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Army-Captain-Turned-Entrepreneur Is Looking for a Few Good Apps

Former U.S. Army Captain Alan S. Knitowski steered his nascent mobile-focused development company, Phunware, into deals with the likes of ESPN and WWE.
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The survival skills former U.S. Army Captain Alan S. Knitowski honed through his service helped steer his Austin-based mobile-focused development company, Phunware, into deals with the likes of ESPN, Cisco, Nascar, WWE, and NBC Sports.

I knew what I was getting into when we launched Phunware in 2009: the kinds of chaos and rapidly changing situations that you learn to manage in the Army. But in business, you know you'll be able to sleep, eat, see your family at night. And, most important, you don't have somebody shooting at you.

We heard about an 11th-hour request from Discovery Communications to develop a mobile gaming app for the series MythBusters. I learned about it on a Thursday. Proposals were due the following Tuesday. We'd be going up against companies like Electronic Arts, which had been working on pitches for weeks. If we tried to mount a full frontal assault, we'd never survive. But if we slipped around back in the dead of night, we might have a chance. We proposed a MythBusters app that allowed viewers to interact, buy merchandise, and, yeah, we threw in a few games, so we didn't completely miss the mark.

This became our first big win. The MythBusters app quickly spiked to No. 1 in the App Store and went on to win several big awards. People began referring big clients to us, telling them if they wanted an app done right, they should hire us. We've since grown into a cloud-based platform that delivers mobile programming to multiple screens. The Army taught me it's better to be lucky than good, but best of all is to be both.

As told to Inc. contributing writer Ryan Underwood.

From the September 2014 issue of Inc. magazine

RYAN UNDERWOOD

Ryan Underwood is a writer and editor living in Nashville, Tennessee.




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