Along with being ranked one of the Best Places to Work in Charlotte, North Carolina, James Hartsell—SDW's co-founder and CEO, was recently profiled by the Charlotte Business Journal. The Q&A is reprinted below.
Tell us a little about what Skookum Digital Works does and how it was founded?
Skookum Digital Works is a technical partner for anyone with a startup dream. We mainly work with entrepreneurs—building out their products or customizing software for businesses.
My co-founder and I, Bryan Delaney, founded Skookum in 2005. We were roommates at UNC Charlotte, both graduated with computer science degrees, and both went to work for the Department of Defense for a few years before deciding we had a better mousetrap.
Bryan and I are Charlotte natives, and we're happy to have located our office Uptown.
Do you specialize in any particular types of apps or client base?
I don't think its crass of me to say we like to work with funded startups. Our typical client is the non-technical entrepreneur; someone with business skills and ideas but with no programming background. We allow a non-technical entrepreneur to get started on their digital product without having to find a technical co-founder or trying to hire engineers they are not qualified to vet.
Our clients have often heard the word "No" elsewhere. We have expertise in the mobile web, complicated software integrations, and real-time web collaboration.
What are some examples of apps Skookum has created?
A publishing company wanted a marketing tool to promote their books. SDW gave them a digital revenue stream.
Some D.C. folks knew independent voters were eager to take collective action. SDW built them a data mining and people matching system.
A group of investors-and-avid-golfers hated the 100+ scoring apps already available. We made players' phones talk to each other. (!)
A neighborhood of New York businesses disliked Groupon keeping their margins. We created a localized model they collectively controlled.
What do you think will be the next innovation in smartphone applications?
Mobile apps are going to be easier to download and live outside the walls of the Apple iTunes store and the Android Marketplace. Companies can now place their applications on iPhones and iPads without Apple taking 30% of the cut.
Mobile applications are also slowing making their way into retail. Most stores know they can use smartphones and tablet devices to enhance their store experience, but the smaller chains (and certainly the local guys) are waiting to see what the big guys do before making the investment.
Charlotte isn’t really seen as a tech town. Will that ever change?
It's fundamentally a marketing problem and one that we and 70+ other Charlotte tech leaders have addressed face to face with Mayor Foxx. Aside from numerous local startups and technical partners like ourselves, all of the banks are essentially technology companies.
For just one example, If you took all the programmers out of Bank of America, they would comprise the tenth largest tech company in the world. BoA has technology needs that make engineers at IBM cry.
We like to think we're doing our part recruiting talent to the area and flying the flag in front of national entrepreneurs. We have clients all over the place happy to come see us and come visit Charlotte.
Charlotte is already a tech hub, but the city definitely needs to get better about spreading that message.