March 7, 2024

Creating a Mobile App like an Instagram Account - Sean Cann | BCL #311

Sean Cann is the co-founder & CEO of Onespot, the no-code platform that lets you make mobile apps from your phone. Businesses, organizations, and communities use Onespot to make their own custom-branded mobile apps and list them on the iOS & Android app stores. Over 5,000 apps have been built on Onespot by people in 127 countries, and customers range from 1-person businesses to 60,000-person towns.

Growing up homeschooled, Sean spent his childhood building things—like art projects, homemade movies, video games, and lawn care businesses. He co-founded his first company from his dorm room at Dartmouth College, using no-code tools to make & sell mobile apps to schools. After graduation, he worked as a software engineer during the day and built mobile apps in the evenings. Sean has spent a decade building mobile apps, and through Onespot, he’s finally creating the no-code tool he always wished had existed. He’s now on a mission to fundamentally reshape how mobile apps are built.

Sean: You can set up a mobile app as easily as you make an Instagram account.

Julian: Why mobile apps in particular?

Sean: I think technology in general is super interesting. Mostly mobile apps, that's been a consistent trend for me. I've been following how the mobile app market developed.

the main like reason to launch a mobile app for a business or an organization in general is to strengthen the relationship with whatever your customers or organization members are.

Is really like 99% of people that are just not technical and don't get coding at all. The goal actually is that you don't need anyone technical that's the level of simplicity that we're aiming for.

Julian: Alright, Sean, thank you so much for joining us on Behind Company Lines.

Sean: Yeah, thank you for having me, Julian. Great to be here.

Julian: Of course. Pop quiz for you. Which one of your former employers have we had on the show?

Sean: Oh, wow. Did not know that. I'm going to guess Ed Warren, but I'm very curious.

Julian: It's actually, and I just want to make sure I get his name correct, so I should have had this at the beginning, but it is Zippity. A company you worked for? In the past, I think it was a Mass Musco, Matt Harding Harding. Oh wait, really? Yeah

Sean: yeah. That's awesome. Love the pop quiz. He's great. Yeah. That's awesome.

Yeah. Yeah. I'll, I'll definitely be sending this over to him then. Yeah,

Julian: you have to, you have to. I'll let him know as well.

What's super fascinating about that is just like the pedigree people come with, not often do they have a background like yours. I think we're seeing it more so where engineers are coming into the fold and really starting to test their ideas and working on projects.

Was that what you were doing at that time? Just building, you know, small or helping build small projects and companies and building your skills? Did you always know you were going to be a founder?

Sean: Yeah, like kind of before we went full time on this. Yeah, definitely it, and even this project itself, this company, came out of a side project that me and a couple friends had been working on for actually quite a few years.

Nearly a decade in total. So this is kind of like the, the culmination of that. And, before, before doing this full time, I was definitely spending a lot of my, evenings after work at my full time software engineering jobs working on my own projects especially on, on this one, but also on a variety of other things.

I think technology in general is super interesting.

Julian: I've always been interested in following startups and stuff. Was there anything particular, like, a type of industry that you were looking at, or just anything that came at you?

Sean: Yeah, I mean, mostly mobile apps. I think that's kind of the, been a consistent trend for me, at least in the past, really over the past like decade. I've been kind of following how the mobile app market developed. Sorry, what'd you say?

Julian: Oh, I was gonna say, yeah, why mobile apps in particular?

Sean: Yeah I think the appeal to mobile apps in general is it's just such a kind of when it came out it unlocked this entirely new way where anyone can get their thing that's in their head into the hands of actual users in this new interface.

It's very similar to the web, right? But the web is very chaotic and you know, anything can be created out there which in many ways makes that even more exciting. But yeah, I think the there's such an appeal to Having a mobile app for whatever your idea is, or your company, or your organization.

That, yeah, it's like a, you know, it's own little platform that you can create and get into the hands of people.

Julian: Yeah, it's fascinating to think about how it acts as like an extension to a lot of businesses or experiences. What has that changed in terms of, you know, a customer's relationship to even just a physical business, but let alone, you know, an online service?

Sean: Yeah, that's a really good question. And I think the way you posed that is the right way to pose it of like what has changed about the relationship that the customer has with the business. Because I think that is kind of the main perk and the main like reason to launch a mobile app for a business or an organization in general is to strengthen the relationship with whatever your customers or organization members are.

So yeah, for example, a a coffee shop might want to better engage mostly their loyal customers. And I think the, the thing to think about with the purpose of a mobile app there is that, there's a lot of reasons to not have a mobile app. Like if you're going to a restaurant, you wouldn't want to have to download a mobile app just to order once from the menu, especially if you're never going back.

And so really the use case is for People that are going to be recurring members or customers of that organization. And increasing the loyalty and strengthening the relationship with those people. And I think, you know, there's a lot to be said about how that changes the dynamic between customers and businesses.

a lot of it is keeping the company or the organization top of mind with the customer, or members. So having a push notification come out or like keeping them up to date on the events and things happening. But that's kind of where the being a member or loyal customer of that organization comes in is it has to be content that you actually want.

Yeah, so I think it's definitely something changing the dynamic there in really interesting ways.

Julian: Right.

