Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Flightwise/ MyRadar Mobile Apps

It’s that time of year again, when many of us will wrap our gifts, unsuccessfully try not to crush them while stuffing them in our suitcases, and then hope for the best as we head off to the airport.  Flying during the holidays is difficult not only because airports are packed with every Tom, Dick, and Sally (and their husband, brother, sister, mother-in-law, and nieces’s daughter’s twin babies), but also because weather and other unforeseen circumstances can make flights unreliable and unpredictable.

Flightwise is a mobile app, developed by ACME AtronOmatic, that might be able to help you as you start your holiday traveling. The app can track any flight that applies to the IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). This definitely includes commercial flights, in fact, you can track full fleets.  Watch out, American Airlines. Originally developed for aviation professionals, it’s caught on with the commercial traveller. You are also able to tweet flight updates to easily keep your many friends and family members in the loop.

Another app by ACME AtronOmatic that might be helpful during any travels is MyRadar, which provides you with an update of what the local weather radar looks like based on your GPS location.

Andy talked to me a little bit about flying wiser and the business of app development:

How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?

ACME AtronOmatic develops web applications as well as  apps for mobile smartphones, like the iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and Android phones.  Our biggest focus on the web-side of the spectrum is Flightwise, an aircraft tracking website geared towards aviation professionals and enthusiasts – as opposed to commercial flight tracking, which tends to be geared towards the airline traveler.   On the other side of the coin, our most popular mobile app is MyRadar, which is a simple, single-use app that just displays nearby weather radar.  People seem to love it!

What made you use crowdSPRING? 

We needed to have a number of logos and icons designed for our various apps, but it was difficult figuring out where to in order to find good design talent.  We started scouring the web to help point us in the right direction and came across a number of web articles about crowdSPRING.  From our very first experience, we were hooked!

What was your biggest learning curve/experience?

From a personal standpoint, my greatest difficulty was growing from a geek-minded individual who wanted to have fun with technology into the “geek-minded individual who wanted to have fun with technology while managing a business properly”.  It wasn’t enough to just have fun with what I do for work, but I also needed to keep it all in the perspective of earning money from the work we do in order to ensure that the people who work with me are able to collect a paycheck.

What are some industry specific challenges you faced?  

Well, finding great talent was one of the hurdles we faced.  In a small company, its often not enough to be simply experienced in what you do.  You also have to have the passion and drive to contribute to the overall aspirations of the company, and folks like that can be hard to come by.  Couple that with high demand for technical employees like programmers and engineers, and you’re faced with a difficult hurdle that can require some elbow grease to overcome.

What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?  

Well, as with any new business there are probably tons of stories an entrepreneur would find crazy… one of the things that sticks out in my head from early on was when we bought a crucial, expensive piece of equipment on credit.  It was a $2,500 hardware box that we couldn’t do without, and $2,500 at that time was a fortune!  I remember going through weeks of sleepless nights trying to figure out how we were gonna find the spare cash for it.  Ultimately, we managed to land a big contract within short order, which managed to easily cover the cost of the box.  The funny part is, within just a few short months, that $2,500 seemed like such a paltry sum, in comparison, and I would often look back on that stress-laden event and laugh.

Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.  

Let’s see…

a.       Make sure you’re passionate about the actual subject matter you choose to get involved with;  you’ve got to love your work, otherwise you’ll burn out very fast.

b.      In the early stages, focus on just making the greatest product or service you can.  If you’ve already covered the first point, and you follow through with this one, it’ll really show in the end result, and you’ll stand out in the crowd and be recognized for the things you’ve created.

c.       Be prepared to handle the rough times in the early stages – things don’t always go as planned, but it’s not the end of the world.  Stay focused and resolute, and you’ll learn to better navigate through or around any troubles you might run into.

d.      Make sure you surround yourself with good people, and try to seek advice from others more experienced than you… recognize that you can learn from OTHER peoples mistakes and avoid them yourself.

e.      Make sure you hire people to work with you who share your passion and enthusiasm… it really helps everyone stay on the same page and keep focused, and it definitely shows in the end product.

f.        Don’t be too afraid to take risks – but don’t bet the farm!  Starting a small business is always a challenge and inherently risky, but be careful not to get in over your head… try to take those risks in a managed, scaled pace, and you’ll likely find them easier to tackle.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?

I would definitely go back, if I could!  With years come experience, and you learn so much from your mistakes along the way.  The only bad thing about learning from your mistakes is that you have to make the mistakes to learn from them.  I think everyone would love to be able to restart something while retaining the knowledge you gain from your journey.  But since none of that’s generally possible, according to Einstein and a few other smart people, it’s just best to take what you’ve learned to avoid similar pitfalls in the future. Specifically, for me, it would have been to rein in spending and keep it balanced properly with revenues.

How do you see your company growing in the future?

Comfortable and steady!  We’ve just recently opened up an office in Portland, Oregon, which we affectionately call the “Developers Den”, where we continue to churn out innovative and useful apps for people.  And, in a bit of a plug for crowdSPRING, we hope to leverage the capabilities of the site to help us grow – we have an upcoming project to help us design another new logo to go along with a sign for the new office!

What’s your working relationship like now with the crowdSPRING designer’s project you chose?

Great!  Both our Flightwise logo and the icon for MyRadar were projects we initiated through crowdSPRING, and both developers have been invited to participate in various other projects along the way, especially whenever we have other offshoots from their respective designs.

ACME AtronOmatic has hosted five projects on crowdSPRING, the most recent being the MyRadar mobile icon.

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