The Business of Friendship

As I perceive my audience to be educated, technologically savvy (or soon to be), curious individuals, I relish the opportunity to blog not only to finish homework and share ideas, but to make new friends in the process.

I once belonged to an organization called DoApp Inc. employed as Director of Business Development. (Disclaimer: I am no longer affiliated with DoApp so any opinions set forth in this blog are mine and mine alone. I am also still invested in the company but I can assure you that any potential comments, whether positive or negative, stem from a desire to inform rather than sway opinion. Though I don’t understand the legal end of business very well, my wife is an attorney so I have a healthy fear of it). Throughout my two plus years with the company I had many opportunities to put into practice many of the concepts we are learning in this class. In this post, I would like to focus on a rather significant one.

I co-founded DoApp Inc. in 2007 with four other men of the same ilk. There was Joe, one of Google’s first UI Designers and the man with the money. Wade, a User Experience Architect from IBM who is now CEO. Joe and Wade. And two other gentlemen from IBM who are also no longer with the company. I came from the lowly world of telecom with a deep interest in technology and a knack for selling things. I would soon get my first opportunity.

As David Meerman Scott essentially states in chapter 4 of his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, making friends leads to business opportunities. And we collectively say “well duh!” However, the nuance of that statement can have significant impact. For instance, the difference between the Sony BMG and B&H situations has a direct correlation to the concept of friendship. Friends pay attention to one another. Friends are honest with each other. Friends admit when they are wrong and offer to make it better. Friends don’t just use each other for profit. B&H treated their customers like a friend would. Sony BMG did not. The results are self evident.

Shortly after joining DoApp I took a weekend trip up north for a camping excursion with my uncle. There is a place off the Kettle River that is inaccessible by any means other than canoe.  My uncle and a couple of his buddies spent days over the beginning of the 2007 summer prepping the location for their ongoing  desire for isolation, anonymity, and a love affair with all things nature. Needless to say, the spot was perfect and I was fortunate enough to be a benefactor. So there was my uncle Joe (different Joe) and his friends Marty and Walty. Marty also invited his cousin Dave Albrecht.

Well Dave and I hit it off immediately. The first generation iPhone had just come out and we both had one. We must have killed four hours right off the top talking about it’s features and potential without even realizing it. In between canoeing, fishing, and making rock burgers using Kettle River river rock over an open campfire, we talked about applications. The possibilities seemed endless. We at DoApp were still forming our business model and conceptualizing the applications that we would create. I was on the clock in the middle of nature with a burger in hand and a smile on my face. Admittedly, many of our ideas were of the joking variety but some of them have come to fruition by others in the field. And one in particular, we at DoApp pursued. After the trip was over Dave and I exchanged numbers and agreed to get together soon.

The most significant business result of forming that friendship materialized when we at DoApp decided to make one of our products Mobile Local News, an application that pulled content via RSS feeds and displayed the content in an easy to use and aesthetically pleasing interface. Dave, at the time, was a producer for WCCO News. I contacted him and he set me up with an appointment with their Director of Technology. The meeting went great but there was a problem. They couldn’t afford us. Most people don’t realize the true financial cost of development. Let me clarify … good development. John, the director I met with did. However, it was simply not in their budget.

We knew we were on to something though and as a start-up, we were not ones to give up easily. We came up with a plan that due to proprietary reasons I cannot disclose. I’ll just say that our idea made the application affordable for WCCO and allowed us to penetrate a market in dire need of change. DoApp is no longer in business with WCCO post their exclusivity agreement so I cannot link to the app. KSTP is a good example of where they have come with development though and you can find it here. It is one of over 1500 Mobile Local News apps now in circulation.

This product is one of the driving forces of DoApp Inc. and is one of the reasons they are still in business nearly nine years later. And it all started with an honest friendship formed on a camping trip. Dave is now one of my closest friends. We are both musicians, hockey fans, and fierce Foosball competitors. We both have families. He has two kids and I have three. We get together whenever time permits and our friendship has remained while others have dwindled. Can friendship lead to business opportunities? Many of my friendships have and in this case, the friendship itself is the fruit of honest, forthright and caring communication. So, go make some friends!

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