You wrote something I think it was a couple years ago, maybe more than that about schools needing to have more mobile applications. And I had an interesting experience because when I was in college, and I think you noted this in what you wrote.

I use Canva a lot, and so anything on Canva, and you know, I tested it out from when they were just hosting information, professors just hosting information, to when they were actually doing the quizzes and implementing coursework. Yeah. And what do you think, do you still feel that, you know, all these institutions should be implementing, you know, mobile applications?

You know, one, do you still believe that? And two, would it What does it have in terms of the effect on students now intentionally having them on their device versus, you know, historically just fighting against them?

Sean: Yeah. Insightful question. I appreciate the deep dive into that. But yes, I think that's especially interesting with like high schools.

'cause where I went to high school, we weren't even allowed to have our phones out in school. And that's often changed. And now often you have computers in high school and stuff like that.

Yeah, the, really the origin of the company, and I think the thing that is still true, is back in college me and my roommate actually at Dartmouth College and another friend who then ended up leaving it pretty quickly, but we initially had this kind of idea for being able to bring all the different apps and platforms and things that we check on campus into one central spot.

So, yeah, Because we ran into that frustration, where there's all these different things, you know, like dining hall hours, or like the campus map, or like what events are happening on campus. And they're scattered all over the place. It's really annoying to have to go search online to find each piece of information.

So having it all just in one simple spot would be a huge help. So that was kind of like, that was kind of like the first company that I co founded, I guess. And that was before we even knew how to code. We used another no code tool to kind of hack together a super ugly app just to bring all the different resources into one place.

We released it, we figured out how to get it on the app stores, very complicated process but we managed to do that, and it got a lot of downloads because it was inherently useful. There wasn't another resource that brought everything together for Dartmouth students specifically. So it was very niche and very useful and Is that where the name Onespot came from?

Unfortunately, no. I wish I could say yes. Oh, okay. Really? It did come from that later on, but we didn't call it that at first. Oh, okay. That first company we named, we named Seabird Apps. Which is a very chaotic name. it came from I can go into the origin story if that's a fun anecdote.

Julian: I was gonna say, it's interesting because, the name Onespot that you have now, it's, obviously makes sense in terms of what you're building.

But it's a little bit of a competitive name. Did you think about that when you created it or was that just not part of the thought process?

Sean: No, definitely. We kind of rebranded to Onespot. Really we like created an entire new company, a new C Corp. When we went full time and got into an accelerator program.

And we knew we didn't want to keep the name Seabird Apps because it was kind of meaningless. It was a name that we got in college because we could get the domain name and didn't want to spend too long thinking of a name. And so to come up with Onespot, we, I think we wrote down something like 200 different names that we thought were cool.

And they were related to all different aspects of what we were doing. So, you know, a big part of what we're doing is Allowing people to create mobile apps with no code in a drag and drop system. The world's easiest mobile app builder. And so a lot of the names were kind of related to that. But we also had this other part of it, which is we're solving these headaches for people.

Kind of what you're saying of like bringing the different apps and platforms into one spot. And also like we're creating this central kind of app for apps that brings everything into one spot. And yeah, so we thought about a few different names, but that was one that Kind of really resonated and we liked a lot There are some other companies out there named Onespot, but we're Climbing up the SEO and we did check that at first To make sure that we weren't gonna get lost in the crowd indefinitely.

Julian: Yeah, yeah, you're still on the front page, I looked it up But it's fascinating because, and take us back, so You were in college, you know, you had this idea with, with, It sounds like a co founder, a friend of yours was this during college when you went into the Accelerator programs, or was that post graduation?

Sean: Yeah, that was actually four years after graduation. So, this is this is more of a, mobile app consulting company where we just figured out that there was this way that we could make kind of a template no code app using another no code platform, and then kind of copy paste that.

So we'd make an app for, like, a high school, say. Or our college, we made one for. And then we could copy paste that app and swap out a bunch of the variables and it'd be customized for a new school. And it didn't need to look nice, it just had to solve the problem. And so we actually, you know, formed that into an actual LLC and, but that was always a side project and we were but we did make apps for a number of schools sold it to a few, made a few thousand dollars in the process, but nothing crazy.

So, and it wasn't until four years after graduation that We actually, you know, joined an accelerator program and went full time and that was about two and a half years ago.

Julian: Yeah, and so when you joined the accelerator Was that kind of, had you always been thinking of the company and starting it or were, you know Were you kind of in a dormant state where you're learning skills?

Where were you in that time between, you know, joining the accelerator, really taking one spot to the next level and testing out the idea? From the previous idea, you know, and the consultancy where you were building applications for, you know, institutions.

Sean: Yeah I would say it's a long, it was a long process.

And I think that often is how I've seen other startups form as well. Is kind of, this was, you know, after, after graduation we turned it into an actual code base using React Native rather than relying on that no code tool. Which is actually great because that no code business went out of business.

So we turned it into yeah, we turned it into an actual code base in React Native. And then kind of in the evenings and weekends, that was the main project side project that I was continuing to develop. So, you know, it was this kind of template code base for making school mobile apps really efficiently.

And over the course of about Four years, well, just like working on that on the side, towards the end of that period I made a breakthrough in the code where I realized that if I took the template a step further, I could, you know, I'd have to rewrite a lot of things, but I could make it where it would be possible for anyone to be able to create their own mobile app for any type of organization, not just schools.

