How tech can help provide consumer choice

When they graduated from Enspiral Dev Academy as freshly-trained web developers in September 2015, new mates Denis and Michael decided to start a business together. Now, their business, glimp, is releasing an important new offering that helps provide more choice for consumers. And contrary to the stereotypical idea of the “startup lifestyle” as depicted in movies about Silicon Valley excess, Michael and Denis say their experience of a slower, simpler life has been one of the biggest draws to their new careers.

glimp is a comparison website for utilities; it aims to save Kiwis time and money by making it easier to compare and switch utility providers. The commercial model involves providers paying glimp for successful customer acquisitions; a combination of Consumer NZ’s impartiality and a supporting financial model. Its initial offering provided broadband comparison; now glimp’s expanding to provide consumers with comparison of electricity and gas prices.

It’s simple, effective, and not at all what co-founders Denis Tyurkov and Michael Speight thought they’d be doing with their lives a mere two years ago. They met in July 2015, when they started the bootcamp phase at programming school Enspiral Dev Academy, which trains industry-ready web developers in 18-weeks.

Denis had been playing around in coding on and off during in his downtime from a “not very exciting” job in auditing. Michael, meanwhile, was a facilities manager, looking after commercial property.

“I didn’t even know how to turn a MacBook on, let alone get into the developing side when I left my old job,” says Michael. Before that, he was an electrician, but he’d looked at coding on and off and found it made a lot of sense to him. Michael had always loved building things and making them work; plus, he was really unhappy in his career.

“It was a big step, emotionally and financially, to commit to Dev Academy, but I did it,” he says.

The $11,000 course fee, which cannot be covered by a student loan, is a challenge to many considering the course. Dev Academy offers $500 scholarships for those from groups underrepresented in tech, and most students find jobs fairly quickly after graduating that allow them to recoup those costs in well-paying web developer roles. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get through the 18 week programme.

Michael was amazed by what he could do with so little money. “I felt happier and had less things to worry about, which was eye-opening,” he says. The experience has given him a sense of minimalism that he retains to this day.

“Like Michael, I wasn’t happy in my career,” says Denis. He came across Dev Academy and joined the course 10 months later, saving the tuition money in the lead up to leaving his old job. Starting a business was Denis’ goal coming into the course; the freedom to work anywhere and to do or create anything appealed.

The pair didn’t know each other before Dev Academy, but worked on a project together early on in the course and immediately clicked. Michael knew straight away that he wanted to work on a business with Denis. “I think it was written in the stars,” he laughs.

Their newly-minted coding skills helped break down the financial barrier to starting a business like glimp. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” says Michael. “There are models doing utilities comparison for consumers in Australia and the UK. We were very surprised that it hadn’t already been done here — and we think the reasons are purely financial. If you don’t have the coding skills and the time to build something like this yourself, you’d have to pay for someone else to do it.”

“If you don’t have the coding skills and the time to build something like this yourself, you’d have to pay for someone else to do it.”

Time and coding skills were two things Michael and Denis definitely had. But heading a business, they’re not only coding but also marketing themselves and running all other aspects of the company, wearing as many hats that fit at once. And all the while, they’re working from their own homes to keep the overheads as low as possible. There are no salaries yet, but glimp is breaking even.

Feedback has been good, too; at an early stage of the business, they called up all 200 customers to date and got positive responses. Denis says the simplicity and ease of use is a big drawcard. Michael says he’s heartened by compliments regarding the UX (user experience – how easy and comfortable the site is to use).

Their lives look different to how they imagined a couple of years ago. Michael says he’s happier.

“The past year has probably been the happiest year of my life,” he says. “It’s very strange. I didn’t expect it to be such a drastic change. I’ve got less stuff, less money, but I’m way happier.”

“And more time,” says Denis. “We’ve got more time. You’ve got to realise that time is the only thing you can’t get back. You can always earn more money or get a job. But it’s great to be avoiding the 9–5, plus two hours stuck in traffic.”

“It’s the little things too,” says Michael, “Going to the supermarket on a Tuesday at half past 10 in the morning. There’s no one there! We’re living our lives off-peak, working in the evenings, working in the weekends, still getting everything done.”

As for the company’s future, glimp aims to delve into consumer comparison in other arenas, such as financials and insurance, making it a one-stop shop for comparing services. You can find out more on their site, and get a taste for the type of web tools Dev Academy grads can build!