Zak Tanieloff founded De La Plata Enterprises after creating the app Near to Here in 2009.
Tell me about what you do at De La Plata Enterprises.
We are a custom iphone app development shop – that is, we conceive and develop iphone applications both for ourselves and for clients. Our first product, Near to Here, is a geolocated enabled tour guide . It layers wikipedia with your present location to alert you with information about what landmarks as you pass them.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I went to college with very old historic buildings. Some had plaques to mark them, but many were unmarked. I thought it would be cool if there existed something on my phone that would tell me about the buildings as I passed them. It was only recently that the technology caught up to my idea.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was working on custom software projects in Bangalore , India.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Yes, of course. It was a way to plan strategy, evaluate competitors, and just overall get a better understanding of the business before diving into it.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Yes, we have staff developers and designers working all over the globe, from Russia to India to England and Canada. This has really worked well for us because it allows me to scale up and scale down as necessary because many of our staffers are per project free lancers.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Certainly. Our initial launch was predicated on social networking and social marketing. We saw huge traffic to our site and had our app reach the top 25 Travel downloads after organizing a strong Facebook and Twitter campaign.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Well because we deal in digital goods – i.e. iphone apps – once our product has been built, like Near to Here, we are immediately scalable. That is, the marginal cost to produce another unit for sale is zero. This has been really helpful to grow the business because we are free from traditional capital constraints as demand increases and we are able to easily fulfill that demand with limited resources.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Don't be scared to try. Don't be scared to mess up. And when you do mess up, which you invariably will, don't give up.
Great advice, Zak. I'll have to install your app next time I'm on the road!