MultiPie is a mobile application development agency that specialises in making bespoke iOS and Android apps for large and small companies all over the UK. I launched it in 2011 with my husband Steve. We are based at the Antenna Media Centre in the heart of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter.
Our first venture into app development was almost accidental. Steve had been teaching himself programming using the then brand new Android platform. He asked me to help with creating a user interface and some graphics for what became our first app Spectrum Puzzles.
Amazon spotted Spectrum Puzzles on its app store and featured it as their “Free App of the Day”. It received 145,000 downloads that day and rose up into their top five highest rated games. As a result the game started selling well. It was at this point that we decided to launch as a proper business.
Since then we’ve continued to develop apps of our own, but we have also moved into developing apps for clients. At first we were keen to stick to creating our own intellectual property and focus on building our own products, but were aware that growing a company around just a few apps would be very risky and hard to maintain, especially in the mobile games market where popularity can be strong but short lived.
Spectrum Puzzles (left) became a top five hit on Amazon and MultiPie has just launched RowApp (right).
We also discovered that taking on outside projects could broaden our options and allow us to build a wide variety of apps. We’ve now built over 30 apps for clients working on everything from an interactive sports tracker to a tool for precision engineering.
There have been many challenges involved in getting to where we are today. We hit a huge stumbling block with our second game Astral Plague, which was not financially successful and, at the time, we were hugely disappointed.
Working together as husband and wife has also been a challenge. We started out working from home and we had to become disciplined in stepping away from the business occasionally to spend time as a couple. Moving out of the spare room and into an office has certainly helped us maintain that separation. It’s excellent that we are able to share the successes together, but it can still be a difficult to keep the balance when we face the tougher times.
One of our main learning points has been having confidence in our own convictions. When you start a company, it can be difficult not to jump on every bit of work that comes your way, but we’ve learnt to take the time to make sure that that work is taking us in the right direction. We also check that we are comfortable working with the client. Sometimes it is okay to say “no”.
It’s interesting to be asked my opinion of what it’s like to be a woman in the industry because it’s not something that I often consider. I frequently wrestle with the challenges of being a business owner, an employer and a designer, but I’m very happy to say that I have not experienced barriers because of my gender.
However I am still surprised at how stark the difference is between the number of men and women in the industry. I recently attended a large app conference in London and while I was delighted to see a lot of women there, we are still very much in the minority.
I’ve also been long aware of facts like only 2 per cent of programmers entering the industry are female, but hadn’t really understood this as a reality until we began hiring. From the multitude of CVs we receive, I can only remember one that was from a woman.
I feel very reassured that I have not experienced opposition due to my gender but it is obvious that much work still needs to be done to encourage more women to take up programming and to become entrepreneurs.
As the Southbank Centre’s artistic director Jude Kelly OBE, another Digital Women UK advocate, recently said: “Unless we are taking part in the conversations, history will conclude that we weren’t at the party.”
The digital world is a huge part of our economy and culture. It’s not a niche area and it worries me that so few women are currently a part of it. I’m encouraged by the work of organisations like Digital Women UK and I hope we will soon see a change in the industry.
About the author
Annie Haley has always had a creative mind, enjoying studying art and textiles from an early age. Annie graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2008 with a BA in Theatre Design. She initially had a love-hate relationship with technology, but after creating the user interface for her first app Spectrum Puzzles, she discovered a passion for digital design. She and partner Steve now run their own app development agency, MultiPie Ltd. Annie’s main role is designing the branding and user interface for the apps that they build, but she also has a hand in running most areas of the business.