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Young guns: Appster founders shaking tech world

Appster Co-CEOs and Co-Founders, Mark McDonald (left) & Josiah Humphrey (right).

Appster Co-CEOs and Co-Founders, Mark McDonald (left) & Josiah Humphrey (right).

Not many can say they started their multi-million dollar company with $3,000 and a lease for an overpriced office.

Joining forces to start a digital marketing business in their teenage years, it seems Josiah Humphrey and Mark McDonald were destined for entrepreneurial success.

“The inspiration is really where it started – looking around at other app development companies, we thought we’d try it,” Mark told Dynamic Business almost two years ago, talking of how app developing company Appster got its start.

“Basically, we started Appster when I was finishing high school,” Mark had explained. “And we said what a crazy thing it would be to get an office in the Rialto Towers, because it would just be so crazy at such a young age – but that’s what we did and that’s really how it started. We got a new office in the Rialto Towers and started building the company.”

It’s the type of business approach that has seen Appster become a major player in the app development market. As though kicking off with blinkers, Josiah and Mark have been relentless in their focus, pushing Appster to heights rare for a company its age.

“The ambition is to grow it into a multi-million dollar technology company,” Mark had said, and it’s happened. Appster is clocking in around $10 million in annual revenue, with an aim of $100 million p.a. by 2018.

“The fact that we started our company at 19​ ​meant that we had very little fear of failure,” Mark says today, looking back at the no-holds-barred approach that paved the way.

“​It didn’t matter if Appster didn’t succeed because most of our friends​ ​were still at university or starting their careers in low level jobs; we had no​ commitments or major expenses.”

Josiah agrees. “It allowed us to try a lot of things and fail​ fast. We also could work 16 hours a day and sleep under our desks if required without running into the issues that somebody settled down with a family might.”

Unwavering perseverance and youthful gusto aside, Josiah says that focusing on finding the right talent has played a major role in getting the company to this point.

“We have a brutal ​focus on finding the best and brightest to work at Appster. Whether that’s in sales or engineering, our processes for attracting, recruiting and retaining top talent have allowed us grow more aggressively than all of our main competitors.”

Appster’s aggressive growth shows no sign of slowing down, especially with Josiah and Mark locking in a presence in tech start-up haven Silicon Valley. Headcount now tops 150, outlets like Forbes are taking notice, and a growing focus on education is on the table. Of course, the fact the app world is becoming more prevalent in the business world every day may also have a hand.

“Mobility ​is truly in the beginning of its evolution,” Mark says. “We’ll see more businesses be “mobile-first” and engage with their customers in ways they could never do before.”

While Mark banks on the power that investing in the mobile sector can provide for a business, he says caution and insight is a must before making rash decisions.

“Like any marketing investment, there needs to be a strategy in place before​ ​the tactical implementation and building of an app. Building an app for the sake of an app is never a good idea.”

So, what advice does the pair have for other young entrepreneurs out there? Josiah keeps it simple and insightful.

“Start part time, build something that you would want to buy and then surround yourself with people that are significantly more capable than you in areas you’re weak in.”