Peter Tenereillo made a good deal of money, and achieved some prominence, as the developer of the Cisco Pix firewall and load balancing servers. Like many successful techies, Tenereillo indulged himself a bit, buying a rare Ferrari 599 (base price $302,000), then plowing his earnings into a new company.
The Ferrari is gone now, along with a lot of his cash. But Tenereillo, founder and president of Trapster, isn't singing the blues and hasn't given up. He's doubling down, he's hammering new code, and he has a basketful of new apps in the works. Along the way, he's learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in the world of mobile apps and says he wants to share those lessons with other struggling developers. Here's some of what he's learned.
- You need a critical mass of users -- but you can't get there if the iPhone is your only platform.
- Location-specific apps have to be very location-specific, or you risk the wrath of users.
- Market your butt off.
- You're going to make enemies.
Lots of iPhone users, but no revenues
I first met Tenereillo briefly last fall as he hung out on the fringes of the Demo Fall 2008 conference in San Diego.
Not well-connected enough to be one of the 72 companies pitching to a select audience of investors, he networked and made his own informal presentations. How did he garner attention? Tenereillo slipped a valet parker $60 to leave his flashy car, emblazoned with Trapster stickers, in the conference hotel driveway. People noticed.
The app he showed off is called Trapster. Simply put, it's a GPS-powered alert service that tips off drivers when they are approaching a known speed trap. No, it's not a radar detector. It relies on a community of users to spot the traps, then tap on a map displayed on the screen when the app is running. The service, in turn, stores the information, then sends out an alert when a user is approaching the hidden traffic cops. If multiple users confirm the location of a particular speed trap, the icon shows up as red. Less credible locations are colored green.