And that was kind of the realization where I came to the understanding that, you know, this would require at least one full time person to be able to build this and launch it. And we would want some type of institutional support behind us so that we could, you know, continue to grow this. So that's where we applied to a bunch of accelerator programs.

Got into the Alchemist Accelerator based in San Francisco. Would highly recommend. Actually, they gave me some great If you're watching the video, you can see the great swag that they gave me. Still my coolest hoodie. And, yeah, so we got into that and I also, so at that point it was me and my close friend from college and then my close friend from high school who was also working on it part time and I convinced my high school friend to also quit his job and join full time.

So me and him Sam Well, we quit our jobs, jumped into this full time and we are now two and a half years later. Still, we've hit breaking profitability and we're still growing.

Julian: Amazing, man. Congrats on all the progress and success so far. You know, and it's fascinating hearing your story and the way you kind of really took the leap and joined the Accelerator Group.

It's fascinating. I don't know if you've seen this recently, but it seems like that's happening sooner and sooner. I've seen a lot of more recent founders who either dropped out of college or even maybe haven't even Gone through their first full year, joining accelerators, testing out ideas and becoming founders.

Are you kind of seeing the same landscaping and What do you think is the cause for that? I guess like expedition and in Becoming a founder now

Sean: Yeah, it's a good question. Think I feel like I have seen that trend it seems that that was And I think, actually, they've gotten some criticism for this too but I have the sense that that was partially pioneered by Y Combinator in that they started recognizing that, you know, super, like, the, the important part about a founder is being super motivated and, you know, obviously a lot of other important factors, but those things that could be in someone it doesn't really matter their age and I think there is a, There can definitely be some benefits of having some naivety to not really know the the way that things are usually done and therefore kind of, like, break through those things.

I would be interested, actually, to see if that's increasing or decreasing in terms of the age of founders, because I don't actually know those stats, though. But, yeah, maybe it's just.

Julian: Yeah, I guess proximity, for some reason, I'm near a bunch of early founders, and maybe it's just about being in a certain place, but it's less so about that now, especially when wanting to build technology.

I mean, Onespot is kind of the key example of a lot of these no code platforms becoming more prevalent, more accessible, more readily usable. What are some of the applications that you've seen built on your platform that you didn't expect to start coming out, and how do you Kind of continue attracting more developers to start building more products because that must be a huge you know, focal point of your business is to continue that.

New users whether it's through referrals or otherwise. But, yeah, what are some interesting, funky apps that you didn't expect and how do you continue, you know, bringing more exciting people to start building?

Sean: Yeah no, I think it's a super exciting trend that all these no code tools are allowing people to create things even without technical skills.

And really, I mean, I think that's part of the broader trend of just the cost and complexity to start a company and a product is just decreasing so rapidly. You know, obviously the advances in AI is accelerating that even further. But also even like the literal paperwork to create a company is also insanely easy now.

I. Met with a company that actually has an API to create companies. That's how easy it is to make a company now. You can just automate the company creation process. So, yes, I think the kind of trend of no cap Like, like, filing

Julian: for an LLC and becoming, like, doing that whole process? Oh, wow.

Sean: What? Exactly. No, it's wild. I mean, mostly they, I think most of their customers just use their, you know, their platform. But yeah, they have, like, an enterprise option where you can Literally write code to generate companies, which is, yeah, mind blowing how rapidly that barrier to entry is decreasing which is super exciting.

And yeah, obviously we're also in the no code space. So, we're trying to empower that even further. I think the, most of the no code tools out there, and especially most of the no code app builders are focused on enabling people to create brand new products. So like, you know, create the next Uber or the next TikTok or Tinder or whatever.

By doing that they often make a trade off in terms of their their product design where they add more complexity into it, which makes it more difficult for someone very non technical to be able to approach. But that gives you huge superpowers if you know a little, you know, if you're good at computers or you know, maybe you're good at Excel or maybe you took like one programming course so you get the concept of for loops and functions and stuff.

That gives you huge superpowers there. I think the thing that we're most excited about is the people that that misses. Which is really like 99 of people that are just not technical and don't get coding at all. And we're kind of focused on not allowing people to make the next Uber or TikTok or Tinder.

But rather empowering existing organizations to have a mobile app. So We're a lot more like Squarespace in that they let people launch websites for their businesses or brands. That all being said, probably about half the people that join Onespot, that discover Onespot and create an app on our platform and we have now a bit over 5, 000 apps being created going up pretty quickly about half of the people that find it and try and create an app.

Try and create it for some very random use case. Like they'll actually try to make, you know, the next social media network. And it doesn't work very well with our, with our platform. But yeah, there's a lot of super interesting random ones that are built on there. We've I don't know if this is just recency bias or if this is actual data, but we've seen a lot of like tarot card reader.

People spinning up apps so they can like, tell your future and stuff yeah so if you want your future told, check out those Onespot apps.

Julian: I'm kind of a sucker for those kind of things, I'm a big astrology buff, you know, I'll get into the side reading spent a little time in LA so I blame LA for that, but it's fascinating thinking about, Obviously, from our perspective, as a customer or user, we can build and there's a lot of mechanics going on behind that allows me to do the more, UI facing, the experiential and how that whole feel of the application looks.

