Arthur Iinuma co-founded ISBX in 2009 when mobile apps were largely a novelty – relegated to basic games and entertainment. However, together with his partners, he recognized a need for businesses that wanted to solve mission critical problems using the portability that only a mobile application could provide. The company was founded in the early days of mobile apps, with the Apple App Store and Google Play Store just months into their launch, and screen sizes at a mere 3.5-inches, ISBX was seen as an early gunslinger in the wildwest of app development. At the time, the idea of creating an agency exclusively focused on this niche was seen as a leap of faith. Today, with 65 software design and engineering professionals, ISBX is one of the preeminent web and mobile application developers in Los Angeles and celebrates 10 years of delivering high-caliber software consulting expertise to its diverse array of enterprise and startup clients.
Since its inception, Iinuma was instrumental in developing the marketing, advertising, and business development strategy that helped ISBX to source and attract the top tier clients it is proud to work with today. Of those, it counts Apple, Nike, Lexus, L’Oreal, and Red Bull as both its past and current clients. ISBX has also developed applications for a several startups that, together, have raised over $250 million towards a combined market valuation of $1 Billion.
Throughout his tenure at ISBX, Iinuma has led in the development of software products for multi- billion dollar enterprises, advised on business decisions for venture-backed startups, and deployed over $2 million of his personal capital towards investments in startups, and cryptocurrencies.
Arthur, ISBX has developed websites and apps for a number of companies in different markets. How did ISBX get its start designing these products?
We put our heads together and realized that mobile usage was gaining traction, but no agency was addressing design and development within this space. I credit my co-founder, who was an early adopter in mobile and saw the potential to innovate on the smartphone platform. We originally launched by designing a cross-platform app template across iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phone but saw that the market was in custom app development, as Blackberry and Windows phone were quickly losing market share.
As an entrepreneur, what led you to co-found ISBX and how did you combine your experiences from previous positions to build the business?
I was discussing creating a business, with a college friend of mine. He had similar ambitions but we were ideating in different industries. We decided to combine our heads together to synergize. He focused on technology, while I would focus on operations and project management.
I had the benefit of being a VP at a prominent financial services company with a focus on client management, which helped with the PM role, while the financial experience helped on the operations and finance side of things. Eventually, this role became more focused on client and business development.
ISBX has worked with a who’s who list of major brands. The products ISBX works on seems limitless as they build apps for everything from businesses to shoes.
Can you tell us about some of the major brands ISBX has worked with and some of the products that have been developed for them?
Yes, we’ve worked with Red Bull North America, Beats by Dre, Lexus, L’Oreal, Air Jordan, Neutrogena, Warner Brothers, and Sony Pictures, to name a few. We’ve also worked with several fast-growing startups like Soothe, Wag! and Science 37. The products range from building software for Bluetooth-powered consumer electronics to image recognition apps for athletic footwear, or business productivity apps that are designed to reduce operational overhead. We’ve helped business to earn more money, attract and engage more users, scale their operations, and in the case of startups, raise more capital.
What goes into building and designing apps for major brands? What is it like to go from development to launch?
A lot of moving parts working in unison with a well-coordinated team. Beyond that, having domain expertise and experience in consulting help immensely. We attract brands because we can sit down with our clients, listen to their unique challenges and then find ways to implement technology that is seamless, while solving a mission-critical objective such as increasing engagement, or maximizing business productivity.
Going from development to launch is an incredibly rewarding experience, but one that is tempered with time and patience. It can take up to a year to launch an application – so it’s not instant gratification by any means. Most of the time is spent in software development – literally code on a screen, so the process itself seems rather uneventful for long stretches of time until all of the discrete components join together into a final product.
Iinuma finds the growing cryptocurrency arena to be much like mobile phones at the turn of the century. The platform has become a favorite topic of Iinuma who has become well-versed in the ins and outs of cryptocurrencies.
You not only co-founded ISBX, but you are a cryptocurrency expert. What drew you to cryptocurrency in the first place?
Cryptocurrency is an incredible expression of finance and software technology, merged into one. As one who started his career in finance, and eventually transitioning into software – the implications of cryptocurrency intrigued me. In some of the same ways, I saw that cryptocurrency today was where mobile was in 2009 when we started ISBX. It is a nascent technology with incredible potential. There’s still considerable confusion and misinformation around cryptocurrency and blockchain, and I felt that I could add value in this space as it matures.
In 2017 and 2018, we heard not stop talking in the media about cryptocurrency. It seems this year the talk has died down in the mainstream. Is cryptocurrency now just a part of everyday life or has some of the interest worn off it?
Interest has definitely worn off. Most of the fervor and excitement was over the speculation of cryptocurrency’s value, and in 2017, we experienced one of the most fantastic bull runs in cryptocurrency’s history. The correction of 2018 has equalized things a bit, but now we have over 2,000 cryptocurrencies in a space with maybe only a couple of dozen features. There is now an issue of an oversupply of cryptocurrencies. Most of these projects will not reach mass adoption. Unfortunately, the entire cryptocurrency market is feeling the lasting effects of this – it may, yet, require more time to let the market correct itself. Today, awareness around blockchain and cryptocurrency is greater than it has ever been, but adoption is far from being mainstream. Implementation and use by consumers, is still, technically challenging, involving specialized software programs. A simplified means of exposure to the asset
class could increase adoption. Still, collectively, the industry has made prodigious strides. Platforms like Coinbase and Robinhood have greatly aided in accessibility and adoption, and still, more are innovating daily.
Technology’s rapid growth is one of the biggest challenges for ISBX. The company has to continue to improve and innovate with every new product it releases. Thanks to ISBX’s mission to improve with every project, it has been recognized by Inc. Magazine for four straight years as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation.
