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How to launch an app in 48 hours

(TECHNOLOGY) Here is a comprehensive guide to setting up processes and automation to develop an iOS mobile app and a full marketing strategy behind it.

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The American Genius recently learned about a really fascinating group of people who created an app in 48 hours. We’ve all heard about hackathons, but they are typically code-only and void of any business or marketing plan, so this project caught our attention immediately. We asked digital strategist, Alex Leybovich to share their story with you, and in his own words below is the deep dive into how they accomplished this nearly unimaginable task:

One of the things that I love about working with creatives is the unfathomable progress we can make on a project when we point our collective energies in a single direction. Imagine what a team could accomplish if there were no expectations, no stakeholders, no managers, and no plan? Nine top marketing strategists gathered in Austin, TX – many meeting for the first time – to answer the question, “How can we build and launch an app in 48 hours?”

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the corporate world, you’re probably thinking, “I know how long it takes our marketing department to put a measly video on a website – what could they possibly accomplish in a weekend,” and prior to this event, I would have been in the same boat. Why wouldn’t I be – this sounds like an impending disaster about to erupt.

What was accomplished in a single weekend will leave you speechless.

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The standard progression of a new development team is Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. First, the balance in the team must be understood – who’s doing what, where does my lane end, and who’s in charge? Next, people start to butt heads and challenge the boundaries of their positions. Once these are figured out, for the most part, the team begins to rebalance, and, finally, the team starts to fire on all cylinders and is productive in the work that they’re putting out.

We only had 48 hours, so there wasn’t a lot of time to bring our egos along or get emotionally attached to anything that we were doing. To put everyone on the same level and get the team to the performing phase faster, we did something different than your stereotypical icebreaker.

The instructions were simple – when you introduce yourself, don’t talk about meaningless small talk. Stand up in front of the room, and give a 3-minute pitch on who you are and what you bring to the team as if you were presenting to potential investors.

In turn, everyone got a chance to impress the rest of the team, and, more importantly, we ended our first meeting with a clear understanding of who was an expert in what field, and who else could provide coverage for tasks if bottlenecks occurred at any point in the project.

Boom!

One hour into the event, and we already made it through forming, checked our egos at the door, skipped straight to norming, and CHICKEN was born.

What’s CHICKEN

CHICKEN is a video messaging service that allows users to communicate with each other directly using short video snippets, aimed at bridging the gap between text interaction and face-to-face encounters. Think video-based walkie-talkies where you can send short video snippets back and forth with messages that don’t expire.

Chickens are social creatures by nature, and communicate with each other throughout most of the day, seldom stopping except to sleep. The chicken quickly became our spirit animal as we put our heads together and designed an app that lets you talk to your friends all day long.

The First 24 Hours

Once introductions were out of the way, we needed to set some ground rules

  • First, we are building and launching in 48 hours – that means that whatever we have at the end of the weekend was going to go out, and the remaining ideas continued to live in the product backlog.
  • No bad ideas – everything about this was supposed to be fun, so leaving egos behind was a critical component to getting the job done. Every idea went in the backlog. Once we prioritized the tasks, groupings of ideas started forming into features.
  • Last, but certainly not least, be kind! We came together to do something fun, and boy did we ever! Catered lunches were served daily, and snacks and drinks were available throughout the day. In true Silicon Hills (is that what they’re calling Silicon Valley’s little brother, Austin?) fashion, our AirBnB turned into a startup office in minutes, complete with a ping pong table in the garage (it came with the AirBnB so how perfect is that?)

From there, we got straight to work.

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First thing’s first – Project Management. For this to be successful, we needed to follow a structure, so having a scrum master in the room (*waves*) proved fruitful! For 48 hours, we needed a Kanban board, and Jetbrain’s YouTrack is the fastest and most thorough way to get a project going and keep it on track.

Using Pressable as our hosting solution, we were able to launch our hosting environment and get WordPress up and running quickly. The site went up in a few hours. A clean, minimal look to promote app downloads.

Automation was the goal from the start, so we set up a Hubspot CRM, signed up with Proof, opened our MailChimp account, loaded Zapier, and added a WPMU suite onto our WordPress installation. To launch with a minimally viable product (MVP) all we needed for the website was a landing page, so while that was up our social media team got to work. We wanted eyeballs on us as early as possible, so as we rolled out features (SPOILER: by the time the event was over we had built a landing page, then a home page, then a website, then a custom mobile experience, then another version of the website) our audience could follow our journey and get hyped about what was coming.

