Uncounted coffees, a season of Futurama, and 48 hours of uninterrupted coding are all that was necessary for Bill Burgess and Brandon Medenwald to begin their startup, Simply Made Apps. Throw in a pack of Twinkies and you could call this a diehard programmer’s nightly ritual. Regardless, Simply Made Apps is a successful startup located in Fargo that focuses on creating easy-to-use applications for iOS, Android, and the Web.
The duo’s first project, Simple In/Out, was an employee in/out board application that utilizes geofencing technologies to record worker attendance. After a high level of success with thousands of business customers around the world, Simply Made Apps is beginning work on new projects.
As a fellow Fargo resident and entrepreneur, we invited Brandon to share some of his experience and advice as a successful startup founder with us on Emerging Prairie.
EP: When did your business start, and how did you and Bill come up with the idea?
We started Simply Made Apps in January of 2011. I personally had problems with the in/out board software we used at my day job and frequently joked that I could develop better software in a single weekend. It was old, ugly and displayed data that was consistently out of date. One day it hit me that smartphones and geofences could solve the problem, updating everyone’s status without any user interaction. I pitched the idea to Bill over beers, and Simple Made Apps was born. We locked ourselves away for a single 48 hour period, ate nothing but junk food, inhaled more coffee than I care to remember, and created what eventually became Simple In/Out.
EP: As a genuine startup, how are you funding your business (bootstrap, friends & family, investors, etc.)?
We’re 100% bootstrapped and proud of it. We started Simply Made Apps with 3 founders, each investing a single $100 bill. That money paid for licensing and our first website while we worked during the day to pay our bills. Since then, we’ve quit our day jobs, opened our new office and hired a few folks.
EP: Why did you choose to start your business in the FM area?
Both Bill and I have lived in Fargo for a number of years. Simply Made Apps’ office on Broadway is right in the middle of what’s becoming Fargo’s technology hot spot. We look forward to being here for a long time to come.
EP: How are you working to expand your business?
We’re always looking to get the word out about Simple In/Out, which is both the best product in its class and the most inexpensive. We have marketing efforts, but thrive on word of mouth from our very happy customers. We take pride in our responsiveness to their needs and our personal touch.
EP: Can you name any startup or entrepreneurial heroes that guide your work?
I’m personally a huge fan of 37signals. Build a product that doesn’t do 100 things poorly, but does 10 things amazingly well. Charge a fair price, no gimmicks, and most importantly be honest to your customers and yourselves.
EP: Where would you like to see your business in the next 5 years?
We’d like to have a few more products that solve problems we experience every day. We’re problem solvers, that’s what we do.
EP: What would you like to see happen in the Red River Valley startup community in the future?
I think a co-working space could make a great addition to the downtown area. When we started out, feeding off the energy of other like-minded startups even during just nights and weekends would have been exhilarating – an environment like Startup Weekend 365 days a year.
EP: Startup Weekend Fargo 2014 is right around the corner; do you have any advice for people interested in registering for the event?
Less is more. Don’t get bogged down with the details and instead focus on the big picture.