Taking laps and talking apps

Catching up with Kotikan’s CTO Andrew Williams in Appleton Tower; it has been a few weeks since Kevin Renton and the team from Head battled at the ScotlandIS go-karting event in Kirkcaldy…

To get you up to speed, ten teams from the ScotlandIS community raced it out in this annual two-hour endurance race event. The event was won by Pulsant but it was the midfield battle between Head Resourcing and Kotikan that kept the onlookers entertained. There were three major crashes, a couple involving Kotikan drivers, with the most spectacular being on the main straight after the first turn. Turn four was also a bit dangerous, and has since been renamed ‘Death by Kotikan’. The first thing I said to Andrew was “wow, you guys were animals on the track!” he laughed, “our eagerness was let down by our cold tyres and lack of experience, although I do think that we were slightly persecuted by the stewards.” Nice try, but it was all good fun.

One area where Kotikan are not struggling in experience is producing leading mobile apps, and with the release of Skyscanner’s iOS and Android mobile apps it has put them firmly on the map as one of the leading mobile application designers and creators in Scotland. Skyscanner’s apps have over 20 million users, have topped charts in 47 countries, and was acclaimed by The Times as ‘Travel App of the Week’ when launched.

I ask Andrew what he thinks makes a successful app. “I always go to the coffee queue test – can someone get on the app and get information or be entertained in the space of a coffee being made? That’s a start, but a big part of an app’s success is based on users telling their friends about it.” I put it to him that developers have been dazzled by the stories of making millions from apps. “Yes, you see success stories like Angry Birds, but nobody has really figured out the recipe for how to get an app to take off like that. There are a lot of factors, and lots of people have theories.”

I am always reading that the mobile websites will replace the app, so we start talking about the future of mobile apps. Andrew is quite philosophical about it. “Sure, in the future a new technology may come along that makes the present way of doing things redundant, but mobile websites and apps provide different experiences. The app allows you to customise your experience and that’s what makes it so successful.”

With Kotikan being experts in travel apps used in many countries, the discussion moved on to different regions and their use of mobile technology. Andrew points out that in regions such as Asia and Africa, they have really embraced mobile technology as no attachment to a desktop is required. In a tech-smart country like South Korea mobile usage is really high, but it doesn’t really matter where you are, trends are still the same across the world and it’s clear that mobile is the future.

Sitting looking over the city of Edinburgh in Appleton Tower I ask Andrew what it’s like to be part of the tech community in Scotland. “There is a lot going on. There has been a lot of success and I think it pushes everyone else on too. The University has been a big support, with new talented graduates every year, but supporting the small start-up sector you’ve got centres like Tech Cube where the digital community can get together – I’m sure the scene will go from strength to strength.”

So as I leave Kotikan, I encourage you to check out their new app for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival  – maybe I should have pitched an idea for an app that tracks Kotikan drivers so that you can avoid them on the road. If you had seen them driving there would be enough entertainment for the coffee queue!


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