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Ground Zero

Published: March 10, 2017 (8 months ago)

I am at ground zero for a new venture I’m launching. So, let’s talk about what I’m planning and where I hope to go with it.

First Thing’s First

Let me talk about what I mean by “ground zero” with just a few bullet points. First and foremost, my newest venture is nothing programming or computers, which means…

  • I have virtually zero followers in my traditional core audience.
  • No store, no products, no sales
  • No page views
  • No Inventory
  • No mobile app built, let alone tested, approved, and available in the App store.
  • No marketing, sales, or publication attempt other than limited sharing with a few close friends.

That’s About to Change

I am about to launch my very first mobile app and it’s written in Ruby.
It’s also using a highly experimental framework called Jasonette which can serve an entire app on pure JSON and nothing more. Which means, I can build the whole thing in Ruby on Rails and I’ll definitely be covering that more later.

There are three primary goals I have for this little app of mine:

Make it very easy for users to get up a match with their friends.

# Keep score of a match and track or share match results easily. # Offer functional/consumable tennis products that are easy to “re-order” right from the app.

The beginning

When it comes to launching a business, I’ve heard it time and time again to choose something you’re passionate about to pursue, because you have to be in it for the long haul if you want it to succeed. I’m passionate about a few too many things, but the two things I’m most passionate about is computers and tennis. For the longest time, I’ve thought about pursuing tennis, but never quite had a plan or idea I could get excited about.

Then I started playing with a new mobile app framework called Jasonette. In the span of 48 hours, I built a functioning app that could track the set scores of a tennis match. I literally couldn’t believe it. I’ve tried many times to get started in mobile app, but found I didn’t have the time to truly learn a framework with daily commitments to studying, learning, and practicing, so each attempt started with a bang and fell on the wayside after a couple of week’s hard effort with little to show for it.

This time it’s different because I can build the whole thing with technologies I have already mastered. What’s more, I can build the conceptual (proverbial MVP) in just a few week’s time. That’s huge and that’s going to be key to getting it into the hands of real users before I begin to lose patience, focus, and will to build and sustain.

What’s next?

My head’s full of ideas and there’s a lot of good energy going into this project and a lot of churn happening at the moment. That is to say, I’m not entirely sure where everything’s going to land and when focus will start to come into play. Here are some ideas already flowing:

New rails gem open source project

As much as I like Jasonette, I hate building the JSON structure with just Jbuilder in Rails. It is a royal-pain to build anything highly hierarchical with lots of nested functionality. At least if you’re also building with a solid object-oriented approach.

So I’m simultaneously building a rails gem to make building Jasonette apps a breeze.
This is a tool I will be open sourcing before too long. Right now, I’m building modularly within the actual app that I’m building with plans to extract it once overall design gels.

What’s in the app?

At the moment, I have three functional components planned for the app:

Scheduling matches with your existing contacts

# Keeping score of the sets and tiebreaks in your match # In app store for quick reorders of the stuff you need to play your match

Scheduling Matches

The first component in the app, which is the component I’m most excited about is the scheduling component. The vision I have here is that the user can easily pick contacts from his address book and send out an invite to his contacts and let a scheduling bot handle the rest of the details of scheduling that match.

The end goal is to relieve the burden of a ton of back and forth emails or texts to get everyone out to the courts. Just tell the bot what you want: “I want to play doubles with Bob, James, and Manny Tuesday morning around 10AM. If these guys can’t show up, then ask Tim, Richard, or John to play.”

However the interface works out, the end goal is you establish your intent with the app once and the app coordinates with everyone to get y’all to the courts and will even send reminders to everyone as court time approaches if the date is a few days out, if for no other reason than to confirm all four will be there.

Sound exciting? It should. Just imagine, if you have a tool like this, the next logical step is to enhance it for team captains. Imagine being able to determine your entire line-up’s availability with just one single initiation action and let the app corral everyone to the courts.

And if we get enough captains using the app? Why not track and record scores real time and automatically post back to the league’s website or scoring coordinator.

