Muh Hon Cheng & Lin Junjie
IOS Developers, Clean Shaven Apps
JJ: I’ve always liked making things, making software. When I got my iPhone 3G, that was when Apple started allowing apps, and I thought it was a good time to explore my hobby again. It was just for fun initially, so it wasn’t a big strategic decision for either of us. HC, you have your masters in biology – why go into app programming? HC: I actually got a job before I graduated, but I lost interest in research and was looking for a way out. It wasn’t a strategic decision to make iPhone apps, it was just because I needed to solve a problem, I had an iPhone and I tried to see if I could figure it out, so I came up with SG Buses. So it wasn’t like you saw the next big gold mine in app development? HC: When I first started, there wasn’t a gold mine. People were just making apps but no one knew you could make money from it. It was very early. Back then, nobody talked about making a career out of it. It was pure interest. How did you guys come up with the idea for Dispatch? HC: Junjie has an app called Due, which is quite popular. We went on a trip last year and he tried to figure out how to do support on the go, and that was how the idea came about; an email client with which you can send canned responses. But the main thing about
Dispatch now is action-based email
in the initial idea. JJ: Sometimes I wanted to act on an email, but I didn’t want to act on it at the moment. Due has something called URL schemes which allow you to send things over to other apps. So I started exploring how to send emails over to Due so that I could be reminded about them later. There are also other apps which support URL schemes like Omnifocus, Things, so we started adding them and before we knew it, the actions became useful in our own workflow.
which wasn’t Why did you decide to make an email app when there are so many email apps out there? JJ: We started work on Dispatch in June of 2012 before there were so many email clients. And then suddenly everybody was making an email app. HC: I think we were a bit late when we launched. We were super surprised as well, because doing an email app is super difficult. What advice would you give people wanting to be app developers today? HC: I think we’re trying to figure out the answers ourselves (laughs). You have to get the app done in the first place. But getting your app properly done doesn’t mean you get a hit. JJ: If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said “do it”. Now I have mixed feelings. I launched my first app, Due, in 2010. It actually did well enough for me to stop teaching photography and concentrate on making software.
I think it’s easy for an app to get lost in the market now. You’re probably better off working for someone as a developer rather than striking out on your own. There’s a big risk, unless you’re prepared for that scenario – like maybe you have a lot of savings. There’s no harm doing it on the side, if they can work as a developer and do their own apps on the side. If their app makes it, then it’s not too late to quit and concentrate on their app. How do you feel as a small twoperson team going up against bigger app companies? HC: The app store is amazing in a way that a small, independent app developer can get the same exposure as a big company. My friends and I used to make games back in secondary school and we wondered how we could get it out. We came up with stupid ideas like burning discs to sell to the shops because that was how things were being sold. Now with the app store, everyone has an equal shot at it.