After months of building, testing, and refining, we have opened up our new product Dashable.com to public beta. Our early customers love it and we hope you do too. Here is the story behind Dashable, as told by our CEO and product maestro Jonathan.
I run Koombea.com, a 90 person app design and development agency. We are a group of technologists and creatives that believe in giving apps the love they deserve. The last thing on our minds is time tracking and billing cycles — we just care about building brilliant apps and making our clients happy. Yet all too often we waste time with the administrative tasks instead of doing work that matters. I’ve never found a tool or app to fix our problems properly, so we set out to build a solution we would love to use.
As I see it, there are 4 fundamental things that are broken with time tracking and billing:
Custom development cycles
We need a system that understands we work in week long sprints. The solution should be able to track any unit of time.
We work in weekly cycles, so we would like to bill (and be paid) weekly. The solution should be able to bill for any unit of time.
Read the full story here
Follow @GetDashable for updates
As mentioned in our previous post, five Koombea teams participated in the Rails Rumble 2012 resulting in some really awesome apps you can now test run: QAid, Tourlett, EarthNeeds.me, TravelMemories, Washa.tv. All the hard work proved to be an extremely rewarding experience.
Looking back on that weekend, we wanted to share a few things we learned from this year’s contest:
1. Know when to rest
A lot of first timers think that staying up all night is the best way to go. Experience has proven this to be wrong. You’ll get burnt out before the first day is over. It is very important to take breaks and get some sleep to clear your mind and your energy levels fresh.
2. Have a mixed team
The more skills; the better! Make sure you not only have Ruby on Rails programmers but also front end developers and designers. Otherwise your app won’t be a cool as you intended it to be. Having a good UI/UX is as important as your awesome functional tests and code.
3. Find other teams in your area
Despite it being a group based contest it helps a lot to have other people hacking nearby for support and constant feedback.
4. Big vision, small goals
Having a big vision for your app and only 48 hours is frustrating. It is critical to keep that minimum viable product extremely clear and condensed, otherwise you’ll get distracted with unnecesary optimizations or adding half baked features that will render a poor user experience.
5. Know when to blow off steam
You and your teammates enjoy building apps, and being surrounded by the same people 24/7 can get a bit overwhelming. From time to time things can get rough as people get tired. Don’t forget to play music, bring snacks, code from a comfy couch and some toys(Wii, in our case) to blow off some steam every once in a while.
And here it is, your moment of zen…
That special time of year is back again and we couldn’t be more excited. If you guessed Rails Rumble then you’re right. For those of you who don’t know, the RailsRumble is a 48 hours race against the clock to build the best web app using Ruby on Rails. Developers all over the world compete by forming teams of up to four people with one purpose: code for 48 hours powered by loud music, tons of pizza and boatloads of Red Bull.
This will be Koombea’s 3rd year competing. The competition starts on October 13th at midnight and ends the 14th at 11:59pm. Driven to repeat our 2009 success (hi.im); 5 great teams signed up this year. Here they are:
Team Half/Nut: Mario, Luis, Alvaro and Pablo
Pitch: Counting with the skills of a previous rumble winner; QAid is a web app that will help companies to improve their website by allowing its users to earn money by reporting bugs in an easy to use widget.
Team GreenDev: Arnol, Marlon, Damian and Ivan
Pitch: EarthNeeds.Me is an app to encourage users to plant trees in their area thus making the world a better place to live. Users will be guided to complete a series of tasks that will help them earn points that can be exchanged for products as they help generate an even more engaging experience.
Team RailStars: Fabian, Lumir, Fernando and Victor
App: Travel Memories
Pitch: Aimed at globetrotting users; Travel Memories is a web app where you can log and share your travel experiences during your trip with your friends back home. It will also help organize all the detailed information you need in order to have a successful journey.
Team QuillaStyle: Miguel, Daniel, Jose and Diego
Pitch: Washa will help users follow their favorite TV shows for air times and track the episodes they’ve seen to date. Based on that information, Washa will provide recommendations for other great TV shows you might love to watch.
Team Admin123: Brayan, Charlie, Ivan and Luis
Pitch: Tourlett as the name might imply, uses a roulette-like system to help you discover new fun places around you. For the launch, they’ll be using Carribbean hot spots in Colombia. It will also help create fun itineraries and directions so you feel like you’ve got your own personal guide next to you.
As you can see; we’re locked and loaded for this year. We would like to wish our teams and the rest of the competitors the best of luck, and remember: don’t burn out in the first 12 hours and get some sleep!
