As marketing manager with Bingham Farms-based custom app developer jacapps, Jacquelyn Smith recognizes the value of spending time with other professionals in the tech industry. And when that connection can be made the old-school, in-person way, all the better.
It seems that tech-based businesses across Oakland County agree, given the attendance of monthly meetups of a program called Tech248, an initiative of Oakland County’s economic development department. Each month in a different location, tech businesses gather to share ideas.
“We really think Tech248 is a great place for like-minded tech businesses to network and meet new partners and clients,” says Smith. “We are always looking to join more local groups, and this has been a great starting point for us.”
This summer, jacapps hosted a unique meetup at their offices on Telegraph Road. Their format offered three separate simultaneous presentations that attendees could rotate through, with networking time in between. The short presentations allowed 80 participants gather information, ask questions, and connect with new people each time.
For jacapps, the format was an experiment.
“It’s the first time we have hosted here, and we approached it as a trial and error,” says Smith, who brainstormed with Oakland County to come up with an appropriate format for a larger crowd. Like most companies, space is limited for jacapps, and Tech248 has about 1,358 members who could, in theory, attend any event.
“We thought of a way to incorporate more space, so we could fit a larger group of people. We created segmented areas so people could spread out. Our team was excited to speak in front of the group,” she says.
Sharing tech solutions
The event was a way for jacapps to educate fellow Tech248 members about mobile technology, and about their specific services. In one room, business development director Sari Zalesin talked about the rise of smart speakers, and custom marketing solutions for companies to leverage the 100 percent increase in smart speaker ownership between 2017 and 2018.
“With open architecture for Google and Amazon smart speakers, anyone can create tools called skills,” says Zalesin. “Invoking a skill requires saying the right command, and the invocation must be well branded and marketable.” Many industries, including automotive and healthcare, are researching ways to fold natural voice commands into their products and services, Zalesin says.
In an adjacent room, jacapps president Paul Jacobs shared the results of recently-published research about how people are using technology in their daily lives. With smartphone ownership at 90 percent, Jacobs says the only person who doesn’t have this technology “is Aunt Mildred, if she is over 90 years old.” Like Zalesin, Jacobs shared the explosion of voice-controlled tech.
“Voice will change the way we do business,” Jacobs says. “You will talk to your fridge, and you will talk to your car. There is a major revolution going on with the way we communicate. We are being trained by the wave of voice.”
In a final presentation, jacapps chief operating officer Bob Kernen talked about how custom mobile apps can change the way companies do business. Given that most adults own a smartphone, companies can leverage that already present hardware investment with apps that allow employees to work smarter.
Kernen shared a success story about an app jacapps developed for a Michigan-based limestone company that helped streamline logistics, making operations more efficient.
“It only has about 300 downloads, but they are the right 300 downloads,” Kernen says. A surprising byproduct of this mobile app is the interest it has piqued from potential employees from the millennial generation, an age group he says is moving away from construction in favor of other industries.
“We all work in businesses where efficiency is critical,” Kernen says. “With mobile apps, there are so many different, interesting, innovative ways to drive sales, coordinate teams, and create efficiency.”