In an area teeming with personality and character, we will be featuring 10 select influencers that are leaving their mark on the Northern Virginia region. Spotlights will be featured on a weekly basis and will range in industry from authors and performers to tech giants and unique business owners.
Ken Yarmosh has always been one step ahead.
Growing up in Long Island, New York with his father, a techology guru who worked for Kodak during the tech boom of the 1980s, Yarmosh was one of the first people to experience the benefits of advancing technology.
“I had high-speed internet before anyone had dial-up,” he says. “People would write out their homework and I was handing in typed-out computer assignments—I just grew up with technology.”
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and getting involved in agency work in the early 2000s, Yarmosh continually experimented with new developments in technology from websites and weblogs to podcasts and most importantly, the iPhone.
“Basically, I saw the iPhone and said, ‘That’s pretty amazing,'” he recalls.
Intrigued by Apple’s decision to let developers design their own apps, Yarmosh knew that app development would be the future he needed to invest in.
“I went independent, a consultant type thing, and then quickly started to get customers,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of people doing it back then, so I was able to go from there to today. I wouldn’t say I had the benefit of history, but I didn’t see it as another fad, I saw it like a bunch of different things happening at once.”
As he went on, Yarmosh began to think of the possibility of doing something more with his talents.
“What I realized was that I’m just one person and I didn’t want to do these different pieces,” he says. “There was an opportunity to have something bigger than myself—I really like building things.”
With this in mind, Yarmosh created Savvy Apps in 2009, just a year after building apps was even possible.
“We are one of the first app companies that started that are still in business,” he says. “We have the history, longevity and the perspective.”
He chose Reston as the headquarters because of what the city offered in terms of growth and location.
“Instead of just going in and joining everyone else in Silicon Valley, why not be a force in this area?” he says. “We have the benefit of going into D.C., seeing the monuments and having a city—it’s a different city than New York or Boston, but it’s a very beautiful city,” he says. “But then we also can go out another 30 minutes and go in the countryside and enjoy the Blue Ridge. We have the best of both worlds there and that was appealing.”
In almost 10 years of business, Savvy Apps has received a Webby Award, over 20 featured apps on the App Store, Apple Editor’s Choice awards and even a Starbucks pick of the week.
Their clients range from small, unique start-ups like Musx, to massive corporations like the NFL Players Association.
After understanding what their client needs, Savvy Apps takes user experience to heart, making sure that the app is perfectly tailored for maximum effectiveness—it’s the small things that make the biggest difference.
“When we worked with the NFL Players Association, these guys, their hands are massive. Like you actually have to change the way they tap the screen [because] it’s going to be a much larger tap target size,” he says.
Yarmosh prides Savvy Apps with taking app development to the next level—to them, an app is so much more than something that simply sits on a phone screen.
“We don’t say ‘Oh cool we built you an app,'” he says. “No, we say ‘We helped build a business through an app.’”
Yarmosh’s work at Savvy Apps hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, he’s spoken at big tech conferences at Apple, Bloomberg and Google about his work in app development and his book, App Savvy.
“I never woke up and said, ‘Oh I want to be this person that gets to have these conversations and go out to these places,'” he says. “I don’t try to go after the glory and publicity. It’s just humbling that people want to hear from you and that they appreciate the insights that you have to offer.”
When he first started Savvy Apps, Yarmosh created seven guiding principles that served as the foundation to what he wanted the company to be. One in particular stands out to him.
“One of our guiding principles is to be a frontier dweller, and the idea behind that is that we don’t want to suggest or purport technology for technology’s sake,” he says. “The guys who get to the frontier first, they get eaten by the bears. Don’t get there too early because it’s too wild and too crazy. We might experiment ourselves, but we can understand the trends and be there but not push that until we understand that it has maturation and that it can actually be useful and benefit an organization.”
He may be perceptive and observant, but Yarmosh doesn’t take his time getting his hands dirty. In fact, his advice toward getting involved with app development is quite simple.
“Take advantage of what’s out there,” he says. “Go build something. Go do something.”
It’s this impressive drive and ability to pave his own path that keeps Yarmosh in the lead. He may be one step ahead, but he never stops looking forward—to do so would be out of character.
“It’s about following the passion, and the passion for me is understanding patterns and trends,” he says. “Trying to see what’s out there, trying to make sense of that, trying to remain steps ahead of people.” // savvyapps.com