Discovering success: Australian Discovr developer David McKinney

Sometimes people do crazy things. Perth developer David McKinney had a dream job as a marine researcher surveying the waters off the coast of Western Australia. Yet he decided to quit his job and risk his home with a second mortgage so he could launch a series of apps in the Apple App Store.

His content recommendation apps known as ‘Discovr’ have been extraordinarily successful generating over one million downloads from the iTunes store and reaching number 1 in 52 countries including the US and Japan. His development company Filter Squad recently received $1.2 million in funding from investment firm Yuuwa Capital and was listed as one of Billboard’s 2011 top 10 Music start-ups.

In other words it’s been a stunning entrepreneurial debut for McKinney. Now he admits he took some ridiculous risks. Putting a second mortgage on his home was “a completely dangerous and irresponsible move” and he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But if there was one positive it meant that failure was not an option so he was forced to fully commit himself to his dream – to create apps based on algorithms that recommend new content based on a user’s consumption behaviours.

He developed and launched Discovr Music and Discovr Apps in the Apple App Store. That drive to solve the problem of discovery pervades the newly released second version of Discovr Music as well as another soon-to-be-released app targeting another entertainment vertical.

“We’re really dabbling on the fringes of discovery because it’s so hard to solve” McKinney says. “We’re starting to bring in alternate modes of discovery to make that experience more applicable to different situations.”

Apart from the personal drive to explore the concept of discovery McKinney says companies like Apple have seriously raised the bar for what consumers expect from technologies and this competitive pressure is felt most significantly in the world of mobile apps.

“It is super high-end and challenging and difficult to deliver high-quality applications” he says. “What’s normal and the standard is you have to make awesome apps otherwise people won’t care.

“It’s fairly incredible on iOS it has caused a whole movement of apps trying to make things special for customers with beautiful design and a fantastic user experience. I’m really excited to see where they go because that’s become the standard normal mainstream.

“I’m not talking super early adopters more the normals who have this general expectation of good design and great user experience and it’s a great environment for us to work with.”

The company’s success has been built on the back of the now ubiquitous iPhone and app culture and he warned that the iTunes store is a very peculiar world. Awesome apps have never enjoyed App Store success because they were not marketed very well he said and the converse is true.

“Marketing for the App Store is a particular type of marketing and there are certain rules that apply only to the App Store in ways to drive demand and get the best results. It’s all about understanding the app ecosystem. It’s a peculiar world and it operates in an unusual way which is very different to the web B2B and enterprise mobile consumer market” he says.