Interview with Viximo’s Rob Frasca and Jon Klein


viximo interviewAppCraver recently interviewed Viximo’s Rob Frasca, CEO and Jon Klein, developer, about Viximo's new  TrueFlirt and TrueFlirt Lite apps, which are designed to make it easy for people to "flirt with style."

1. What was the inspiration behind the app?
RF: More than half of the 50-100 SMS text messages sent daily by the average 14-24 year old are flirtatious in nature. TrueFlirt was designed to make that activity more playful, personal, and fun.

2. Do you really think people need technology to help them flirt? It seems they’ve been managing pretty well on their own since the Stone Age.
RF: I don't know about that. I'd say there is a lot of room for improvement in the flirting department —particularly in the sometimes awkward, nerve-wracking early stages of a new romance. I think there are a fair number of people that could use a little help improving their game.

3. If you could be something other than a developer, what would it be?
JK: Washed-up third-tier celebrity, paying the bills by making sarcastic commentary on 80s nostalgia shows on VH1.

4. The big game studios promote their developers like rock stars. If you were a rock star, what instrument would you play?
JK: I play the guitar but so far it hasn't made me a rock star, so maybe I need to branch out.  So... let's say... oh, I don't know...sousaphone?

5. Do you anticipate that iPhone apps will need to be more sophisticated over the next year? If so, what do you think the impact will be on development cycles and the size of development teams?
JK: So far I think the opposite has been true. With the number of simple $.99 cent apps, there's a lot of downward price pressure on apps in the App Store and it's becoming harder and harder for more sophisticated apps to be noticed. This may not be as big an issue for well-established teams bringing well-known titles to the phone, but I think it makes it more challenging for companies trying to establish themselves with interesting new products. I would love to see this change--it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next year or so.

6. What’s the development cycle for one of your apps? Do you envision dev cycles to lengthen?
JK: For the apps in the Viximo App Network, our app development cycle is guided largely by the needs of our in-house studio and of our creator community. We've put a lot of upfront development effort into building out some technology so that we can bring new apps to market quickly. We start with quick prototypes, and then are able to build out any missing pieces of the technology while the studio prepares the artistic assets. This process can be a week or two, but we've also turned around concepts in as little as two days.

7. How did you settle on the $5.99 price point for your paid app? How do you determine price when sales are so affected by positioning in the App Store and reviews?
RF: It's true that we priced the app a bit higher. Then again, TrueFlirt comes with 10 interactive Flirts preloaded, which you can send an unlimited number of times to an unlimited number of people. We'll add to that library over time as well. When you consider the fact that the app contains the equivalent of 10 stand-alone apps, $5.99 might not seem so pricey. It's also worth noting that we dropped the price to $3.99 through Valentine's Day.

8. What’s the rationale for a lite and paid app? Aren’t you concerned people will be satisfied with the free version or lose interest and forget about the upgrade?
JK: We provided a Lite version of the app for free because we didn't want Flirt recipients to have to pay for the app to receive Flirts. There is certainly the possibility that some percentage of people who get the Lite version won't ever upgrade to the paid. However, a huge part of what makes TrueFlirt so fun is the two-way interaction. For the true flirts among our consumers, there's no question the paid app is a must.

9. What features do you hope Apple will implement in future versions of the iPhone SDK?
JK: Like every other developer, I'm eagerly awaiting the long promised, briefly delivered, and then cruelly taken away push notification services.  At this point, Apple seems to be hoping that if they just never mention it again, everybody will forget about it.

10. What’s the biggest advantage of the iPhone other than mobility?
JK: The biggest advantage of developing for the iPhone is how the phone and the App Store have totally changed people's perceptions and expectations of what a phone can do, and given people the ability to choose what to install on their phones. Especially in the US, this is a really revolutionary idea which has really — excuse the dramatic tone — democratized the whole mobile app development process.

11. What do you see the biggest challenge to overcoming the limitations of the iPhone?
JK: Some of the more agonizing limitations on the iPhone are those that are imposed by Apple--things that the device is capable of, but which are tantalizingly cordoned off to Apple's private frameworks. I think most developers understand and appreciate the need for certain functionality to be limited, but clearly Apple has erred on the side of more restrictions rather than fewer and a lot of reasonable functionality has been restricted.

12. What apps are on your iPhone right now?
RF: Well, TrueFlirt, of course! Also, the other Viximo Apps Network additions: MC Icee, PixelFish, and ChatterBlox. My kids love PixelFish and MCIcee. It's the best digital babysitter ever. Aside from those, I've got some fun apps and some utilitarian ones. In the fun category: Pandora, Shazam, Labyrinth, and Tetris are my favorites. For utility, I can’t live without The Weather Channel, Sunrise, Facebook, Twitterific, or Drync.  Tides for boating, Google earth, Surf Report and the game Fieldrunners, TwitterFon.

JK: My favorite app this week is Up There.  Simple game, but very nicely done and a lot of fun. I also really like Yelp, Bloom and Amazon's app. And then there are a couple of apps in the category of "cool software that never gets used," including Shazam and vlingo. Really cool apps, but I just don't find myself using them.

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