There's An App For That!

Posted on Jul 1, 2011 :: Small Business Spotlight
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo by Sharon Verbeten

Seems like the entire world speaks in an alphabet soup lexicon these days: BTW, FYI, LOL (by the way, for your information, I’m laughing out loud!). But for Oshkosh native and entrepreneur Ken Kriegel, only three letters matter these days: app, short for “application.”

After cutting his technology chops for years in the printing and publishing fields, Kriegel saw a niche waiting to be filled. And thus, he launched Jack Russell Apps.

“I was looking for a market that was untapped, with the technology moving so fast,” says Kriegel. “I really liked the smartphone things, and I realized nobody was doing applications for businesses.”
Based on his research, Kriegel determined that about 70 percent of the apps for Apple were games. “There was a big void to be filled,” he says. “There really was no other company that was doing [business apps] on six major cell phone platforms (Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Blackberry, Windows Mobile). I was the first company to offer it on all platforms.”

From paper boy to paperless
A paper boy at 13, Kriegel grew up with ink on his hands and in his blood. His first job out of high school was for a printer using lead Linotype, he recalls.

Venturing into the world of computers came naturally for Kriegel, who has been a Macintosh devotee since 1984 and taught himself “every program you can think of.”

His working knowledge of writing computer programs and designing workflows was the perfect foundation on which to build Jack Russell Apps, which he runs from his home in Oshkosh. After drafting a business plan, Kriegel says, “I would see where the market was going. I knew that when I was talking to customers at least I could talk intelligently about the product.”

Kriegel already had the necessary computers and equipment, so he raised some capital on his own, added “sweat equity” and forged ahead, hoping to educate businesses on a more efficient, timely and paperless journey.

Kriegel secures licensing agreements with all the major platforms, and all proposals are reviewed to make sure the apps meet functionality. According to Kriegel, Apple approves 1,000 apps per day, but it can take three to six weeks for someone to launch an app for the first time.
While Jack Russell Apps has developed apps for Gallagher’s Pizza in Green Bay and about a dozen airports (including Outagamie County Airport), Kriegel focuses on increasing his portfolio of businesses and chambers of commerce.

The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce recently obtained a four-platform app to offer smartphone access to its searchable business directory. It’s one of the most accessed areas of the website, says Lori Kaye Lodes, the chamber’s marketing and communications manager. The chamber seized the opportunity to add other functionality for on-the-go convenience, including access to its social media outlets, e-mail and address with GPS capabilities.

“The app has been downloaded more than 8,000 times across all the platforms. We’re excited to be on the forefront of this technology,” says Lodes.

The app also saved the chamber thousands of dollars, as it eliminated the need to print more than 10,000 copies of its directory.
Kriegel’s goal with his apps is to bring the “wow” factor. “You try to put some extra cool things into them.”
With the Gallagher’s app, for example, Jack Russell Apps included the one-touch dial. “They were the first pizza store that did delivery with one-touch dialing,” Kriegel says. “In less than 10 to 15 seconds, you’re placing an order.”

Those old days of printing ink and newspaper paste-up may still hold some charm for Kriegel. “I do flash back to those days,” he says fondly. But he believes his technology venture has already paid off.

“I feel I’m about two years ahead of the curve. I’m definitely meeting my expectations. It’s where I thought the market was going to be going.”

Next up? Kriegel hopes to partner with other companies, pursue more untapped markets and develop new and emerging technologies.

“We want to be first to the market again,” he says.

“See if it’s right for you,” he adds. “Make sure it fits your business model, and financially, you will find a return on your investment. Doing due diligence really prepared us.”

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