Think Entrepreneurship recently caught up with Spencer Costanzo, an 18 year old entrepreneur from Princeton, New Jersey. Costanzo built a successful App company in just over a year, which led him to the decision to skip college and focus on App development. Turns out, the plan is working out and he's finding all sorts of success. Just recently he was featured on the front page of Yahoo.com, Jeetbanerjee.com, and named Entrepreneur of the Month at Entrepreneur.com. The business (started in his parents house), has already created over 30 popular iPhone Applications that can be found on iTunes. He's since developed an online course to help others learn how to get into the App business. This guy is doing some big stuff! Check out our interview with Spencer, founder of Malibu Apps.
Q: Could you give us a quick elevator pitch for Malibu Apps?
A: Malibu Apps develops reference-based iPhone & iPad applications. Since June 2011 we have developed more than 30 unique applications, many of which have reached the Top 200 in their category.
Q: How did you get the idea to start an app development company? Do you do any coding yourself or is it 100% outsourced?
A: In 2011 I saw the growing opportunity to make money with apps targeted at specific niches. When I realized that many guides to popular video games were doing well, I chose that as my first app topic. Instead of coding the apps myself, I outsource the work to skilled professionals.
Q: Do you have any tips for people looking to outsource work?
A: I highly recommend Elance. It's where I found all the developers that I now hire for every development project. I've posted more than 100 jobs on Elance for anything from app development to graphic design and freelance writing. In my App Development Course, I take users through my Elance hiring process but my #1 tip would be to ask for several samples of each contractor's work. I recommend 99designs.com for awesome and affordable graphics work.
Q: Does entrepreneurship run in the family or how did you decide entrepreneurship was right for you?
A: Yes, entrepreneurship runs in my family. My grandpa always worked for himself and was quite successful. My Dad actually started a business when he was 27 and sold it at 28. He's been in business his entire life as well. I didn't decide to be an entrepreneur, I just am.
Q: Have you had any failures throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
A: In starting Malibu Apps I had many failures. There are very few resources out there about how to start an app business so I had to figure everything out through trial & error. Through small failures such as hiring unresponsive developers, I learned what to do differently for all future apps.
Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about building a successful business?
A: Fail as fast as possible and find out what doesn't work. If you can quickly eliminate everything that's not working in your business, you can focus on what does work sooner. Rather than brushing aside and ignoring failure, analyze exactly why something failed and don't be embarrassed. You'll learn twice as much from this process about what will work in your business.
Q: Being just 18, how have you been able to finance your business?
A: As I said before, I've always had some business going. The startup money for Malibu Apps was made through selling physical books on Amazon when I was in 10th grade. In 10th grade I stopped doing most schoolwork to sell books all day. I had a scanner that told me what price I could sell any book for on Amazon, and how long it would take to sell. With the scanner, I went to book sales and bookstores and made enough to fund Malibu Apps in the beginning. When I quickly became profitable, I invested ALL profits back into developing new apps.
Q: Obviously apps differ, but on average what would you say the ballpark figure is to develop an app by outsourcing overseas?
A: I always keep app development costs to a minimum. My apps are almost all reference-based (as opposed to graphics-based) so costs aren't nearly as high as you might expect. The average development cost of my apps is around $1,000.
Q: Do you have any books that you'd recommend to other entrepreneurs?
A: The first book I recommend is The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco. This book almost perfectly describes my feelings towards the ‘slowlane’ that most people think is the only way to live their lives. The slowlane includes going to school, getting a job, saving a part of your paycheck, and retiring at 65. After reading this book, you may never want a job. The second is How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban. This is good for students because it takes you on Mark Cuban’s journey from poor college student to billionaire entrepreneur.
Q: How has being a young entrepreneur worked to your advantage?
A: Starting the business at just 17 resulted in a lot of press which led to other opportunities. Being just 18 now, living with my parents is a huge advantage because I don't have many living expenses. This allows me to reinvest as much money as I want into my businesses.
Q: How important is it to take risks? Tell us the biggest risk you've taken with Malibu Apps.
A: Taking large risks may be the most important part of creating a successful business. Risks must be thought-out to the point where they are hardly risks, but may have unknown elements. The large risk that I'm currently taking is not attending college. The traditional path of attending college and then getting a job doesn't interest me at all. What I'm risking is the stability of a normal job for the infinite possibilities that I have as an entrepreneur.
Q: In your own words, what is the definition of entrepreneur?
A: An entrepreneur is someone willing to take necessary risks and face difficult challenges in order to bring their unique vision to the world.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A: I work as close to 24/7 as possible but I feel like I've never worked in my life. I get up around noon but go to sleep around 3am. If I want to take a month-long vacation, I can. For me it's really about having the freedom to create my own schedule and only work on the projects that I love.
Notes: For more information about how to create apps check out Spencer's app course. I took the online course and learned a lot about the basics of taking an app from an idea to reality. Spencer's App Development Course