WWD Interview: Raven Zachary, iPhone Adviser

In an effort to give you a slightly different perspective from what you normally get on WebWorkerDaily, we decided to talk with folks whom we feel are doing especially interesting web working jobs. We’re kicking off the first installment of this series of web worker interviews with Raven Zachary.

Raven ZacharyZachary works with investors, startups and established companies on iPhone strategy and product development. He has directed the launch of two “Top 20″ iPhone applications: Obama ’08 (for Obama for America) and Nearby (for Platial). Raven is the founder of iPhoneDevCamp, a not-for-profit iPhone developer conference, and a contributing analyst with The 451 Group, an IT industry analyst firm and works closely with O’Reilly Media on iPhone and mobile technology-related events and coverage. Raven is regularly quoted by the press about the iPhone and is a frequent conference speaker on the topic.

Dawn: What does an iPhone Strategy & Product Development consultant actually do?

Raven: When people think of the iPhone opportunity, building and launching apps immediately comes to mind. While this is the bulk of the economic opportunity today for consultants (product development), there is opportunity between inception and execution (iPhone strategy). Not every engagement I do with clients is about building an iPhone app, in the same way that not every web project is about building a web app. In some cases, I am working with organizations, individuals, and investors on understanding the platform, evaluating opportunities, and helping to refine ideas around the market.

Dawn: What are your biggest challenges with working remotely while balancing your work and spending time with your wife and four boys?

Raven: The remote aspect of my work is less of an issue now that I have hired three amazing people to work alongside me, two of whom reside in Portland. I still travel a lot, but I am moving more towards day trips, especially with my clients on the West Coast. Having been a telecommuter for over three years, I am looking forward to daily contact with my colleagues. My wife is a saint — that’s the simple answer to the second part of your question. My kids are easily bribed with candy.

Dawn: You recently started this new consulting practice. What advice can you offer to other web workers who are thinking about starting a new business or offering a new service?

Raven: This is a crazy time to start a business. We’re in one of the biggest economic downturns in recent history and it just happens to be a dramatic growth phase for the iPhone market, a technology that is less than two years old. I struggled a lot with the notion of staying an independent adviser vs. building a consulting company and having employees. After dragging my heels for months, it was, finally, a few deals on the table that forced the issue — grow to accept the work, or pass and take a different path. I am happy that I chose the growth path. As I am bootstrapping the business, I am growing with the demand, not ahead of it. I’d love to make some strategic hires in advance of the work coming in, but that’s just not possible when bootstrapping. That remains one of the benefits of taking on investment.

Dawn: How do you see web working evolving over the next few years, and how will mobile applications and technologies play a role in the future of web working?

Raven: I still love kicking off new client engagements with an in-person meeting. This is not an essential part of a project, but it tends to start things off on in the right direction. I would hope that increased comfort and use of video conferencing would reduce the need for in-person meetings. I know my wife and kids would be happy about that. Yet we’ve had video conferencing for decades now and it doesn’t seem to be catching on. It remains a novelty. I do think that pervasive technologies like the Internet and mobile telephony are decreasing barriers to telecommuting and virtual teams. I suspect we will see greater decentralization in the information economy. It’s a proven model.

Who would you like to see interviewed on WebWorkerDaily?

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