In 2013, ISBX made the Inc. 500’s List of Fastest Growing Companies list for the first time ever. What were those earlier years like growing the company and some of the issues the company dealt with during the World Financial Crisis?
It was obviously an incredible feeling and honor to be recognized by a major publication like Inc. Magazine, but for us, it was business as usual. In comparison to many industries, technology and especially mobile, have grown incredibly fast. What most people don’t realize is that the technology itself is constantly being updated and hence, getting outdated quickly. What was once novel and innovative, is old news, and thus we are in a constant cycle of improvement, iteration and evolution. It’s difficult to bask in the limelight and look back in awe at what we’ve accomplished, knowing that if we don’t look far enough forward, we might be on the wrong side of a quickly evolving industry.
I think we’re in a bubble. We didn’t really feel the effects of the World Financial Crisis. I’d read about the collapse of entire financial markets or the devaluation of currencies, and yet tech company valuations were reaching new heights. Venture capital firms are still competing to invest in the top companies, and a large number of the startups we work with are funded by institutional capital, and almost entirely originating from California. Although the trend suggests that investments have shifted towards more focus and less volume, we’ve been fortunate to work with top-caliber companies – some of whom have raised $100 million or more.
There is little downtime for Iinuma as he contributes to Forbes and works on other projects outside of ISBX. Like other entrepreneurs, Iinuma has an incessant drive that seems to run 24-hours a day.
Arthur, you are a contributor to Forbes these days. Can you explain the work you do with the magazine and website?
I occasionally write on topics related to our core business, which is app and web development. I also write about topics related to my interest and expertise, such as blockchain and cryptocurrency. Forbes is a great outlet for a lot of the research I perform on a day-to-day basis. I do not get paid for my work, and instead, use it as a medium to share my knowledge and passion.
You work with a number of different companies alongside ISBX including OjO Electric and your own consulting company. Tell me about the work you do with these companies and how do you find the time to work in so many different areas?
The work I do is a natural and organic extension of what I do every day. Whether this means being an advisor to a startup or providing consulting services, I can focus on various commitments without it being detrimental to my business. I also try to maintain a high level of productivity, often working 12 or more hours a day. I can do this because my commute distance is short, my wife is tremendously supportive, and I don’t mind staying up past midnight. While it can be grueling, it allows me to make sure I can continue to learn, while delivering excellence for my clients.
What are ISBX’s plans for the future? Is it steady growth and continuing to do what it is doing or are there some big plans in store?
I’ve got several new initiatives and plans lined up for 2019 and beyond. Implementing them is going to be a gradual but progressive strategy. What I’ve learned is that the important thing about running a business at scale is making sure we can perform experimentation and implementation, while collecting data and learning from the results of each unique effort. This helps us to pivot when something isn’t working, or further hone in on a strategy that appears to be producing results. These micro-adjustments, collectively, can have significant impacts on our business, however, it’s rarely the result of a single, grand implementation that becomes an instant win.
At the end of the day, our mission is to execute challenging and complicated technical projects, while delivering a thoughtful, efficient and high-quality solution for our clients. At the same time, we need to constantly market and promote our good work, so that we have the opportunity to continuously engage in a variety and number of new projects.
What do you consider as a “successful business”? Is it revenue, contributions to society or something else?
I think it’s a multitude of variables that function together in unison. A business primarily involves other people, so a successful business should be one that brings happiness or at least contentment to others, whether that’s employees that enjoy the work they do and the people they work with, or clients that feel like they are getting their money’s worth. I also think that a successful business is one that takes care of its team members, not just financially, but by providing healthcare, and other ancillary benefits like team outings. It should also have a long term, sustainable plan to stay in operation, so as to keep people employed and continue to serve the community with the good work that it does. A business should also run efficiently enough to give its team members and founders, time, so they can enjoy a quality life and if they so desire, find ways of giving back to the community. Finally, it should ultimately generate a healthy profit and allow its risk-taking founders the financial freedom to pursue other opportunities to scale the business or create new ones, altogether, perpetuating the cycle of success.
Like many entrepreneurs, Iinuma has sacrificed personal pursuits and free time to chase his business dream. He hopes the tradeoff today will pay off in the future when he can sit back and watch the financial seeds he has planted grow and bear fruit.
Do you ever have free time? What do you like to do in your free time?
Yes, though, ironically, I have to work extra hard to create moments of free time, whether that means putting in more early morning or late evening hours during my weekdays and weekends, or being more efficient with my time in the office.
When I do have free time, I try to dedicate the majority of it to my family. I like to do short local day or weekend trips, or even an afternoon at the park. When the kids are asleep I’m a voracious consumer of content – frequenting sites like The Wall Street Journal and YouTube.
What are the things that you wish you had more or less of?
I wish I had more spare time. I used to enjoy things like photography, guitars, watches, recreational shooting, interior design, fashion, and home improvement. Most of those things I haven’t touched or explored in years. I wish I had more time with family and less work to do. But I also yearn for financial freedom and a good future for my wife and kids – the way I see it, I’m paying it forward to our future selves by putting in the time today. I’m still unsure if the tradeoff will be worth it.
ISBX continues to develop websites and mobile applications for global brands and fast-growing startups. The company’s growing body of work and experience has continued to help it to secure more complex engagements. While Iinuma and ISBX could rest on their laurels, they continue to push for excellence when delivering software solutions to their clients. While there isn’t much downtime for Iinuma, he can take heart in the fact that he has co-founded and built ISBX into a nationally recognized software design and development agency, and a go-to company for complex technical needs.
For more information, please visit www.isbx.com