By GREGORY ZELLER //
It’s not an after-school project anymore.
When we last left James Knaus and Ashish Pandhi in April, the enterprising Hofstra University students were working in Pandhi’s parents’ Hicksville basement, developing a family of social media-management apps that could track and control multiple user accounts – fun for the casual Tumblr user and a potentially enormous advantage for commercial interests.
Already, their precursor apps – Queue+, which allows users to schedule posts to their Tumblr accounts and track each account’s statistics, and Archive Poster, a Google Chrome extension that speeds up social media workflow – had hundreds of thousands of users.
But all that was just prelude to the main event: this fall’s scheduled launch of Bettr, a single app that will do the work of both Queue+ and Archive Poster for Instagram users, with improved functionality to boot.
Flash forward seven months. Knaus now holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, and he and Pandhi – who left Hofstra after the spring semester – have moved their company into LaunchPad Mineola, the closest of the Long Island-based co-working spaces to the Hofstra and Adelphi University campuses. With Bettr set to launch Dec. 1, Knaus noted, the startup will soon be looking for additional talent, and it will recruit from the universities first.
Bettr has already expanded. In addition to Knaus and Pandhi, the new Mineola HQ is staffed by two recent hires: Marketing Director Alec Polsey, a Hofstra senior, and designer Philip Caydeco, a 32-year-old Hofstra grad who followed his degree in film and video production with entrepreneurship classes at MIT. A fifth part-time hire works remotely on servers and other systems issues, according to Knaus.
The company has also grown its customer base. Queue+, which was responsible for scheduling over 700 million social media posts between its April 2014 launch and this January, added another 50,000 users over the summer, pushing its total past 200,000. Archive Poster, which in April boasted 220,000 monthly users in 214 countries, added another quarter-million users between May and November, Knaus said.
The snowballing interest allowed Bettr Inc. to double its revenues over the summer, putting the startup firmly in positive cash flow. Because they’re doing so well, the cofounders have decided not to plug on the precursor apps when Bettr hits the virtual shelves next month, though folding them into Bettr is the ultimate goal.
“We have plans to bring them all together three or four months from now,” Knaus said.
Keeping them around is also critical now, since the Bettr app launching Dec. 1 isn’t the final version of the social media manager. Coming first is a version that works exclusively with Instagram, allowing users to view a range of analytics generated by their individual accounts. Included: who’s following them, who’s un-followed them and other information that can help a user – particularly a commercial user – “understand the kind of content they should be pushing out, because it generates the most activity,” Knaus said.
The second version, incorporating Queue+-like post-scheduling tools, will be released in January to about 150 users for a beta run – “just to test it and make sure there are no bugs,” Knaus noted – before widespread release in February.
The ability to schedule Instagram posts should be a hit with fashion industry professionals, photographers and “basically anybody who’s creative and has lots of content that needs to be streamed,” according to Knaus.
“Right now, in order to post on Instagram, you have to manually do it yourself, one at a time,” he said. “That’s a workflow problem for a lot of people. Creative people usually create a bunch of content all at once; it’s not like they create one thing and move on.”
Solving that Instagram dilemma is the next step in Bettr’s evolution; after that, the company will turn its attention to Twitter management.
“We wanted to do Tumblr first and we accomplished that,” Knaus noted. “After Instagram, our next target is Twitter.”
When the Twittersphere falls in line, Bettr will look to replicate itself for Android devices. While Queue+ and Archive Poster are both available for Apple and Android devices, the Bettr apps launching in December and January will be for Apple devices only. Bettr’s brain trust is eager to cook up a Bettr version for Android, according to Knaus, and the only holdup is finding a programmer to do it.
“We absolutely plan to have Android versions,” the cofounder said. “It’s just a matter of finding someone with the right skills.”
Development should speed up now that the company has relocated to LaunchPad Mineola. With the app about the launch and the new hires coming aboard, Bettr Inc. had simply outgrown the Pandhis’ basement.
“Everyone has their own schedule and we work a lot of late nights,” Knaus noted. “Now everyone can come and go as they please and we can be as loud as we please. Before there was a concern about keeping Ashish’s parents up.
“It was time to get the creativity flowing between us,” he added. “Time for us to all get into the same room constantly and kind of have a home base.”
With the Mineola office officially opening Monday, Better Inc. now has its base. Nothing left now, Knaus noted, but to do it.
“We’ll be successful if we’re able to hit all of our milestones,” he said. “If we’re able to integrate the apps, if we’re able to move towards integrating Twitter, if we can develop that Android version.
“We when integrate all those things and people are clamoring for it,” Knaus added, “that’s when we’ll know it’s a success.”