I had the great pleasure to have Javier Soltero, the CEO of Acompli, on the podcast tonight. They are a fairly new startup with an app coming out in the next few months that aims to fix the problem of email on a mobile device. What is so interesting about their approach as a company is that they are banking on the BYOA (Bring Your Own App) model. This is different from the freemium model where you get some basic functionality and then need to pay money to unlock more functionality. BYOA is not an easy model to succeed at and is a tough model for building a company long term. I think Acompli will do well.
I have tried their app, and it works well. Acompli will be giving the app away for free to all users. People will be able to use it for personal and, if they so choose, corporate mail. Yet this isn’t a company that is focused solely on the consumer, this is a company that has the enterprise in mind from the beginning. They built their app and backend so that any corporate email being delivered to the app/mobile device could be easily administered by enterprise IT and so it solved an enterprise user’s pain point as well, not just the everyday user. Their plan to make money is through selling services to the enterprise that allow them to manage (and get analytics from) peoples email on a mobile device as well or better than they can now. (Important to note, they’re not changing or touching the enterprise’s back end email system.)
What’s so special about building an app this way that can lead to success in a BYOA model? First, it’s very rare to see a company that is trying to solve both a consumer problem and approaching it from the enterprise point of view. This is one of the things that Dropbox has struggled with. They built their app directly for consumers and are now trying to pivot for the enterprise. It’s a hard thing to do. Most enterprises look at Dropbox and struggle to see how they can enable it for their users while keeping their data secure. It wasn’t designed with the enterprise in mind. Evernote is very much in the same boat, although they have been more successful with their pivot and the controls they have enabled for IT administrators. Whereas, Box, which is in the same business as Dropbox, pivoted almost at the beginning to become an enterprise enabled app and they have been much more successful at cracking the enterprise. It’s much easier if you keep the needs of the enterprise in mind when you build your app and service than it is to pivot to the enterprise later on. It is difficult to bolt on security and administration for large enterprise type groups. It can be even harder to meet all the legal and compliance obligations of many businesses. Trying to crack the enterprise for most app companies is just plain hard.
Second, the business model presupposes that everyone will fall in love with their app and will then follow the BYOA model. When all of your users move to a particular app or service, it becomes harder for IT to say no and they are forced to enable you. This means that the app has to have followed the FUN (Focus on the User Needs) principle and have an awesome UX. It has to address the pain points so well that users will be beating down the door of IT.
That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen already. IT gets asked to enable all sorts of apps every day. The problem is that most of these apps aren’t enterprise ready and can compromise the safety of the organization’s data. A good IT department will look at a BYOA app (yes that is redundant) and will focus on its features and how it enables their users. IT will then look at the security of the app. If that app doesn’t meet the requirements of the enterprise due to security or compliance, a great IT department goes and finds another app that is enterprise ready and is as good or better than the first app that they were shown. The goal, after all, is to enable their people, not just say no.
Companies that can follow the two principles of designing for the consumer while meeting the needs of the enterprise and adhering to the FUN principle with a brilliant UX will position themselves to succeed in this coming era of BYOA. These are the companies, and I think Acompli will be one, that enable enterprise IT to move from the Department of No to the Department of Know.