Keith is the co-founder and CEO of Designli, an app development firm in Greenville, SC. He started the company with his long-time friend and co-founder, Joshua Tucker. 10 years into the business, Designli has won numerous awards, being named to the Inc. 5000 and selected as one of the top app development companies in the United States.
In your own words, what’s your role in the app business right now?
My role is to help our customers navigate the art, science, and business of mobile app development. It’s an art because your app should be beautiful enough to create a memorable user experience. It’s a science because we use custom code to meet all of the client’s requirements. Finally, it’s a business–it’s our job to turn your investment into a profitable piece of software.
How did you end up working in apps? / get started?
All I wanted for my 10th birthday was a domain name. Fast forward a few years to high school, and when my mom told me to get a summer job I opted to sell my website instead, rather than start mowing lawns.
While working on my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State University, I spent my time coding websites and launching the Ohio State Freestyle Rap and Beatbox Club, which grew to be one of the largest student-run organizations on campus. I paired up with Joshua (co-founder) to build a college startup, Applits, named Inc.com’s “Coolest College Startup of 2014,” and have been leading app and web-app projects with Designli ever since.
What are you most excited about in apps right now? (tech, trends, people, verticals)
I am really excited that apps are becoming accessible to more businesses. Several years ago, it was relatively rare for a brand to launch its own custom app. Now companies have realized that custom software like a web app or mobile app can extend their offerings and help them scale. Business leaders don’t have to settle for out-of-the-box solutions.
What other companies in the app space do you rate/ inspire you and why?
We, at Designli, are big fans of Atlassian. They’ve developed an incredible suite of business apps. It just so happens that we also use a lot of their software to keep our own clients’ projects on track.
What do you like most about working in apps?
My favorite thing about working in apps–by far–is connecting with all of our different clients. We get to learn about all kinds of companies, solve unique technical challenges, and work towards various business goals. We never stop learning.
What one thing would you change about the app industry / market?
I think most app development agencies could do much better with their quoting process. Flat-rate, per-project pricing can force development firms into that old waterfall method. We’re trying to change that with our on-demand product teams and agile processes.
Where do you think there’s an opportunity for apps / or unmet needs?
A lot of people are obsessed with fintech apps and ERP-centric apps right now, but we don’t think about opportunities as being limited to one type of idea. The best apps come from people with deep knowledge of specific industries. If you have a novel approach to solving a costly problem, you have a great app idea.
If you weren’t working in apps what would you be doing?
I’d be teaming up with a software company–perhaps a SAAS product I believe in–to participate in their sales operation. I really enjoy getting to know customers, building trust, and explaining the value of products and services that I know can help the client. So, if it wasn’t my own business, I’d probably seek this type of role in another software company.
iOS or Android?
While I’m an Android (Google Pixel) user myself when it comes to helping clients navigate the “iOS or Android?” question regarding what platform to build their app on, they don’t need to decide – we focus on cross-platform development.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
If you see me out and about, ask me to show you videos of me waterskiing without skis.
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