaw: Yeah. We're the helping hand. They just want somebody to grab on to them and get them to the finish line. But they don't want to know how to get there.
So, yeah, we help people through the App Store approval process. Early on, we make sure that what they want to do is compatible with what Apple wants to see on the App Store. Once in development, are we doing things properly so that rejection criteria isn't being triggered? That's normally not a big deal, but it's still a concern because there's been a lot of notable press about apps getting rejected.
TMO: Can you give us an example some companies you've worked with?
Burcaw: Sure. The BrightKite app is the one we're most well known for. That's one of our flagship projects. Another was Pencilbot.com out of Hawaii. They do English as a second language software, and it was on the traditional DVD format. What we did was build a set of frameworks for the iPhone so they could plug in their content. Seven apps came out of that. The content is great, it's interactive, it has animation. Their content was always very, very good, but interactive DVD was the wrong vehicle for the content. So what they're finding is all this great content they spent years to build is finally on a device that makes sense.
TMO: Tell me about Double Encore. How big are you? How many employees do you have?
Burcaw: The company has eight employees right now. We're privately held. As for earnings, you've heard about iPhone developers who make something between zero and a couple of million dollars per year. Well, [smiles], we're right in there ... somewhere.
TMO: About how long does it take from the time a company approaches you until their app hits the App Store?
Burcaw: Two to three months for our scale of projects. However, once, we wrote an app in ten days. But for our enterprise projects, it takes much longer.
TMO: I want to ask you about your perceptions on something. When I interviewed Andrew Stone, he said that companies are very excited about getting their app in the hands of customers. But that can also translate into internal enthusiasm. Are you seeing that halo effect after the company comes to you to build an iPhone app and the executives start thinking about what they could do with the iPhone within their own company?
Burcaw: Yeah, but it's hard to put a finger on that because they people we deal with are already bought in to the iPhone. They're already evangelizing the platform internally. But it eventually helps because after it's all done, they show the app around within the company and say, 'See, this is what I've been trying to tell you about!' Also, I think that gets a lot more interesting with iPhone OS 3.0 and the new hardware.
I just don't know what the reasons are anymore to say that this device isn't a huge benefit to any organization. Look at some of the examples....health care, like Airstrip, that we saw in the keynote. It's a computer in your pocket.
TMO: I was talking to one person here who said that the subcontractor assigned to evaluate the iPhone for them pointed out all its shortcomings... no hardware encryption ... it doesn't do this, it doesn't check that box. His question to them was, 'Does the phone I have now do all that?' The answer including a lot of hemming and hawing.
Burcaw: Exactly. It's all about not wanting to support another device. That's okay. The thing that Apple's gotten really good at over the past few years is removing barriers. Remember, Apple fought the megahertz myth for years with the Power PC. Finally, they just said, 'enough'. Let's just get rid of that whole conversation. And they've gotten very good at that. Along with transitions.
TMO: Okay, tell me about the new company now.
Pezzillo: My name is Joe Pezzillo, and I have a long time background in the Apple community, worked for Apple back in the 1990s in the online services division, and I've done a lot of work with startups and some Internet broadcast work. Most recently, I've been shipping a Mac product since 2003. And now, because of the opportunity we've seen in the iPhone space ... the Gold Rush ... we started a new company, Push.IO.
Joe Pezzillo, CEO of Push.IO
What's behind this is something I always ask myself, something that I got from a person I worked for at Apple. When there's a Gold Rush going on, what's the pick's and shovel's play? So rather than digging around in an empty hole that others have been in, we'd rather sell some picks and shovels and backhoes.
So, the opportunities just seemed so strong after the [iPhone OS] 3.0 announcement around push notifications, in-app purchases, that that's the entry point we've chosen for this new business. Which will be providing back end infrastructure for iPhone developers. So, as Dan was saying, there are a number of people out there who are just the best at front end development. Beautiful apps. Great user experience. Apps that surprise and delight users constantly. But of those 50,000 apps in the App Store, and I don't know the number, very few are what I call back end enabled.
A good example is that Apple handles the money for, say, subscriptions, but they don't handle any of the back end infrastructure. Notifications. Billing. Does the application even know what's for sale? Inventory management. What will the Customer Relationship Management [CRM] be like? We'll help developers with all that. And that's our new company.
TMO: That's a very logical extension of what Double Encore does.
Burcaw: Yes. What customers have been saying for nine or ten months now is that they want to be consumers of apps on mobile devices. Apps are here to stay. We didn't even have them a year ago. So the world's changed, and there's clear validation that this is what customers want. But people also want their apps to get smarter. Be social. They want to be connected to the cloud. They want their games to be connected to leader boards. It's not just about being in your own app silo anymore. So that's what Push.IO is going to help developers do.
TMO: I like that!
Pezzillo: Again, you may be a fantastic developer, great at graphics and so on, but you may not want to get involved in the back end. Call us bit plumbers, if you will, for these back end services. Whether you're a single developer or an enterprise developer who works with Double Encore.
TMO: Are you going to provide those services or are you going to help them develop them?
Pezzillo: A little bit of both. But the idea is that it will eventually be a turn-key operation.
TMO: Okay, we've gone on for a long time here -- maybe even taxing our readers' patience. Would you like to wrap it all up with some closing words?
Pezzillo: For the people who are reading, we are in the very early stages. We're looking for customers in the enterprise or individual developers who are interested in these back end services. Come on over to our Website and let us know what you have in mind.
TMO: Dan, how about you?
Burcaw: Go iPhone!