The goal of any app developer is to search the iPhone's top 25 list and see his product there alongside the likes of I Am T-Pain, The Moron Test and Tetris. The problem is that with over 75,000 apps, you're twenty times more likely to get into Harvard than make the list. GPush, the app my team and I built this summer, was the first to offer push Gmail notifications to the iPhone. At its peak, GPush ranked 17th on Apple's list.
The idea for GPush came from one of our Entrepreneur-in-Residences at GreatPoint Ventures, Eli Sapir, who was considering switching back to his BlackBerry because the iPhone lacked push functionality for Gmail. Instead, we decided to let the world know that "there's an app for that." A couple of weeks later, we were incubating Tiverias Apps, and with the help of co-founders Yoni Gontownik and GreatPoint Ventures, had a working product that notified users instantly of new email that we submitted to the App Store for approval.
With 40 million iPhone users, many of whom are also Gmail users, we felt the lack of instant or push Gmail on the iPhone was creating such a stir online that surely someone would cover the story. MG Siegler, a writer for one of the leading tech blogs, TechCrunch, had posted on this issue and we contacted him after the submission. To reach the top 25, we would need a lot of positive press, much of which would now depend on MG's review. On August 8th, his review came out, and within an hour, Push Gmail was a trending topic on Twitter. I never really appreciated the beat of the Internet and the value of Twitter until I felt the uproar surrounding our creation.
Then the wait. According to Apple, 96% of apps are approved within 14 days. For weeks on end, however, the only thing we heard from Apple was that they were testing the app. If they decided to approve it, Apple said, they would notify us. In house, we constantly questioned ourselves and our product. Why wasn't push Gmail offered natively? Yahoo offers push email, as do many others. Moreover, Apple offers MobileMe, an exchange service for email, contacts, and calendar, which costs $99/year. We would undercut the instant email capabilities of MobileMe for only $1.99. As strange as it sounds, our break came when the FCC decided to investigate Apple over their rejection of the Google Voice application. Although never told explicitly, we found it curious that days after the investigation was announced, an app that enhances a Google service on an Apple product was finally approved.
The beat continued. Prior to launch day, MG wrote another article, this one focusing on the FCC investigation against Apple, and marveled at how GPush cut through the crossfire. Twitter feed on launch day read: "Worldwide link here! http://itunes.com/app/GPush http://bit.ly/mZvIS." With help from bloggers around the world and over 9,000 passionate Gmail users on our waiting list, the app was vaulted to the 17th spot for top paid apps within hours. For three days, however, we ran into some scaling issues typical of high demand product launches, and we heard about it in blog posts, Twitter feeds, and well over 7,000 user emails.
The beat rises but also declines, and the entrepreneur's role is often to control the pace.
Five weeks after launch, GPush has successfully delivered over 15 million Gmail notifications, and we now offer support for Google Voice text message and voicemail notifications. Ironic considering Apple flat out rejected the Google Voice application. We're constantly improving the service and have recently submitted our first update, which should hit the app store soon.
Next up? Our second mobile application which will integrate with Evernote"s robust optical character recognition engine.