But, you know, if we were to go back into, you know, the behind the scenes on how you're building a no code application, what goes into it, you know, what are the new, I guess, Versions or what's on the roadmap? Are you always looking to add new features or upgrade the speed of a particular component of a, you know, part of the no-code platform?

You know, where do you think of from a enablement standpoint in how you actually build out your app?

Sean: Yeah. I guess I'll go far behind company lines and go into like our actual. You know, code setup. So we have it in React Native running in Expo. Big fan, would highly recommend. And the backend is all in Firebase Realtime Database.

Actually we use a number of different tools, but that's one of the primary ones. And what's exciting about AI especially, is that the way that we set up all of our kind of Data structures that say what components are on the screens. It's, you know, it's a drag and drop platform so you can move stuff around.

You can make a button, you can add text, you can add images and stuff. And that's all in the back end, saved in JSON data structures. Which actually works really well with the, all the new AI tools. OpenAI and such. So that's been a really exciting thing that we have just started scratching the surface of is We can actually leverage the power of all these LLMs that are coming out.

And, you know, mostly we're starting with OpenAI and playing around with that API. But it's very good at working with JSON. And it's very good at, you know, understanding what you're looking for. So, we think that kind of embedding that a lot more throughout the app creation experience can take the time it takes to create an app for your business down from like 15 minutes with our drag and drop platform to like two minutes or so because you can just tell it what you want.

I think that is also a really kind of exciting space too. There's a company called B12. Have you ever heard of that one? Mm hmm. It's, it's really cool. They're I think based in New York as well. And they are a AI website builder. So it's kind of a similar, similar concept. There's a number of others that are kind of focused on AI website building as well.

VZ is another, another cool one. But anyways, yeah, so, I think that's one of the things that we're super excited about. And that is the case for generative AI for us, but hasn't been the case for kind of other trends that we've seen. You know, like crypto or whatever that just doesn't really mesh with what we're doing.

But with generative AI We are literally, you know, our mission is to let people generate apps and so there's a lot of cool things where you can just put in your website now and it'll read your website, figure out what your business or organization does, and just make the app for you. So we're pretty excited about the production there.

roadmap, a lot of it is kind of based on talking with customers as much as possible. I think that has been the recurring thing that's always the most helpful, is if we can just Be in a conversation with a customer. The more time we can spend doing that I don't know if I've ever regretted that time spent.

Whereas I've sure regretted plenty of other things that I've done and spent times on over the past two and a half years at Onespot.

Julian: Yeah, that's something that I feel like resonates with a lot of founders who you'll feel like they have a really strong product market fit as they just spend an immense amount of time continuously talking to customers and I've found it internally with me and my business partner where, you know, we feel like we're kind of at a standstill and really our reflex is okay, well, let's talk to a few customers because that always kind of inspires an idea, whether it's, you know, a piece of content or something internally about where direction we go with a certain feature.

The tie to our community is so interesting and intimate now. I feel like, you know, us, we're not necessarily unique in that way. A lot of companies are feeling. That they need to be super tied with their users and customers and such. I had a question about, you know, if I'm a company who's using a one spot platform, it's a no code tool, but I do have to have necessarily someone technical enough or maybe, you know, a one spot aficionado.

You know, how does a company, if I don't say, you know, have a specific team working with those languages in particular? You know, how do I hire somebody to work with the Onespot platform? Because that kind of has to be a technical, but, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be a React Native developer who also does Expo or, you know, has Firebase experience.

Like, it doesn't have to be that, but, you know, if I'm a founder or, you know, building a company and I want to integrate this, what do I do?

Sean: Yeah the goal actually is that you don't need anyone technical. So the goal with Onespot, which I think is different with Yeah that's kind of the thing that we're targeting, which is, I think, different with other no code platforms.

There's some great ones out there, like Adalo or Thunkable. And they, in many ways, kind of like I mentioned with the they allow people to create new things and new products, but that increases the complexity of their system. They, in many ways, are kind of, are their own coding language where you still sort of have to set up for loops and connect to databases and, maybe you can learn it over the course of a week or so but you do, ideally you'd hire someone that already has done that before or you'd put an employee on it for like a week and have them figure out how to do it best and what the limitations are and such.

Our vision with Onespot is that you actually don't need to hire anyone that knows that specifically. And I think our customer base reflects that pretty well, in that they're often people that are very non technical, or you know, never even imagined that they could have made a mobile app before.

And it's really exciting to have someone, or even like, you know, the administrator of a school, or like, a church pastor, being able to like, edit screens in their mobile app and create apps. So that's kind of the vision. I think I, as the product developer, always see a lot that we, a lot further that we have to go there.

And there's still some confusion in a lot of different areas, but I think that is really where talking with customers is super helpful. Cause then we can identify those things as well as, you know, other analytics tools to be able to see where people run into problems. Yeah, so the goal is that you Could just download it or, or join it online and make an app.

And that's where kind of, one of the biggest things that shocks people most about Onespot is it itself is a mobile app. So you can actually go on the app stores, install Onespot, the app, on your phone, and make a mobile app from your phone. So that's kind of the level of simplicity that we're aiming for.

