An interview with the founders of TheAppGuys on why we started the company, iOS and android app development, IT and coworking.

BETAHAUS “MEMBER OF THE WEEK”

  • An interview with the founders of TheAppGuys on why we started the company, app development, IT and coworking.

We were recently featured as “members of the week” by the betahaus Cologne. As a part of this we gave an interview on the motivation for starting our company, our views on the future of app development and IT in general and of course coworking.

The original interview can be found on the betahaus page and is in German, but we thought it contained some points we wanted to get across about our views on software development and our motivation for the company, so we thought we‘d re-post an English translation of the interview here:

Marko Tosic and Christoph Henkelmann are TheAppGuys. The two are not only serious professionals in app development but also big fans of coworking. Marko and Christoph moved into the betahaus Cologne just shortly after our opening. They are our newly nominated “members of the week“ and have given us some very interesting answers to our questions.

Betahaus: Who are TheAppGuys, how did you find each other and how have you gotten into mobile apps?

TheAppGuys: The founders of TheAppGuys are Marko Tosic and Christoph Henkelmann. Before TheAppGuys we were both freelancing and met while we were working for the same customer. Independently of each other, both of us have been thinking for quite a while about founding our own business. When we found out that our ideas about how such a company should work were very similar, we decided to get together and finally kick it off.

We got into mobile apps through our previous freelancing work. It is an area of work that we both like because we create a product which the user directly interacts with and has visible results. In the end you have something downright tangible. This motivates us a lot when developing software.

Betahaus: It is easy to know what you do and have to offer when seeing your company name. In what way is your service and your objective different from other app developers?

TheAppGuys: There are a few ways in general that we want to set ourselves apart from other app shops and other IT companies. Firstly, and this is actually not something where we differ from other app developers but rather from the IT business world in general – we want to stand out through our performance. We are always so frustrated about badly programmed software, and there is so much of it. That may not sound particularly groundbreaking but it seems not to be something that you can take for granted in the IT industry: We simply try to get the job done the best way possible. As to our services, we only produce first-class native apps, that means without Flash, PhoneGap etc. Furthermore, we have a wide expertise as opposed to many other app providers, especially in servers and middleware, so that we can not only implement apps but also the corresponding infrastructure. What‘s more, we have a lot of know-how in artificial intelligence and data mining, which adds something special to a product.

Secondly, we have our very own ideas about how our company should work. We want to finally create the work place in which we enjoy working. Unfortunately, in the world of IT there is the widespread misunderstanding that projects will become better when everyone who is involved are constantly being stirred up. So the saying goes: We simply work double the time and then everything will get done twice as fast. But interestingly the opposite is true: programmers who are stressed and exhausted make a lot more mistakes than on average, the quality worsens and it takes longer and longer to complete the task. We believe that by training employees on a regular basis and by working along a well thought out plan and with good organization we achieve better progress than by carrying out continuous „death marches“, which is quite an established term for the final phase in IT projects.

Betahaus: Are the areas of iOS and Android clearly split up between the two of you?

TheAppGuys: More or less. Marko is the expert for iOS and Christoph focuses on Android and server development. But we both have many years of experience in many programing languages and scopes so that we can always help each other out if necessary. What‘s more, we are already hiring our first employees so that in the near future we should have enough resources to react flexibly to current requirements.

Betahaus: Middleware, artificial intelligence, and data mining: three areas you offer that, however, in part do not directly relate to app programming. Could you please explain to an ordinary person what those are about and why you have decided to offer these areas?

TheAppGuys: The word “middleware” is a composition of “middle” and “software” and refers to IT components that communicate and buffer between different interfaces and thus are located in between these, in the “middle”. A typical example in the app environment is an iPhone App that is supposed to work together with an already existing booking system of a big company. In this instance, oftentimes middleware is necessary, as the app needs an appropriate means to communicate. Or also because there is not always a permanent internet connection available for a mobile application. Speaking from our experience, it is always problematic whenever different providers deliver critical components to extensive projects. That usually ends up in chaos. That is why we offer the matching middleware to the app right away if the customer asks for it. The term artificial intelligence describes processes with which computers should behave in an intelligent way as far as possible. Data mining stands for the process of extracting and retrieving information from vast amounts of data. It is called mining because you are “digging” into the data to get to the information. Of course, the differences often overlap in practice. With data mining, you can implement great features that you are not accustomed to from normal software.

 

Betahaus: When working with apps, it is essential to concern oneself with data protection. How do you handle the issue of data protection?

TheAppGuys: Data protection and the ethical handling of the possibilities that evolve from the combination of apps and data mining are among our top priorities. As service providers, we are responsible for pointing out to our customers possible ethical problems that could arise in projects. Many worst case scenarios in data protection do not happen in bad faith but rather due to the ignorance of possible consequences or poor technical implementation. Most often, the customer is not aware of what consequences the features in a software he asked for can have. In this case, it is the duty of the service provider to talk to the customer about working out alternatives if need be or to weigh the usefulness of a functionality against the risks. Many service providers simply do not care. They just implement everything as long as the customer pays for it. But generally, it is also in the customer‘s interest that user data is handled with care, as the latest calamities related to data protection that are covered in the media almost every week are not beneficial for business.

Betahaus: What is your opinion: which direction will the app market move and how do you think our exposure to mobile phones will once again change?

TheAppGuys: The shift to the mobile use of computers – that is in fact modern smart phones and pads – will definitely continue for a good while. The boundaries between desk top computers and mobile devices will become more and more blurred, as can be very well observed in the case of the new Windows 8. In the coming years, things could develop in a very interesting way in the area of augmented reality, which is the combination of the real world with virtual content. It could happen that a new class of mobile devices will establish itself, like the Google Glasses, for example, that have just recently been presented. But maybe it will finish up as a major flop as well – we are rather careful with forecasts.

Betahaus: Do you have a favorite app?

TheAppGuys: Not just one! Our faves are:

  • The GoodReader for the iPad, an extremely comfortable PDF reader.
  • For the iPhone the Tweetbot is a good alternative to the official Twitter App.
  • Carcassonne is a very well made implementation of the popular board game for the iPhone and the iPad.
  • K9 Mail is a must for Android, it is the perfect alternative for the standard e-mail software.
  • It is well worth taking a look at Opera Mobile which is a great mobile web browser.

Betahaus: How did you hear about the betahaus and how do you like working in a coworking environment?

TheAppGuys: Marko already has some experience in coworking, as he himself founded a coworking space in Dortmund. Christoph had already looked at the betahaus in Berlin and then actively looked for a coworking possibility in Cologne. From the very beginning, it was clear for us that we would want to start in a coworking space.

Coworking offers us a lot of advantages. Besides the obvious financial benefits in the founding phase, the saving in time is also an important factor: You move in and can start immediately, you do not have to struggle with an internet provider, you do not have to buy furniture and printers, you do not have to hire cleaning staff, and so on. Instead, you come in, book your ticket, and you can instantly start working. Coworking scales much better especially in the starting phase: there is no problem hiring new employees as there is sufficient space available. You do not have to move twice in the first two years of starting your business (or having to pay for an office that is too big at the beginning), but you can focus 100% on your business. What‘s more, there is the tendency to get a bit lonely being a small company. In the betahaus you constantly meet interesting new people and that often opens new ways to business contacts. And again, the lunch at the cafeteria is really good 🙂

 

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