Meet The Millennial Who Will Change Apps Forever

BFA_7888_930422Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFA NYC.
Whether you're finishing up graduate school, are tirelessly applying for jobs, or you're striving to become the next member of Forbes' Most Powerful list, we're all united by one inescapable truth: The path to success ain't easy. Which is why we've turned to some of the most brilliant, and, yes, seriously rad trailblazers we know for our column, Life Coach. Here, you'll find a few gems of knowledge and advice from those who will give it to us straight.
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Here's the trouble with Apple's "there's an app for that" slogan. There are a lot of apps, but there isn't an app for literally everything — until Alexandra Keating came along. She's the CEO of DWNLND, a just-launched service that lets anyone with a website create a personal app at the swipe of a finger. But, while the 29-year-old Aussie (who happens to be the daughter of the former Prime Minister) may seem like a young gun in her field, she's practically a vet in the tech industry. She wore her first CEO hat at the age of 20 with her venture Go Fundraise.
As Keating tells us, her next career move is a major one. She spent time at Boost Mobile and then served as the vice president of Thrillist before splitting off to start DWNLD. The app essentially scrapes content from any existing website and creates a beautiful, custom app on the spot. Naturally, for the launch, the brand teamed with a group of people who'd most benefit from having their own app during this time of year: models and bloggers, including Coco Rocha and FashionToast's Rumi Neely.
Yet, while the technology behind DWNLD may be impressive, it's Keating's personal rise in the tech industry that we find most inspiring. Ahead, the unstoppable young CEO fills us in on how she made her meteoric rise.
You were really young when you first broke into the tech space — only 20! Do you think that worked to your advantage?
"I think it definitely does. People always want to take meetings from young people. As we get older, we want to nurture or pass on our skills, so I never really had a problem. Actually, it was to my advantage emailing someone or cold emailing someone. I wasn’t really aware of the fact that it was kind of crazy at the time. The hardest thing was juggling full-time university. My dad told me, ‘You can’t drop out.’ So, I had to do full-time university and Go Fundraise at the same time.”
How did you manage?
“Lots of pizza and lots of late nights. Everyone that worked for Go Fundraise was a university student. I recruited everyone on campus. We would work all day, eat pizza, and then do our studies at night for like an hour.”
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What's your advice for people who want to embrace that go-getter attitude, or at the very least, not be afraid of calling up any CEO they want to work with?
“When you meet someone interesting, whether big in your field or not, just ask them for lunch or coffee or just take meetings, because you never know where people would come into your path at some point. Just be really open to anyone who’s interested in spending time with you as a professional.”
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
“Just take time. Don’t be in a big rush to do something. I’ve been in this company for a year and a half; we could’ve launched it six to eight months ago if we wanted to, but we can only launch once. Don’t try to make your company as successful as it can. Don’t go buy a bunch of traffic. Just take your time in terms of getting there organically.”
dwnldPhoto: Courtesy of DWNLD.
What’s your relationship with the tech industry now, compared to when you first started your career? What keeps you inspired and motivated about the field?
“I think the people. In other industries you have to work your way up the food chain in order to be an owner or entrepreneur or CEO or executive. In the tech industry, you don’t. You can start a company tomorrow. The tech industry allows you to do that. The beauty is that a lot of young, interesting people are around. I think that because they are innovative and young and hungry, their lives are their business. I’m really attracted to and [what I] love about the industry is the young and vibrant community.”
Do you have advice for what people can do to seek out mentors in their fields?
“It’s amazing; I’ve gotten responses from people I never thought would reply to emails. It’s the best thing in the world and it’s happened to me multiple times across different industries. [For instance] I really want to meet Warren Buffett, so I find every single possible way of getting to him. If I know he’s at an event, I will find a way to get into that event and stare at him awkwardly. I think that if you figure out what you want, you’ll get there.”
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Looking back on your own personal experience, would you have any advice for your younger self getting into the tech field?
“I would’ve actually spent time at university, 'cause I was barely there. And, I think I missed out on that, because I think it’s a huge experience a lot of people have, but I didn’t because I spent it looking at the screen. I would’ve tried to encourage myself to study something else. I sort of tell people to study more of the arts and philosophy because you can always think like everyone else, but something that makes you to think differently makes you ahead of everyone else. Do something that’s actually growing your mind — it’s a muscle and you need to exercise it.”
What's been your experience with being a woman in the tech space? Do you ever feel like you’re in a bit of a boys’ club? Does it work to your advantage or disadvantage?
“Yeah, I love being one of the boys. I don’t think it’s affected me. A lot of people say it’s hard and we’re women and we need to stick together. I think it works to your advantage because if you walk into a VC’s office, chances are you’re the first chick that’s walked in there in like a month to pitch them about a business. They’re always going to remember you, so it’s a launching pad and it’s an opportunity for you to take that disadvantage and turn it into an advantage."
Tell me a little bit more about DWNLD in your own words. What attracted you to most to this company, and why do you think it's special?
"When I was at Thrillist, and we were launching the Thrillist and the JackThreads mobile application, I realized that people were spending a lot of money on e-commerce. I also realized that mobile users were better about engagement — they would come back more regularly, they would spend more time, and they were our best-case users. I also realized that advertisers were willing to spend a lot more money within apps versus web. So, Fritz Lanman, my business partner, his now-wife (but girlfriend at the time) had a fashion blog, and she was like ‘build me an app!’ So, he built this really beautiful app for her, and he was at the WME [William Morris Endeavor] conference, and [talent agent] Ari Emanuel was like, ‘This is great! Every single one of our celebrities should have one of these.' So, when him and I met, I was thinking about building a mobile platform, and he was like, 'I’ve already got a development.' Essentially, it’s a one-click-to-publish native app solution. You can build your own app and customize it within an app, and then submit it within minutes; it’s all very beautiful and very fast."
What’s your hope for the future of the company?
“This is something we think a lot about internally. If someone’s like, ‘I want to build an app,’ DWNLD becomes that next thing. We really want to own mobile in that regard. And, that means being in every single vertical, whether it be lifestyle, fitness, restaurants, whatever it is, just making sure our technology can deal with that.”
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