Adam Richichi and his partner were minutes into their first meeting about launching a social media company when they ran headlong into the conundrum that bedevils nearly every startup hinging on mobile technology.
Should they build their app for iPhone or Android?
In a perfect world, obviously, they would launch programs for both. But Richichi, 29, and his partner, Michael Ripa, 38, are moonlighting from day jobs as they self-fund BevySocial.com, which allows users to share photos of their favorite drinks. They had neither time nor money to mount a dual-platform launch.
So they needed to choose.
"That was our first crux," said Richichi, who lives in West Islip and manages a chain of dental offices.
Focus on business model
Choosing between iPhone and Android is a common — and crucial — dilemma for startups, said Alex Bratton, CEO of a Chicago tech company and author of "Billion Dollar Apps: How to Find and Implement a Winning Mobile Strategy."
If a company can't juggle apps for both platforms right out of the gate, the key to choosing lies in the business model. If a startup's success depends on users spending money via its app, then iPhone is probably the way to go, Bratton said.
iPhone users tend to be wealthier and spend significantly more time tapping away on their devices than Android users, according to CivicScience, a technology polling company in Pittsburgh. More importantly, they are more likely than other mobile users to buy things via their phones.
"iPhone users tend to spend money," Bratton said. "Android users expect the 'freemium' model."
Yet, in terms of size, the Android market is much larger, accounting for roughly 85 percent of all smartphones globally. iPhones, meanwhile, account for just 12 percent.
So, in part, the question boils down to whether to reach for the largest number of customers or an audience that is smaller and wealthier.
Plus, there are development challenges to consider, said David Fisher, a professor of mechanical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Google has streamlined the process for designing apps for Android, allowing developers to launch within hours, Fisher said. But with Apple, which has a rigorous approval process, it can take weeks.
"Google does a better job of making a developer's life easier," Fisher said.
So Richichi and Ripa, who have sunk about $16,000 into the company, had plenty to consider. On the revenue end their strategy doesn't hinge on users spending money through the Bevy Social app. So the buying power of iPhone users didn't seem crucial.
The appeal of mass market
On the other hand, Android's massive market was appealing. So was the prospect of a quick and easy launch. The clincher, however, was that both Richichi and Ripa prefer using Android phones themselves.
"Both of us are Android junkies," said Ripa, who lives in Coram and has worked for 15 years as a programmer for large pharmaceutical companies.
So Richichi and Ripa opted for Android.
The app, which launched in November, allows users to snap and share photos of their morning espresso, lunchtime tea, evening Bourbon and so on with friends. The idea is building networks around a love of a certain beverage — whether that's a Dunkin' Donuts coffee or a grand cru Chablis.
Revenue, they hope, will come primarily from beverage companies, wine bars, brew pubs and the like, who use the app to reach Bevy Social users via advertising and marketing promotions. Imagine, for instance, scrolling through a photo gallery of wet-hopped pale ales, then suddenly getting an ad from the Acme Beer Co.
Bevy Social's Android launch went smoothly, with more than 10,000 downloads within the first month.
Yet, something was awry. Richichi and Ripa discovered quickly that most of their friends and relatives used iPhone and, hence, couldn't download the app. Potential investors, meanwhile, were surprised to hear that Bevy Social wasn't available via Apple.
In short, they were missing a key chunk of their market.
"It has been a roadblock," Richichi said.
He and Ripa planned all along to eventually expand to add iPhone. So they soldiered on. This month they submitted their app to Apple. It's scheduled to be available soon.
Partners: Adam Richichi and Michael Ripa
What it does: App that lets users share photos of their beverages
Downloads: 10,000 in first month