Follow us on twitter as we provide updates regularly twitter.com/koombea
In late April, our Koombea team hit the skies and traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Future Insights Live conference. This year’s conference was held from April 30th through May 4th at the Vegas MGM Hotel.
All of our Project Managers: Jose, Alvaro, Mario; our Creative Director Diego; Jonathan our CEO and Ben our Biz Dev guy made the trip to check out the 8 workshops and over 100 sessions during the 5 days of Future Insights Live.
We all had a great time chatting with some of the conference organizers from Carsonified, who now run an online education site called Treehouse. We really like their service and imagine we’ll take some of the courses ourselves in the future. This conference really stood out to us because the community there was very strong. Everyone seemed really interested in what the other was working on. We had a lot of great conversations over the course of 5 days.
Jonathan represented Koombea well and presented during the conference. His talk was centered around how companies can launch a product quickly by getting external support. Obviously we’re biased since we are that external help. Jon basically pitched the value proposition of a development firm like ourselves.
Other than spending almost our entire trip at Future Insights Live, we ventured out onto the Las Vegas Strip to enjoy the Wynn Buffet, tried our luck with a little innocent gambling, experienced the Cirque de Soleil show “Ka” and took the guys who had never had it to In n’ Out Burger and sank our teeth into those outstandingly delicious burgers.
Good news, we now have walking billboards for Koombea because we handed out virtually all of our 150 tshirts emblazoned with our slogan - “Coding Apps and Taking Names.”
We had an awesome time enjoying the weather and meeting some great people! And, in the words of our friend Elvis, Viva Las Vegas!
The Koombea team is hitting the road again! This time, we’re headed to Las Vegas to attend the Future Insights Live event to learn about the latest in the web, development, design and mobile worlds.
This 5 day-event (of which Koombea is an event partner!) will bring together web developers & designers, mobile developers & designers,entrepreneurs, start-ups and agencies all under one roof for a week of learning, inspiration and networking!
We have a booth in the exhibition hall right across from Heroku, a company whose product we use a lot! We love those guys. We are definitely looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at our booth, attending some of the technical workshops and hearing Tony Hsieh talk about his new Vegas Project.
Jonathan, our trusty CEO, will also be giving a talk (or two) during the event - stay tuned to our Twitter feed (@koombea) to get more info about where and when Koombea will be in the spotlight!
Tweet at @koombea and use the #FILive hashtag if you’ll be at the event or if you’d like to meet up with us!
By: Koombea Senior Mobile Developer, Oscar De Moya
It’s been quite a while since our mobile team started to develop native iOS apps. A few years ago, after completing our training, our CEO asked us to work on a very challenging project. He told us to build a noise cancellation iPhone app, just using software… At first we thought it was just another joke. This isn’t exactly a common project or anything our clients generally want, but when Jonathan asked us for a time estimation we were dumbfounded. Who was this maniacal CEO we were working for?
Anyway, we spent around a week reading about all the theoretical stuff (physics, sound theory, waves, math, similar experiments and so on). We even reached out to a few Electrical Engineers to see if they could help, but that didn’t result in anything. Still we kept going. Finally, at the end of the week we concluded that what we were trying to do was pretty close to making a nuclear bomb with a bottle of coke (without Mentos). But we knew we couldn’t do that. We had spent an entire week (maybe longer) trying dozens of experiments and tests without any results. And then it hit us. Failing fast is critical to the success of any long term project. Jon expected us to fail. He just wanted to see how quickly we would do it.
After that we started working on more common projects, like connecting to APIs and storing data in databases, but our team talked about each step we made and, as a whole, we committed to the best method. We would succeed quickly or fail and then adjust and keep going. This became the base for Koombea’s custom iOS framework. Our framework is more than just source code and design patterns. It’s a teamwork and collaboration style in which we are all the architects of the core of our mobile apps.
In line with our agile methodology, our framework makes us work faster and more effectively than using the base iOS SDK. New developers may be confused sometimes, because our framework involves so much that is unwritten. There are no documents that describe how we collaborate or the culture that supports collaboration. Thus, it’s on us to help new hires acclimate to our work style and add their own tweaks to keep it fresh.
Technically speaking, the Koombea iOS framework contains the following features:
- Improved MVC project structure (similar to such web frameworks as RoR or CakePHP).
- Active Record pattern for CRUD operations over different data sources (e.g.: API, database, registry, files) that automatically maps retrieved data into Models.
- Helper class to build customizable forms from a JSON file.
- Template oriented view customization.
- New custom UI components.
- And a lot of helper classes and categories for the more frequent tasks.
