Q Manning, one time Hollywood movie director and now the founder of app creation company Rocksauce tells Tom May about the daily joy of creating fine apps in Austin, Texas
.net: You were a successful movie director, so why did you leave that and set up an apps company?
QM: Because an app is like holding the future right in your hand. I love making films and telling stories to an audience. Apps let me do that, but in a far more intimate way.
.net: What is the special sauce that makes Rocksauce stand out from other agencies?
QM: Look at our roster: we’re run by creatives. Our CEO is a designer/director/writer. Our COO is a producer. My project managers are photographers and filmmakers. My art team does everything from graffiti to jewellery to sculpture. Beauty sells, no matter what industry you’re in. You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention, and if its not right, you’ve lost your opportunity. Who would you want helping you out? A bunch of business guys who saw “the potential for significant sales growth in the expanding mobile software development vertical?” Or the guys who play with this stuff all day long, who geek out over how detailed a button treatment is? Our goal, for every client, is to make something outstanding.
.net: Do clients come to you with unrealistic expectations and how do you deal with that?
QM: Of course. Everyone thinks their idea is original and everyone thinks making apps is like making websites. Neither is true. We hear the same concepts over and over, as do other consumer entertainment industries such as publishing or Hollywood. Archetypes are already appearing – the check-in, the to-do list, the game, and so on. Your only chance of success is for us to help you find the hook, whittle down the features so it’s tight, succinct and can fit in your budget, then make it absolutely stunning and memorable.
.net: When an app you build makes your client a bunch of money, do you ever think: ‘Why didn’t we build that for ourselves and keep all the cash’?
QM: Nah. Any app we build has our blood, sweat and tears poured into every pixel. Our process means we love these projects as much as the client does. We’re always trying to figure out how to make it the coolest project in the world. So when it achieves success, we’re all smiles. Plus, when you bring us an idea that I can look at and say, “We do this right, this thing is huge!” then we’re going to partner with you for a share of the ownership.
.net: What tools and technologies do you tend to lean towards as a company?
QM: As a design studio, Rocksauce uses the full gamut of Adobe software, some Cinema4D, every device you can conceivably imagine that helps us accomplish our goals and lots of pencil and paper. Computer-wise, we’re all about Apple here. In Apple we see a kindred spirit for quality and craftsmanship that we strive for. And I couldn’t function day-to-day without Spaces.
.net: What’s been your proudest moment there?
QM: Getting the keys to our office and moving furniture in. That moment when it all clicks in: ‘Oh wow, I just started my own company’. You’ll never get that feeling again. Day to day, though, I love the little moments. When our beer drinking app, Brewski Me, won a bunch of awards. Or the surprise of seeing our clients Tweet out to the world how blown away they were by what we did for them. How can I not be proud of that?
.net: What are you excited about at the moment?
QM: The most exciting stuff is the things I’m not allowed to talk about! We have a few projects with huge, household name clients coming to life. We also have some of our own in-house Rocksauce Studios cultivated apps that have been brewing in my brain since before this company was founded, which are nearly ready for unleashing on the world.
.net: How do you go about hiring developers?
QM: It’s tricky, since we’re a creative company with a very specific culture. We’re all very open and very collaborative here. Office doors stay open, as they say. We need folks who can’t wait to learn how to solve a problem, and will pick up whatever education is necessary along the way.
.net: How have your experiences in Hollywood influenced your career in app development?
QM: Collaboration. We’ve all been at companies where they talk about how important teamwork is, but then you’ll have five different bosses, none of who wants to speak to each other. Everyone’s out for themselves. You can’t make a movie by yourself. It’s impossible. Filmmaking is about bringing people with disparate talents together to make something fantastic. That’s also what we do at Rocksauce. A blueprint will go from John to Travis to Faith to me, with everyone giving their input along the way. Collaboration is a buzzword that’s lost its meaning. If you want to see the definition, come to Rocksauce and watch us work.
.net: What are the advantages of being based in Austin, Texas?
QM: Austin is the coolest place on earth, man. Where else can film, tech and music all meld together in a rocking goulash of deliciousness? There’s no limit to the talented people here. It’s inspiring and gets the creative juices gushing. We have a few folks who work for us that live in other states, but our plan is to have our base of operations always to be Austin.
.net: What’s the most bizarre request you’ve had?
QM: I remember one client in particular. He wanted us to fly out to various Ivy League schools, pretend to be students and then throw these huge, massive frat parties in order to promote their app to drunk people. We told him we’d consider it.