Last night’s edition of the British version of The Apprentice featured the two teams being challenged to design and market mobile phone applications. Several lessons were learned, most notably that having a downright dreadful idea is not necessarily a barrier to success.
The format of the challenge meant both the all-male Team Logic and the all-female Team Venture would have to come up with an idea of an app, which would then be available free of charge for 24 hours, with the most-downloaded app winning.
While host Alan Sugar claimed this was an example of how a bright business brain could make a fortune with virtually no outlay or assistance, in fact the teams had a great deal of help: the show arranged pitches to staff from three tech sites (Pocket-Lint, Techcrunch and Wired) to consider them as app of the day, and both teams were allowed to address a roomful of bloggers at a major tech conference.
Another advantage not available in the real world is that the show arranged for the Android, BlackBerry and Ovi stores to carry the apps with virtually no review time, though Grapple, the company that turned the designs into reality, explained that Apple “basically e-mailed back a one-liner very politely telling us to fuck off.”
So what did the future business geniuses of tomorrow come up with? Well, Team Logic created an app that simply played recordings of what were billed as local phrases spoken in a regional accent. Team Venture took things even more downmarket, offering a similar soundboard concept, but with a more random mixture of screeching, clapping and animal noises.
By the end of the launch day (six hours into the download period), Team Logic was ahead by around 3,000 downloads to 1,200, which appeared to be the result of a more eyecatching design and a much better pitch to the bloggers.
In the end, though, Team Venture made it up to 10,000 downloads, while Team Logic picked up barely a few hundred additional downloads, losing by a heavy margin.
It appeared at first that the difference was a more high-profile website plug earned by the female team. In fact, the main factor turned out to simple be that the regional slang app held little interest outside the United Kingdom and that the app market description — which itself used British terminology — was too overly clever to communicate the concept to an international audience.