By the time we’ve built this much, it’s just a small step to enabling anyone to run a challenge ladder, tournament or mini-league all by themselves with very little effort.

Yup, I’m excited!

Scoring

At first, we’ll start only with set scoring – updating scores on change over. I’ve seen several apps in my research that can do point-by-point tracking, but with the exception of the iWatch adaptations of some of those apps, doesn’t seem practical for the actual player to utilize during match play. The principal audience for point-by-point seems to be sideliners and coaches that want to track aces, faults, unforced errors along with scores for later match review and in-depth analysis.

That’s not a wheel I want to reinvent at the moment as there are several good ones for this already.
What’s not out of the realm of possibility is building an iWatch app that ties back into what I’m building now.

What I want most for now, is accurate set scoring that can be shared in real-time. Captians can keep track of all lines playing in real-time and have final scores at the end of match-play for submission to league coordinator.

In App Store

I’m not really wanting to build a complete store per se in this app. What I want to do is have an online web store that’s tied into this ecosystem. I also only want to sell a few items that are critical to tennis players and highly consumable. Overgrips, strings, and socks come to mind. Once the user has ordered an item for the first time, he or she then has the option to quickly pop over to the in-app store and hit the reorder button. Most of these items tend to be impulse buys and if most players are like me, only think about needing it on the courts when they pull their last one out of the bag, often forgetting to swing by the store before their next match to stock up.

That’s the pain the store solves. One quick swipe and pay right there when you first thought about it and boom, it’s on it’s way.

What I am Avoiding

The number one thing I’m avoiding is the so-called chicken and egg problem. That is, the user of the app can communicate to anyone they’re reaching out with. If one of their contacts has the app, great! We’ll hit ‘em with in-app notifications. If not, no worries, we’ll email or text (the sender makes the choice the first time), the recepient can request preferred channel of communication on first encounter with the bot.

It’s my hope that the app proves useful enough that everyone encountering it wants to download and use it, too, but it’s never going to be a requirement to have the app to interact with the person initiating the communications. Emailing and texting will do just fine for thse folks.

What am I doing now?

Well, I’ve been busy brainstorming while incrementally working on my app at nights when I have the energy to focus.
To that end, I’ve put down the TV remote and beer and hitting the gym as a means of generating the energy and drive to power through all this while still maintaining and supporting all my clients during the day-time hours.

I’m alternating between building the app, reading up on marketing strategies, and sourcing great products to offer, both as freebies to generate buzz and as items to sell in the store on an on-going basis. I’m starting to crystalize a plan on the initial outreach campaign and what I need to do to launch and run that effort.

As part of building the app and brainstorming, I’ve been reviewing lots of apps designed to track scoring in tennis and other sports and especially going through the reviews/comments sections to see what the most common complaints are. This research is giving me a solid base from which to design and launch. My MVP won’t be as feature rich to start, but hopefully it will have the core functionality that reels users in and makes them want more!

I’m also casting widely about to find solid marketing plan to go from zero followers to massive followers in record time. At it’s core, my initial marketing plan boils down to the following simple steps:

Acquire some freebies to give away (overgrips, strings, socks, etc.) – all great things for tennis players.

# Set up website to drive traffic to, explain what I’m doing, and collect email addresses. # Regularly publish two main topic tracks (initially): a) To other business start up entrepreneurs: How I’m building this business, and b) To tennis enthusiats: What I’m building and soliciting/encouraging feedback to build the best possible app and community.

The purpose of two audiences is two-fold:

  • I want to help other business owners succeed in marketing themselves online, because that is also a source of revenue for me presently. As an IT expert in my “day job,” I help many clients build large complex websites and to automate their businesses.
  • The tennis audience is the audience I’m building all this for, so obviously, I must target them!

I plan to cover more on marketing later and will share many of the resources I’m using to pull all this together. The main point here, do your research, know what your competition is doing, know what you’re building and why and start figuring out where your new potentials users are so you can get right in front of them and say, “Hey, check this out!” While you’re at it, get them engaged in spreading the word, because you’re not gonna do it alone – at least not without driving yourself crazy with too much work and too little sleep.

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