Hawaii Apps company to tackle booming mobile business

June 4, 2012 6:56 pm 0 comments
Hawaii Apps Inc. | Courtesy Photo

Hawaii Apps founders Andrew Yani, Meli James, Steve Hochart and Kitty Lagareta. Courtesy photo.

A new local company has set its sights on no less than the top spot among Hawaii’s mobile app developers.

Today, Hawaii Apps Inc. is launching an Island-based business focusing only on the development of mobile apps to help local businesses, government agencies, community organizations and individuals “tap” into the marketing, advertising and entertainment potential of mobile apps.

“Mobile apps are where the world is going,” said Melialani “Meli” James, one of four principals who founded Hawaii Apps. “We want to offer Hawaii the chance to get in on the trend, for Island businesses and individuals to be able to create an app that will be developed right here in the Islands, by people who know Hawaii’s culture, traditions and lifestyle.”

James said cellphone manufacturer Nokia conducted a study that showed that the average person looks at his or her mobile phone 150 times a day.

“That’s once every six-and-a-half minutes of every waking hour,” she said. “And that study is two years old. With the explosion of app development in just the past year, millions of people across the country and probably many thousands in Hawaii are depending on phone apps to get through the day.”

James also points out that at least half of all cellphones today are smartphones.

“So if you have a business in Hawaii, whether it’s a hotel or a lunch wagon, it’s essential that you get your app front and center on the touch screen of the thousands of smartphones and other hand-held devices in the Islands. Otherwise you are losing the opportunity to be ‘top of mind’ with your customers,” she said.

For the uninitiated, an “app” is simply a computer application designed to do any of a million things, from telling where the nearest beach park is to making complicated astronomical calculations. Want to know how far it is to New Zealand from Hawaii? There’s an app for that. Want to play a game involving angry birds? There’s an app for that too. But business owners are increasingly realizing that apps, particularly for mobile devices like smartphones, have become an essential part of running a successful enterprise.

“In the old days you’d have a guy walking in front of a restaurant with signboards that said ‘Eat At Joe’s,’” said Steve Hochart, a technology wiz who, along with Andrew Yani and Kitty Lagareta, completes the Hawaii Apps founding team. “Today, you tap the ‘Joe’s Restaurant’ app icon on your iPhone and you not only know where the place is but when it’s open, what’s on the menu, the name of the band playing in the lounge and what the dessert specials are.”

The four principals each bring unique and necessary qualifications to Hawaii Apps.

James has years of experience not only in marketing and product promotion on a national level, she also created five of her own apps. A few have been featured as “Staff Picks” and “New and Noteworthy” on the iTunes App Store. The Wine Ratings Guide app was rated No. 1 in the wine category and No. 4 in the lifestyle category on the iTunes App Store as well.

“A wine app may seem frivolous to the non-wine aficionado,” she said. “But the apps were popular because wine lovers could have a wealth of information literally at their fingertips when they were in restaurants or cruising through wine country. That’s what’s cool about apps. They always touch someone.”

Hochart has 12 years of implementing technology initiatives for a wide range of projects in Hawaii and around the world. He was project manager for setting up the first online asset management systems for the City and County of Honolulu. He also oversaw development of the first 3-D model of Oahu using aerial photography.

“A lot of Hawaii business owners know what mobile apps are. And they know how important it is to have a ‘killer app’ that drives new customers to their door,” Hochart said. “But many don’t know where to go to make their app a reality. That’s why we’re here. We do nothing but develop apps. We deal with customers face to face and take their idea from concept to launch.”

Also bringing their talents and passion to the new venture are Andrew Yani and Kitty Lagareta.

Yani has been involved in a range of successful business endeavors, including as a national TV producer, commentator and correspondent. He left Hollywood behind to return home to create a family and build a business. He is head of Bonterra Solar, one of Hawaii’s fastest-rising solar energy companies and, in addition to Hawaii Apps, is developing other new commercial ventures.

Lagareta, CEO of Communications Pacific, is best known for her work in marketing, communications and public relations, but she has also been involved in technology for more than 20 years and was a founding partner of one of the state’s first Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Lagareta’s local roots are deep. Not only did she graduate from the University of Hawaii but for a time did standup comedy with Hawaii’s ultimate “local boy,” island comic legend Rap Reiplinger and his ensemble group “Hats.”

“I’m really excited about Hawaii Apps,” Lagareta said. “I’ve loved technology for many years — the Internet, social media — all of it. And I’m happy when young talented people find a good reason to return to Hawaii, and put their energy into businesses that provide benefits and opportunities for the state.”

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