An App for Change: Defining the New Individual Capitalism

The world of apps is becoming rapidly democratised, creating enormous new opportunities for small-scale capitalism to flourish. For example Mippin is an apps platform that simplifies apps creation down from design and coding to simple drag and drop. So too TownWizard, a platform that lets users create town guides and set up shop as mobile content providers. In both cases the outcome is a new scale of opportunity for individuals.

That focus on individuals has given rise to a new term – individual capitalism. Like “social business” it’s one we should take care in defining.

We need to be sure it keeps its full quotient of values.

Individual capitalism – at least in my view – is closely associated with social business. It’s part of a new shared-value way-of-work.

Back in March I called the trend The Rise of the Crocus Class, a reference to the fact that in recession a lot of people are seeing spring. It’s also on Techonomy’s agenda this week.

One supreme benefit of technology today, in my view, lies in the platform and the values that entrepreneurs bring to creating opportunity for a broad base of individuals through platforms.

Individual capitalism, though, has to live down its Avon moment. Is this all about creating new multi-level marketing businesses? Are we becoming a nation of Avon reps?

There’s a difference.

To take advantage of the opportunity of platforms like Townwizard or Mippin users have to be able to offer creativity and service. They are not reselling.

Town Wizard currently has about 150 local content creators, and growing.

The Town Wizard platform reduces the cost of creating a local mobile app to $800 and then, assuming the local partner is creative and diligent, the business is all abut local content. Local events, local restaurants, local points of interest.

Founders Jeff Armstrong (President) and Steve Salzinger (CEO) see it as a social business.

“We see ourselves creating an ecosystem of partners that participates in something that is global but extremely local,” says Steve, “150 points of presence right now growing to 30,000 say which would then reach a large advertising audience and advertising platform but one curated at the local level.”

Clearly the larger entity is created by the local participation. Local partners compete against a YELP, offering information, or even a Groupon, offering hyper-local deals. One partner, Jeff and Steve tell me, already coins $20,000 a month in local ad fees.

The rise of a more socially motivated class of entrepreneurs is the defining characteristic of this recession – at least its late stage. We can’t escape those other characteristics: banks and mortgage debt.

But individuals are reshaping the world around us whether it is securing a modest amount of freedom around food, with Windowfarms, renting out the spare room on AirBnB, using your skills as a source of part-time income on Eventbrite or exploiting your local knowledge at Townwizard.

Young Money
Entrepreneur Develops Hit App, Parlays Success Into Marketing Platform

There are thousands of apps available for smartphone users; if you’re looking to help find your parked car, remember your friend’s birthday or even keep track of the price of gold, there’s an app for that. An entrepreneur in Florida developed a travel app that has proven so successful it’s inspired a slew of new editions across the U.S.

Mike Ragsdale, of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, created an app that is essentially a travel guide to the Scenic Highway 30-A, an area of the Sunshine State that’s popular with tourists. “I created the app for fun,” Ragsdale said, “but soon, people from other towns began asking for help launching similar mobile guides.”

The app took off and surged in popularity, something Ragsdale “never expected.” Not one to settle, however, he instead teamed with a friend, Jeff Armstrong, to create “TownWizard,” a software platform that lets other entrepreneurs create their own mobile app guides for their own communities.

Now, Ragsdale’s idea has blossomed into an ostensible phenomenon in the app world. “We now have partners as far away as Roppongi, Japan and Yellowknife, Canada, just below the Arctic Circle,” affirmed Armstrong. “They range from semi-retired couples and stay-at-home moms to large luxury resorts and publishing companies with hundreds of employees.”

Asked why his app has been so successful, the entrepreneur asserts it all comes down to cost. According to Mashable, to “design, implement and deploy a brand-quality iPhone app” costs at least $30,000; not too many people have that much cash laying around, and Ragsdale’s app is meant for the app designer on a budget and only costs $795 to launch, with a flat $249 monthly rate.

Perhaps the most alluring part of Ragsdale’s app is that “you’re partnered with a hundred like-minded entrepreneurs who are tackling the very same opportunity as you,” Ragsdale said. How does that translate into actionable results? Ragsdale affirmed: “If a partner in one town discovers an effective new viral marketing strategy, we quickly share it with all partners across our network. It’s like having a huge entrepreneurial think-tank that’s constantly working for your business.”

Armstrong contends that every city will soon have its own travel guide one day thanks to the proliferation of wireless technologies; their app, he asserts, helps entrepreneurs to harness that demand and profit from it. “It’s inevitable that every town and neighborhood will eventually have its own mobile guide, and we wanted to make it affordable for entrepreneurs who share that vision,” said Armstrong.

“We already have partners in 110 different markets, but with over 2,800 small towns in the U.S. alone, we’ve barely scratched the surface of TownWizard’s full potential.”

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