A Tuesday night in an old man’s pub is hardly the place you’d expect to find the creators of the latest, most intuitive running app for the iPhone is it? Well, actually… yes it is. Olly Joshi and Tom Gooday, account exec and project manager by trades, have just gone into business with their first ‘random idea’ that was dreamt up many months ago. Instead of a straight Q&A like usual, we let them freestyle for a bit (and then edited it later).
In the beginning…
It all started in August 2011, Olly had just started a new job at Freud Communications and fancied running home. Sadly though, being a relative newbie to London, he wasn’t very familiar with how to get from Goodge Street to Putney. A quick check on Google Maps showed it shouldn’t be too difficult, but nevertheless, he went looking for an iPhone app that’d tell him how to get home – instead of getting his phone out every five seconds to check he’s on course.
After trying a few out, none really did what he wanted – basically he wanted a sat nav for people, not cars. So with this thought in mind Olly approached Tom, who was a mate of his, for some digital and technical know how. A beer or two later, and the human sat nav now had a plan and a name: Via.
But with neither being able to code or have any idea how to go about creating Via they decided to put some feelers out for help in at the beginning of this year.
Being map based, Olly ‘cheekily’ messaged a guy called Rich Martell on Facebook asking for help. They’d seen he’d created a site called Fit Finder – a sort of anonymous tag-a-hottie on a uni campus – that is now know as Spottd and thought they’d see if he was interested in hearing more. To their surprise, he was keen to meet.
Shit got real
Quick! Create a business plan (in secret), print it at work (in secret) and do the day job (not in secret due to timesheets) all had to be done before pitching the idea. Floxx (Martell’s business) loved it and agreed to work on it. Unfortunately as they go on to explain, this kind of app doesn’t come cheap as it’s a tad more technical than Angry Birds, well, probably. Thankfully for Olly and Tom, Floxx cut them a deal to pay their fees once the app started selling and were also handed a generous donation from Olly’s boss. Not to mention that’s on top of their own financial commitment.
Test flight time
Late March / early April saw the first test flights of Via. And it was their chance to see if there were any problems. Sadly, there’s only one way to do that… go for a run. Scenario after scenario needed testing. If you go off course. If you lock your phone and go off course. If you go off course with music on. If you go off course more than once. More tests than you really want to do in the pouring rain…
Then if testing in the rain wasn’t hard enough, Google’s terms of services threw a curveball. A call from the developers informed them that “you can’t actually use Google Maps in realtime”, bugger. Biting the bullet they ploughed more money into Via in search of a different map service with a usable API. More money means lawyers drawing up contracts over payments, and by this time it’s all getting pretty full-on.
If possible, make a U-turn
With the delay to the mapping system now resolved it was time to choose a voice. Unfortunately in their plan, they hadn’t specified anything in particular and the only free software was Stephen Hawking-esque phonetic one… and that just didn’t cut it. So they turned to Acapella to provide them their voice, which again was a cost that was initially not budgeted for – it also meant they took a percentage of each download too.
Finally, after all these hurdles and many months of hard graft, Via v.1 was realised on iTunes last week. It would’ve been sooner had it not been for their lock slider looking too similar to Apple’s causing them to reject the app initially!
It’s been one hell of a journey from doodle to app, but a really exciting time. It’s a massive learning curve and a really good experience.
YCC: Any advice for starting out in business?
T&O: Get your idea down on paper. You can always refer to what you’re trying to do then. And also surround yourself with good people that know what they’re doing. We’ve now got a team of four to help with finances and stuff.
YCC: How did you work out where to price yourself?
T&O: We talked to people in the know. We had a contact at Runners World. We talked to people and asked how much they’d pay for it. And we also recognised that free apps vs paid apps must offer more and our voice navigation does just that.
YCC: What’s next?
T&O: We’ve already got update 2, 3 and 4 planned. More voices, sharing features, the ability to save more routes – it’s all on the way. We’ve also just created Firebird Creative to start our own projects. And hopefully one day we might be able to do this full time as we’ve got a few more ideas we’re currently looking to develop.
We spent ages with them and could’ve written many more words about their experience. It does show that whatever your idea is, even without the skills required, you can still get it off the ground. Yes there are problems (when are there not?). But if you persevere, you can achieve anything with hard work, some networking skills and a ruddy good idea.
That’s all for this week folks…
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