Jean-François Chianetta is the Co-Founder and CEO of Augment, a mobile app that lets you visualize 3D models at real size inserted in the real environment.
Being a technical CEO, I think that having a deep knowledge of the whole product, the nuts and bolts, is a huge advantage. Business and product are tightly interrelated, especially in the early stage, so having one foot in business and one in the code lead to much faster and better decisions.
We began trying to sell directly. We went to meet customers and try to get them to buy our product face-to-face. It wasn’t working, and at the same time we had thousand of new people every day on our platform who were left alone. We stopped all the direct sales and we started to build a completely automated sales cycle which was a lot more efficient (actually it is more of an automatic lead generator).
Since the app market is global and you can be available everywhere in the world, we decided to translate our app into 10 languages on day 1, principally for Asian countries where you can have a greater impact by being available in a native language. Today South Korea is our third biggest market and we’ve never spent a dime on marketing there.
You’ve got to make the challenge big enough by presenting a big vision, with all the difficulties and obstacles that will be on the way. Really good people are looking for ultra-challenging jobs!
We have adopted the Monday meeting where we craft the big picture for the week and then everyone is working on their own, no distractions and no micro-management. Freedom is essential to keep a developer productive, and when the team is not too big, you can really go fast.
We have a product that is really awesome to demo because it’s very visual. So we went to all the events we could with iPads and demoed our app to all the people we met. This is what brought us huge media coverage and our first 400K downloads. TV channels particularly like it (it’s sexy on television).
When I applied to the “best augmented reality demo” at an AR world event. I had nothing, no demo… I didn’t even know what I would demonstrate. I finished the demo 2 days before the event, and ended up 2nd out of 12 at the contest. It was a success and provided Augment with visibility right away in the AR world.
It takes a lot lot longer than planned to raise fund. Even with a lot of interest there are so many things to do that it takes ages. For our next round we will start a lot earlier than the first time.
In order to get more users, we needed exposure amongst 3D designers. The best way to get this exposure was to appear as a plugin inside their 3d software so we asked all the 3D designers using our app to send emails to their software support and ask to get a plugin for augmented reality visualization. At the same time we contacted those software companies to present Augment… Needless to say, the timing clicked!
We went to a meetup of artists in a small bar in Paris to present our app where there were only 6 people in the room. The artists where showing strange things like a slideshow of blurry black and white pictures of nude japanese with a strange soundtrack. Although it was weird and seemed like a waste of time, we did a demo of our app in front of the group anyway. 5 months later Disney contacted us to work on a project because a marketing manager was at the meetup that day and presented Augment to some Disney executives. They are now our biggest customer. That was completely unexpected!