By Robert Yarbrough
Nashville Post correspondent
Ben Stucki has come up with a business strategy that is so simple, it could be revolutionary.
Over the past few years, Stucki (pronounced STOO-kee) has noticed a widespread trend in the workplace — namely, that smartphones and tablets are rapidly replacing laptops
in creative business meetings. To help accommodate this new business environment, in May of last year he started a Nashville-based company called DAIO.
The company recently received a combined investment of $400,000 in a round led by Solidus (disclosure: Solidus is also the largest investor in SouthComm Inc., the parent company of, among others, The City Paper and Nashville Post). Stucki, 30, plans to use the money to hire new design and sales employees in the coming months, while also expanding DAIO’s marketing and sales department.
With his first venture into entrepreneurship, the young businessman has unveiled an application that will enable users to organize their ideas and create their own apps — an ability that has until now been lacking in the merchandise available in Apple’s App Store, according to Stucki.
Stucki told the Post that this technological shift has taken place because “tablets allow you to feel like you’re working with something physical.” He explained that a device like a tablet allows for much more direct manipulation of data especially in the case of zooming, “two fingers are used to zoom in instead of a dropdown menu.”
Stucki could indeed be onto something, as an IC Insights survey indicates tablet sales will have risen 82 percent from 2010 to 2013 — a jump that would put tablets ahead of notebooks in annual sales.
The technology DAIO is developing enables designers to take an even more hands-on approach to recording their ideas on their devices. And since the potential of the technology present in touch-sensitive tablets and smartphones has only begun to be tapped, Stucki is very optimistic about the future of his fledgling company.
“What really excites me is that people haven’t figured out how to do productive work with tablets yet,” he said. “I think we have something valuable to add to that conversation
because we are constantly looking for new ways people can interact more intuitively with their tablets.”
While Stucki (pictured) works with JumpStart Foundry in its downtown office on a regular basis, DAIO’s main office is located in Cool Springs. He said he plans to hire a designer in the next two to three months. And since he will be preoccupied throughout the coming year with expanding his company with the $400,000 he has received so far, he does not plan to seek funding again until the latter part of 2013.
The company’s first full year of operations has not been without its difficulties, but Stucki has found it to be a very positive experience overall. When asked to sum up the time he has spent as an entrepreneur to date, he said, “It’s a series of ups and downs. But in the end, you set to work on something you really care about. And that [opportunity is] hard to find.”
Stucki said DAIO owes much of its success to JumpStart and to Stucki’s business mentors, Kate O’Neill and John Wark.
Interestingly, Wark now runs the nonprofit Nashville Software School, which trains software developers who plan to head into the job market. An experienced entrepreneur, he has given Stucki “a solid perspective on what to expect” during the process of starting a business, as well as other advice.
“Ben was a young and very talented technology person with a great vision for a product who just had not yet had the opportunity to learn the things that I’ve learned through more years of experience,” Wark said. “I think that’s at the heart of the mentoring process — that ability to share or take advantage of the knowledge that other folks have gathered in their own careers.”
Wark agrees with Stucki about the current void in the app market that DAIO was designed to fill, as well as the technological evolution Stucki has observed these past few years.
“The reason that DAIO fills such a big need is that we can already see the trend of businesses moving many of their internal applications to take advantage of the smartphone and even more so of the tablet,” Wark said. “All of the developers and designers of new or redesigned applications need the tools from DAIO.”
Neither Stucki nor Wark was able to provide an exact date for DAIO’s Apple Store debut, but Wark did say it would be “a big deal for the company [because] there’s no substitute for feedback from a paying customer.”
Regardless of a debut date, Stucki is optimistic, describing the future of the company in simple terms.
“Great apps require great patience.”