21 Mar Milwaukee software developer gains bottom line, loses waistline
Wauwatosa, Wis. – John Psuik became a triathlon athlete only three years ago, but his Milwaukee-based mobile software products company has been engaged in a simple marathon since opening in 1996.
And now, the route of that marathon has taken a sharp turn toward Europe and Asia.
Psuik, founder and owner of Developer One Software, said the company has reached an agreement with O2, a European mobile phone provider, to include one of its newest software applications in Windows Mobile Pocket PC devices and smart phones. The software, a time-management product called Agenda One, is a simplified version of Developer One’s Agenda Fusion application, one designed to reach a greater number of mobile device users.
Psuik, who already has partnerships with the likes of Microsoft and Germany’s handit.de, expects larger exposure to a greater audience, but he isn’t precisely sure what this means to the growth potential of his company, which employs seven people in the Technology Innovation Center at Milwaukee County Research Park and generates $2 million in revenue annually.
“That’s a little bit unknown at this point,” he said. “Some of it is based on the success of the device they are selling it with.”
Mobile market penetration
Perhaps more significantly, it depends on device owners actually installing and using the software. Developer One markets pocket PC and smart phone software applications for time and information management. Its leading products help individuals and business professionals manage their time, organize personal and business information, and schedule tasks on smart phones, PDAs, or any mobile computing device that runs the Windows mobile operating system.
The company, which now reaches just about every corner of the globe, generates 40 percent of its sales in the United States, and its products are offered in multiple languages abroad. Code Wallet, which organizes personal and business information, is offered in 18 different languages, and Agenda One will start out in 20 languages.
While the number of people who purchase mobile computing devices is growing, the number of people that add software to them remains flat, according to Psuik, even though manufacturers help by marketing the software they bundle on their devices. While O2 has committed to buying 50,000 copies of Agenda One to start with, and Developer One has sold more than one million copies of its software online or through reseller channels, Psuik believes the potential market for mobile applications is 10 times larger than its current size.
That means software companies like Developer One have to find ways to expose their products to people who aren’t looking for them.
One answer might be in simplicity as a selling point. Psuik characterized Agenda One as a next-generation version of Agenda Fusion, but one that actually simplifies things. Since the launch of the pocket PC in 2000, application developers have been adding features to satisfy the never-ending need of tech-savvy mobile users for more complex functionality. In so doing, however, they may have turned off part of their potential market with complexity.
In developing a simplified version of Agenda Fusion, Developer One modeled it after the Apple iPod, a popular handheld device that is simple and easy to use. Agenda Fusion will continue to be offered for more sophisticated consumers, but Agenda One might be a way to help more consumers reach that level of sophistication.
“If we can focus on ease-of-use, we may get more people to try it,” Psuik said. “Many people simply are unaware that you can add software to the device.”
Software as a fitness tool
They also may be unaware of what it can be used for. Psuik, for example, relied on his own software products and his pocket PC to shed 100 pounds. His life change began when he saw pictures of himself at a conference, and a subsequent weigh-in confirmed that at 265 pounds, he weighed more than he ever had before.
That day, he became a goal-oriented fitness buff, and Agenda Fusion soon would become a valuable ally in scheduling his time, tracking meals and fitness activities, and balancing work and family life in the process.
The level of detail enabled by the software helped him to pinpoint where he was making mistakes in his diet, and chronicle those glorious workouts where he achieved more than planned. He credits better time management with dropping 90 pounds in nine months, and the improved preparation also led to a greater sense of professional achievement and satisfaction.
It also played a role in his completing, in less than 14 hours, the 2004 Ironman Triathlon in Madison, an event that included a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon. While his next business goals involve talks with a mobile device manufacturer in China, and the development of another, perhaps revolutionary software application, his next fitness goal is to complete a double marathon.
And even though Agenda Fusion is not specifically designed as a weight-loss or fitness-management tool, Psuik believes it will suffice. “It’s something that people have with them all the time,” he noted, “so why not make better use of it.”
Software in the park
Few people appreciate Developer One more than Guy Mascari, director of development for Milwaukee County Research Park. Mascari said the research park is looking to house a variety of entrepreneurial companies, and he characterized Developer One as a classic, technology-based business.
He said Developer One has made good use of the Technology Innovation Center, the reserach park’s incubation building, starting out in one room and gradually expanding in terms of space and employees.
“That’s the type of thing we really like to see, and it doesn’t make any difference how old the company is, necessarily, as long as it continues to innovate and to grow,” Mascari said. “A company that is 10 years old can still be in what you might call the incubation process, where it is still entrepreneurial, still innovating, and still growing and hiring people.”
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