We sat down with Irish developer and 2 time Irish Web Awards Winner Vinny Coyne and delved into the wonderful world of software & app development.
Michael – Hi Vinny and firstly thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions today.
Vinny – No problem, happy to do it!
Michael – How did you first get interested in software engineering?
Was it something that you could see yourself doing as a career when you first began?
Did you find it difficult starting out, having a good idea for an app and trying to get it to the masses?
Vinny – I first started programming when I was about 16 years old. I took a class in Visual Basic and discovered that I was pretty good at it. Up until then, I’d be hacking around on computers and found them fascinating. Originally, I wanted to make video games – I think most kids do at that age! So, yeah I guess I knew pretty early on that I wanted to write code in some form.
Fast-forward a few years, and I was working for a Galway startup, building their Mac apps. The iPhone had just launched and I bought a jailbroken phone off eBay and started hacking basic apps for it. This was before the App Store, so I had no idea it would become something that I could build a business on.
Michael – I suppose most people would know of Vinny Coyne from using the very successful iPhone app EirText that allows users to access their web-text allowance easily. Did the success of this app surprise you?
Vinny – Yes, it completely took me by surprise. I built the first version of EirText for myself – it only supported Meteor and it required a jailbroken iPhone. When the App Store was announced, I added support for the other networks and shipped it to Apple. I didn’t expect it to get approved, mainly because it was taking money out of the networks’ pockets.
So, you can imagine my surprise when it hit the store! I think it was seeing around 3,000 downloads per day for the first couple of weeks – it was insane.
Michael – Personally, I use and love Muud.io I really like the way I can make playlists based on what mood/feel I want to hear. No constant skipping thru songs! How did you come up with the mood idea?
Vinny – Thanks, I really appreciate that! Muud.io is definitely an app that’s close to my heart. I built it for myself, so I’m delighted to hear that you like it.
I came up with the idea one very hungover morning, about two years ago. I was sitting in a friend’s house and we had his iPod on shuffle. We kept having to get up and change songs because he had a lot of heavy rock tunes in his collection, and it didn’t really vibe with or fragile mental state that morning. I started sketching out ideas the next day and built it over the course of a year.
Michael – Another app from your stable is Comet a very handy app for us Meteor BillPay customers that allow us to check the remaining balance of minutes, sms and data on our plan. I can remember a similar app from a few years ago when I was an o2 customer that you released but which was later taken over by o2! Have you had any similar interest from Meteor?
Vinny – No, unfortunately not! Meteor have their own development team, and I see that they’re bringing out their own app. Up until now, they’d been very focused on Android and only supporting their Android customers with apps – it’s great to finally see them commit to iOS. When I launched Comet, they were very supportive and helped promote the app on their social media, which was a really nice gesture.
Michael – From following you on twitter (@vinnycoyne) I noticed your involvement with a golf accessory startup called Game Golf which has already reached over double it’s $125,000 goal. This must be a very exciting project to be involved with?
Vinny – Yes, it’s been really exciting! I made a conscious decision last year to start looking for bigger challenges, and GAME definitely meets that criteria. I’ve been on board for over a year now, but the project itself has been in development for a lot longer than that. We’re fast approaching our beta testing phase. I can’t wait to get this product into the hands of golfers all over the world. You can preorder a device right now at gameyourgame.com – we’re planning on shipping in July.
Michael – Have you any interest in developing apps for the other platforms? What with the upsurge in Android use would your iOS apps transfer across easily? Is there more work involved in developing apps for Android?
Vinny – I tend to shy away from Android work myself. I like and use the platform regularly, but I just don’t have time to learn to code for it unfortunately. I tend to bring in contractors to take on any Android work that comes my way, but I don’t have plans to port any of my own apps to the platform until it’s obvious that it will be financially viable.
Michael – With the recent emergence of CoderDojo etc here in Ireland do you think the relative ease of access for children to learning computer language should be encouraged?
What suggestions, if any, would you have for parents reading this article that have children interested in coding but are not that computer literate themselves?
Vinny – I think kids should be encouraged, but not expected to code. There seems to be a heavy push right now to have all kids code, which I don’t think is the right approach. If they show an aptitude or interest in computers or engineering (i.e. an obsession with Lego or cardboard boxes), then definitely bring them along to a Dojo and see what happens.
CoderDojo is a great resource, especially for parents who don’t have an interest in or aptitude for computers. Khan Academy and iTunes U also have lots of information for aspiring coders.
Michael – Finally if someone came to you and said they were thinking of pursuing a career in app development what would your initial reaction be? Go for it or don’t even think about it?
Vinny – Go for it! It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, but I’ve had a great time overall. I’ve met some great people, made a lot of friends, and worked on some really interesting problems. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then at least give it a shot.
For more information about all of Vinny’s apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac check out appsandwich.com where software is their bread and butter.