Hi there, my name is Tijs and i build mobile and web apps with Automatique
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 hired me as employee number 12 of NetlinQ. 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 as a front-end developer. 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 were acquired when we grew to about 150 people, then grew to 1600 at the height of the boom, eventually dropping to about 50 people 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 for instance.
Fled the post bust blues to a small ad agency where i ended up building lots of web 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 and start learning Python & Django 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.
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
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. While Go is inyerating 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. We refocused Backspace on our bread & butter; product design & development for a while but since we ended up all working on seperate projects we decided to go back to good ‘ol freelancing instead.
So after that latest adventure i’m back at Automatique, the micro agency i started in 2005. People ask me to help with early stage startups regarding teams, technology or just feedback. And i do mobile, and some web, development for startups and corporates alike. Technology wise i’m mostly using the React Native framework for cross-platform mobile development these days. For my own projects i’m tinkering with Swift & Kotlin for pure native development and Flutter as an alternative cross-platform solution.
Feel free to get in touch: hello [at] tijs [dot] org.