Behind the scenes of a data capturing app
I interviewed Thom Bokelaar, the CCO of MoreApp, to find out how the MoreApp success started. MoreApp is a Dutch startup, founded in 2013. They built one of the best form builder tools in the world.
Impressive is that they did it only in two years, and with only four developers, while the competitors have not been improving as much.
The idea to create a mobile app for capturing data came when Thom Bokelaar started working at Distel Software, a software company that builds custom applications. Distel Software, now called Black Snow, has a lot of customers in agriculture, who had requested to replace the forms by a mobile app. Agricultural companies are using forms every day for inspecting the growing process of the plants. After collecting the data they had to walk to the computer, type the information into the system and extract all the pictures from a camera to the computer. They take several pictures of every plant, inspecting up to hundred plants every day! They were looking into some standard solutions but none of them really fit the request. So Distel Software built a Mobile Registration app. That is where 'More' comes from: 'Mobile Registration'.
From idea to startup
It all started with Thom and Arjan van Dijk. Arjan is a developer from Distel Software, who used a lot of his spare time to build MoreApp. He built MoreApp's first prototype, the first iOS app, and the first Android app. ''MoreApp had the advantage because we could look at our competitors,'' Thom explains, ''and learn from their mistakes.'' Soon an app was born, MoreApp was put into the App Store and the Google Play Store. That meant a position and test clients. Thom clarifies, ''People found the app, submitted, filled in a contact form and then we could get in contact with them and ask them what do they need.''
They quickly realized that the market was too big to handle for a custom built software company. Because MoreApp was still a prototype, they could not get any funding from the bank and could not find an investor. Avisi got in half a year after founding the company. Thom explains that MoreApp needed more knowledge of web applications and scalable databases, which Avisi has a lot of. He highlights that Avisi is more than just an investor but a software company with a lot of knowledge. Building the company was just an administration process. ''That was it, we just did it!'' describes Thom.
The most challenging part of developing MoreApp was to build a tool that is so simple that everyone can use it. Thom explains, ''We built a configuration tool which is really easy to use, but the tool itself is actually very complex. It is not just that you use it, but you use it to build something.'' It is a business tool that has to be simple, flexible, secure and reliable. And you can fully integrate it with other systems.
The other struggle was that the app has to deal with different mobile devices. Thom points out that it is hard to build a solution which fits all the platforms, all devices, works well and is still simple and configurable. That is the value that MoreApp adds as a tool vendor. The software companies who have perfect software for back-end system should not build their own mobile app, because they have to deal with the same struggles that MoreApp does. Thom Bokelaar explains, ''This is the main focus and the main value we add to the software companies, so they do not have to struggle with these problems, we do it for them!''
Getting in the picture
When I asked Thom, if he has a funny startup story, he laughed and told that filling in forms in general is not really sexy. The funny story is how MoreApp got its name. First the name was MOREAPPS and when they founded the company they needed a .com domain. Sadly moreapps.com was, and probably still is, owned by Oracle. ''Thankfully www.moreapp.com was still available and we only had to pay like 900 dollars or so. Then the next week, after we bought the domain, we got an offer for 10.000 dollars to sell the domain that we just bought. Of course we didn't accept! That was the story why we changed the name.''
Thom says that when he started he reached out to many potential customers who pointed the door to him and said, ''We are already using or building an app like that!!'' The funny part now is that two years later, the companies he contacted, sign up on their own. All of them. It means that the tool is really great. It is just that the acquisition to these companies is very hard. The companies signing up on their own is a good sign. It means that MoreApp has a good marketing scheme. The brand awareness is getting better and MoreApp is a tool that fits.
Thom says that he actually finds it really hard to get news into the media. MoreApp has recieved some attention, what he is proud of, but he thinks it is not enough. He started alone with the marketing, however, it went well when, a year ago, MoreApp hired Denise Ermes. With her MoreApp has someone who is 100% responsible for marketing. This was when MoreApp started to get more attention and mentions on the internet.
With MoreApp, companies can convert their paper forms into digital forms. So, does MoreApp itself has paperless office? Thom emphasizes that MoreApp's office itself is very paperless. MoreApp has no standard paper forms. He himself uses digital forms for administration; like for kilometer registrations. The Moreapp team uses digital tools to manage all the documents and planning. However, he thinks that MoreApp might do a bit better: ''We still use business cards, but we could get rid of those.''