You can set up a mobile app as easily as you make an Instagram account.


Julian: Wild. It's fascinating just to, you know, realize that experience. And actually, I had a question for you. You know, seeing that looking at your background, Super Bowl travel, you've been to quite a few different countries. Who is kind of at the forefront of that experience where it's that simple?

You know, where someone almost is mobile native. What countries do you feel like are at the forefront of mobile development? Outside of, you know, obviously the U. S. and what your opinions are here, but, you know, being that you've traveled, you know, who have you seen, and you're like, wow, this is, this is really cool, I love how they do it.

I just came back from China, and I was, like, blown away by how integrated their payment system is to everything they do. That was pretty next level, but, yeah, sorry.

Sean: Yeah, no, that's a great point, and they often use, like, WeChat and mobile payments for a lot of things, right? Yeah, Alipay,

Julian: There's, like, a wallet in WeChat.

And I think that's about it. Yeah, everything's integrated into like a few, yeah, essential applications, but it's amazing because it offers, say, like, a farmer to be able to sell at a, you know, farmer's market, and it's super simple, and everybody uses that same app, and, I mean, there's pros and cons to all of it, and we can go through a list of them, but in terms of it, the accessibility piece, which I was super you know, more focused on, was just exceptional, I mean, it's amazing that, That accessibility to income, to earning, or to paying is just like at, you know, at your fingertips.

Sean: Yeah, absolutely. That made me think of another, there's another startup called Trienta in Latin America that is like a mobile app and mobile first kind of bookkeeping and everything about your business which I think is also really cool and similarly in that trend. Yeah, I mean Uh, I don't know if I have any useful anecdotal experience about that, but I do think that the, a really exciting thing especially in developing countries is if they don't yet have the infrastructure built out over decades of doing things a certain way, then they're able to fully leapfrog technologies, right?

Like, plenty of countries, like, people won't have computers, but they will have cell phones and, and smartphones. In that sense, yeah, like, people will pay for things just by, you know, tapping some buttons on their phone and sending money over which is a thing that, you know The United States is further behind on, really.

Yeah, so I think that's exciting. We have also seen you know, we've had over 5, 000 apps now built in about 100 and I think it's 127 countries around the world. So we've seen a lot from a lot of international apps coming through as well. And I think it does fit that trend of, you know, most of the smartphones in the world aren't in the US.

They're, they're all over. And, it's definitely an exciting opportunity, really, for any startup to be distributed and worldwide from the beginning.

Julian: Yeah, it's fascinating. I had a guest on who was talking about his experience growing up in India and how they were mobile first. And, you know, having a desktop wasn't as, you know, regular, as commonplace as having a mobile phone.

So it was a whole, you know, inverse experience to when he came over and started building in the U. S. And that was an interesting conversation and just learning about the implications of what it means to be mobile first and having that experience, but also, you know, things can either be virally adopted or, you know, very locally focused and, you know, there's complexities with that.

Thinking about, you know, your company and where Onespot is, you know, what do you see today as some of the biggest challenges that you face?

Sean: It's a great question. Definitely the I mean, I think there's like, I would say there's day to day challenges and difficulties that we're focused on and then there's kind of big, long term, challenges, including existential threats.

I'll start there, that's maybe more exciting. I think one that is a really interesting trend really right now is that Apple and Google for any mobile app, are kind of points of failure within. Those mobile app companies. Because so many companies rely on Apple and Google to actually distribute their apps on their app stores.

Have you been following any of the kind of lawsuits and stuff going on around that over the past year?

Julian: No, no, no. I'm fascinated because I had a follow up question about, how limited it is because of the two marketplaces that people mainly use. But I'm curious to hear your take.

Sean: Yeah, no, definitely, definitely there's limitations.

It's possible it'll become less limited in the future. There's basically there's a lot of debate going on right now around Apple and Google having these stronghold, kind of, yeah, like a control over these ecosystems. And for anyone unfamiliar, basically the They, for any payments that come through mobile apps, they charge 30% they take 30 percent of the revenue that comes through.

Unless you're making less than a million dollars, in which case they take 15% which actually is only recently, in the past, I think, couple years, they added that as an option. So, they take a really high fee, because they can because they're the only two players that distribute apps in that way.

And there's some really interesting things, I think, most recently in the EU Where the EU kind of made Apple add another option. But the option that they added it's basically like, now as a developer, specifically within the EU, you can, instead of choosing to take that 30 percent cut, you can choose a different option, which I think is maybe a 20 percent cut, or like a bit lower, but then also you pay something like 50 cents per app install that you get.

If you have a free app that gets 100 million installs, you could actually, you know, owe Apple, like, 500, yeah, 50 million. Yeah, so they're now getting a lot of backlash around that, you know, theoretically better option. And there's also, there's alternatives to the App Store. So some no code app development companies actually let you, instead of list on the App Store, they Let you have a, what's called a progressive web app and a PWA.

And that operates a lot like an app, but it technically, I believe, uses the web. So it has some limitations around that and it's not quite as nice as a native mobile app. There's also Some rumors and I think some actual things that happened recently where Apple seems to be going against that and kind of shutting down progressive web apps.

