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I co-founded an agency that’s grown to over 100 people building mobile apps and now car infotainment systems. AMA!

Hey everyone, I’m Juhani, a co-founder of Snapp Mobile and Snapp Automotive agencies building iOS and Android apps for customers for years.

Most of our past projects launched into the App and Play stores successfully, but some not. Our customers range from banks in Africa to automotive manufacturers in Germany and the entertainment industry in the UK.

I’m happy to answer questions about dealing with app development for other people, platform issues, and customer issues. Ask me anything!

  1. 3

    Congratulations!

    How did you get your first few customers? Did you start by focusing a building app for a specific industry?

    1. 1

      We got our first customers via our already existing network. Our approach to sales is very informal. We sell from bottom up. We, as individuals, were well known in the community before starting the company by blogging, organising communities and talking in events. The first customers came through these routes. Developers in their companies knew they needed help and suggested bringing us onboard to help.

      We've never had an industry focus (until now on our automotive part). But we have always focused to design, front end and UI. Looking back, I think that played a big part of our initial success. We managed to position ourselves as UI specialists. We talked about UI and design a lot. When potential customers had issues with the UI, they thought of us. So, I think some kind of focus might be a very beneficial thing in the beginning.

  2. 2

    Congratulations on all of your success!

    Do you have any advice on the best way to get started with running an agency. Like methods to find clients and whether to go it alone or with a business partner?

    1. 2

      Thank you!

      You need to start before you start.
      By that I mean, you need to have a network of people before you go into business. I used to write a fairly popular Android dev blog years before I started. I'm also an organiser of a local Android user group (GDG Munich Android). Being part of the community created a network of people who worked at companies who later became our customers.

      But in general, agency business is much easier to setup than product business. You can scale up slowly and don't need any funding as long as you can pay your costs. I'd advice starting as a single freelancer and build apps for few customers, do good work, and create connections with people.

      Our first setup was 3 freelancers working together under common business name. We did not have a Ltd. setup, for example. That way the setup was super flexible as well as risk-free. If all would have gone wrong we'd have just gone our separate way. As luck would have it, we managed to start to get traction and slowly were in a position where a formal company setup made sense.

      As for partner, I have couple of advises based on my past that might apply more widely as well. Don't start a company with your best friend. You'll need friends outside the work. Find a person whose work ethic matches yours. Find a person you enjoy having beers (or non alcoholic counter parts) with and you easily bounce of ideas and evolve thoughts into concrete actions over informal chats.

      I actually wrote about this a bit more in a blog post some time ago:
      https://lehtimaeki.medium.com/running-a-company-91c3f986ebaa

  3. 2

    What strategy or steps do you recommend to scale sales that lead you to be able to maintain a team of +100 people !?

    Congratulations on your growth!

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks :)

      We don't do any sales. Our strength has been repeat source of customers. This might be repeat business with previous customers but even more often it has been work coming in from people who we have worked at one customer who then move to another company and usually gain more influence in the move. The core has been that our team does good work and delivers the work but also creates personal connections in the customer team (we almost always work in mixed setup embedded in customer internal team). The industry is surprisingly small, word spreads very quickly (good and bad).

      Another factor is that we use freelancers as faster scaling method. Projects with a lot of freelancers are not financially super profitable but they're effectively risk-free. We have created a good network of very trustworthy freelancers who always deliver kickass work. This way we're able to take project on quicker. The projects might be just 1-2 developers and potentially short term. So short, that hiring is not feasible. But these, not-so-profitable projects might lead into long-term engagements down the line.

      This is the approach that has worked for us.. so far :)

  4. 1

    Sound good. I want to test this app for my WIFI card. I have bought it after reading their reviews on gamingcutter.

  5. 1
    1. What technology do you use to develop apps?

    2. I’m going freelance in a couple of months. Do you think the app market is a good one to enter? Or is it mature/low cost these days?

    1. 1
      1. We're focusing in native apps but dabbling a little bit on Flutter. Cross-platform is interesting but limitations come quickly. Native is, where the solid business is at the moment.

      2. Almost all companies need apps. Almost none have solid enough internal teams to deliver them. The pace apps need to be delivered to new accompany new product launches is impossible to match with usual internal teams. This creates a good and solid market for freelancers and agencies to act as the scaling force needed for new products and letting the internal teams to deal with the long term.

      1. 2

        Thanks. I have bookmarked you company. You never know, I might need your servicess

  6. 1

    What's your metric of success in an industry that is heavily profit-driven, and how do you propagate that throughout a company culture that consists of 100 different people?

    1. 2

      We have two kind of guiding lights we aim to:

      1. Products need to launch. So our success is customer's success. We don't optimise for short term gain or maximising our billing. Instead we bet on long term engagements and repeat work.
      2. Company culture is a difficult one. We are not interested in building a silicon-valley-style "team" (read: cult). All of our internal meetings, events are voluntary. Some people interact more than others not so much. Both approaches are 100% fine. But that also means that we can't really distribute values easily. Effectively, we let people do what they do best and jump in if help is requested. This is something we're still in process of learning . We wrote about this some time ago in our blog:
        https://medium.com/snapp-mobile/culture-our-calls-to-action-4a4cd9fcd59a
  7. 1

    Congratulations!
    -
    Are you hiring developer?

    1. 1

      We're always open to discuss to good devs interested in joining. We're remote but limited to EU time zones. We work on native Android, iOS and Flutter. We also are slowly increasing out back end / web team.
      We do not have active open positions as such at the moment.

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