I recently got the opportunity to interview Stavros Alambritis. Stavros is the CEO/Founder of GZero.
In our interview, we talked about what his company does, his journey so far, launching his latest creation SHOUT! and more...
This is the full interview.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Sure, I went to uni and dropped out within 3 months to start my first business at 18. I now head up various companies and GZero is the latest start up creation. The main difference between GZero and my other companies is that this embarks on something that is very personal to me and my lifetime hobby or addiction to computers and technology.
I have had a string of businesses and experience ranging from being a Microsoft Certified professional, deploying networks in schools to owning an Award winning Club Nokia Service Centre which i sold in 2006.
Tells us what your company does?
Our company set out to eliminate some of the things that i personally find frustrating in life. I figured that my tastes are pretty common so things that would benefit me should hopefully also benefit others. We have launched with two initial products. The first product was born out of my frustration with windows PC’s slowing over time and affecting my regular gaming. Did i mention i love computer games?
GBoost is a patented free system that enables gamers and other professionals to temporarily strip down their PC to a console like status. This enables them to get maximum performance out of their hardware. The software is still in beta stages and we are getting some very positive feedback from our initial early users.
The second product we make is VoCal - The Voice Calendar for iPhone. This was also born out of a frustration of typing reminders into my calendar. I found it far too slow and cumbersome for todays fast and busy lifestyle. When i looked for another solution, i found that nobody had thought of being able to record a quick voice memo and then have it alert you at a more appropriate time. I now think that this product is a luxury for the mind, a kind of personal assistant that never forgets.
Talking is so natural yet people still reach for a sticky note or pc/mac or phone calendar for making reminders to get jobs done. My favorite use for VoCal is when i am driving. You know the times when you can think about things, i usually remember a job that must be done when i am driving but may forget at the end of the journey. Have you ever tried typing into your phone when you are driving? It can be quite hazardous to your health. Now with VoCal i can tap the app and speak into the phone very quickly and easily and set a quick future date for the reminder to come in.
How did you get into iPhone app development?
I was watching the very first keynote by Steve Jobs when he announced the 1st generation iPhone, and having a good grounding in mobile phones, i thought, ‘this is gonna be big’. When Apple unleashed their groundbreaking new multi touch and gesture controlled interface it had to be big. As soon as the app store was announced we starting looking for a programmer to join our existing team who were already working away on GBoost at the time..
Do you also create apps for the iPads?
Not yet although we will be converting some of our apps to native iPad format to benefit from the increased screen size.
Tell us about SHOUT!,Where did the idea come from?
SHOUT! was initially developed as a new feature for VoCal as an attempt to make the app more social. Once the team saw how good and fun it was. We decided to release it as a stand alone app at the lowest price tier available in the app store. We felt that SHOUT! was too good to just be an extra feature of VoCal so we made a separate and more fun app.
SHOUT! is kind of an accident and we are excited to see where it may lead. We are also planning to include it as an extra feature for our new and existing users of VoCal and it is our first app that we are looking to release on the Android platform also.
What is it about SHOUT! , do you think, that appeals to so many people?
SHOUT! has only just launched and is already receiving rave reviews.
There are two main things when it comes to SHOUT! that we think are appealing.
Keeping with our Voice theme, the first great thing about SHOUT! is that it allows Facebook users to express their emotion in a way that could never be done by text alone. We have seen/heard peoples wall posts on Facebook. Some of them are quite hilarious. People have recording themselves making jokes, gathering round their iPhone to sing happy birthday to friends, or giving us a running commentary on their status and thoughts.
Each SHOUT! is limited to 2 minutes which keeps them from getting boring. We look at it as a bit like an audio tweet. One user is a stand up comic who is now announcing gigs and making people laugh on his Facebook account. He says that he can do it in a new more expressive way and we agree. Text alone can be too dull and videos are not always convenient to make. Why Facebook didn’t include an audio option as standard is still a mystery to us but i’m not complaining.
The second thing we are enjoying about SHOUT! is our groundbreaking new interface. It is minimalistic and almost looks alive. It is fully customizable with lots of new customization options planned. We are looking at cool ways for users to interact with the app to change the monotony of using the static apps that are currently out there.
Everything we have learned so far in our last two years has taught us to soft launch SHOUT! as a simple micro release concept v1.0 and just put it out there. Then we want to let our users direct the future of the app and of course bug fix along the way. We will make gradual and incremental free updates bringing more features yet keeping to our core philosophy of speed and simplicity.
The number one feature we have been asked for by almost everybody so far is the ability to post a SHOUT! direct onto somebody’s wall. So that will be coming in Version 1.1 with a new yet to be unveiled ability also coming soon.
How long did you spend on developing the app?
As our team of 7 is now getting to grips with the tools and each other, it took us just 7 weeks! Which is a lot faster than the 6 months it took us to do our initial release of VoCal.
What are the challenges of developing for the iPhones?
The main initial challenge for us was to find a programmer who understood Objective C. There was hardly anyone available here in the UK that could develop in objective C back then, so, in the end, we decided to hire a seasoned veteran in other languages and have him learn the new language. We challenged him to learn this new language and start developing. He was totally new to Apple Mac’s and the whole ecosystem at the time but has since become very proficient.
What are some of your favorite development tools?
XCode was the only tool out there when we started and is still the main tool we use today. We have recently looked at some of the other tools that are out there but feel that they compromise too much and cannot get the maximum benefit out of the Apple operating system (iOS)
What is your favorite iPhone app?
VoCal of course. I cannot leave home without my iPhone and VoCal :)
What advice do you have for someone wanting to start developing for the iPhones?
Start small and don’t take on large expenses unless you have major backing. The market has now matured so you are up against the best of the best including large companies such as EA in the games category. People must remember that even Angry birds flopped in the App Store for the first 3 months, meaning that developing a great app alone is not enough. You need to be good at marketing also.
We were actually late to the App Store but got lucky enough to earn our position in the top 100 of the Business Category and stay there for the last year and a half. Some guys get lucky when Apple pick their applications to be featured in the App Store. This gives them great exposure. We have yet to be featured but stay hopeful that one day we will.
What can people expect moving beyond 2011?
I expect interfaces to move more towards voice as keyboards and mice slowly give way to new ways of interacting with devices. Gestures are only the beginning and Google has been quick to adopt voice recognition on their Android platform. I expect Apple, this year and next, to make a major move into Voice recognition with perhaps a revamped version of the iPhone 4 being released with a faster processor and overhauled iOS platform to cater for the new voice features and also to give us a better notification system.
I would just also like to add that in the long term, i believe that Star Trek like devices that people talk to and perhaps have a conversation with, with become more the norm over the coming decades.
Thanks for your time.
Thanks for yours.