Michigan-Based Developer of Customizable Business App Unveils Product at Mackinac Policy Conference

A Detroit-area technology company whose new mobile application software offers a ready-made, customizable platform for businesses gets its first shot on the big stage when its app is unveiled today to attendees arriving at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

The Detroit Regional Chamber, the event organizer, is launching a customized Mackinac conference app developed by Jalappeno, a 9-month-old tech firm based in Birmingham. The app, available for free from both the Apple App Store and the Android Market, will be promoted to the 1,500 business leaders, elected officials and media members expected to attend the three-day policy confab.

It’s a big venue for the startup, which is targeting service businesses including restaurants, spas and retail stores as its first customers.

The company touts its value as a much cheaper way for businesses to build a custom mobile app. Customers would pay a one-time set-up fee of $549, plus a monthly maintenance charge, in exchange for access to a simple Web-based app management interface.

The Jalappeno app aggregates social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare for easy interaction, and it allows businesses to upload menus, photos, videos, discounts or coupons and events calendars. Users who download it would find an easy way to contact the business, get directions, leave feedback or interact with it.

Think of it as the mobile app version of Facebook Pages for businesses.

“It gives you the app company or developer to create your own app and have all control over the content,” said Rukmal “Rocky” Ferndando, Jalappeno’s owner, who spoke to me while en route to the conference.

“Everybody these days is on an iPhone or a smartphone. Everyone wants an app but cannot afford one.”

The new venture grew out of an idea pitched by a friend, Fernando said, and is based on software developed for the company in Sri Lanka. Jalappeno is a subsidiary of Breeze Design Studio, a new media production firm for which Fernando is also president.

“It is very easy for us to create an app for anybody,” Fernando said. “It is pretty much a matter of minor modifications to the platform.”

At the Mackinac retreat, the app will provide users with access to the conference agenda, speaker bios and breaking news pushed out by the chamber. Users will be able to rate and comment on individual speakers’ presentations and network with other attendees by scanning QR codes from name tags.

After the conference wraps up Friday, Fernando says he’s looking for investors to help fund a robust marketing campaign, do radio and television spots and hire sales managers around the country.

He may get a good start this week when Jalappeno’s technology and capabilities get in the hands of some of the state’s most influential movers and shakers.

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