We’ll be posting a bit more on this framework very soon. Look forward to an open source version in the future.
If you would like to learn more about our mobile team, get in touch by emailing us at Contact (at) Koombea.com or pinging us through the contact button at the bottom corner of our site.
Some of Koombea’s finest made their way to Austin, TX in early March for the annual South By South West (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Our CEO Jonathan Jonathan was accompanied by our business guys, Ben, Nicolas and Brad to enjoy everything SXSW 2012 offered for startups and the tech world a week before the festival turned its attention to music. It was a whirlwind of excitable techies, marketers and Austinites.
During our time in Austin, our group spent time at the Lean Startup Track where we enjoyed listening to different talks and meeting some other great startups. We especially loved the talk given by the new U.S. Chief Technology Office (yes, this is a real position), Todd Park (@todd_park).
Todd was incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring. Usually we hope to learn one or two good things from a single talk, take them back, sleep on them and then implement. After hearing Todd, we felt like that figurative fire under our rears was turned up several notches. We’re always doing as much as we can… Now we’re going to see if we can’t do even more.
But the trip wasn’t all business, we also had some fun when attending some unexpected events and experiencing what the city of Austin had to offer - like eating some Texas fare at Rudy’s BBQ and going to some SXSW 2012 night events.
We met up with our long time client, Rallyhood! Always nice to see them. We went to a MySpace party… guess they’re still around. We also spent a lot of our time with the nice folks from .CO. It’s a way better deal to buy .CO these days.
If you’d like to see more photos we took at SXSW 2012, please visit our Facebook page.
With a new year, comes new trends and goals - especially for the mobile app world. Being such a huge part of the world and consumer’s everyday life, the main intent these trends serve is to make lives easier.
To keep up with the competitive market, developers will be releasing some innovative and boundary-pushing products this year to attract the most users. Here are a few trends we see the mobile app development making this year:
- Location-Based Services: One of the many advantages to having a smartphone is that the carrier has a very high-functioning gadget around at all times. Knowing that, developers will be creating apps consumers can use while at specific locations tailoring the information they will receive. This gives businesses huge advantages when targeting certain consumers.
- Social Networking: One of the fastest growing and most popularcategories,social networking apps will be more and more popular to develop in the coming year. Complex and user-friendly, these apps will have some steep competition, but there’s definitely an audience ready to try something new.
- Mobile Commerce: Just like with Location-Based Service apps, mobile commerce apps will be trending for the same reasons: to target specific consumers. Scanning bar codes, price comparisons and mobile purchasing are just a few trends within that trend ready to take 2012 by storm.
Keeping up with the trends is one thing, but coming up with the next idea is even better. What are some of the things you wish your apps could do for 2012?
One of the reasons Koombea runs so smoothly and efficiently through various projects is due to an office full of ScrumMasters certified by the Scrum Alliance. With almost all employees certified - Koombea has development down to an art.
What is Scrum?
For those of you who are baffled by this term “scrum,” here’s an explanation. Scrum is a simple yet effective framework used to complete complex projects - mostly in software development - to streamline production and effectively get projects done on time.
The word “scrum” originally comes from the sport rugby. The term was used as an analogy in the Harvard Business Review comparing the rugby scrum formation to high-performing, cross-functional teams in the business world. The term and framework stuck - streamlining production and development since 1993.
To become a ScrumMaster, applicants must complete the Certified ScrumMaster course to fully learn the framework and the processes.
While many firms and Fortune 500 companies use the Scrum framework, not many have employees certified by the Scrum Alliance. Almost all of Koombea’s engineers are Scrum Alliance-certified, ensuring an office full of hardworking and efficient engineers.
Check out the projects completed using the Scrum framework over at Koombea’s Work page.
When the iPhone came out four years ago, we had some serious complaints about the default calculator. As engineers, it’s safe to say we’re picky about our numbers. The default calculator didn’t support complex operations and it lacked a reusable history. So, immediately after the original iPhone SDK was released, we got to work on Kalculator. It had every feature your average nerd or tech geek wanted on their iPhone. After Kalculator’s first release a few years went by without enough updates (too much client work!). Shame on us for neglecting our mathematically minded baby!
Today, we’re happy to announce that Kalculator has been completely rewritten and redesigned to support a variety of new features and a slick look to complement iOS 5 (coming out tomorrow FTW). We hope you enjoy it. As always, let us know what you think. We love to talk about coding and calculators.
You can download Kalculator here!
P.S. The landing page was written using responsive HTML5 and CSS3.