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The response was remarkable! For a brief few hours, we felt the energy of the Austin startup community as they watched what we were building. Not only were they watching, but they were also providing real-time Analytics, data for our heatmaps, and feedback on bugs that they were seeing, so we were able to get live testing and QA from the community. Our first heatmaps (this image here) showed an unexpected rate of clicks on the mobile phone so we replaced the image in the next iteration to make it appear less like an interactive element.

Meanwhile, our branding team developed one of the most stunning color palettes that I could have imagined for an on-the-fly project and graced us with a beautiful logo.

launch an app as quickly as possible

After sitting down with our resident Subject Matter Expert (SME) and conducting our persona research, we identified our target audience. With trends like Tik Tok, Marco Polo, and Snapchat, we wanted to make sure to hit our audience quickly and capture their attention.

To our surprise, we found unexpected inspiration in 12-year-old Jordan (last name omitted for privacy). Originally brought in to be interviewed during our user research phase, she proved to know a lot about trends, design, and what features her generation expects in an app. By morning, she had drawn up her “perfect” app, and we had our first iteration – now on to testing her hypotheses! (For her efforts in helping with the project, Jordan was featured on the original landing page as part of the initial screenshots of the app!)

We sit down with our persona SME - Jordan - to discuss how her generation finds and adopts new apps

The first 24 hours flew by in no time, but we managed to make a significant amount of traction. The logo and branding package were ready for our review by mid-day, the app framework was complete, and the initial landing page was built and deployed. We added a fun countdown timer on the page, wrapped up day one – now for a break.

If any of you have ever been to a hackathon, you know that it’s non-stop adrenaline-fueled action, so when Stefan let us know that we were going to meditate in the middle of this event, we were shocked – but I will never do it any other way after this experience. For one hour, we turned our minds off, rested our bodies, and allowed our creative energies to roam free.

And then, we began the second half of the event.

Day 2: Crunch Time!

We had strong momentum coming into the start of the second day and, freshly regenerated after our meditation and chair massages, we got back to work.

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The first 24 hours were a lot of set up and creation, but now the pieces had to come together. The front-end, back-end, and APIs had to be merged, and we had a ticking timer counting down on the website reminding us of how few hours were left for us to button up all of the features on our board.

A clear picture of where we were headed came together on day two as the screenshots started to come together.

Seeing the app come to life got us fired up to push more visitors to the site.

Within the first 48 hours, we had gotten almost 1,000 page views on the brand new website – including 3 that came from organic search (I have never seen organic traffic to a website within 48 hours of an idea just beginning to form for a company). Why get visitors to the website though, if we’re not doing anything with them?

Enter – the prelaunch campaign. We gave visitors an opportunity to request a notification when the app was live and started our drip campaign. Every step we took to get closer to our goal, we got feedback from our first rounds of beta testers.

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We even got weird with our marketing efforts, at one point creating a Tinder account for the sole purpose of exposure to the site. Every new visitor was an opportunity to capture more data in order for us to have the best chance at a successful launch.

By the end of the day, we had a roadmap of new features for the future, including video transcription, and subtitle translation options to help users communicate with international peers.

What’s Next?

CHICKEN was a great experience for the team, and we decided to continue the project after the event. All 9 original members formed a Delaware C-corp and submitted the app for review. You can continue to track our journey or download the app for yourself (iOS only, at the moment) at https://speakchicken.com.

***

Alex Leybovich, PMI-ACP, CSM is an enterprise digital marketing strategist who specializes in conversion rate optimization (CRO), user experience (UX), and marketing automation. He puts his 14 years of web experience into running Auden Digital – a full-service marketing agency – in Austin, TX, advising veteran-owned businesses, consulting, and speaking.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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Google chrome: The anti-cookie monster in 2022

(TECH NEWS) If you are tired of third party cookies trying to grab every bit of data about you, google has heard and responded with their new updates.

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Google has announced the end of third-party tracking cookies on its Chrome browser within the next two years in an effort to grant users better means of security and privacy. With third-party cookies having been relied upon by advertising and social media networks, this move will undoubtedly have ramifications on the digital ad sector.

Google’s announcement was made in a blog post by Chrome engineering director, Justin Schuh. This follows Google’s Privacy Sandbox launch back in August, an initiative meant to brainstorm ideas concerning behavioral advertising online without using third-party cookies.

Chrome is currently the most popular browser, comprising of 64% of the global browser market. Additionally, Google has staked out its role as the world’s largest online ad company with countless partners and intermediaries. This change and any others made by Google will affect this army of partnerships.

