Fast did great on the App Store in the beginning. There were several days in the first few months after the release with over 100 paid downloads. But as time went on, sales declined and Fast’s ranking in the AppStore did too. Now, if you search “Speedometer” on the App Store, Fast is the 33rd result.
But I think that Fast can do better. I believe that if more people begin to use Fast, they’ll appreciate it’s killer design and simple user interface. Hopefully this will make Fast rise in the ranks on the App Store, and the app will get the use that it deserves.
Starting today, Monday August 20th, Fast is 100% FREE on the iOS App Store. Please download and share it to your heart’s content.
Last fall I attended a conference for start-up entrepreneurs – with speakers that talked about things like “What not to do or say to a venture capitalist.” It was fun, and super educational. The best thing I heard all day, though, was an anecdote that a tenured entrepreneur had to share. This guy was in a room full of suits.. Even I was wearing a suit. He had on jeans and a messy polo shirt. A real entrepreneur.
The guy shared a story about a mentor or friend of his that was visiting him in the office one day. Apparently this friend had been quite successful and was rolling in the dough from good investments and IPOs. But the friend had an epiphany of sorts. His friend walked up to his desk, grabbed the edges of the old table and exclaimed: “I want to die behind a shitty desk at a great start-up!”
I thought that was really great.
So today I got my first real office desk. I paid $55 at a thrift store in town. It’s actually pretty sweet, depending on which angle you look at it from..
I started Green iPhone in the fall of 2010. Over the summer I was working as a Macintosh Technician at a store called MacHaus in Anchorage. This was after my first year of college at Colorado State in Fort Collins, CO. For fun that summer, I began buying used iPhones on Craigslist, doing some refurbishing to them and unlocking them, and then reselling them. Back in 2009 I had seen how most iPhone 3G owners immediately upgraded to the new iPhone 3GS, and had their old 3G iPhone available to sell. I figured that the same thing would happen upon the release of the iPhone 4. It did. Eventually I was buying five to ten iPhones per month. This was a great source of supplementary income over the summer.
When I headed back to Colorado for my sophomore year, I started thinking that the iPhone refurbishing operation could be more serious than a hobby. The market showed that this could be a legitimate business. Many people wanted to sell their old iPhones after upgrading or switching carriers, and many people wanted to buy used iPhones without contracts.
In my mind at the time, the first act in establishing a business was building a website. It only made sense to build a great one! My idea was to have a website where people could sell their old iPhones when they wanted to buy the latest model, and anyone that wanted an older iPhone could buy one that was refurbished and with no contract. It would be a used iPhone marketplace with refurbishing and unlocking services in-between!
I happened to own the www.greeniphone.com domain, because in high school I had wanted to build solar, wind, and hydro electric chargers for the iPhone, and had bought the domain to sell the chargers. I did build an iPhone solar charger [read more here], but I never set up a website to sell it. The Green iPhone name seemed like a pretty good fit for this business!
While heading back to CSU for my sophomore year, on the shuttle ride from Denver to Fort Collins, I put out a recruitment ad for a website designer. I found a great one, and we began building the Green iPhone website. It took a few months, but we developed something grand:
Business at School
I continued buying, fixing, unlocking, and selling iPhones throughout the 2010-2011 school year. All operations took place in my dormitory room on campus. Here’s a shot of that dorm room. Notice the iPhones mid-repair on the yellow cloth at the far left corner
Sustainable Living Fair 2010
In September I snagged a booth at the Sustainable Living Fair in Fort Collins. The Sustainable Living Fair is a killer outdoor festival, focused on educating and sharing ideas about sustainability in everyday life. This was a perfect venue for iPhone recycling! My friend Jared gave me a hand with setting up and manning the booth. The most common phrase we got was “What is a Green iPhone..?” We had a blast, and the fair was an excellent experience for me in getting closer to my customer.
The Switch to Volume Selling
By Spring of 2011 I was buying 20-25 iPhones per month, I was rocking school full-time, and I had also started developing iPhone apps with a killer team. Although the Green iPhone website was helping tremendously with iPhone buyback, not as many customers were interested in using the website to purchase refurbished iPhones from me. I was still selling many on Craigslist and eBay.
Listing, selling, and shipping each phone individually became tedious as volume grew. Thankfully, the Green iPhone website served as a marketing tool, and I was approached by several volume buyers that had found the website and were interested in buying large volumes of iPhones. Selling in bulk saved a lot of time and let me focus on continuing to grow the business. I was also excited to be working with larger companies that had a larger presence, but also shared the same social mission. Here is one of their recycling centers!
The summer came on quickly, and I was gearing up for a road trip to Alaska with my friends Jimmy and Jared. We drove a 1940 Chevy up from Fort Collins… Yeah, we’re crazy. She made it without any problems! For more info on that trip, check out our travel blog: www.970to907.com.
