Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fooducate founder on the ingredients of a successful iPhone app

As we know, some titles for iOS and Android devices are more appetizing than others. One of our favorites is Fooducate, which informs users about the nutritional benefits and hazards of everything we put in our mouths.

As Appolicious Advisor Kyle Ripley describes Fooducate’s iPhone app in his review: “if you're a conscientious shopper and would like an easy way to compare products or quickly find out the dirt on a particular food product, this is definitely the app for you.”

In this week’s Meet the Makers, we speak with Fooducate co-founder and CEO Hemi Weingarten about his free application, which also recently debuted on Android devices. Weingarten shares why he believes Apple named Fooducate among the App Store’s “Staff Favorites”, the development and QA challenges associated with creating an Android offering, and why (for now) he is content with having apps only on the iOS and Android platforms.

Appolicious: What inspired you to create Fooducate?

Hemi Weingarten: I have young children. When they were just babies, my wife brought home a glow-in-the-dark yogurt. It was a kiddie yogurt with cartoon characters and promised to be choc full of nutrients. When I read the ingredient list I discovered the bright pink color was from Red #40, an artificial color that has

been shown to cause hyperactivity in children, is a  potential carcinogen, and is being phased out in Europe. How could the FDA approve this? I decided to use technology to help people like me make better food choices based on objective information not marketing messages on product packages.

APPO: How does the app work, and who should be downloading it?

HW: Everyone who cares about what they are eating should download Fooducate. It is very simple to use:

1. Point the phone camera at a product barcode, and it automatically gets scanned.

2. The app immediately shows a nutrition grade - A B C or D - along with a few bullet point explanations.

3. The app also lets you choose healthier alternatives.

APPO: Tell us the secret of how an app like yours can be named as a "Staff Favorite" by the iTunes App Store.

HW: Make a beautiful, kick-ass app and the good folks at Apple will recognize it and contact you. That's how it happened with us.

APPO: As Fooducate is a free app for the iPhone and Android devices, tell us how you make money and how the application weaves into your overall business model?

HW: Currently we are focused on creating a great user experience. But we certainly have plans to be a big profitable business.

APPO: What are the different development challenges associated with creating different apps for iOS and Android platforms?

HW: There are three big ones.

1) There are certain design considerations you need to be aware of. Example: If you have a back button in iOS, you don't need it on Android.

2. Fragmentation in Android makes the development cycle interesting. We spend a lot more time on QA and testing with Android.

3. In general, each added platform is more stuff to manage...that's why we currently are happy with the 2 we have.

APPO: How about the marketing differences? Is there anything with Android comparable to getting plugged by the iTunes App Store?

HW: We've been on Android just a few weeks, so I really can't comment on best practices. But I would love to learn more if you have suggestions.

APPO: What are your future plans for updates and additional mobile applications?

HW: We have an extensive roadmap of values that we hope will delight our user base when they will be implemented in our apps.

APPO: What are the three biggest challenges and/or opportunities related to the mobile media space that are currently keeping you up at night?

HW: Discovery ability, engagement and opportunity.

1. All mobile developers are worried about discoverability and distribution - how do you get above the noise of 400,000 other apps.

2. Engagement - how do you keep your users in the game, when your app is not a game.

3. Opportunity - we have just scratched the surface of the user base we can reach and affect.