SitterAdvantage™: How my app came to life!


hand-with-phone-in-playroomLike most entrepreneurs, great ideas are constantly popping up in my head and fortunately I am pretty good at writing those ideas down so I can work on them later.  When I relaunched my website What To Do With The Kids® back in 2011, my focus was on creating content that adults could use when it came to looking after kids and as a former youth worker at a local youth organization and program director at a summer camp, I had a lot of material to start with.

For many years after graduation I worked as a marketing professional in the electronic security industry and quickly learned the importance of having access to emergency help.  But it was during my time at college that I witnessed a tragic accident involving a kid that I witnessed and how adults react but more importantly, don’t react in such a situation.  The people who failed to react had no direct connection with the unfortunate outcome but it did illustrate the importance of knowing what to do, being prepared and having access to help.

One day, the idea hit.  What about an app that let’s babysitters, nannies and anyone else who works with kids access the games, crafts and activities on What To Do With The Kids® while providing them with the ability to get help in the palm of their hand.  The app would also provide them with the important information they need about the kids, the parents and even their location.  The idea for SitterAdvantage was born but like most ideas, it was just one of many notes in my smartphone.

In 2015 I accepted a marketing contract and decided to put my own company on hold for a while.  It started off as a great opportunity but as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.  Eight months later, I had had enough incompetence and returned to the world of the entrepreneur.

Having made up for lost time with What To Do With The Kids®, it was time that I started getting serious about the app so I started doing a little investigating and research showed that there were a lot of apps designed to find a sitter or nanny along with companies that acted as agents but nothing close to what my app would do.

I started working on the important features and designing it so that it was clean and easy to use.  Everything was ready except for one thing.  My only programming experience was from spending all day on a Commodore Vic 20 back in the early 80’s getting the screen to change colors.   I needed someone to do the programming but with an almost non-existent budget, how?

As a student in the Creative Advertising program at Ottawa’s Algonquin College, I remember having the local shopping malls come in to provide us with real-world experience.  We divided into groups and were assigned a mall where we designed, created and pitched an advertising campaign.  It was great experience in interacting with a real client and doing real work.  Maybe there was a programming program at Algonquin that could use the same type of real life experience?

A few minutes of research and I discovered that Algonquin College has a two-year program called Mobile Application Design and Development.  I contacted the program coordinators Steve Griffith and Gerald Hurdle and pitched my idea.   They asked me to submit a one page outline by the beginning of December and by January they contacted me to say that it was accepted and that a team of students would be in touch to start work.

The students involved were Lindsey Baker, Nehmat Gereige, Paul Harvey, Anna Ioudovskaya and Nune Vardanyan, collectively known as Code Blue.

During our first meeting, I was quite pleased to be on the other side of the table.  Over the past 30 years I have made a lot of pitches but this turned out to be a real treat.  Here were five young adults doing their best to make a good first impression and to find out what my goals and expectations were for this app.  A few hours later they had all of my notes and illustrations that I had accumulated over the years and were ready to create something that I could only imagine.

Over the next few months there were a number of meetings and a lot of emails.  Lots and lots of emails.

Now with five people, you will get five different visions but for the most part, the team was able to understand my vision.  They weren’t afraid to ask questions and they were always making suggestions on how to improve on a feature.  A few suggestions were rejected but the best were minor tweaks that made the overall performance of the app better.  Having the ability to openly share ideas back and forth helped make the project move quickly.

Seeing the first version was very exciting.  Of course it was very basic with very few features but it was great to see my vision starting to take shape.  By this time I had come up with the name SitterAdvantage™ and a logo.

By the end of May 2016, school was over for Code Blue but unfortunately, the app wasn’t ready.  I was disappointed and so was the team but I knew that there wasn’t much more that needed to be done to get it to market.  I really appreciated the work that these students put into it.  It couldn’t have been easy to work for a client and keep up with classes.

At this time I decided to gage interest by launching a Kickstarter campaign.  Like many, the idea of having people invest in your product was very enticing.  Weeks were spent creating a video, developing rewards and promoting the campaign.  The goal was $7,000 which is quite small in the crowdfunding world but the main purpose was to create interest.

Interest however did build but it mostly came from companies pitching their sales programs to promote my campaign.  Many made claims of how successful their clients were at reaching their crowdfunding goals but it was hard to actually find these clients.

Prior to the Kickstarter deadline an investor reached out and offered the full amount but didn’t want to go through Kickstarter since they didn’t feel the need to give away a percentage to a company who would also tack on additional processing fees.  The campaign did create some exposure and but did end up with one investor from Germany pledging $1.  For all the work involved, I would suggest spending your time and resources elsewhere.

At this point I had an app that was not finished but there was no shortage of people, primarily Algonquin College graduates, sending me their resume.  One of the members of Code Blue, Nune Vardanyan offered to finish the app.

Nune partnered with Nignesh Patel, a young man who actually worked with Code Blue at Algonquin College so they were both familiar with the project and knew exactly what needed to be done.  A competitive quote was submitted and a fixed-price contract was signed.

Nune and Nignesh were great to work with.  They kept me up to date on developments, made suggestions and were able to add a few extra features that I wanted.  The goal was to have the app launched September 1 but as anyone who works in programming will tell you, testing and debugging takes time.  The app was being developed on both the Android and Apple platforms so when one worked well, there was a problem with the other.

By the end of October 2016, both were ready to be uploaded to Google Play and the AppStore, roughly thirteen months after the project began.  SitterAdvantage™ is now available for sale but now the hard part begins.

To find out more about SitterAdvantage™ visit www.SitterAdvantage.com or better yet, buy a copy on Google Play or the AppStore.

 

Brian Presley

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