My plan for the summer had been to spend 6-8 hours per day working on Green iPhone, and then enjoy the Alaskan outdoors for the remaining 2-3 hours. I love hiking, bicycling, camping, climbing, frisbee, and exploring in my down time – so this seemed like an excellent plan. When I got back home, I started realizing just how much I enjoy hiking, bicycling, camping, etc.. The plan reversed, and I found myself working on Green iPhone for a couple hours per day at best. For me this was a great discovery about my work ethic between Alaska and Colorado. Alaska is my relaxed home and somewhat a vacation spot. Fort Collins is great for getting work done. Here are some memories from an exciting summer with a lot of outdoor adventures:
Although I had a hard time concentrating while living it up in Anchorage, I did manage to get some good work done over the summer. The buying/selling volume was low, but I kept good relationships with my buyers and developed a couple of new ones!
Back to School and Networking in Fort Collins
Coming back for my junior year in the Fall of 2011, I had two business goals:
- Focus on Green iPhone and grow operations
- Meet the right people in Fort Collins that could be mentors, advisors, friends, and just great general business connections
Thankfully, this is exactly what happened. The iPhone buying/selling volume grew back up to 25-30 iPhones per month, and I started taking anyone out to lunch that would listen to my story. If I met someone interesting, I continued to follow up with them and asked if they knew anyone I might like to meet. I tried to have a least one new meeting per week.
The Rocky Mountain Innosphere
I had heard about the Innosphere from professors at CSU, from other business owners, and from some of my mentors. It is a business incubator that helps start-ups on many levels, and it has a great reputation. I pictured a bunch of people in one large office, all working on their own businesses and brainstorming from time to time. I thought it might be 10-15 people in a small building. I asked one of my mentors that I knew was connected to the Innosphere, “Do you think it would be okay if I go to Innosphere and bring everyone lunch?”. He laughed at the thought, and mentioned that Innosphere was a bit larger of an operation than I might be thinking. Instead of taking a bunch of burritos for everyone, he suggested that I have a meeting with one of the administrative staff – and connected me!
FastTrac TechVenture Program
Once I got connected to the Innosphere, Ryan Speir, the COO at the time, suggested that I take a business class that Innosphere was hosting called FastTrac. FastTrac is a 10-week course on business plan development and the essentials of running a legitimate company. The course was created by the Kauffman Foundation and this session was being hosted by the Innosphere from September to November. I quickly submitted an application, and was accepted into the program. [Innosphere's FastTrac Page]
There were about 15 people taking part in the class; most were between 30-50 years of age. We were separated into teams of 5 or 6 and paired with an advisor that would work with us more closely at each session. My team advisor was David Cunningham, a hilarious and brilliant businessman who is now a personal mentor and friend. In each class session we listened to a new guest speaker on a particular business subject such as marketing, funding, or accounting, and we worked on an interactive exercise which helped us discover concepts for ourselves. One of the most helpful exercises for me was constantly giving the Green iPhone “elevator pitch” and getting feedback on what I could be doing better. I learned a tremendous amount from the program, and Green iPhone became much more mature as a result of every class session.
At the end of FastTrac, each participant gave a pitch on their business and where they were moving with it. I gave a 10-minute presentation about Green iPhone, asking for more mentorship, advice, and possibly some future financial help. After my presentation, Ryan Speir offered me the opportunity to pitch at Innosphere’s Social and Advisory Group for Entrepreneurs (SAGE) event on December 14th (right during my finals week). I couldn’t pass it up.
What is SAGE?
Innosphere’s SAGE program connects entrepreneurs with advisory teams that help the entrepreneur define and grow their business. At each monthly SAGE meeting, a new entrepreneur spends 10-20 minutes pitching their venture to a room of professional business people that are in the SAGE group. Once the pitch is finished, the SAGE group members can ask clarifying questions on what has been presented. After the SAGE group questions, the entrepreneur leaves the room and the group discusses: 1. What SAGE likes and admires about the entrepreneur and the venture. 2. What SAGE feels are the next critical next steps for the entrepreneur in taking the business where he/she wants it to go. 3. Thoughts on how the entrepreneur can address the critical next steps. When the discussion is finished, the entrepreneur is brought back into the room and the SAGE facilitator explains the results of the discussion. This concludes the formal event. During the entrepreneur’s presentation, each SAGE group member has a sheet to take notes on, and they can indicate on that sheet whether they are interested in joining an advisory team to assist the presenting entrepreneur. After the SAGE event, 3-5 advisors are chosen to be on an advisory team for the entrepreneur.
The Green iPhone Pitch
Several staff members at Innosphere helped me prep for my SAGE presentation by having me give my pitch and then providing feedback on how to tailor the pitch for SAGE. This was quite helpful. One of my CSU professors, Yolanda Sarason, also helped me by gathering a team of entrepreneurship professors to listen to my pitch and provide more feedback. I received a lot of fantastic insight, and my presentation kept evolving. It was somewhat nerve-wracking, but exhilarating at the same time.
The final slide presentation that I used for SAGE was very simple. It gave me just enough visual cues to explain Green iPhone and what I had been working on, but I really didn’t get to go into extreme depth. It’s hard to share everything about a business/idea in 20 minutes!
