Interview with Echo CEO Carlos Carbonell.
Originally published in the Orlando Business Journal, March 16, 2012
Echo Interaction Group Inc.’s smartest move happened about two years ago — the decision to strengthen its mobile development department, which now makes up 80 percent of the firm’s business.
The industry itself is growing, with most people accessing the Web daily via their mobile phones and the U.S. mobile app industry having created nearly half a million jobs in just five years.
“We’re helping shape the industry,” said CEO Carlos Carbonell, who co-founded Echo Interaction Group in 2009 with Mat Gaver. Echo started with eight employees; it now has 14. “We created this out of nothing; we had [a few] app concepts we launched ourselves, but for the most part we developed for clients,” Carbonell said.
The company’s mobile app development division, echomobile, boasts a wide range of clients, from Florida Hospital to hip-hop superstar DJ Khaled. Echo Interaction also is the only mobile app developer in the country to have a strategic alliance with AT&T, which means it can directly provide hardware and a connectivity package along with the apps it develops for clients.
Type of mobile apps I most often handle:
We get a lot of business-to-business mobile productivity apps. It’s complex, un-sexy work, but we love problem-solving in that space.
Last year we developed 24 apps; right now we have about 30 projects and it’s only February, so that number is growing rapidly.
Usually about 10 weeks
How I prepare for the development of a new app:
We start with a good technical specification document and app architecture. This is without any elements of design, but it’s the longest part of the process, and we rarely go back to that framework to change it once it’s done.
How people make money with apps:
The way to monetize with an app is not necessarily direct. It’s usually going to be used as a branding tool — if it’s going to fix a problem within your typical consumer base, then they’re going to see your company favorably.
What makes for a popular app:
A superior user experience and good marketing behind it
Biggest challenges with app development:
Integrating the app with other software and databases
What I have lost sleep over:
Client deadlines and waiting to see if an app is approved. Apple has a vetting process that takes up to 10 business days, and if they reject your app, you have to reconfigure components and then wait to be approved again.
Advice for companies in need of mobile apps:
Understand if your business model can incorporate an app. It’s not just a matter of launching an app for the sake of it; it has to be congruent with your business model and you have to be able to support it through marketing and PR.
Additional involvement in this field:
I’m on the mobile development degree advisory committee at Full Sail University.
Carlos Carbonell, CEO and founder, Echo Interaction Group Inc.
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama
Education: Bachelor’s in advertising, University of Florida
Hobbies: Triathlons, reading, watching sci-fi shows and movies
Little-known fact: I immigrated with my dad and two brothers to the U.S. from Panama and learned to speak English at the age of 14 by watching TV for the few months I wasn’t able to go to school.