By N. L. Bowen
Curtis Padmore, the creative brain behind Simplified Apps and West Toonz, is on a mission to develop technology that can bring positive changes to its users and by extension the world. His work attitude is simple…‘just get it done’ and he believes that to achieve economic stability, Barbadians have to work their way out of the current economic situation, especially using technology.
It is therefore Curtis’ companies that would assist with his plans to achieve this ambitious goal. Simplified Apps, an app development company boasts the creation of various projects for local and international companies including Sagicor and Blackberry. In May 2016 the company recently engaged in a project to build 50 websites for NGOs. West Toonz an animation company has created animations for entities such as UNICEF and Spider Eye, a UK animation company.
However, Curtis’ journey to the top was not instantaneous, and it was working at the Ministry of Education that piqued his interest in technology entrepreneurship. He was also a primary school teacher, worked at offshore companies and owned a defunct business Cell Directories. Nevertheless, his determination has paid off and in addition to establishing two businesses, Curtis has become a respected figure in local and regional tech circles. He was a guest speaker at the Innovate Barbados conference, an information sharing event for business leaders and entrepreneurs.
It is Curtis’ profound belief that the productivity of a country can be increased through a dedicated workforce and technological development. With an overall goal to change the world through this field of science, his ambition, foresight and strategic businesses indicate that this mission can indeed be accomplished.
Who is Curtis Padmore?
I am a passionate tech entrepreneur who wants to change the world through technology, ideas and work. I usually joke with people saying that I am married to my work and this year would be my 10th year as entrepreneur. I am the CEO of Simplified Apps and a 50% partner in West Toonz.
What motivated you to create these businesses?
It started with the Media Resource Department at the Ministry of Education. The educational software wasn’t perfect and some of it used American Standard English! Teachers had to correct the software when they used it. I pitched an idea to the department to allow me to develop one educational software as a trial… and they liked it. I created software for them (through West Learner a newly developed company at the time) for about 2 years.
Around 2009, I saw the potential to subdivide my company into two areas. This desire was driven because in 2007 the IPhone came out and there was the development of the app industry in 2008. I also saw some early interest in the animation sector. Additionally, in order to create educational software for children, you must combine software development with motion graphics and animation to make it more ‘kid friendly’. So I was able to take the rudiments of these and split the company to pursue app development and animation.
Out of West Learner two companies were born …West Toonz and West Apps. I was looking to develop an app called ‘SIMplify’ and during a meeting with Dereck Foster, he suggested that I call the company Simplified Apps… I also felt that it would connote a better brand identity where the mode of operation is to simplify problems and life, so I went with it…
When were Simplified Apps and West Toonz established and what type of companies are they?
West Toonz Inc. an animation studio was incorporated in 2012 and Simplified Apps the app development company was incorporated in 2013. We did animations for McBride’s (Go Insecticide), UNICEF (Break the Cycle campaign) and a trailer (Danger Dog) for Spider Eye a UK company. The first contracted app project was for Sagicor. We built Sagicor’s first app (Sagicor On Scene), after that we were contracted by BlackBerry and built an app for the Blackberry Playbook. We also did the Fully Accessible Barbados app for the Ministry of Tourism and the Barbados Council for the Disabled.
Are there challenges in operating these types of businesses in Barbados?
Challenges are obtaining funding for development. There is not much interest in early stage investment…the interest is mainly in the later stages. There were also low revenue periods and dealing with the bureaucracy and ‘red tape’. However there are new opportunities available to assist businesses. These are through legislature such as the Cultural Industries Development Act and Caribbean Export’s (RAIN) Investment Readiness and Co-Investment grants.
What are your future plans for your businesses?
2017 is the year where I look to make a new jump. I am starting a project in January to build 25 apps in collaboration with Barbados Community College, Data Processing Department and other government and private sector partners. Our focus is also on building our own IP (Intellectual Property) because the real revenue is not being a service company, but by being an intellectual property owner.
What advice would you give to those who want to establish a technology based business?
Additional/ Fun Facts
– Curtis recently rediscovered his love of chess… occasionally plays electronically via his phone app.
– Enjoys cooking, believes that he can make a great tasting dish of cou cou.
– Visited Barcelona to attend World Mobile Congress and made interesting business contacts. He loved being in a non-English speaking country and the fact that the wine was very affordable!
– Likes Anime shows such as One-Punch Man and lists the Walking Dead as one of his favourite TV shows.