Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Nate Weiner, founder and CEO of Pocket

by Brad Spirrison

Nate WeinerPocket (formerly Read It Later) was founded in 2007 by Nate Weiner to help people who discover interesting articles, videos or web pages, but don’t have time to view them. These can be saved to Pocket, and that content is visible on any device, whether it be an Android smartphone, iPhone, tablet or computer. Stuff you store in Pocket can even be viewed offline.

In today’s installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, we meet Nate Weiner, the founder and CEO of Pocket. He tells us about the app creation process, how he harnesses innovation, various technical constraints he’s faced and offers some advice for new app developers.


Key Company Facts:

Name and Title: Nate Weiner, Founder and CEO

Company: Pocket

Location: San Francisco, CA

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 9 employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: Pocket on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, web


APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

NATE WEINER: I had a long list of things that I wanted to build. Apps that I thought would be fun to create or tools that I desperately needed. I picked one, read some tutorials and just started hacking.

Here’s a video introducing the Android version of Pocket (formerly Read It Later):

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

NW: If you define an app as more than just a ‘mobile app’ and use the more general term ‘application’: I’ve been building apps from the early days of getting a computer and when I started building websites when I was 14. The biggest difference is simply experience and confidence. It’s easier to build something and have the confidence to build it in the way that I believe in.

APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why? / Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

NW: I’m really excited by experiences like Google Now and Siri. Apps that can leverage what they know about you and the vast knowledge that their respective platforms know about everything else is great. It’s the way computers were meant to help us. The less that I have to input information, the better.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

NW: I’ve always been obsessed with figuring out ways to make Pocket do the work for you. I want the user experience to be single click always. I don’t want users to have to filter, sort, or organize their content. I imagine a Pocket that just knows what you want to read and what topics/categories that you care about. That’s a big focus for me.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

NW: Pocket got to its first 4 million users with no marketing or PR. It was simply a product that people loved, shared and wrote about. During that time I just stayed focused on building a great product. I was probably pretty lucky to some degree. In the past year, since expanding the team just beyond myself and raising some additional capital, we’ve started putting together a lot more effort in marketing and PR and have seen that it can do wonders for a solid, put-together product.

APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

NW: For Pocket, it’s the lack of communication between other applications. While some methods exist (for example Android’s Share Intents), the majority of app platforms have limited to no ability to speak to each other. Pocket is directly integrated into over 300 apps but all of these applications had to build it in themselves, instead of leveraging some platform feature that would let their app send content to ours.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

NW: Prior to rebranding to Pocket, Read It Later had both a free and paid app. Our paid app was the #1 paid news app on Android and by many measures successful. However, we ultimately decided that a paid app did not fit our business. I wrote about it in more detail here.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

NW: Build a product that you want or need for yourself. Making a successful product isn’t an easy or short process. It takes a lot of work, patience, and sacrifice. If you are doing it for any other reason than making a product that you care about, it’ll never work.

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