The first thing you realise about Rodney Macfarlane is that he loves mobile technology. Not in a ‘check out my new phone’ way, but in a ‘wow look what mobile technology can let you do’ way. In fact have coffee with Macfarlane and you come away wondering why you didn’t already know the mobile space was so, well, cool.
One of the directors of MEA Mobile, a mobile app development company that is part of the Macfarlane, Engle & Associates portfolio (yes, he is a partner), Macfarlane is no back office, Sheldon-esque geek. With a BSc and an LLB from Canterbury University and an MBA in New Ventures from Auckland University, he brings a sound history in legal counsel, Intellectual Property, Licensing and Commercialisation to the app development table. The combination may seem unusual, but it works.
Billed as one of New Zealand’s largest mobile app developers, MEA Mobile counts clients such as Levi's, Rip Curl, MTV Press, Jasons and Westpac in its portfolio, and has over 50 different apps available across iOS and Android.
"I’ve been in the tech sector for a long time,” Macfarlane says with a smile, "and I’ve always had the view to do creative projects within structured environments. It’s great to be creative but you need a solid framework for that creativity to work.”
Not content to simply defy the norm by applying structured guidelines to creativity, Macfarlane and his team also defy logic by preferring to get an app out to the market and allowing its merits to be decided there, rather than spending months chasing perfection.
"Our strategy is to get a lot done well and get it out there, test the market inexpensively with limited features and see what it [the market] says.”
There is little point, Macfarlane believes, to sitting in your office going over and over an app trying to guess what the market wants or applying what you personally think is good.
"The best response you can get,” he continues, "is ‘I love your app but..’”
According to Macfarlane, the mobile market is different to any preceding market and is not only "massive but getting bigger.” It means you can’t just build an app and send out a press release, he says. Marketing has to be clever, and it certainly helps to have a great product.
Committed to growing a New Zealand-based R & D business, the MEA team is spread across three offices, one of which is in New Haven in the USA.
"There’s no tyranny of distance anymore. The time zone differences work to our advantage. Something can be sent from one office to the other be dealt with overnight and be ready for the client the next day.”
The future looks bright for MEA Mobile. With over 50 different apps in the app store, the company celebrated their anniversary in June by making the entire portfolio available free for 48 hours. Within hours they held four out of the top 10 photography spots in the USA. In France they placed simultaneously at #1, #2, #4 and #6.
Among the apps is iSupr8, described as ‘instagram for iPhone video’, Adobe Revel, and Speed Machine.
"Going forward we now have products we can support and develop. It makes it easier to gain credibility because we’ve proven ourselves.”
Image: two members of the MEA Mobile team.