Gizmodo's Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: We chat with Jonathan Barouch from Roamz about distribution, Australia's development reputation and flowers.
Developers! Developers! Developers! It's not just Steve Ballmer’s favourite sweat-laden catchcry! If you'd like to be featured in Developers Cubed, shoot a note to alex.kidman at alluremedia.com.au. I'd love to hear from you.
Who are you and where do you work? I am Jonathan Barouch a Sydney based entrepreneur building a location based application called Roamz. I work with an amazing team in a restaurant-converted office in Surry Hills.
Why do we know you? What have you created? You might not know me! I founded Roamz in 2011 and received backing from Australian communications company Salmat. My aim was to create a location platform that enables people to discover and share content about places nearby. In late 2010, I noticed that sharing on social media was fragmenting across a number of channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare just to name a few). As a result, there was a tsunami of social content pouring through different social networks. Against this backdrop it was becoming increasingly difficult to discover things through the echo chamber of your friends or the people you ‘follow’. I was really interested to solve this problem in the context of location.
There were too many times in my life when I thought, “if only I had known that was going on I would have gone…”. As a result, I set about building technology that could intelligently curate large amounts of social content to give users insight into what is around them and what’s going on nearby.
Prior to Roamz my previous company was a business called Fast Flowers. Fast Flowers was one of the first e-commerce companies in Australia having been founded in 1999. I grew the company over 10 years until it was acquired by competitor, 1300 Flowers.
What platforms do you develop for? Currently Roamz is available for iPhone and we have a light web application that we will continue to enhance. We are also investigating a tablet version of the application.
The neat part about what we have built is that all of our intelligence and data processing occurs in real time on our servers in Amazon’s cloud so the client doesn’t need to be particularly complex.
What are you working on right now? Our team is currently working on the next iteration of our product, which will enhance the sharing capabilities on our platform. Roamz has always been about enabling people to discover location-based content and share their discoveries with their friends. While we focused a lot of our attention in building out the discovery aspect of our application we are now shifting our focus to building out the social features of the application.
What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? For us the strength of the App Store has been hugely valuable. As we wanted to build a global application it was a really easy choice for us to develop our first app on iPhone. The App Store gives developers a global distribution platform that reaches a significant amount of handsets. I was blown away at the places people downloaded our app when we first released it.
With the rise of the App Store also comes a wave of new developers and apps. As a result we find the biggest challenge facing developers is the discoverability of their apps.
What’s your favourite app that you didn’t create? I really like Flipboard for iPad and iPhone. I love the way that they repurpose content from my social feeds to turn the content into an interesting magazine. The way that a user can interact with the app to flip through the pages makes it feel like a beautiful living magazine.
What phone do you use? Why? I use the iPhone 4s. I really like the retina display and the native swiping gestures that feel very natural to me. I am always amazed watching my 3 year old use my phone. He is able to navigate around the operating system and consume content as an adult would. For me the fact that a 3 year old doesn’t have to think about what to do shows what a great product the iPhone is.
What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? Never before has it been so easy to create and develop a technology based startup. With pay as you go cloud based hosting and the rise of web based outsourced many of the traditional barriers to starting a business have disappeared.
The other interesting thing is that distribution platforms like the App Store have given developers channels to be able to distribute their software to a global audience very cheaply and quickly. Companies like Instagram could not have scaled to 27 million users in a little over a year without the tools that are currently available to developers.
Australians have a really strong global reputation in the tech space at the moment so now is the perfect time to let the world see what you can build!