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Business: San Diego Apps

San Diego is on its way to becoming the hot new city for mobile app creation. Here, three locally born-and-bred apps to check out.

By Archana Ram

Fish tacos, triathlons, a world-class zoo—San Diego is synonymous with plenty, but a breeding ground for mobile apps? That’s a new box to check. Thanks to emerging local talent, acclaimed technological institutions, and a supportive start-up environment, San Diego is planting a firm foot in the mobile landscape, and three local apps are leading the charge.

USD MBA student Andy Altman recently joined forces with his father, Steve Altman, former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm, to create GigTown, a free music app that allows users to discover, listen to, and hire local artists. “It’s like a local Pandora station,” Andy says. “You can see which artists are available today, and even request them an hour from now.” Having booked musicians for their own Rock the Cure fundraisers, the Altmans realized that the process wasn’t streamlined. They hope to organize the process and eventually also include event listings so fans can listen to local music around town. “The way GigTown brings together the venues, musicians, and fans—it can be the hub for local music,” Andy says.

Another musical app comes from El Cajon native Adam Riggs-Zeigen, co-founder of RockMyRun. This app combines professional DJ mixes designed to motivate people while exercising. Riggs-Zeigen was training for his first half marathon when he realized that the typical playlist wasn’t motivating enough. So he employed skills he had honed for nearly a decade as a professional club DJ. “At the time I knew I would get tired, the music would kick up in intensity,” he says. “I found it made such a difference versus just a list of songs.” When RockMyRun launched in 2013, Riggs-Zeigen, who also worked on Qualcomm’s business development team, began by contributing his own mixes. The app, which has free and premium versions, now boasts big-name DJs like Dave Audé and also comes with its unique myBeat technology. Users can set a beats-per-minute tempo, sync music to their steps, or sync it to their heart rates. “Intrinsic motivation is 30 percent to 35 percent higher using RockMyRun than listening to a playlist,” Riggs-Zeigen says. “The idea that you can influence how people feel about their own confidence is powerful.”

And then there’s HouseCall, designed for small business owners. Frustrated by the hours it took to book trustworthy plumbers, electricians, housekeepers, and the like, Roland Ligtenberg, along with his former Qualcomm co-workers, launched HouseCall in 2013 and, just last December, HouseCall Pro, an app for service pros to run their entire businesses, with the ability to invoice, schedule, and more. The consumer-focused HouseCall app employs a unique algorithm that shows only the results that are located nearest the user. “We have over 35 handymen, but we’ll show you five,” Ligtenberg says. “If you’re in Carlsbad, you’re not booking a handyman in Chula Vista. It takes into account location, timeliness, and ratings.”

Riggs-Zeigen credits much of the mobile app boom to San Diego’s support system. “You need successful entrepreneurs, sources of capital, and big companies like Qualcomm,” he says. It’s that encouraging environment that’s allowing more apps to develop and flourish. Like GigTown and HouseCall, RockMyRun has expansion in mind. “There are other activities where music plays a role, whether it’s cycling or weight-lifting or yoga,” Riggs-Zeigen says. “Well, RockMyYoga—I don’t think that makes sense. Maybe ZenMyYoga?”

Business: San Diego Apps

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