It's been a busy week or two for Rob Shoesmith, a 27-year-old binman from Whitley, Coventry, who hopes to swap a life on the streets, so to speak, for one helping to design Apple iPhone apps.
Recently Rob has appeared on the BBC, in The Guardian, Macworld and numerous local press and radio reports following news that his iPhone app design had been selected from thousands. The competition, to develop great app ideas without necessarily having the technical knowledge or footing the financial outlay, is backed by MEDL Mobile and their App Incubator service. In return for developing the app MEDL Mobile will give potential developers 25 per cent of any profits.
Despite the attention, Rob is remaining tight-lipped about his iPhone application design, but will reveal the application is a problem-solving tool, a user-generated advice service that he and MEDL Mobile hope will prove a hit amongst the thousands of iPhone apps already available for download.
Macworld grabbed a moment of Rob's time to discover his future hopes and plans.
Q. Who first picked up on the story?
The Guardian newspaper first picked up on the story. A freelance journalist by the name of Paul Brown conducted a telephone interview and a freelance photographer named Andrew Fox visited me to take a number of photos. He was the ultimate professional and the photos looked fantastic.
Q. How do you feel about having your moment in the limelight with local and national press coverage?
I feel fantastic at the minute. Little did I know at the time of submitting my app idea that the national and international media would be in constant touch. I’m just a normal everyday guy. I can’t believe all this is happening to me.
In the space of a couple of weeks I have appeared in the Guardian, on the front page of the Coventry Evening Telegraph, had an interview on Midlands Today broadcast on BBC1, a radio interview with Coventry and Warwickshire Radio and also appearing in Macworld which has been fantastic.
Q. What role does the MEDL Mobile team take?
MEDL Mobile has been superb. I have been in daily contact with Dave, the principal of the company. We probably exchange something like 20 emails a day. He is a huge support to me and even purchased a camcorder to help with my app video promotion. They sent me a payment immediately via PayPal.
They’ll help market the product through their contacts worldwide. I think they appreciated the effort I put in and I hope they enjoy me working with them as I like to take a great interest in what’s happening. I’m very hands on and have developed a marketing plan that they are keen for me to implement.
Q. How do you think you'll make your app stand out when it launches on the App Store?
I’m currently putting in six hours every evening after work to develop my own marketing strategy and have a workflow set up in order to follow a strict project timeline. I designed my own marketing plan and will pass this to fellow users of the App Incubator to share knowledge, suggestions and ideas. I feel networking will be key to the app’s success.
I’m looking at setting up a podcast that will cross promote my application. This will hopefully attract podcast listeners to the application itself.
With the huge support from MEDL Mobile and other people like myself I hope a huge network will evolve. This a new refreshing concept in terms of any Joe Bloggs on the street to have an iPhone app built for them if it’s good enough.
I work as a bin man in Coventry; people can be quick to judge those in my line of work and hopefully by doing what I am doing I can raise awareness that there are lots of people in different jobs with many skills that they do not get to use.
My philosophy is that all the people who will be having their app ideas developed should help one another out, offering advice and acting as a sounding board for each other. I’m hoping to gain more media exposure through international media.
Q. How do you hope this will play out for the future ?
This experience is very much a learning curve for me. I have been given an opportunity of a lifetime through the app incubator and am determined to make this a success. I am 100 per cent committed to this and hope people can relate to my circumstances and support me. I want to better myself and am learning all the time.
Q. A question raised a Macworld reader, why not try and launch your app yourself?
To launch an application costs a significant amount of money. To put it simply, I cannot afford to risk thousands of pounds in a project currently. I’m using this experience to learn how things work, build contacts and get my name out there. MEDL Mobile is playing a vital part in realising my dream. I have nothing financially to lose and only see working with them as a good thing, a step in the right direction.
Ultimately I would like to get into this on a fulltime basis. Currently there aren’t enough hours in the day. If I was to earn a significant amount of money I would in a few years like to set up my own business. Who knows what’s round the corner, I’m just embracing the moment.
Q. And what advice would you give to others who have iPhone app ideas?
People who submit ideas should think at another level; the obvious apps have already been made. Think of an app that is totally unique for the iPhone and think about its long term potential. Users of any app need enough content to make them use the app more than once.
Sit down and brainstorm; I sometimes watch a TV programme with app ideas in mind. Most of my ideas are generated from watching television and reading magazines. Be as creative as you can.