I first met Javi Mendezona when he contacted me about joining the Grab The Gold AppExchange Developer Challenge earlier this year. His submission, Lead Speed, took third overall and currently has four five-star reviews on the AppExchange. Javi is a former Salesforce employee, author of one of the most popular Salesforce Labs apps, and is now a budding app entrepreneur.

If you’d like to know more about developing your apps for the AppExchange, checkout our partner programs, read a how to or contact me at reid.carlberg@salesforce.com.

Let’s start off by talking about the app you’re most excited about today. What is it? Who’s it for? Why should the average Salesforce customer care?

Well, I’m of course excited about my own app Lead Speed. Lead Speed is a lead management tool that enables sales reps to qualify more leads, faster. It has a simple, intuitive user interface where reps can SEE and WORK all of their leads on one impeccably organized page.

Other than that, I really like the app called Calendar Anything by Silverline. It solves a very common need: the ability to put anything in Salesforce on the calendar. Creating a calendar app is difficult to do, and Silverline has done it really well. The app looks great, and it’s intuitive to use. It’s a great example of what I strive for as an application developer. Useful, intuitive and simple applications.

What was your first exposure to salesforce.com?

My first exposure to Salesforce was my first job out of college, at Salesforce! I’ve spent my entire professional career (4.5 years) working with Salesforce technology.

What was the first app you ever wrote for production use in a Salesforce org? Is it still in use?

In my early years as a Salesforce employee, there was an internal competition for building apps for the AppExchange. I built a really simple Lead duplicate checker and did quite well in the competition. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist on the AppExchange anymore. There are a lot of more robust deduplication applications out there now.

Do you have any certifications?

Being a Salesforce consultant, it’s in my best interest to have as many certifications as possible. Right now I almost have them all: Advanced Admin, Advanced Developer, Sales Cloud Consultant and Service Cloud Consultant

How large is your company?

Just me!

What does your day to day work look like?

I spend about 20% of my work week on my Cloud Artillery applications. The rest of my time I’m doing Salesforce consulting.

How many apps have you written for the platform?

I’ve created two apps now. One was created during my time at Salesforce, originally intended for internal use only, but later released to the general public: Sales Coach. More recently I created Lead Speed, which was always intended for the broad customer base that Salesforce has.

Why did you decide to publish on the AppExchange?

Working with Salesforce for such a long time, I realized that there are a ton of customers out there that want the extended functionality, but don’t have the resources to customize the application themselves. So going to the AppExchange is really the best source for extending functionality for these businesses. I’m always thinking about ways to improve the user experience for Salesforce users and really felt like I was onto something with Lead Speed.

At what point in the development process should you start looking for a customer?

I think you should already have a customer before you start building something. There should already be a need for something you build. It’s even better if you can get a future customer or customers to help you design the application. Sometimes developers will start hacking away at something because it seems like a great idea to them, but in the end, the target customers either don’t get it, or never wanted it in the first place. So the customer should really be a part of the development process. The most important part in the design process is understanding what the value proposition is. If you can’t provide a valuable product to your customers, then you should keep working on the idea. The last thing you want to do is spend time developing a product that no one wants.

How long did it take you to find your first paying customer for your first App?

I got my first paying customer within the first week of releasing my app. It was an extremely exciting moment for me. Someone out there saw enough value in something I built from scratch they were willing to pay for it.

How often do you rev your app?

I do small updates once or twice a month. Almost all of my updates come from feedback from my customers. I take note of suggestions they give, and when common ideas come up, I’ll add it to the product. It’s a tricky balancing act because you want to add new features, but you don’t want to complicate the application too much. You also don’t want to add things that other customers don’t find useful.

What has been the biggest challenge since you launched your business?

Driving customers to the AppExchange listing. When people see Lead Speed, they get it, and understand its value. If it’s useful for their business, they’re on board. It’s just a matter of getting them to find it. That’s the tricky part.

Do you code yourself or do you outsource it?

I develop myself. There’s a huge advantage in cost and quality control. There’s also the advantage of speed. If I want to change something, I can do it immediately without having to wait on someone else’s schedule.

When you’re developing and run into a problem that you can’t solve on your own, how do you figure it out?

I’ve worked with several force.com developers in the past and we’ve kept in touch via email and instant messenger. We bounce questions off each other all the time. I’ve been pretty lucky to have such a great group of developers who are willing to help each other out.

What has surprised you most about working with Salesforce customers?

There is such a variety of industries that Salesforce customers are a part of. I love hearing about people’s businesses and how they best use Salesforce.

Any particularly good or bad experiences?

A recent review of my app was mostly positive, but he mentioned that his sales team found one particular thing annoying. It turned out to be a really subtle bug I had never noticed. I worked with the customer over the next day figuring out how to fix the issue, and ended up fixing it. He ended up changing his review and was really satisfied with how everything was handled. I felt like a customer support super star.

Where do you think your biggest opportunity lies in the next 12-18 months?

Lead Speed is still quite new on the AppExchange, and it’s starting to get traction. I’m not quite ready to move on to building another app, because I really want to focus on getting as many people to recognize Lead Speed as a great tool for faster Lead Management.

What advice would you give someone considering a business on the AppExchange?

I advise coming up with an idea that has a ton of potential demand behind it. Then work with potential customers in designing the actual product before diving right in.

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