Exploring The Latest Trends in Mobile Development with Wayne Chang

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This week we learned from Wayne Chang, serial entrepreneur, mentor, hacker, angel investor and currently the Head of Product Marketing for Twitter’s mobile platform, Fabric. He discusses navigating the Boston tech ecosystem and working with mobile developers worldwide.

  1. Tell me about the first startup you founded at UMass.

I started one of my first companies I2hub in my dorm room by hooking up a server to the school’s network. We got so much traffic that the Office of Information Technology had to shut down the port in my room and even the whole dorm because they were inundated with traffic. They were wondering what I was doing, and thought I was trying to hack the entire system. I tried connecting to multiple ethernet ports because one was not enough, but ended up switching over to a commercial provider as fast as possible. When the company started taking off tremendously, I dropped out. I realized that I would learn much more from the players in the industry than I would in the school environment. That is not necessarily true for everyone, but I had to personally weigh my options and decide which would be more beneficial at the time.

2. How did you learn to navigate the tech ecosystem in Boston?

It wasn’t too hard to find like-minded people in Boston. What I found really meaningful and super helpful were “Dart Dinners” that came out of a small organization called Dart Boston.

One of the informal Dart Dinners in Boston (2010)

In contrast to huge 5,000 person conferences where business cards are flying at you, these dinners had 30–40 people, and were much more meaningful. I even met my Crashlytics cofounder Jeff Seibert at one of them.

I have lived in Boston since, and what I have found is that people here are much more family oriented. This trait gives us a much better chance at building stronger teams, unlike cities where people are much more transient, or “jumpers” as I call them. At Crashlytics, the entire engineering team has stayed since the acquisition. That is a testament to how strong building a team in Boston can be.

3. What great companies do you think are yet to be built?

What I find is a huge signal is where developers go as this is where that content will be generated. Right now, about 20% of developers are working on IoT type projects, and it is projected this will rise to almost 40–50% this year. Thus, the next great companies to be built are solving the IoT space. Whoever owns that operating system will own IoT. Samsung is trying to do that through SmarThings, Google through Nest, and Apple through HomeKit on iOS. Whoever actually builds that will own the multi-billion dollar ecosystem.

Wayne and Dorsey @twitterboston

4. In working with developers worldwide through Crashlytics, what perspective have you gained about the issues they are facing most frequently.

Specifically in mobile, developers are worried about stability, visibility, and retention. Once an app is built, developers need to make sure it works and does not turn off users by crashing. That is where Crashlytics comes into play, telling developers exactly what part of the code is causing an issue. Developers also want visibility both in the app store and within the app. There are millions of apps out there, so often are faced with the question of with how to increase downloads. When they have users, it becomes a question of how users are engaging with the app, what their behavior looks like over time, and why.

The Crashlytics Team, March 2013

5. What are some unique aspects about developing on mobile that novice developers might not realize?

A lot of people go through the process of designing and building the app, and they list 15 different features they want the app to include. When they release it, they don’t realize that this is only half of the process. The journey truly begins there as you determine which 1–2 features out of those fifteen are what really matter, making those shine, and stripping out the rest of the features from the product. It is not an intuitive process because it is initially wasteful. Instead, many entrepreneurs are building fifteen things and none of them well.

There is also a different level of intimacy with mobile. It is imperative to understand human psychology and behavior since you rely upon the emotional journey of the customers to build the winning product. It is not just about technical capabilities or revenue models. I was recently asked what classes I would take if i went back to school, and psychology and philosophy would be invaluable to truly understand human nature and building products that are attuned to that.

Crashlytics Closing Dinner

6. What is the hardest technical challenge you’ve had to solve?

At Crashlytics, we realized that we needed to utilize an SDK. The problem was that large technology companies had huge 30–40 page manuals on how to do this. Right away we told ourselves we were not going to start a relationship with our customers by having them read a manual. We decided to build an SDK installer. At the time, this had never been done.We actually built a simple app that showed an icon that jiggled. When you drag that icon into your app, Crashlytics was installed. That’s it. Then our app flips over, and you see the heartbeat, the pulse, of your app right there. Having something work like this across all types of machines was extremely hard to build. Yet the experience was so great that people were tweeting that “this is the best SDK in the world” and “everyone else can go home now.” This was what I call the “Delta of Wow” which created the traction we needed to move us along our success trajectory.

7. Any final thoughts? Advice?

Yes. To all young entrepreneurs: Don’t start a company because you are chasing money, you think its cool, or you saw an interesting movie about it. Do it because you love what you are doing, and you are so passionate about it you cannot imagine living your life any other way.

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and advice, Wayne. We look forward to continuing to learn from your unique mobile insights!

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