jacapps: Lucky 13

By: Paul Jacobs

When you think about the number 13, it’s a matter of perspective.

Some believe it’s an unlucky number. In the Jewish faith, 13 is when a child becomes an adult.

At jacapps, 13 connotes an amazing accomplishment – on November 1st, we celebrate 13 years in business, making us one of the oldest continually operating mobile app companies in the US. We launched 100 days after the creation of the iTunes App Store, when the most popular apps were the Zippo Lighter and iFart. Both mobile applications and jācapps have come a long way since then.

From the early days when we had zero employees, no budget, and no discernible software-writing skills to today, it’s been an amazing ride. jācapps is a story of grit, guts, good fortune and great people. To celebrate, I’d like to share a few memories and our vision for the future.

The Name “jācapps”

We were so new in the game there was no standard for naming a mobile app company. And “Google” was taken. We took the first three letters of our last name and combined it with “apps,” and jācapps was born. It could have been worse …

Our Logo

Our first logo was designed by Jacobs Media’s Tim Davis, who pulled a stock font, added some color, and voila, we had our first “look.” It even said “Jacobs Media” on it, showing how limited our vision was at the time.

Quickly we knew we needed a better logo, so we put up $300 on Logo Tournament and turned the crowd loose. You can see how much it improved, but we had a staffer at the time who hated the new logo so much, he threatened to quit, saying, “I’d never work for a company with that logo.”

jacapps logo

The Storage Room

When we started hiring, we had nowhere to put them. Jacobs Media’s offices were full, so we emptied out the storage room, bought some $50 desks, which each employee built themselves, and went from there.

jacapps storage room

The Partnership with Ford

In 2009, I met Julius Marchwicki, the leader of Ford’s innovative Sync group. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Julius showed me how Pandora functioned on the dashboard screen, and I asked him why there were no apps for radio stations. He looked at me like I was an idiot and from that humble beginning, we became friends.

At CES 2013, in front of 750 members of the press, Ford announced us as the lead developer for third-party apps (including radio) for Sync. I brought the entire company to Las Vegas – all four of us. Prior to the event, Julius brought his boss to meet us, who asked how big our company was. I introduced him to everyone, and I thought he was going to have a heart attack, realizing Ford – with hundreds of thousands of employees – was entrusting this initiative to a company so small. It’s funny now.

ford sync

The “Connected Car.”

We recognized the car entertainment ecosystem was changing, and when Apple announced CarPlay, we knew jācapps had to be the first developer to feature this option for our clients. We reached out to Apple and got … crickets. We finally connected with the CarPlay team through a friend in the UK a few months later. After making our pitch, they had no interest in having radio stations in CarPlay. They figured, cars have radios anyway, what’s the point? Clearly, they had no understanding of radio, nor did they place any value on it, and had zero interest in including radio station apps in their system.

On our final call, we decided to stop pitching radio and appeal to the folks we were talking with – young, smart, educated software engineers in the Bay Area. We figured it was likely they listened to Public Radio and talked about the app we created for KQED (San Francisco’s public radio station). While that got their attention, it still didn’t light the lamp until one of us mentioned they had podcasts in their app. We got our first apps approved a few weeks later.

Stoneco (huh?)

Life began to change for us in 2014 when we were visited by Paul Cuthbert. He worked for a company that quarried … stone. He had a concept for an app to connect his customers, drivers and employees to up-to-the-minute info. Two years later he hired us and we realized that all kinds of businesses needed mobile solutions to run more efficiently. Our clients now include more than call letters, and include businesses like DivDat, Lawyers’ Mutual and Garnish Global.

Jacapps Today

The real story behind our company is our amazingly talented staff (not pictured here because they’re still working remotely). They have taken us from developing simple apps for radio stations to becoming a full-service software company, developing a wide variety of solutions across all types of digital platforms for our ever-expanding roster of clients. They are smart, innovative and industrious, but more importantly, they are committed to doing great work.

jacapps office

We have come a long way from the storage room of a decade-plus ago and couldn’t have done it without a strong management team, led by COO Bob Kernen, our resident software geniuses Kate Coyle-Levy, and her brother Ben Levy, lead product designer Nathan Turner, and our resident ring master, Chelsea DuFour. As I like to tell everyone I meet, these people are half my age and twice as smart (except Bob, who is smart, but not as young as he’d like to think).

Reaching a milestone event like a company’s Bar/Bat Mitzva is an amazing accomplishment, and it couldn’t be done without the belief and support of our clients, who push us, make us better, and keep us on our game. So, thanks to everyone. It’s been an amazing ride full of twists, turns and successes. We never expected that founded in a financial crisis, we’d survive a pandemic, let alone outlast iFart!

Originally published by Jacobs Media