So I think that'll be, you know, for anyone listening to this it'll be a really interesting trend to follow over the next few months and year to see kind of what happens in that space. Because those two companies have been the gatekeepers of the app stores and really of like the beauty of being able to, you know, they've created an amazing thing, right?

Which is you can get. Your product, your idea, into the hands of millions, hundreds of millions of people really easily but, yeah, they really kind of own those markets now. And so, yeah, there's, there's also a, a lawsuit I think ongoing, maybe some of them have concluded with Epic Games Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite.

Yeah, they sued, I believe, both Apple and Google. Over basically that concept, because they didn't want to be paying 30 percent of revenue. And, yeah, so It's a crazy amount.

Julian: I know, I know. It's a crazy amount to think about as a founder to be limited to that, but also have to go through that process to even, you know, adopt it or get customers to use it.

And I don't know where that leads. Does that lead to new devices, new phones? I'm talking to a founder later chitchatting about his idea, but he's created kind of a there's like this minimalist phone movement where they've kind of extracted everything from a phone. It's just like messages, maps, and some other things.

I don't know where that goes because it's still kind of like a companion to your mobile phone in a way. It's like you leave it at home and use it with your, your tablet or your your, your kind of electronic readers. But I guess it's fascinating though because Obviously, like, we glorify the monopolies of Apple and Google because that's been the American dream, right?

Create something and then dominate a market, grow it, and become widely adoptable, become a household name. It's very zero to one. Is that the spirit now? Would you say that's the spirit now?

Sean: Good question. I feel like it is the spirit for early stage in that. yeah, are you familiar with like Zero to One, Peter, Peter Thiel's book?

Yeah, that was, I think that's now, what, a decade old or 15? Yeah, no, it's, or maybe, maybe less. I don't know. It's, it's been around for a while, but the concept of trying to become a monopoly in your space I think resonates still very well with early stage founders. And that is kind of what you want to do, in that you want to be unique and be differentiated no matter how small that niche has to be to be able to do that.

And but I think that that really breaks down at the larger level of company because, you know, obviously at the larger level then you're just actually a monopoly. And that's certainly not good for competition and for businesses in general and for other startups that then want to improve on the system because You know, if you're maintaining a monopoly status without continuing to improve it, then obviously it's an imperfect solution.

Julian: Yeah, and it's fascinating too that customers are now starting to pay more attention to the overall, values, missions, and activities of a company. There's even applications. I interviewed Alinea investing on this show, and they're all about creating playlists for people who want to invest in certain types of companies, being clean energy, and so, or or there's a few other, oh, oh, or you know, black owners, or women founders, very unique pockets, but, wanting to invest.

So it's interesting because that also plays into a lot of companies focusing on community and bringing people tighter to The experience of that, but also understanding that you have to share customers now, because they're going to be integrated in so many different, you know, applications, product, services, and you see a lot of interesting, you know, collaborations and such.

What's the long term vision for Onespot? Are you promoting this, ability to create any and every application, you know, and are you promoting the dissolution of all these, you know, focal, the Apple The App Store, excuse me, the Google Play Market, what's the long term vision for Onespot?

Where do you play in this game?

Sean: Yeah I mean, I think the, the short term is our focus on, kind of like I was saying, of being able to focus on a small enough niche where you're differentiated. The short term is focus especially on Membership centered apps. Everyone that joins, you know, all the end users actually have to create an account on one of our apps to use it.

Because we've seen that that's kind of the best use case for an app for a business or organization is these member centered, especially community centered features. Where you can build the relationship with your customers or members. But the long term vision is definitely much bigger than that. The mobile app market itself is over 200 billion.

Right now, you know, our vision is to truly empower the 99 percent of humans on this planet that don't know how to code so that they can actually create apps for their businesses and organizations and possibly expand even beyond just business and organization apps in the future. But focus on that for definitely the medium term.

But yeah, the long term vision is really to fundamentally reshape how mobile apps are built at all. And I think the ideal outcome of that is due to mobile apps, what Wix and Squarespace did to websites, in that kind of if you were to tell someone that you made a website right now, if you were to tell a friend, you know, I made a website for my podcast, say, they probably wouldn't be that impressed, right?

Because They would just assume you use Squarespace or Wix. If you told them that you made a mobile app for your podcast, they would still, to this day, be much more impressed, because there's no solution yet that has done to mobile apps what Wix and Squarespace did to websites. And so the vision is we want to make it not impressive for you to tell someone you made a mobile app.

We want to fundamentally change how easy it is to do that.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. That's super cool. I like that analogy. Thank you. That's really cool.

I always like this, you know, we're coming to the end of the show here, Sean, so I always like to ask some rapid fire questions, so I'm gonna hit you with a bunch, and we'll see where this goes.

So, first question I always like to ask is, what's particularly hard about your job, day to day?

Sean: I would say, not having enough time. I think that's probably a common answer. Being the entire software engineering time team right now is a lot to manage. There are pros of that, obviously. The entire code base is in one person's head, so there's no coordination problem.

But the cons are that also there's a lot of other things to be done beyond that. So, I think really, I guess even broader, is prioritization. Is like the main thing that me and my co founder talk about all the time is you know, what is critically actually important right now and what is, what is less important.

But just being able to be ruthlessly efficient in prioritizing what we focus on. Yeah, I think that's, probably always going to be one of the, one of the hardest things.

