Appetiser co-founders discuss building customer relationships and becoming MVP – TechCrunch

Appetiser’s site lists three factors for an application’s success: technology, marketing and design. And while the Australian agency was recommended to TechCrunch via our survey to identify software development partners for startups, they could very well have gone through our survey to recommend growth marketers, which you can answer. here.

With a focus on the design, creation and development of mobile and web applications, Appetiser co-founders Jamie Shostak and Michael MacRae have been supported by several clients who have worked with them from their early days. projects. “Every startup has to start with an idea. And some of the best startups may come from people who have first-hand experience of the problem, even if they are not the most technical, ”noted Shostak.

One such client is TradeNow, an Australian late payment financing option for trading companies and their clients. “The Appetizer team has developed great, cutting-edge applications and also believed in the vision of TradeNow from the start,” wrote founder Matt Brennan. “We were able to develop a great working relationship from the start and continue it throughout the trip. “

His fellow entrepreneur Andre Eikmeier praised the flexibility of Appetiser’s model. “We were able to use our CTO to lead a team of six developers from the Appetizer team, with occasional UX / UI, product management and project management as needed. This was a proper collaboration, not a black box agency arrangement. So we were able to build capacity internally at the same time, rather than dependency. “

To find out more, we interviewed both Shostak and MacRae, in a discussion that went from prototyping to growth, and from MVP to design excellence.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the origin story of Appetiser?

Jamie Chostak: In 2017, I came across a great German at the coffee machine in a coworking space in Melbourne: Michael. He had apps with millions of users and I ran a growth marketing agency. After getting to know each other, we discovered a mutual passion for building and growing technological products. We had healthy debates and identified how we could help others with their own product’s success: speed to market, data-driven insight, top quality, and strong teams. And that’s how Appetizer was born.

How big is your team now and how is it structured?

Michael MacRae: We have a team of 150 people in Asia and 30 people in Australia. Our teams are built around efficiency: small customer-integrated production teams comprising iOS, Android and back-end developers, as well as UX designers, product managers and QA / PM specialists. These teams work together in an agile environment and evolve up or down depending on the needs of the project. The appetizer itself is relatively flat, with a particular emphasis on data-driven decision making through iterative testing.

One of your customers told TechCrunch that the Appetizer is “the opposite of a black box”. What does it mean?

MacRae: The “phone game” is a popular game for children that teaches us about the consequences of messages passed from person to person. Unfortunately, agencies love to “protect” their team of developers, testers, and designers from clients by introducing layers. Simply put, we are doing the opposite. When we build your team at Appetiser, it will be your team! Join stand-ups, brainstorm with your team, discuss challenges, or even set up one-on-one meetings. We replicated the structure of successful startups with internal teams, then we rebuilt it as an agency.


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Your site mentions that beyond designing and building applications, you are your customers’ “growth machine”. Can you explain?

MacRae: Appetizer’s vision has never been to be an application development company. Instead, we see ourselves as a product success agency. Simply put, we try to maximize the chances of a product becoming successful. We measure how many of our apps are successful, how many users they have, how much revenue they generate, and how much money they raise.

Our entire team is held accountable for these metrics of success, which means we do everything in our power to help our clients achieve them. It can include design, development, and growth, but it’s often also about strategy, helping fundraising, and more.

Why does your strategy require defining a minimum viable product (MVP)?

Shostak: We have spent years refining the internal intellectual property on the database to quickly deliver high quality, reliable products. We use it to help entrepreneurs get to market quickly with an MVP.

MacRae: Defining this MVP comes down to creating value in the real world, but also to detaching ourselves emotionally from the good guys. They can always be added later! As a result, we reduce the time and iteration cycles to find the product-to-market fit. Our customers save time and money, which will be invested in growing their products. Our client Move With Us used this approach to cut development times in half, which has seen them gain popularity in Australia and the United States.

But before that, you do prototyping. Why?

Shostak: Whether you’re someone with an idea or a big business, we always start with a stand-alone design step and an interactive prototype. This allows us to visually define the project while creating a cutting edge front-end experience. In the words of Steve Jobs, we like to start with the user experience and [work backward to the technology].

It is also a great starting point for raising capital, gaining stakeholder buy-in, or validating their idea before moving on to full development. We are extremely proud of clients like Good Empire and Vello who have been able to raise [funding] even before development.

Why do you attach importance to the quality of the design?

MacRae: On the App Store, you have a few seconds to convince a user to download your app. On the web, if you don’t convert a visitor in seconds, they’ll be gone forever. So, first and foremost, design excellence is about understanding what users want. This speeds up user acquisition. And once you’ve signed up your user, a solid user experience holds them back.

We also believe that product design is not just a creative field; it’s a question of performance: one design will always outperform the other. We try to centralize the learning of all our projects to design based on proven tactics to minimize risky assumptions.

How to share knowledge internally?

MacRae: Appetizer has created more internal intellectual property than most agencies. This includes our base plate; our benchmarks to unify the team on the basis of best practices, on which a large part of our team continuously studies, tests and iterates; and our educational materials and courses.

For the latter, we have created the University of the aperitif. It offers a growing curriculum of production-related topics such as standards, best practices, and guidelines, and also covers topics such as economics, CRO, and data analytics. The employees of the aperitif even have weekly exams that ask them to apply their learnings.

What are your plans for next year?

Shostak: With a remote culture first, our plan has always been to hire the best talent in the world. It started with an initial focus on Asia-Pacific. So far we are in Davao, Cebu, Manila, Melbourne and Sydney. In 2022, we are looking to expand this to a few more continents. [ … ] and you can expect to see us in the United States within the next 12 months.

In addition, from 2022 and beyond, we want to create our own community and platform of startups, and expand it globally. From partnering with investors, crowdfunding platforms, lawyers and accountants to creating our own educational content. We want to allow startups to conquer international markets. And we’re also currently building an incubator called Appetizer Ventures, where we’ll help further accelerate client startups and even potentially create some in-house.

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