This is a story about oil and water. It’s a story about a couple in their 50’s and their pursuit of a mobile app. It’s a story about their perseverance, in getting the app published in the Google Play Store and the App Store. A story that shows that you’re never too old to get into tech. Here’s our story:
Friends and family questioned our sanity when we told them we were taking a big step: we were developing a mobile app. Some of them felt that since we were nearing early retirement age we should just take it easy, take up golf, and forget about the working world. Others felt the tech world is for millennials and people who have their faces constantly buried in their devices, and they knew that we fit neither of those archetypes.
My wife and I are both in our mid-to-late 50’s, we’re your prototypical baby boomers. We know how to use Windows and our Android smartphones, so in my mind at least, this makes us capable of taking on a tech venture. Truth be told, my wife wasn’t so keen at the start but she came along for the ride anyway. Now she is our head of marketing; something that’s totally out of her comfort zone, and she’s learning daily as our project grows.
When I’m not the face of my tech startup Windshieldink, I am a mining engineer who has been in the industry for over thirty years and an independent consultant for the last 20 years. I’m also, however, the type of person who likes to learn new things all the time and not afraid to step outside my comfort zone. So when my consulting work goes through periodic lulls, my boredom quickly surges. Once, during a quiet period a few years ago, I wrote a screenplay! Even though I knew the project would likely sit on my hard drive in perpetuity, I felt challenged and compelled to go for it. I feel the same way about our tech venture. Unfortunately for my wife, this one was a much more involved endeavour than the screenplay.
The idea for the Windshieldink app originally germinated over 20 years ago, long before the days of the smartphone. Living in Calgary at the time, my wife pulled into a strip mall and parked next to a car with a driver sitting in the driver seat. When she looked at the driver, it was clear that he had passed away. Beyond our immediate concern for the man and his family, this situation also made me realize that we really have no way to contact car owners in times of need.
Many years later, the idea of car owner messaging using license plate numbers resurfaced due to one of many road incidents. I thought, “Someone should invent an app that can allow car owners to make themselves reachable.” Then I thought, “Why does it have to be someone else? Why not me?” At the very least, developing this technology would be a fun and interesting project to take on and who knows where it could lead.
So I got the ball rolling and before long realized there was clearly going to be a lot of administrative work involved, as well as social media marketing, blog writing, and all the financial aspects to take care of. Thankfully my wife was a natural fit to take care of this side of the business as she had done it in the past. But we knew there was also going to be a lot to learn, especially when it came to social media marketing, data analytics, and dealing with software developers.
Being a baby boomer, I had a certain bias in mind for the design and layout of the app that might be a bit different than many apps we see today. Would I be able to think like the app developers of today? I’ll be the first one to admit that I had incredibly limited knowledge of the tech industry, so we really started from the ground up.
I starting attending a lot of tech meetups, and believe me when I say “a lot”! At first I had difficulty attending as I feared being the oldest guy in the room (which 80% of the time I was) and not understanding the tech talk, let alone the tech world as a whole. However, after forcing myself to go I became more and more comfortable and now attend one or two a week if I can.
At the meetups I learned about a variety of things, from software development to marketing or even simply professional networking. In fact, I found the Millennials who attend these events very helpful and willing to share information. There is a certain camaraderie amongst the attendees whereby everyone wants to see others succeed. They all know they have more to learn and so want to learn from the experiences of others. It’s a refreshing attitude and helped me immensely.
The app development process took over a year which encompassed finding and managing two overseas developers who spoke very little English. We met a Marketing Strategist at a meet up who became our chief advisor and guided us step by step through the design and development of our websites as well as kick started us into social media posting and publishing content. Neither of us were social media gurus. Next came the copywriters, graphic designers, online video developer, writing FAQ’s, policies and producing other relevant content. It grew beyond what we had ever imagined and may perhaps share more of our story in the future.
We eventually and successfully got our app into Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. Subsequently, we also rolled out three potential monetization services that work directly with the app in hopes of expanding our offering in the near future. But, as all tech startup founders know, we need to gauge interest first and see how people respond to the solution we are putting forward.
This project has been a labour of love and learning. Sure, validation would be nice, but my primary goal of getting an app into the app stores has already been achieved. Next, we move on to the marketing side of the project. We now need to learn about social media marketing, influencer marketing, or media outreach. This will be another mountain of a learning curve to climb for both of us.
When our mobile app becomes a household name for all vehicle owners, we’ll know we have conquered the marketing mountain but we’re just at base camp right now.
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