Julian: Yeah, I agree. What's something, you know, in particular you know, what's something if you weren't working on this that you would want to dive into and put the equal amount of effort into?

If you weren't working on this, what would you be working on?

Sean: Well, realistically, I would still be working at Zippity, which you interviewed previously and building, building that startup. Realistically, I would probably be doing software engineering. I have, I'm always tinkering with a bunch of different projects, so, I would be excited to try launching a different one.

I think kind of like, dream things that I would be doing I'm super interested in virtual reality which doesn't really apply to, you know, much like crypto, it doesn't really apply to, like, the mobile app building stuff that we're working on, at least it, you know, it doesn't apply enough to prioritize above other things.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. It's just fascinating. I had a founder who just recently bought an Oculus. Yeah, yeah. Oculus, yeah. Metacast. And it's just, it's just fascinating how many being on the inside of it, seeing how many screens that you're actually able to work with. I mean, I'm thinking like, is it productive? Is it not productive?

Yeah. I don't have a hard time focusing in one direction and, you know, rather than distraction, but there are projects, and I think from a visual standpoint, especially for whether you're designing or you are trying to integrate a lot of different components, it does kind of optimize you for, you know, that natural ability that your brain can actually operate with multiple variables, and it's really cool to see how that plays out and it'll be even cooler when you are able to meet with others and Bring meetings around it and start to actually work together.

I think that collaboration, me and my co founder talk about, you know, ideally all of our stand ups are in the metaverse. And we're, you know, in the virtual reality. And it doesn't feel as though we're miles apart. But we still collab and have that synergy and that energy in the room. Crazy to talk about that.

Sean: Go ahead. Sorry, go ahead. Yeah, me and my co founder, we actually both have Oculus is, although he got the newest version and I have the original version. Sometimes much slower, but sometimes we'll, we'll meet in virtual reality. He, joined one of our, Google Meet meetings with a headset on actually yesterday which was kind of fun.

I think, yeah, I'd say our, our take is that it's, you know, maybe 60 to 70 percent as efficient as just working on your computer. But I think I haven't tried it out enough to I mean, the ideal is that it's, you know, 110 percent or even more efficient. So there's probably some, and I think especially for what you're talking about, like anything spatial I think is a really good use case.

Like if you're interacting with another person and it's useful to be able to see how they're moving around. Or if you're trying to design, a building or something that's like A physical, a physical thing. And, you know, there's probably a case for being able to make mobile apps in virtual reality too, but unfortunately not high on our priority list.

Julian: Yeah, that's down the line for sure. You know, another question was, I know, I've noticed obviously that you've traveled a bunch, and I'm just starting to get into going to new places. And, you know, I've been to some, but always craving to see more. What's next on your travel list?

What's going to be on your agenda, what's the next country or location, once you find some time to maybe take a break from the company or even work remotely, where are you looking forward to?

Sean: Yeah, one I really want to, the one I keep thinking about right now is I want to go to Split, Croatia. I keep hearing good things about Croatia.

What good things? It's apparently just a lovely Mediterranean town, or city I guess. And it seems, seems fun my grandma actually is Croatian so I've always kind of wanted to go there, and she's always talked about going there so I think that would be really cool, but yeah, definitely.

Can never travel enough.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. It's awesome to find that spiritual connection, I'm sure. You know, going back into certain places. I want to go to you know, Mexico. My family is originally from Mexico, but even more so I haven't gone to Mexico City to really see all the really fascinating just architecture they've built, the pyramids and those different locations where it's And really learn the history of a different place and the origin of it, and I feel like it's enriching in a lot of ways.

Books, I always like to ask for books because I end up taking them and going to find the free audiobook online, or purchasing it depending on who you're asking. Libby though.

Sean: yeah, shout out to Libby But yeah, what's a book that you've been really interested in that's maybe not startup related that's really kind of stand the test of time, you know, anything to recommend to me or the audience on something that's, you know, really kind

of lasted with you.

Yeah I'm definitely a big fan of mostly audiobooks and mostly on Libby, so anyone listening to this should go download Libby I need to start getting a referral or something because I've definitely gotten at least a dozen people to do that. Amazing. You should get sponsored by Libby, actually.

Julian: Yeah, I know, we need to, anyways, continue, but that's on the list.

Sean: Nice. But yeah, actually the one that I'm reading right now is the one that you recommended to me a few weeks ago. Contagious. The one about like why things catch on. I'm really liking that a lot. It's giving me some good ideas about you know, how to make things be spreadable and how to make people talk about things.

I also a thing that I've gotten kind of interested in Over the past, you know, I've been reading audiobooks for like four years now or so, is like book pairings, like books that go well together, which I think is super interesting. One that I really, or like two, I guess, that I really like reading back to back was Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke and Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb.

They're kind of both about probability and decision making I think those Build off each other well. And then there's also another another pair. I guess this one's like more startup and entrepreneurial, but The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavinia. And that one's kind of like about focusing on profitability.

And, and, you know, like focusing on, yeah, I guess like profitability and like building a sustainable business and stuff. And I think that pairs really well with Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman, which is kind of the opposite on like, scale as fast as possible. Yeah, so definitely I'm a fan of that type of thing.

