Interview by Mateja Plaskan
Julio Santos is a software engineer with a Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering. His main interests are web and mobile development, interaction design, and building Facebook applications. He is based in betahaus Berlin as lead developer and founder of the Facebook application, Gruvi. Gruvi is a platform that helps entertainment brands build and manage their communities by allowing users to give and receive movie recommendations within a network.
Gruvi is a start up registered in UK, but you started to develop the program in Copenhagen. How did you become involved with founding Gruvi, and what inspired you to found it?
I started out as one of the two initial developers, not a founder. But it so happened that, as time went by, I developed a very close relationship with both the product and original founders, and I eventually became part of the company, and am now considered a co-founder.
What made you decide to come to Berlin to develop your product? How has working from betahaus affected you and your work?
I came to Berlin because right now it really feels like the European capital. I came here from Copenhagen, and I had gotten a little tired of how strict everyone was over there – though I found it easier to communicate with people, since there were more English speakers there. In Berlin, I find everyone to be more open – you can communicate and connect with nearly anyone. It really feels like people are living here!
I had been working from a similar coworking space in Copenhagen. This particular place was located in a building formerly owned by Nokia, who, after having experienced an unfortunate round of layoffs, had left a lot of free space. So the environment here isn’t radically different, but I still prefer betahaus.
You’ve worked with some well-known studios before. How did you get in touch with them?
One of the original founders has a background in the film industry, and used to work with a trailer distribution company, so he had a lot of contacts and a good idea of how the industry worked. Aside from that, our product is revolutionizing the way business is done in that industry, and so these brands end up coming to us for help, without us having to ask them.
What is the aim of your product? Do you have any challenges in the future for Gruvi?
The aim of our product is to do something with movie recommendations that has never really been done right before. There are already products like Netflix, who use complex algorithms to try and determine what movies one wants to watch. Nobody really cares about that. Instead, people are more likely to watch movies based on recommendations from a friend, or from someone they trust to know their taste. So we base our product on that, by helping people find contacts who can get to know their taste and recommend movies to them.
What kind of advice would you have for young software engineers, particularly those wishing to found their own start ups
Software engineering is probably the best job to have at the moment. There is amazing demand in the market for software engineers, so it’s a highly-valued position. However, I see a lot of people getting pulled away from what they’d perhaps really like to do because they are so seduced by such a highly-valued job. In the end, the quality of your product depends entirely on how passionate you are about your work, so it’s best if you do something you love, even though you may not make as much money from it. Of course, if you have a family to feed, money should be more of a concern, but before that, I’d say you should just do what you love!