Designer Technology is a mobile app developer from Brisbane that has built the top-rated fitness app on the Microsoft Windows Phone store.
The startup’s founder and lead programmer, Dominic Williamson, said he initially studied economics at university but along the way realised he was more interested in technology. He jumped ship and began an IT degree at the Queensland Institute of Technology (QIT).
After only six months of a software engineering course, he wrote his first two Windows Phone apps in Visual Studio. One of them was Gym PocketGuide, which now has more than one million downloads and a five-star rating on the Windows store.
Williamson said he came up with the idea when he was at the gym and bored with his usual workout routine. He realised it would be useful if an app on his phone could suggest workouts he hadn’t seen before, he said.
“I thought, hey, I’d like to use it. And it turned out actually a lot of other people might want to use it.”
Williamson said he was surprised how easy it was to develop for Windows Phone. He didn’t have any prior coding experience before attending QIT. The content also came free through through a cross-promotion partnership with Bodybuilding.com, he said.
The Brisbane developer said he thinks the accessible design of the app is a key reason for its success.
“Rather than just making a functional gym app, I wanted to make an intuitive and nicely designed app – that’s what I thought would set it apart from others,” he said.
“There were definitely other fitness apps on the market when I released it, but they were more tailored toward the hardcore gym user.”
Designer Technology is a team of four university friends working part-time. They all still have day jobs – Williamson is an IT consultant – and they work on the startup after hours.
“Definitely at some point it would be a nice goal to have it as my own company that I can run, but it’s probably further in the distance than a few months’ time,” said Williamson.
However, having just come out of university, he said he’d like to gain more business experience before making the move.
Designer Technology has not sought any funding but rather has invested the revenue that’s come from a premium paid version of Gym PocketGuide that has additional features including fitness tracking.
“It cost me nothing to build, so I didn’t seek any funding,” he said.
In the future, as the company looks to bring the Windows Phone app to other platforms, Williamson said he will look for funding and add more developers to the team.
Since he had written the app for fun, Williamson didn’t include advertising and “the ship had sailed” by the time app had taken off, he said. To monetise the app, he instead created the paid Pro version.
Williamson said he would soon like to implement voice recognition support through Microsoft’s Cortana. This could allow users to tell their phone what kind of workout they want rather than have to type it in.
He said he’s also interested in taking advantage of a new pedometer sensor in Windows Phones that allows measurement of a user’s steps.
Startup activity on Brisbane has been on the rise since Williamson launched Gym PocketGuide, he said. In particular, he praised the establishment of startup co-working space River City Labs as a top resource for startups.
“It’s a pretty packed place and they hold lots of events. It’s a nice keystone place for the entrepreneurial community to get together that didn’t exist a few years ago.”
However, getting funding remains a challenge in Australia, especially for companies with ambitious visions, he said.
“Those people that want something a bit bigger than an app – and actually want to build a platform – run into a lot of trouble finding adequate funding for it in Australia.”
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