This comes in the wake of rising popularity for anti-tracking features on web browsers across the board. Safari and Firefox have both launched updates (Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari and the Enhanced Tracking Prevention for Firefox) with Microsoft having recently released the new Edge browser which automatically utilizes tracking prevention. These changes have rocked share prices for ad tech companies since last year.

The two-year grace period before Chrome goes cookie-less has given the ad and media industries time to absorb the shock and develop plans of action. The transition has soften the blow, demonstrating Google’s willingness to keep positive working relations with ad partnerships. Although users can look forward to better privacy protection and choice over how their data is used, Google has made it clear it’s trying to keep balance in the web ecosystems which will likely mean compromises for everyone involved.

Chrome’s SameSite cookie update will launch in February, requiring publishers and ad tech vendors to label third-party cookies that can be used elsewhere on the web.

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Computer vision helps AI create a recipe from just a photo

(TECH NEWS) It’s so hard to find the right recipe for that beautiful meal you saw on tv or online. Well computer vision helps AI recreate it from a picture!

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computer vision recreates recipe

Ever seen at a photo of a delicious looking meal on Instagram and wondered how the heck to make that? Now there’s an AI for that, kind of.

Facebook’s AI research lab has been developing a system that can analyze a photo of food and then create a recipe. So, is Facebook trying to take on all the food bloggers of the world now too?

Well, not exactly, the AI is part of an ongoing effort to teach AI how to see and then understand the visual world. Food is just a fun and challenging training exercise. They have been referring to it as “inverse cooking.”

According to Facebook, “The “inverse cooking” system uses computer vision, technology that extracts information from digital images and videos to give computers a high level of understanding of the visual world,”

The concept of computer vision isn’t new. Computer vision is the guiding force behind mobile apps that can identify something just by snapping a picture. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your credit card on an app instead of typing out all the numbers, then you’ve seen computer vision in action.

Facebook researchers insist that this is no ordinary computer vision because their system uses two networks to arrive at the solution, therefore increasing accuracy. According to Facebook research scientist Michal Drozdzal, the system works by dividing the problem into two parts. A neutral network works to identify ingredients that are visible in the image, while the second network pulls a recipe from a kind of database.

These two networks have been the key to researcher’s success with more complicated dishes where you can’t necessarily see every ingredient. Of course, the tech team hasn’t stepped foot in the kitchen yet, so the jury is still out.

This sounds neat and all, but why should you care if the computer is learning how to cook?

Research projects like this one carry AI technology a long way. As the AI gets smarter and expands its limits, researchers are able to conceptualize new ways to put the technology to use in our everyday lives. For now, AI like this is saving you the trouble of typing out your entire credit card number, but someday it could analyze images on a much grander scale.

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Tech News

Xiaomi accidentally sent security video from one home to another

(TECH NEWS) Xiaomi finds out that while modern smart and security devices have helped us all, but there are still plenty of flaws and openings for security breeches.

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Xiaomi home device

The reason for setting up security cameras around your home is so the photos can get streamed to your neighbor’s device, right?

Okay, that’s obviously not why most (if any) of us get security cameras, but unfortunately, that scenario of the leaked images isn’t a hypothetical. Xiaomi cameras have been streaming photos to the wrong Google Home devices. This was first reported on Reddit, with user Dio-V posting a video of it happening on their device.

Xiaomi is a Chinese electronics company that has only recently started to gain traction in the U.S. markets. While their smartphones still remain abroad, two of Xiaomi’s security cameras are sold through mainstream companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon for as low as $40. Their affordable prices have made the products even more popular and Xiaomi’s presence has grown, both nationally and abroad.

To be fair, when the leaked photos surfaced, both Google and Xiaomi responded quickly. Google cut off access to Xiaomi devices until the problem was resolved to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Meanwhile, Xiaomi worked to identify and fix the issue, which was caused by a cache update, and has since been fixed.

But the incident still raises questions about smart security devices in the first place.

Any smart device is going to be inherently vulnerable due to the internet connection. Whether it’s hackers, governments, or the tech companies themselves, there are plenty of people who can fairly easily gain access to the very things that are supposed to keep your home secure.

Of course, unlike these risks, which involve people actively trying to access your data, this most recent incident with Xiaomi and Google shows that your intimate details might even be shared to strangers who aren’t even trying to break into your system. Unfortunately, bugs are inevitable when it comes to keeping technology up to date, so it’s fairly likely something like this could happen again in the future.

That’s right, your child’s room might be streamed to a total stranger by complete accident.

Granted, Xiaomi’s integration mistake only affected a fraction of their users and many risks are likely to decrease as time goes on. Still, as it stands now, your smart security devices might provide a facade of safety, but there are plenty of risks involved.

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