Jul 31, 2012
by ELIZABETH UELAND CBN Feature Writer
What makes a web development company unique in a town where nearly everyone and their brother is a “website developer?” According to Preston Callicott, partner and chief operating officer with Five Talent, it’s the deep technical knowledge and the ability to use that in business applications. It’s being on the “bleeding edge” of technology.
CBN: What is Five Talent?
Callicott: It began as a software development firm by my partner, Ryan Comingdeer. The focus was churches and non-profits; he built out church management software. That was doing well and then the market went south. I came into the business from the corporate arena in July of 2010. My background was corporate high tech; for seven years I lived in Bend and commuted every week to Burlingame, California. I was in senior management traveling heavily when one day I was with my family and my daughter saw a man selling hot dogs on the street. She commented that if I did that for a living, I could be home every night. It was a life changing moment for me and my family. In 2009 I changed my career from the corporate structure to start ups and in July 2010 I joined Five Talent as a partner with Ryan. Five Talent is not a start up but a re-start. It was a group of tech guys and I came in with the business head.
CBN: Why do you call it a “Re-start?”
Callicott: We had the tech talent we just needed to retool and redirect our efforts. We did an about face in January of 2011. We quickly resized ourselves and pointed ourselves to mobile apps and large sized web development projects in the business world. Almost ninety percent of what we did was outside of Bend so we started promoting ourselves very aggressively in the local market. We just landed our largest client last week. That will hopefully balance out our small and medium projects. Seventy to eighty percent of our business now comes from business versus churches and non profits, and seventy to eighty percent of that is in mobile. We are very technical here so it was easy to go full blown into mobile apps.
CBN: Are apps eliminating websites?
Callicott: About six months ago we had the first client say, “I want a mobile app and build a website to support it.” It was our “aha” moment that mobile had finally started changing how websites are designed for everyone, not just for mobile. Now, virtually everything that comes through the door is a mobile app first and then a website to support it. It’s a dramatic change. Another thing that has changed is the amount of text on a page has been reduced by eighty percent. Everything is going to larger images and larger text but a lot less of it. It is images and video with some bullet points. The real estate to view has gotten smaller. Look at the IPad or the IPhone, the text is really small. They may increase the font but they have to really tighten it to 10-20 words. Those images and few words need to cause the viewer to take an action, fill out a form or whatever it is you want them to do.
All of that is driven by the finger. It used to be mouse driven; now we design for the finger. The trend started 9-11 months ago. It’s driving how people market how people develop their business lines of revenue. Revenue streams are more subscriptions than purchases. Almost everything is a stream as in paying for service in a monthly fee. Typically, you charge a very small fee in the beginning and then you ding and charge them for add ons. Consumers are still purchasing, but from a business side, you are paying for a service. It’s changing how people build these things out. That started sometime ago with what they call software as a service. It has changed the way everything happens in business. That translates down to the mobile apps and how people design the mobile apps.
CBN: Do you have to have a website if you have an app?
Callicott: Yes, websites will always live to some extent because the business world still lives with PCs. The consumer is different. With over 80 million iPads shipped, and that doesn’t include all the android tablets, the PC is virtually dead for consumers.
CBN: There are a lot of web developers what makes you different?
Callicott: There are many who think they know how to build websites but then you have to make them come to it. Many believe they can create a website but very few understand how to build a website that is designed so search engines like it. What we do is drive traffic with SEO or search engine optimization.
CBN: Are you in a growth mode?
Callicott: We are conservative in growing considering the past. We are growing purely from cash flow and lines of credit. We are definitely adding more people. We have employees and then we have contractors. It’s easier to manage the flow with contractors. Our trend is that we grow employees slowly and hire contractors quickly.
CBN: What are the plans for the future?
Callicott: We were a product business and that product was in a sector where the whole market collapsed. Service focused businesses are hard to fund. We are looking at getting back into core products that are business focused. We can’t share our direction right now.
CBN: How do you view the business community here in Central Oregon?
Callicott: The number one issue we have is the quality and quantity of talent we have. Part of the challenge is that we are drawing from a small population. With our local education system, we need to have more graduates prepared for actual business engagements with technology. What I mean by that are coders that who know how to do code with actual business applications versus theoretical knowledge.
CBN: How do we bring these people to the region
Callicott: I think the OSU four year college will be a massive leap in quality and quantity of technical graduates if they are teaching them the right things. The bleeding edge is going to be very technical. Those people are always hard to come by. We work with COCC in terms of developing candidates. With the economy it’s hard for people to sell their home and move. I have never seen such a static work force. Real estate is keeping them stuck. In addition, investors have been reluctant to support hi-tech startups in Bend. They want startups in major metropolitan areas. They also don’t think the talent pool is here to support it. There is some justification for that argument. The college will help.
Callicot told me in web development “if you aren’t mobile savvy you are a dinosaur.” Five Talent defines the “bleeding edge” of app technology. Five Talent is a company to put on your radar and watch in the coming years.