An Interview With Storage Together’s Luke Amargo, Winner of Smart City Hack’s ‘Best Solution’ Award 2016

Five months of hackathons, competitions and a worldwide product search led to last week’s Smart City Hack final – and what a final we had! In front of a packed audience, as well as all the passing Smart City Expo visitors, our ten finalists passionately pitched away their apps and solutions to our jury of industry professionals. No one pitched more passionately though than Storage Together’s Luke Amargo. Coming all the way from Phoenix, A.Z. Luke laid out the app’s potential and the team’s future goals with real panache, resulting in Storage Together being awarded the ‘Best Solution 2016’ prize. We grabbed him for a quick chat about the app’s dramatic beginnings and plans for 2017.

What’s your background?
English Literature from Grand Canyon University with minors in Design and Entrepreneurial Studies.

What caused your first interest in apps and developing?

I started focusing purely on writing, I loved creating worlds. However there was more things to create beyond fiction and it was great having people rally behind an idea. This got me into developing.

Where did the concept for the app come from?

I had a car accident on my way to my college, and my items got destroyed. I discovered if I burdened my stuff at a friend’s house or a pricey storage unit my stuff would’ve been fine. So I combined both ideas and had this idea of “share economy-fying” self-storage.  Eureka from a wreck.

The sharing economy has seen huge growth and exposure in the past few years, do you think apps will continue to lead the charge?  

Apps that simply allow accountability and flexibility we’ve not had in the past. Though desktops in theory could do the same, applications have geolocation and portability, so apps are a necessity. Our competitors don’t have an app, so I don’t consider them 100% members of the “share economy.”

How did you hear about Smart City Hack?

My company does an incredible number of pitches, and this was on the radar when I was doing research at Grand Canyon University.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Winning this! It has been an incredible honor. We got to bring the prize back to GCU, Phoenix and to my family. I have been praying for adventures, and this was by far, one of the favorite adventures (also my favorite time in Europe). I remember also, afterwards, taking a guitar and performing right by Plaça d’Espanya to celebrate.
Reaching your audience is one of the hardest challenges with any product, how do you plan to attract more users?

Organic is ideal. For instance, people who refer us personally to their peers is my favorite way of marketing. However, with the need of storage being prevalent in our target market of college students, all we have to do is argue our value proposition. Money stays with locals. You save money (40% below the industry). Also, you have more space for your life! We have some guerilla marketing and of course SEO/FB Ads on the way. But I treasure organic reach.

Where do you see the future of the app going? What are your expansion plans? 

We don’t have to build brick-and-mortar stores, we have room to really focus our funds. Scalability is huge for our vision of storage since the market has been growing even during financially tough times.

We want to have a stronger app so we can scale in any city without us having to jump in and ruin the flow of commerce, so we gotta tighten our backend. We are going to expand college to college (people who love the share economy), city to city and then the whole nation. We have a man in London who wants to launch a European beta test. We are focusing on quality, since the share economy is built on trust.

A Catch Up With MPA Winner ‘Best Apps Market’

We’ve had many great apps take the stage at the MPA’s over the past decade, so we thought it would be great to look back at a couple of our favourites. Back in 2014 we saw Fetch (now Best Apps Market) be crowned winner and for its clear usability. Becoming the number one tool for finding Android apps you’ll likely to love, and with over 25,000,000 Google Play installs, Best Apps Market has reached the highest level of success. We caught up with team leader Anu Nigam to talk about the app and where he is now…

What caused your first interest in apps and developing?

Anu: It was kinda funny, I was doing a previous company that was creating a text messaging search engine, it was doing ok, and then all of a sudden the iPhone came out and the company pretty much died. That is when I saw the transition to mobile phones and apps and was like ‘Ok, that’s the right place to be.’

What’s the best thing the MPA’s and Appcircus gave to the success of the app?

Anu: The best thing that came from it was that it brought believe to our team that we were doing the right thing. It was an exciting thing to see and the way you guys presented it was a real morale booster.

Your initial audience is very wide with the app having appeal to any Android user. How did you go about gaining visibility?

Anu: It was a bit ‘chicken and the egg’. We were doing these Android apps. We created four or five dummy apps, that’s an app with nothing else in it. We were just testing stuff out, so we had a job app, a lyric search, an app discovery, and we were just looking to see where the demand was for Android back then and it was all in app discovery. So that’s how we focused on it. We tested the market and saw if there was demand, installs, and then we could see what we should focus on.

Have customer reviews and feedback helped shape changes over time?

Anu: Over time the app has changed. We sit on top of Google Play so we have to keep evolving as Google Play evolves. That’s always in the back of our minds. Competition has evolved us you could say and now we’ve become smarter and bigger and better. We’re actually evolving into not just apps and games but content and apps and games, recommending what you should read and engage with within your apps.

What’s been your proudest moment as a company so far?

Anu: The proudest moment is probably gaining ten million installs on the Google Play store, a big milestone. There are not many apps on the Google Play store with ten million installs and we grew to ten million without buying any ads.

Best Market are self confessed Android fanboys, what is it you like about the OS so much?

Anu: Initially it was so open. Apple has been restrictive, there’s more data more innovation. There’s a lot of freedom.

More than most you must see MANY apps on a daily basis. Do you have a favorite or one you’re hooked on?

Anu: Unfortunately I’m hooked on ‘Clash of Clans’.  It’s been a way for me to bond with my niece and nephew surprisingly enough; we’ve our own little clan. It’s been a family endeavor. The Fitbit app is always something I like to look at just to see how I’m doing exercise wise. It’s become this health-monitoring thing. I can see I did ten thousand steps yesterday and four thousand so far today. That kind of information back to you is becoming more valuable, and it makes you healthier and better.

Any advice for new developers?

Anu: It’s expensive doing an app and being on the cutting edge. Be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Make sure there’s demand for it. Distribution is really hard. Make sure there’s an audience and market to them, it’s less about the technology and more about the marketing. Find the users, get them engaged and have them be your voice.

Future Plans?

Anu: We’re really focusing on doing content within the apps and games, offering deals and offers or interesting things, like ‘the most read article’ on a certain news site. Finding partnerships with other apps developers to share that information and share with our users to help a re-engagement. I’m not sure users always want notifications but I think sometimes they want to know what’s happening with the apps they have and even the ones they’ve uninstalled. What has changed? Maybe it’s gotten better now.