Overpass Apps now dubbed as one of the premier mobile app development companies in Oxfordshire is expanding its market reach. From client acquisition, digital marketing, and social media management marketing, the company has crept from the bottom of the ladder to be on the top of the industry.
As an Administrative Assistant to Overpass Apps and a Project Coordinator as well for two years now, I was able to see how the business has gradually grown by a lot of hard work and by streamlining our processes. But still, there’s a lot to learn. I want to know more about how the company has started to understand its goals and aspirations fully.
While at work, I had the chance to talk with the Owner and Developer of Overpass Ltd Eric Wroolie, and he spoke about it. It was an exciting and enlightening conversation that it made me feel grateful that I am working for this company.
Here are some excerpts of the interview that we had
Howdid you get started in this business?
I started Overpass in 2004 because I was tired of working for other people.
I can remember the day I decided to do it. It was when I was working my first contract in London after leaving a job I hated as an employee. Then, I remember sitting on a train in the middle of the day because I had to go home for a nativity play at my kid’s school. A guy was talking on his mobile phone very loudly, and he was talking about hiring “resources.” He was saying things like “we need to bring in their resource, and we need a resource to work on the website,” etc. And I remember thinking… “Dude, I’m just a resource too.”
I hated this guy sitting on the train in the middle of the day with no technical skills but making decisions about developers because they were just things to move around. And, I thought, “I bet I can learn how to do what he does much easier than he can learn what I can do.” Then, I sat down and thought about what my company could be. I started Overpass… but I still contracted for quite a long time and worked for other people while I built it on the side.
- How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I came to the UK with no technical skills back in 1998. I couldn’t find a job to save my life. Well, I did have one job which was working in a factory packing yogurt into boxes off a conveyor belt. I did that for two months and thought it might be what I do for the rest of my life. My degree was in History, and I was qualified to teach in the US, but not the UK. I couldn’t afford to go back to school and requalify. And no one would hire me with that degree. But, I applied for everything.
“I can remember the day I decided to do it. I was working my first contract in London after leaving a job I hated as an employee. I remember sitting on a train in the middle of the day because I had to go home for a nativity play at my kid’s school. ” – Eric Wroolie
Eventually, I got an interview in Canary Wharf for a trainee computer programmer. I had no experience, but they liked me for some reason. It was an “open evening,” and there were a lot of candidates– about 70. And they told me I was the only one without experience. I answered a lot of problem-solving questions and somehow got an offer.
When I turned up at work the first day, my new manager was not the person who interviewed me. He didn’t like me very much and didn’t know what to do with me since I was unskilled. I remember asking the difference between Access and Excel on the first day. I hated not knowing anything.
Luckily, the company had a “learning library” for developers where you could check out computer books. I had a two-hour-each-way commute, so plenty of time to read. I think I read more from that library than anyone else did. I took as many courses as I could, and I studied late into the night at home. After about six months, people were asking me for advice on Visual Basic 6 (which I was learning), and after a few years, I got certified as a Microsoft Developer.
I moved to many different companies, but I always tried to stay ahead of technology and learn what’s new. It’s a funny thing about tech– because it changes so fast, anyone can become an expert on the stuff they start with. No one is an expert at it all.
When it comes to my education on running Overpass? Well, I’m still learning new things every day.
- How do you market Overpass? How are people aware of it?
Overpass have our apps that have been downloaded over 10 million times. And we do a daily YouTube video for app developers all over the world. We also get a lot of work because of word-of-mouth and repeat work from our satisfied clients.
- Do you have employees? How many?
We don’t have any employees (except me). Overpass have contractors and freelancers. Occasionally, we’ll hire employees, but we don’t have any at the moment. I love working with freelancers as it gives everyone the freedom to do what they want.
- What are the most significant issues for that you have encountered in running Overpass?
There are two sides of the business. There are our apps which make money passively and our client work.
The biggest issue for the app side is getting our apps discovered and used. It is a problem every app developer faces. That’s why we share what we learn (and learn from others) on our YouTube channel.
For the client side of the business, the biggest issue is probably scheduling work and keeping everyone busy.
- Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
Over the past year, we’ve done a lot to improve our processes. We’ve always been able to deliver, but we need to do it the same way every time. We shouldn’t have to rely on talented people all the time. I think we’ve finally got to that point now so that we can scale up and help more companies. In the next five years, I would like to be able to help more UK companies build their apps.
“There are two sides of the business. There are our apps which make money passively and our client work.” – Eric Wroolie
- What is the future for this type of business?
App developers have a great future. It makes me laugh to hear people say the app market is dead because we’ve hardly even started using it yet. I remember people saying web was dead after the 2002 dot com bubble burst. But, we moved more to corporate. I see more and more development happening for the enterprise in the future.
- If something happens to you, what will happen to Overpass?
It is part of the processes we put in place. We have people who can take the reigns now if something happens to me. This helps reassure a lot of our clients. Overpass should continue long after I do!
- Any message?
“The app markets are active, and there is still so much to do. Every year, Apple and Google come out with new features, and the app market evolves. If your company doesn’t have an app yet, now is the time to get one.”