Just Bring your App-etite

The food cart scene in Portland has become somewhat of a local success story. Nationally recognized by the New York Times, it has inspired glowing reviews from food critics around the world, and even a dedicated map mashup from search portal Bing (www.bingfoodcarts.com).

The reason behind this success? Cheap food certainly helps, but ultimately it’s the enormous choice in cuisine available to hungry passersby – over 400 carts now dot the city.

Startup costs are minimal, which lowers the barrier to entry. Rather than investing their life savings into a physical restaurant, aspiring chefs need only a modest amount of capital to get their dream off the ground. This, in turn, inspires all sorts of creativity: everything from fried pies, Thai street food, Eastern European comfort food to ethnic fusions (e.g. Korean tacos) can be found among the rows of carts.

Kinda reminds me of the web these days.

Cloud services, open APIs and SDKs and, perhaps more importantly, robust marketplaces (i.e. iTunes) means it’s easier than ever for individuals to make their own technology visions come true.

We’re certainly seeing more and more evidence of that every day.

So… want to build your own app?

Get in the cloud. Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced the launch of its  Free Usage Tier. Starting November 1, AWS will give anyone a single server “instance” on their cloud hosting, along with file storage and even e-commmerce capability. For free.

Go ahead, get mashing. Programmable Web hosts a directory of over 2200 APIs that you can tap into to start building your app. Need a source of local school reviews? Check. Need a source of all the world’s social data? Natch.

Find a developer. Want to build an iOS (iPhone or iPad) app? Check out Cocoaheads, a worldwide listing of local developer meetups. Make inroads there and you might just find an ambitious programmer looking for their first App Store submission.

More and more we’re hearing about brands that are taking control of their technology needs. Of companies that are unhappy with the reheated meals served up by flaky vendors with inflexible technology.

So take inspiration from the food carts of Portland. Built it yourself used to be a scary proposition for real estate companies. Today, however, it’s more likely to result in something truly tasty.

And you can take that to the streets.