I’m a technologist at Backspace. I glue things like python and react together to create web and mobile gismos.
1998 I started my professional career as a developer by building the website for a pile-driving company in Amsterdam for which is was doing the cleaning as a side job while studying. Amazingly 20 years later the Walinco website i made is still in use. With glorious pile-driving gif and all.
A short while later my friend who had started a web agency let himself be convinced by his girlfriend to hire me as a front-end developer. My first job was helping develop the interactive menus for a CD-i with remote learning course material. I ended up staying for quite a few years working on maybe a hundred web projects. In time i also learned some Java and PHP and had a jolly good time going through the dotcom boom and bust with this company. In typical fashion for those days we started with about 12 people when i joined, were acquired when we had about 150, grew to 1600 people (including our new parent) at the height of the boom and then returning to about 50 people after being sold off after the Dot-com bubble.
I started blogging in this period too. Around ’99 i started my blog only stopping when first Jaiku and later Twitter made their entrance and micro blogging became de rigueur. Those early posts are mostly lost although the Web Archive has valiantly saved some of it. You can still download my sweet custom Nokia operator logos
2003 Fled the post bust blues to a small ad agency where i ended up building lots of PHP projects and being an all-round technical type amongst creatives. We worked for some great clients like the Rijksmuseum but eventually i got the freelance itch and started out on my own in 2005. One of the first things i did was ditch PHP/MySQL and start learning Python & Django with Postgres which was a good move. I use this stack to this day and some of the websites i built in that period are still running untouched 10 years later.
Freelancing was pretty great. It allowed me to work on many different projects with a lot of interesting people. Some of which i still meet regularly. I tried to start some businesses with friends in this period too. We tried our hand at an internet of things service provider (way too early) and an art discovery platform (who knew the cultural sector is not a good place for making money!) but nothing really stuck.
2013 Eventually i ran into someone who wanted to build an accounting platform for freelancers. I guess i figured that sounded about as practical as you could get after my earlier ventures, and indeed it ended up being useful to a lot people. I built the first version on Django and Angular, and taught these tools to our new hires. Some of which still work very hard improving Gekko every day. After a few years i moved on but i remain as an advisor.
2015 My first stint after Gekko was helping out a student housing platform (think airbnb for student rooms) with a rebuild of their platform in Go. This was an exercise in frustration mostly, although i did get my first taste of React here through a freelancer we hired. But i was happy to eventually meet some great people starting up a new startup studio, and were looking for technologists to join them.
We ended up founding our studio with five people and growing it to thirteen specialists in everything from growth marketing and funding to storytelling and of course technology. With a mission to create an organisation that not only helped seed startups grow but also intended to figure out how you could create the ideal environment for creative work.
We experimented with new organisational ideas like Holocracy, and got a lot of practice with tools & methods like retrospectives and design sprints. We helped build a peer to peer payment app called Florin, which allowed me to deep dive into React Native development. Also a secure email provider Soverin, a provider of WhatsApp photo books Whappbook and a forward thinking fashion brand BYBORRE. These were some of the most fun years i had in my working life but we did not end up moving fast enough. Most of the companies we started were spun off as independent entities, still running strong, and we refocused Backspace on our bread & butter; product design & development. A transformation i’ve written about a bit more on our Backspace blog.
2017 So this is where i am today. I am running Backspace together with Roy and we do lots of product work for fun little startups and great big ones alike. Technology wise i’m doing a lot of React work these days, native and web. And i still tend to grab Django whenever i need something for the backend. Through React i got a taste for functional programming and i’m currently exploring the Elixer/Phoenix combo as a performant and maintainable alternative for backend APIs and small single purpose backend apps.
Feel free to get in touch, they serve good coffee at our office in TQ and there are many ways to reach me online as well.