The Story of Checkthis for iPhone (Part 1)

Sat 02 March 2013

One year ago, in January 2013, I was contacted by Melvyn Hills and Frédéric della Faille. I knew their works, since Fred was the founder of a web agency, Bureau347, which was similar to "my media is rich", the one that I just left, and Melvyn was at the same time an employee of Bureau347 and an ex-employee of "my media".

They had just decided to work full time on their previously side project, checkthis, which is a publishing platform, allowing anybody to create beautiful web pages in minutes. That may sound a bit shallow, but their focus on simplicity and user experience had already made some ripples in the web world and proved there were still a lot of room for improvement on this front.

Fred is a designer by training and charismatic leader by nature, and Melvyn is the kind of developer you want to work with: focused on quality and always eager to learn more. At the time, they needed a new backend developer to pursue the development of checkthis. They sounded enthusiastic, and the type of people that I would enjoy to work with. Not the "Oh look, I have an awesome idea, I just need a developer to become king of the world." type. But they did not have much certainty about how they could pay me, let alone themselves, and I had just started a few days before an interesting new job at Mondial Telecom. Having recently bought a house and still heavily impacted financially, I decided that it was a bit too adventurous to join them at the time.

Nevertheless, while we were speaking at the Cafe Belga, I showed them a soon to be released iPad app that I just had finished at "my media" (This app is still not released 14 months later, for non technical reasons. Sigh…). That caught their eye, but we parted ways, agreeing that it would be cool to find a way to work together at some later point.

So, while keeping an eye on their project, I plunged in my new job at Mondial Telecom, which made me learn a ton by working on a VOIP app for iPhone.

Fred and Mel went on to become in February one of the companies funded by seedcamp, one of the most well known startup accelerators in Europe and Fred immediately left on a trip to the US to meet other potential investors. I did not have contacts with them at this point.

Fast forward to May, when they contacted me again, but this time to work as a freelancer on an iPhone app for checkthis. The idea was to transfer the easiness of publishing of checkthis to the iPhone. This sounded like a great project, and it is not that often that someone offers you to start such an ambitious project from scratch.

They were about to get $910k seed funding from very well known investors (more info here). This made a big impression on the web making community of Belgium. You do not see Belgian startups convincing foreign investors that often, especially in B2C. I was enthusiastic but I did not want to leave Mondial Telecom to become a freelancer just like that. I offered to work on a prototype of the app in my spare time, so that we could verify that we were getting along well before tying ourselves together too much. The upside of this arrangement is that I could then start right away (but at the cost of my sleep…).

Fred provided me the photoshop files with the first designs of the app, and the first commit happened on May the Twelfth, 2012.

To be continued…

In the meantime, you can register to be notified when the app is released.

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