Live from CommunityNext Platform: Advice from top independent Facebook app developers

10:40am Hi everyone, we’re here at CommunityNext Platform in Sunnyvale. This morning’s session is “Soup to Nuts: advice from top independent Facebook application developers,” with:

  • Craig Ulliott of Where I’ve Been
  • Keith Schacht of Grow-a-Gift
  • Edward Frederick of Hungry Machine

Craig Ulliott, Where I’ve Been

10:47am Wouldn’t recommend starting a company in the UK, very expensive and very hard, would recommend doing it here. These days, trying to make Where I’ve Been into a sustainable business.

10:48am The idea is simple, it doesn’t deserve its own network, its own website.

10:49am We had a lot of organic coverage. There was the initial gold rush period. Rumors were very helpful, struck some marketing deals. Have hired a PR firm since, we were on Fox News the other day, my two minutes of fame.

10:50am We had to make it fast. I told my wife I was going to leave for two days and make it. We had to make it in Flash, not the best, but it was fast. Now it looks much better.

10:52am What makes a good app? It’s got to have a great interface. Use the Facebook color scheme and tabs, etc. Don’t set a product inside their windows. It needs to have a sustainable business model – not just biting your friends. There will be some bigger more complicated apps coming soon. Testing and learning. We got thousands of responses from our user surveys, free market research.

10:53am “I have 250,000 users, now what?” Travel is a very consumer friendly space. The gold rush stage is over, what do you do? Cash in or try to find a sustainable business model?

10:54am What are monetization options? Ads are always there, but the CPMs are bad. We’re building a flight finder. Adding new layers to sell things in the space. I don’t think CPMs are enough. Need to find ways to innovate. Also going into hotels. Have a little subtle info in there.

10:56am The biggest challenge is over, we have the user. What now? We’re going on to build our own website, build on MySpace. There will be blogs and reviews on the website. But do we leave Facebook? It’s a great launching platform. But no, others are going to keep coming in there. We need to reengage the user with games, photos, videos, forums, chat. All of these are monetizable. We’re definitely hiring if anyone wants to come out to Philadelphia.

10:58am Our biggest problem? We had to scrap everything and redesign the database two times. We use a ton of bandwidth. The Flash itself is 200K. Everything we do is in the Flash, we don’t use the Facebook API that much actually. We have one big live server and one test server.

11:00am What’s next? We want to own travel on Facebook and move out onto the web.

Keith Schacht, Grow-a-Gift

11:02am Facebook compresses time to failure. The second best thing in enterprise sales to “yes” is “no,” so that you don’t waste your time. On Facebook, you know pretty quickly if your idea sucks and you should move on.

11:04am Outside Facebook, there are many more variables that are hard to see. Inside Facebook, it’s a much more level playing field.

11:06am I have 4 apps on Facebook, Hatching Eggs and Grow a Gift, and two more that aren’t that active. About 4 million total installs.

11:07am There is a big benefit to having multiple apps and being able to cross promote. You can get the first 5,000 users by cross promoting and figure out if your app sucks in the first 2 weeks, not 9 months like on the web.