Here is my SAGE slide deck:
The presentation went extremely well. I enjoyed explaining, to a great group of advisors, what I’d done so far with Green iPhone. They had some excellent clarifying questions which let me elaborate on my ideas and the state of the business.
After SAGE I was set up with 4 magnificent advisors that I am still working with today!
One of the first “Action Items” that my SAGE advisors had me work on was changing the Green iPhone name. I needed to avoid trademark issues (‘iPhone’ is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.), and I also wanted to expand beyond just buying iPhones.
In March 2012, Green iPhone officially became Newaya Recycling. I now buy back Blackberrys, Androids, and Windows Smartphones along with iPhones! I’ve also begun recycling old cellphones for free via donation. The first Newaya cellphone recycling box will be going into the MUGS coffee shop in Old Town Fort Collins this week!
It’s been a lot of work, and the Newaya website, branding, flyers, business cards, and general marketing material are finally finished. I’m back to regular business operations of buying smartphones and growing the company!
You can continue following the story on the Newaya blog!
I just got back to Colorado from a fantastic trip to California! My friend Nick Frey invited me to help with his business, Boo Bicycles, at the North American Handmade Bicycles Show (NAHBS) in Sacramento from March 4-6. I couldn’t refuse an offer like that!
Boo makes custom high-performance bicycles out of bamboo and carbon fiber. Bamboo is used for the main tubes on the bicycle, and in the seat/chain stays. Carbon fiber is hand-wrapped around the joints, acting as a lug. The hand-wrapped carbon ends up looking like gorgeous shiny black marble once a lacquer coat is on it. I’ve been riding a Boo road bike for about six months now. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have. And I can ride on it..
NAHBS was spectacular. We had a booth right in front of the entrance to the show, and we were constantly swarmed with people wanting to learn about Boo. I got to meet James Wolf, the master craftsman behind each Boo bicycle, and spend a full week being part of the Boo team.
After the show, we worked hard on Boo logistics (getting trade-show bicycles sent back to their owners and recalling the interest from prospective customers at the show). This took place between San Rafael, Mill Valley, Sausalito, and San Francisco. I saw a lot of California, and loved it.
In between work sessions, we had a few opportunities to relax. James and I even got to kayak a bit around the bay in Sausalito!
Overall, the trip was really fun. I learned so much about Boo, handmade-bicycles and their enthusiasts, and California! Very excited to continue working with the Boo team in whatever capacities I can. For now, as a good friend and NAHBS 2012 team member
My 2011 summer was superb. It involved a lot of outdoor adventures including hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and exploring condemned buildings. More on that to come.
One of my work projects this summer was developing a website for an office complex in downtown Anchorage that just got a huge solar retrofit. The building now has 96 solar panels on its south wall that are rated at 180W each. The system has a potential output of 17.28 kW!
Along with building the website, I installed the monitoring hardware and software for the solar system. This keeps track of how much energy is being produced in real-time. A lot of the monitoring data is on the website, and it updates as often as every 10 minutes.
The website is nearly complete. The last thing being developed is a custom graphing system for the solar power data. The current graphs on the Solar Power Output page are provided by the software that comes with the monitoring hardware. Unfortunately these are not very appealing visually, and they aren’t as flexible as I’d like. The new graphs will be gorgeous.
Take a look at www.AnchorageSolarBuilding.com!
I’ve just submitted a new update for Fast, a Speedometer. This update adds a special ‘Heads Up Display’ mode that reflects the speedometer screen onto a car windshield. When it’s dark outside, you can set your iPhone on a car’s dashboard, and see Fast reflected in the windshield.
The update should be approved by Apple and into the App store by next Wednesday.
No more looking down at your iPhone to check your speed!
Before yesterday, PhotoRotate did mediocre in the Photography category. The paid Photography category is filled with great apps like Hipstamatic and CameraBag. The market is saturated with really good applications. PhotoRotate was rarely in the top 400.
Today, PhotoRotate (the full version) has enjoyed its first full day as a Free app. It’s doing great.
PhotoRotate is now sitting at 46th place in the Free Photography apps category. It has been climbing all day.
This table and graph show the rise.
PhotoRotate has been an excellent starting app project. It taught me about taking an application from concept to market. I learned how to build software with a team, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Now, the full PhotoRotate version is free on the app store. The app lets you rotate pictures, adjust their brightness, and adjust their contrast. The interface is dead simple.
The solar panel is flexible and encased in fabric, so it’s very durable. The output is 13.5Watts. The battery is also very durable and has 50 Watt-hours of capacity. As a reference point, the iPad 2 battery is 25Watt-Hour, and the iPad will run for 10 hours on that. So this battery pack could hypothetically power the iPad for 20 hours from a full charge; that 20 hours doesn’t factor in more charge coming from the solar panel.
I submitted an update for Fast last night. This one is simple, but it will make some of our users very happy! Now you can choose to lock the app orientation on either Left or Right landscape side. You can also choose Auto, which will rotate the app depending on how you hold your iPhone.
Updates soon to come are:
- Portrait mode
- HUD mode – set your iPhone under your car windshield – the screen will reflect onto your window so you can see your speed while driving!
- Additional Speedometer Themes