This has been in my “drafts” since May 2009

Almost four years ago, I joined Jack Schulze, Matt Webb and Tom Armitage at what became BERG.

Schuze & Webb & Jones & Armitage

I’m leaving this week.

I’ll write more about that soon, but for now, here’s a post I found in my “drafts” folder about leaving the start-up I co-founded (Dopplr) and joining Schulze & Webb.

I didn’t publish it at the time, as shortly after I wrote it and left Dopplr the company started talks with Nokia which led to it being acquired.

Looking back – I certainly got to explore the domains I hoped I would be able to explore working with Jack and Matt, and more. It’s also interesting (to me at least) to think about what we were trying to do at the time with the ‘Social Atlas’ and the iPhone app, which of course in the meantime have become central to services like Foursquare, Yelp and the like.

Also – I joined S&W after spending a while in an advisory role while at Dopplr, and I’m pleased to say I’ll be keeping an advisory role at BERG going forward.

Anyway – out of ‘drafts’ it comes.

Leaving Dopplr, Joining Schulze & Webb

Just a note about some changes. Since June, I’ve been working full-time as a principal at Schulze & Webb and have reduced my role at Dopplr to an involvement of about a day a month as a design advisor.

I’d been working on Dopplr for two and a half years altogether, since it’s inception in a cottage in Norfolk, about 20 months of that full-time. At the beginning of the year I thought that it was likely that 2009 would be the last year I’d spend working on it.

Also, the beginning of the year brought a trip to Etech in San Jose – which convinced me that a territory that I’d always loved to explore was taking commercial shape: the overlap of the physical and digital in our environments. The research I’d done for my webstock talk had resurrected old hankerings for interactive architecture, physical product design and embodied interaction. Etech’s diverse schedule of talks from materials experts, architects, synthetic biologists, hackers working on augmented reality, Arduino, data visualisation and robotics sealed the deal – I wanted in.

2009 was going to be an exciting year at Dopplr however. The direction of the service was broadening: from one that dealt with social sharing of travel plans to something much more ambitious: “The Social Atlas” as we called it… More of which later… But, we’d gone through 10 major releases of the service, and broadly the outline trajectory for it was to build as a business rather than as a product design problem, as it should be. I’m a product launch kind of guy, and so I talked with Marko and Matt B. about my intentions, stating that the iphone app, which at the time was codenamed “Spitfire” would be the last thing I’d work on full-time.

Spitfire and “The Social Atlas” were particularly interesting, as they built upon one of the original discussions that Marko, Matt Biddulph, and myself had when we were starting out on Dopplr: what do you get if you enable the social bookmarking of spacetime.

I talked a little about this at IxDA, and along with Tom Insam we’d tried some early experiments in ‘placemarking’ – but the ‘social atlas’ really started getting built in earnest at the beginning of this year. We all thought the mobile component was essential, and an iphone application was a priority.

Tom Taylor came on board for the build, and rapidly we got to a place where we were able to prototype and shape the interaction design directly on the device – essential. I left working at Dopplr full-time just after the final prototyping of the app, and the credit for the fine finished article goes in large to the Toms Taylor and Insam, and in terms of the visual design to Boris Anthony.

Boris has taken over design duties at Dopplr, with additional interaction design work from the team including of course, Celia Romaniuk. The service is in great hands, and under Marko and MattB’s leadership in terms of the business and technology, I’m certainly very happy to remain a founding investor!

It’s been a great time and a really fun ride – it’s a bittersweet feeling to be sure to leave your first start-up behind, but I think it was the right time for me to step to one side and let Dopplr grow to the next level.

So, to the next thing.

I’ve been working with Matt and Jack in an advisory role for over a year, and in that time the range of work that they’ve been involved in has been formidable. They really have been amongst those pioneering research and design in areas that fascinate me, such as data as material, connected things and places.

After talking with them about my plans I was delighted when they offered me a larger role in their practice. I’m now Director of design there, since going full time with them in early June, and have a focus on a lot of the strategic design consultancy work that S&W does, as well as heading up interaction and visual design direction on projects.

We’ve got a lot going on at the moment, and Matt is writing about it in a series of weekly posts on our blog, Pulse Laser.

I’m particularly excited about the next stage in S&W’s evolution, that we’re going to announce this week…

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