Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the company?
I’m the Founder & CEO of Sidebench, an award-winning digital innovation lab, and product design studio. Sidebench incubates select early-stage startups and partners with enterprises & brands including Red Bull, Facebook, Oakley, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, Sony Pictures, United Talent Agency, NBC Universal, Cedars-Sinai, Instagram, American Heart Association, among others. Sidebench’s goal is to create positive disruption in all industries and to impact the most number of lives through our work positively. We are closely aligned with the Los Angeles Design Community as a company through OpenIDEO, Social Enterprise Alliance Los Angeles, the WITH Foundation, and I’m also personally a board member for multiple non-profit companies, including American Red Cross and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Our work has been recognized in Entrepreneur Magazine’s most entrepreneurial companies in America, the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and Inc Magazine’s fastest-growing companies in America.
What was the idea behind starting this organization?
With my background in technology consulting and user experience & product design, I had a vision for building next-generation applications and custom software for large enterprise companies in a very different way than the industry’s big players. I wanted to digitally transform large businesses while also incubating, investing in, and launching startups at the same time. My idea was to integrate human-centered design, modern technical architecture, and forward-looking business strategy into every step of a new product design framework, one shaped around our start-up style of rapid prototyping with the risk mitigation planning and testing needs of working with Enterprise-level IT, Marketing, and Operations teams. It didn’t take long before it was clear that we could go toe-to-toe with the big guys and win.
What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
We operate with an in-house team of Technical Architects, UX Designers & Researchers, Product Designers, and Product Managers in Los Angeles, and our software engineering team sits in Egypt. We acquired ownership of the engineering team last year after two years of delivering successful, scalable products as an integrated team. They were by far the best engineering team we had ever worked with out of the hundreds of developers we had worked with locally, as employees, on client teams, at previous tech startups, Fortune 500's, abroad, or anywhere else.
How is your business model beneficial from a value addition perspective to the clients compared to other companies' models?
One of our biggest differentiators is that we have proven time and time again to solve “impossible problems” across multiple industries. In order to do this, we integrate our expertise in 1) Product Strategy, 2) User Experience design, and 3) Technical Architecture at every major decision point of a new business concept and product design project.
We are extremely unique in this way. This is how we have been successful in building everything from apps that reach millions of users, to internal “corporate innovation” platforms that generate millions of dollars in profitability, to systems that fundamentally change how the government makes decisions.
What industries do you generally cater to? Are your customers repetitive? If yes, what ratio of clients has been repetitive to you?
Sidebench caters to all industries; however, in the past, we have had significant experience across financial services, media & entertainment, consumer products & retail, along with healthcare and government. Our clients usually partner with us on multiple projects, most over the course of multiple years. We are often brought in for Product Strategy, and then move into a separate Product Design engagement, followed by Implementation, and then Data Insights & Support. We have a number of clients who hire us as an ongoing engagement to support the various project and product types.
Mention the objectives or the parameters critical in determining the time frame of developing a mobile app.
When determining the time frame for development on a mobile app, critical parameters to Sidebench are defining overall objectives and the alignment of features that make it into the MVP. We focus on this, as an MVP offering allows us to be lean to get a minimum set of features and bring them to market to gauge user responses. Other questions we consider are if there is an existing code base, existing designs, and how much of these existing materials can be reused.
How much effort in terms of time goes into developing the front end and back end of a mobile app?
Both Front-end and Back-end development requires continuous and close collaboration across cross-functional teams. We will usually quote between X and Y weeks for development projects depending on the complexity of the solution needed. Products with complex back-end work and many user flows can take several months to develop. For Sidebench, it is important when building quality products to ensure development teams have the right balance of high effort, clear communication, and efficiency.
What are the key parameters to be considered before selecting the right platform for a mobile application?
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right platform. Other than time and cost, understanding the platform’s users, their demographics and loyalty are equally important along with the complexity of the platform, and it’s compatibility with the type of app you want to create.
These days, almost all new products must support both iOS and Android. iOS is more important domestically, Android more important internationally, but you'll always miss out on potential users unless you build for both.
Which platform do you suggest your clients to begin with when they approach you with an idea (Android or iOS) and why?
Android or iOS, Native or Hybrid — which platform is best to use to build your app? What are your recommendations?
This is very much driven by the overall needs of the project. If for example, the project being developed is a game, we would likely start with recommending a native iOS or Android app. A hybrid or non-native solution “could” work, but the advantage of running as fast and as smooth as possible, for something as intensive as even a light game, would push the needle towards a native solution above others.
What are the key factors that you consider before deciding the cost of a mobile application?
Before presenting our clients with a quote for their mobile solution, we will first take into account the number and complexity of user stories needed to achieve an MVP. At Sidebench preparing the right UX/UI flows for the client and their users is extremely important, and we more often than not suggest clients engage in a discovery process with us to ensure the user experience is optimized for their targeted customers. Finally, the tech stack is also an important factor to consider before deciding the costs of the mobile application.
What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions etc.)
We typically work with our clients to define a payment structure that works for them. Most often it is either Fixed Cost or Sprint Based Time & Material.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
At Sidebench we have predefined ranges which give an estimate of the types of budget’s we work with, however depending on the circumstance that minimum budget will change and we can get creative with our cost structures. There is an expectation, however, that both the idea/concept is validated and we will do our best to put forth an accurate estimate based on the information that we have present. This is one of the key focuses of our discovery process is to define to a more granular level the development cost. Software development is always difficult to pinpoint due to the nature of phased rollouts and the extent as to which features are included in the first release of the product.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2018?
For 2018, we have worked on a myriad of different types of projects, everything from product and concept ideation and strategy to full-scale agile development. These projects have ranged from $10k to $500k+.
Which business model do you suggest to your clients enabling them to generate revenue from mobile applications? Why?
At Sidebench, recommending the right option for them is the most our highest priority. When it comes to the business model, it always comes down to the overall vision of each of our clients. Factors such as the industry, whether it is a service, or has an e-commerce element, and whether or not it is public-facing will help define the appropriate business model. There is no one-stop approach to determining the revenue model.