I recently interviewed Curtiss Pope, Founder and CEO of AisleFinder, a company that makes the signs at the top of each aisle in the supermarket irrelevant. With applications available for iOS, and now Android, and a database of over 3,000 stores and 150,000 products in the U.S., the "Google Maps of Supermarkets," as its founder calls it, saves time, and in the blisteringly fast app market, provides a service that hasn't been done before - or at least not properly.

During our interview, we spoke about his experience with the NewMe Accelerator, building a start-up in Silicon Valley as an African-American, the Michael Arrington/Soledad O'Brien situation, and how AisleFinder came to be.

Micah Singleton (@micahsingleton) is the founder and editor of Current Editorials, and a freelance writer.
What got you interested in creating a company like AisleFinder?

My very first job was in a supermarket, and I learned a lot. I had the chance to see a lot of pain that the customer was having was centered around finding things.

Fast Forward to 2008, and I saw that pain was not alleviated by an app or website or any type of technology, and when I experienced that same pain, I started down the path of developing AisleFinder. I researched and had seen that a lot of people have tried this in the past, and gave up. I was determined to take it farther and I did. 3000+ stores later and here we are.

How has the feedback from users been?

So far so good, lots of great suggestions that we can really use. Our main goal is to simplify, and not add a ton of features that people don't really care about.

How was your experience with the NewMe Accelerator, and has it been beneficial to the growth of AisleFinder?

Execution is the only currency, you did it, someone else didn't. There are always people saying "I had the idea for [insert hot startup here]. Not enough saying "I built it."
I feel as though I really took advantage of that opportunity. After we wrapped, I just have been non-stop hustling to put my product in more heads and hands. I feel as though I have a stronger network of resources to pull from. I also got a chance to see that focus, and confidence is really the difference, that's why lots of investors are interested in you as an entrepreneur, as well as your company.

Execution is the only currency, you did it, someone else didn't. There are always people saying "I had the idea for [insert hot startup here]. Not enough saying "I built it."

You have just launched an Android app. How was your experience working on Android compared to iOS, and can we expect a Windows Phone app?

You have to like them both, however as a developer and designer, I find that with Android there are a lot of great features and sensors integrated from the beginning, that iOS is just now taking advantage of.

I have had an Android for the past year, and I have been using voice to set appointments, find directions, send emails, text messages and the like. To me and probably a whole lot of Android users, when Siri got announced , there was no real thrill to go iOS just for that.

As a former Microsoft employee, I love Microsoft (AisleFinder is built with ASP.Net, also AisleFinder is a Microsoft BizSpark grad), however we don't have any plans right now until things really heat up.

Back in November, Google announced that it would map indoor areas. What kind of effect did this have on AisleFinder, and did it change, or force you to speed up any of your plans for the company?

I feel partly that this whole meritocracy talk provides one more excuse for black entrepreneurs to not try hard. We all have challenges, our history as black people in America has proven in order to get the attention we deserve, we must be stellar, innovative and out-work anyone else.
When we pitched to David Krane from Google Ventures at the NewMe opening, he noted that "We spend all this time mapping the outside world, it's great to see that someone is doing the inside to take make our experiences much richer." At AisleFinder, we love the fact that Google is the best at this, however we see ourselves as more of a license partner for this effort; if it comes to full fruition, much the same way that Google licenses images from their satellite view from mapping and cartography partners like NASA, MapJack.

This is also a very difficult thing to do when it comes to supermarkets because you are essentially dealing with aisles and "Walls" of brands, that may not want their placement on shelves to be revealed. (The grocery industry is very secretive this way.) Google has some really great stitching and blurring, however there is not much value if the users cannot see what's on the shelves.

How often do you expand to new stores and areas?

We are averaging around 20 to 50 new stores a month.

In light of the Michael Arrington/Soledad O'Brien situation a couple of months ago, as an African-American entrepreneur, do you believe Silicon Valley is a meritocracy?

If it was simple everyone would be doing it.

I feel partly that this whole meritocracy talk provides one more excuse for black entrepreneurs to not try hard. We all have challenges, our history as black people in America has proven in order to get the attention we deserve, we must be stellar, innovative and out-work anyone else.

Done is gold.
The people who are working the hardest don't have the time to complain about stuff like that. Look at Soledad, do you think she got where she is because she just showed up to work? No way, she had a goal, and set about doing it. Michael, as well could have stayed an attorney. But he had something else in mind and stuck with it all the way, even when it wasn't profitable.

It's all about what you have done, not what you say, or hear, or want to do. Done is gold. When I penetrate those circles, I feel as though I have done something noteworthy, I also know that there is a hard ceiling to break through.

Where do you expect AisleFinder to be a year from now?

I expect us to continue simplifying our apps across the board, and adding more stores and places that people are shopping, and offering the ability to get a great set of data at a reasonable price.

Curtiss Pope photo by Adria Richards