I guess another, actually one of my, one of my favorite books that I've read in the past few years is The Cold Start Problem. I think by Andrew Chen. Yeah, that one's really good. All about network effects about different types of network effects. And just like the power of them and that, that's kind of the thing, you know, actually to the point that we were talking about earlier about Apple and Google's ecosystems that they've built up and why they're really hard to change and basically unkillable is because of network effects, because they've built up this massive network of developers and apps and, you know, it's not like someone can just launch a, another app store and get all those people really quickly, so.

Yeah, it's definitely, I guess I could give you a list of them, but those are, those are some of my favorites.

Julian: Oh, those are, first of all, I love the book pairing, but real quick, it's also why, you know, that whole network effect is why I think your company will be successful, because having a focal point for companies who have members to sign up and also download the app, it's like, that's, at some point it's going to be unrippable.

So, super smart, kudos to you, that's a really smart strategy, but also just I'm sure, you know, it's a growth strategy, but it's a product strategy, and I'm sure it bleeds into your whole product, so it's super cool, man.

Sean: Thank you. Yeah, that is definitely our goal with that, is like, whenever someone creates an account in any of our apps, it creates a Onespot account.

So you can actually just use that to sign into any other app, or switch between them, you don't even have to log in in some cases. Yeah, so, I think that's exciting for the, kind of, network effect defensibility of it all in the long term. And I think it's also pretty exciting in the Product led growth opportunities in the short term some of which we've seen and some of which were, I think, could do a lot better to take advantage of.

Julian: Dude, I mean, it's, it's why Google is so successful with, you know, logging in with your Google account, you know, rather than your Facebook. Otherwise, it's like, it's integrated literally in everything, and it makes everything so easy. You know, it's like, oh, well, I don't remember it, but at least I can do it with my google.

Totally. So, you know, when you're outside of your laptop it's a little bit more challenging. Yeah. It's a book pairing for you. The two I read back to back that were kind of chilling I like to dive into like the the more, the, I studied psychology in college and so I always like books around whether it's like motivational, more positive psychology, or just, you know, human mechanics and how we actually act and maybe some evolutionary backing or some anecdotes.

So, I read 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene I read that one. And then right after, I met a guy at a networking event, and he's like, Oh, if you like that book, you're gonna really love Thick Faced Blackheart, which I'm not sure if I remember, if I mentioned. I think

Sean: you did recommend that

Julian: one, yeah.

Yeah. So I would do the 48 Laws of Power, because Robert Greene talks about, you know, this power dynamic, but also mechanisms to actually impose your power on others. But not in a physical way. Actually, other ways that humans start to kind of learn these behaviors and mechanics and how that manifests.

And so it really dives deep into that whole, like, power dynamic. And then you read the Big Face Blackheart, and then it's like, okay, use that in business. And how is that historically from an Eastern philosophical perspective, because the author is from China, I believe. And then she has an interesting way to make it to America where she really worked all of her business strategies out and got a lot of the the data for the book, but super interesting pairing.

So I would, I would check those two out if you're into like, if you're trying to get into more of a mindset and want to go in that realm of you know, how do people act and social behaviors and what they mean from a historical standpoint. Super fascinating.

Sean: Yeah, I appreciate the book pairing, Rec, for sure I will add those to the list.

And I also, yeah, I'm always super interested in, especially like behavioral economic type info and books and stuff. I did a psychology minor in college so I'm also interested in anything related to like how people behave. And especially like social psych or like the overlap with economics too is, is fascinating.

Julian: Yeah, I mean, it's all people and behaviors and in certain environments, you know, we all have like certain tendencies and so, yeah, I mean, I could, we could do a whole other hours on that, but I know we're coming to the end of the show, Sean, and I always like to ask this before we leave, is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have?

Any topic that we didn't cover that you wanted to touch on? Anything that we missed?

Sean: You didn't ask why I'm getting gray hair already and the answer is this startup. No, I think I think your questions are great. It was a, it was an enjoyable conversation.

Julian: Appreciate it, man. Last little bit is where can we find you?

Where can we be a fan of you and your company and what you're building? Give us your plugs. This is your time. Where are your, what are your handles? Where can we be a fan of you in one spot and everything that you've got going on?

Sean: Yeah, well definitely check out Onespotapps. com. That's where you can try out the app builder yourself try making an app in 15 minutes right from your phone.

And if you want to reach out, you can just email me sean@onespotapps. com, S E A N. That's probably the best way. Also, you know, connect on LinkedIn, seancan. And I guess you could follow me on Twitter or X seancan0. But I haven't been posting that much there. Unfortunately, Sean Cann was taken as was Sean Can 1 and 2 but then I realized that Sean Cann's index had zero, so I got the good one.

Julian: There you go. Awesome, Sean, it's such a pleasure having you on the show and really not only learning about your journey, you know, learning the foundations of code and helping people actually enable to build their own platforms on mobile and what that actually means to their relationship to customers, to students.

And to so many that can actually benefit from these no code platforms that you're building others alike, it's really exciting to see where this is all gonna go and, and you at the forefront and how you're doing it. Big fan of, of how you guys operate. So, again, thank you for being on the show.

Sean: Thank you, this was really fun.

Appreciate the good conversation.

Julian: Of course.

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