Get to Know Jimmy Pewtress, Kullasoft’s CEO!
What’s your story Jimmy, how did you get into the development of mobile apps?
When I left school, I actually studied Sports Science at college and subsequently university in North Wales. After a while though it became apparent that my heart wasn’t really in the subject and after doing various odd jobs I decided to enroll on a home study computer programming course. When I was about ¾ of the way through, a job came up in the studio of the printers where I was working at the time which I applied for and was successful. Eventually I started to use what I learnt about programming to automate various repetitive tasks and that’s how I got started as a “commercial” developer.
"At this point, the App Store had just been released on the iPhone 3G and there were lots of stories about developers making millions overnight by creating fart apps and the like, so I first got interested in mobile apps through that."
Eventually I ended up writing some software to help teachers with assessments in primary schools in conjunction with a local head teacher. Once it was complete we licensed it to a publishing company but unfortunately, uncertainty about the upcoming general election and how it would affect educational policy meant sales didn’t meet our forecasts. We did sell some copies though, and that gave me the time to think about what direction to head in next.
At this point, the App Store had just been released on the iPhone 3G and there were lots of stories about developers making millions overnight by creating fart apps and the like, so I first got interested in mobile apps through that. After doing some more serious research though it became apparent there was a growing market for mobile development skills, so I made the decision to sit down and learn how to write software for iPhones.
Six months later with a couple of demos written and published to the App Store, I got a job with a software company in London to create Pret A Manger’s iPhone app.
The rest, as they say, is history!
Fart apps! Haha! Such a great story. So how long have you been developing apps for?
As a commercial developer doing it for a living, since August 2010 so almost seven years.
What was it that made you start Kullasoft?
After a few years working for various software companies I branched out on my own and started doing contract work.
One of the clients I ended up doing work for was Network Rail. Most of the projects were to recreate the paper forms that engineers have to fill in when they do work on the track and find a way of getting that information back to where it needed to be.
"I thought that if I could build a central location to store information that can be accessed through a web, and then create apps that feed into that system that I could achieve big time savings and productivity gains for companies that need it, like in the surveying industry"
After a while it became apparent that within the geospatial and engineering world there is a lot of manual data capture required out in the field, and then a lot of processing of that information back at base. Pen and paper seem to be the tool of choice most of the time which causes all the problems you would expect – missing, incomplete or illegible information, spoiled forms, having to manually get bits of paper back to the office where somebody has to type it up etc. People here and there attempt to create tools to help but they’re either limited by the technology available to them or don’t have the technical skills to create what they need. Bespoke software development costs are often prohibitive as well so things just carry on the way they are.
I thought that if I could build a central location to store information that can be accessed through a web, and then create apps that feed into that system that I could achieve big time savings and productivity gains for companies that need it, like in the surveying industry, without them having any up-front costs.
Kullasoft’s first Mobile App: PGM Manager. Tell us about how you got into developing it?
Well, I created the system I talked about before and this was the first app I wanted to build to go with it. I knew from my work at Network Rail that survey companies are required to produce witness diagrams for each control point they install for the railway, but that they often get overlooked or are incomplete, everyone has their own template and they’re just bits of paper or computer files at the end of the day so there is no central record people can refer to.
I also found out that the reason for this tends to be that surveyors don’t like creating the diagrams as they’re time consuming and not really part of the main job they went to do. They tend to get delegated to someone in the office who has to sort through all the notes and photographs and type them into templates, often with CAD drawings as well.
So, now there is an app they can use to capture all the information quickly and easily on-site, upload it straight away and the people back at base can just log in and click on a button to create witness diagrams instead. Much better all round!
Kullasoft recently released the android version making it more widely available for surveyors. What’s the next big thing for Kullasoft?
I’m talking to people about all sorts of things – timesheets, shift reports, health & safety logs, risk assessments, you name it so there’s lots of ideas out there for useful tools to build.
I think next up though will be an app similar to PGM Manager but for people that need to create United Utilities manhole cards. These are similar to witness diagrams but for anything with a manhole cover on giving dimensions, pipe directions and so on.
So, aside from spending many hours in front of a computer screen, what do you do for fun? Tell us something we don’t know about you?
My two main hobbies are downhill mountain biking, where I race at a national level, and I’m a singer and lead guitarist of a local band too.
Wow! That’s awesome, sing us a song? Haha! What’s your favourite song to sing?
At the end of the night when everybody’s had a few drinks, we always do a Status Quo medley with five of their songs all mixed in together. It always goes down a treat and loads of people get up to dance about. It finishes with “Rocking all Over the World” and everyone sings along with “I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it, I la la la like it etc” so that’s always fun. Daft, but fun.
"Went down a storm and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life!"
Sounds like a great night out! What’s your most memorable performance?
Well we played a local beer festival last year with a good few hundred people there so that was good, but the most memorable performance would have to be when me and the guys played Thunderstruck by AC/DC after the meal at our wedding reception. Apart from the bride, nobody knew it was coming so it took everyone by surprise. I have a wireless pack for my guitar so I was walking round the tables while playing. Went down a storm and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life!
I filmed it as well so if you’re interested you can watch it on YouTube, although unfortunately the sound didn’t come out too great - YouTube
That is awesome! I love how you strapped a couple of Go Pros to yourself for this!
So you also love a bit of downhill mountain biking as well? And at national level! This is all very impressive Jimmy! Tell us more?
I first got into mountain biking while I was at school, and it was one of the reasons I went on to do sports science at college rather than something to do with computers. I did do some competitions back then, but in those days races were more cross country style - laps of courses several miles long.
"Being an adrenaline junky at heart, I always enjoyed riding down the hills a lot more than I did pedalling up them so downhill is the ideal discipline for me."
I managed 10th in a national race and 3rd in a local one at Dalby Forest but as time went on, the usual distractions of one's teenage years kicked in and I went out on my bike less and less.
It wasn't until I was 30 I decided to get back into it again, and by this time there were dedicated downhill races I could enter. The format is similar to downhill skiing - you race individually over a set course against the clock.
Being an adrenaline junky at heart, I always enjoyed riding down the hills a lot more than I did pedalling up them so downhill is the ideal discipline for me.
I did a couple of seasons racing again, but then the educational software I mentioned and the subsequent move to London meant I didn't have the time so I had to put it on hold again.
In 2015/16 I was working mainly from home so finally had the time and environment to train properly. The national race series for downhill in the U.K. is called the BDS or British Downhill Series. To enter, you need 150 British Cycling ranking points which you build up through results at regional events.
So, through the course of 2015 I did various races to build up the points and then last year did a season of the BDS. My best result was 3rd ( see above photo) at a venue called Moelfre near Oswestry in North Wales. The two guys who beat me are ex professional racers so I was happy enough with the result. I got another couple of podium finishes during the year and came 4th in the overall series.
Going up against ex pros, I doubt I'll ever manage a win in the BDS although you never know. If everything comes together on the day though I reckon I might be in with a shot at the top step at one of the regional races so that's the dream.
The Android version of PGM Manager has taken up all my time over the winter though so my fitness is back to square one now and I'm not sure how much racing I'll get to do this year. But, I'll keep plugging away and hopefully get there eventually!
Amazing! You lead a pretty exciting life Jimmy! Thank you for the interview, it has been a pleasure and quite the insight into your life!
Well folks, you heard it here first! Our CEO is not only a badass mobile app developer but he is a rock star and a national biking legend too!