Andy Grignon is always looking for the next big thing. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
He was part of the Apple engineering team that worked on the original iPhone. Then, he moved to Palm to lead the development of its ill-fated webOS.
Grignon has spent much of this year working on a new startup called Quake Labs that hopes to change the way we create content on our iPhones, iPads, computers and even televisions.
"We're building a product that enables a whole new kind of content creator," Grignon told Business Insider. The goal, he says, is to provide users with a simple set of tools that lets them create rich media projects on their mobile devices and PCs, which would otherwise require lots of design and engineering know how. "I want to enable someone with zero programming ability to build something amazingly cool that would be difficult today even with an experienced staff of designers and engineers," he says.
Grignon admits that it's an ambitious goal - and he is still vague on some of the details - but he has already recruited a small but impressive team of former Apple employees to help, including Jeremy Wyld, a former software engineer at Apple and William Bull, the man responsible for redesigning the iPod in 2007.
The startup is still in stealth mode, so details are scarce, but Grignon offered us a few hints about features the company might offer eventually. As one example, he said that Quake Labs could help users turn a presentation into a standalone mobile app that is displayed in the cloud rather than in the App Store, but which can be shared with others.
Grignon's plan is to start out by releasing an app for the iPad by the end of the year, with apps for other devices to follow. Ultimately, the company's goal is to power a suite of mobile and web applications that work on tablets, smartphones, computers and even televisions and address a range of use cases.
Business Insider chatted with Grignon by phone about the new startup as well as the biggest lesson he learned from his time at Apple. Here is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation:
BUSINESS INSIDER: So what can you tell us about your startup? What's the goal?
ANDY GRIGNON: We're looking to address the problem of when normal people want to create something really rich with their phones and tablets that require more than just words and pictures, but something that doesn't require them to be a programmer. It just requires you to be a creative thinker. We want to help people create things that take advantage of what has traditionally been the realm of designers and engineers. And we are not going to limit it to tablets or phones. It works well on TVs, computers, all of the devices that we have.
BI: Can you give us an example of how this might work in practice?
AG: Let's say you want to make an infographic that reflects live data and you want to design a particular kind of experience, but you don't know how to program it. I think we could do a pretty good job of that. We could produce a standalone app, not one that goes into Apple's App Store, but something that is a cloud-visible app so that people who want to find it can find it.
BI: When can we expect to see something?
AG: I want to have something in the app catalogue by the end of the year. After that, there will be a fairly regularly occurrence of new stuff.
BI: You've spent most of your career working at big companies like Apple and Palm. Why did you decide to start your own company now?
AG: I wanted the experience of starting a company. I've always worked in big organization where lots of things like marketing and HR are done for you. I wanted to see what it was like. I've always been interested in the startup space and eventually, I'd like to get into the realm of advising startups and getting onto the other side of the table and helping new startups succeed. I don't think I can do that if I haven't started a couple myself.
BI: There are lots of startups founded by former Google employees, but it's not everyday that we see former Apple employees start companies. Why do you think that is?
AG: When you are at Apple, you are not really given exposure outside of Apple. Unless you are high up in the organization, you don't get to meet with the money guys and venture capitalists. You really don't meet with a ton of outside people because of the need to protect secrets, whereas at other companies, you meet people all the time. So I think that there is a fear of the unknown. What's it like to raise money? Who do I even talk to? And if you do approach a venture firm, they will probably steer you to one of the other companies in their portfolio. That process of raising money is daunting to a lot of people.
BI: What is the biggest lesson that you learned from your time at Apple?
AG: The biggest one has always been never settle. That manifested itself in many ways. When you work with Steve Jobs or anyone at Apple day to day, you would do something that you thought was really great and someone would look at it and say, 'It's not good enough,' or ,'That looks like garbage.' Don't go with the first thing you thought was right, that was the big lesson. Writing software shouldn't comfortable, it shouldn't be banging something out. It should be frustrating. It should never be good enough.