This is the second of 10 profiles provided by the North Carolina Technology Association highlighting its newest Beacon Award category, Ten Startups to Watch. The companies will be recognized during the organization's November 6th NC Technology Awards Gala.
By Ann Revell-Pechar
is a three-year-old firm driven by design excellence. As a matter of fact, founder Jeremy Olson
considers design an obsession.
As a developer of apps for the App Store, Tapity has received many accolades from the design-fixated Apple community. For example, the first product, Grades, helps students succeed in all their classes—and won an Apple Design Award. The next product was an offline translation app called Languages; it received the Best of 2012 award from Apple in the Intuitive Touch category. And Tapity recently released a product to help professionals with time-allocation called Hours, which was the #1 best selling business app in the store when it was first released.
Olson points out that two of the three products have outsold Angry Birds—and selling at up to five times the price.
“We stood out, and then became the #1 business app,” he says. “Our success is not just about features, but how we solve human problems—whether for students dealing with an overload of work, travelers looking to communicate more effectively, or professionals remembering to record their hours. We’re not just about the technology, but about solving the human problem.”
A Student: of the App Store
Olson says he’s always been a student of the App Store, and has spent years studying what elements make for a great app.
“Marketing an app is a huge element of the success of the app,” he notes.
He’s learned so much that he’s decided to share his secrets. Jeremy co-authored The App Design Handbook,
which was released last year, and just recently released an online video course
to teach the non-technical aspects of making an app successful.
“We’ll address everything from concept validation to design and marketing. It is be geared to helping entrepreneurs succeed,” he says.
The firm spends a fair portion of its time on client work, keeping that same focus on creating products that are beautifully designed and simple—with clear, clean design that doesn’t get in the way of the product objectives.
Money and Challenges
Some entrepreneurs would put money and challenges in the same bucket. Not Tapity. Olson has bootstrapped from the get-go, and while Tapity is doing just fine, Olson says: “We are not opposed to outside money to help fuel growth; we have just been so focused on our business that spending a lot of time to try to raise capital seems like a distraction.”
But he does foresee challenges down the road, because people are buying fewer paid apps while downloading more and more free apps.
“A big challenge in the next year,” he says, “will be to find business models that adapt appropriately.”
Reigning in Charlotte
Tapity is the only NCTA winner selected this year from the Charlotte area, but Olson hopes it's blazing the trail for many more entries next year. Olson's commitment to the region is palatable:
“I love Charlotte as a place to live, but we also have tremendous support from community. I started the business while at UNC Charlotte, and when we got into the Ventureprise
student incubator program, it provided a free space to work and access to the great leaders of Charlotte, thought leaders in Tech startups, and offered helpful advice about business from this supportive community.”
When asked who should be sharing in the success of the company, it comes right back to family.
“Of course my wife makes it easy to succeed, but I also have to thank my parents, for homeschooling me and my six siblings, and for encouraging me to pursue my interests. I began programming at the age of nine. So, at 24, I already have 15 years of experience.”
His father, Todd Olson, has taken over as CEO, so the family connection stays critical. And it helps Jeremy to plan appropriately. Tapity already has plans to adapt Hours to numerous platforms, including the Web.
This, he says, will prepare the company to focus on business applications and strategic SaaS partnerships.
And for us Android users?
Apps, coming soon.