technology

Five Questions With: Nick Kishfy

PHOTO COURTESY MOJO TECH
"THERE'S A certain camaraderie that working together in a high-risk endeavor tends to bring out in people," said Nick Kishfy, co-founder of Warren-based Mojo Tech.
Posted 5/19/10

The Mojo Tech co-founder talks about the Warren company and how it resembles a startup.

PBN: What do you do at Mojo Tech?

KISHFY: We focus mainly on creating Web applications using Ruby on Rails, although we also develop software for the iPhone. Web applications are different from websites and blogs in that they require custom development and can’t be built using off-the-shelf solutions. The software that we build is often labeled “Web 2.0” because it relies on relatively new Internet technologies, which enable Web applications to do much more than was possible even a few years ago. We produce many applications for entrepreneurs and startups, but we also work with nonprofits and larger companies when their in-house teams need a boost or lack the right expertise.

PBN: Are your employees and clients concentrated in Rhode Island, or spread out?

KISHFY: Our core development team is here in Rhode Island, and we prefer to hire locally. (In fact, we’re looking for a Rhode Island-based junior Rails developer now.) It’s not easy to find great engineers locally, so we also have a few remote employees. Prior to starting Mojo Tech, I managed globally distributed development teams for a few startups, and that experience has really helped us grow the company to include off-site employees and avoid many of the communications and efficiency issues associated with a distributed team.

Our clients are spread out all over the world. We’re currently working on projects for companies in Rhode Island as well as San Francisco, New York, Boston and Pisa, Italy. Working simultaneously on projects for clients on the West Coast and in Europe can make for some long days, but we enjoy the challenge.

PBN: Can you tell me about some of those projects?

KISHFY: One interesting project we’re working on is a “social media player” called IMHO. IMHO’s users can discover music, movies and games, and can share that content with their Facebook friends. IMHO is written in Flex and Ruby on Rails and utilizes Amazon Web Services and a highly customized architecture to overcome the scaling issues of viral applications. It’s currently in open beta and has been gaining users very quickly.

We’ve also just launched an Adobe Air application for Navionics that allows boaters from around the world to download nautical charts directly from their home computers for use in plotters on board their boats. We built the application using Air so that it would be PC, Mac and Linux compatible and very easy to install and update. Prior to launching this app customers had to go to a retailer in order get new charts, but now all they need is an Internet connection and card reader.

Here in Rhode Island, we’ve been giving Swipely’s engineers a boost while they look to add to their internal team.

PBN: It seems as though you operate a bit like a startup company, even though you’re not actually a startup. Would you say that’s accurate?

KISHFY: Yes, we certainly do operate similarly to many startup companies, even though, unlike a typical startup, our primary focus isn’t on building our own product. As a group, we attempt to accomplish the same goals as when we worked as engineers in startups. In those days, we came to realize that our true strength was our capacity to effectuate ideas. Now, with Mojo Tech, we’ve started a company that explicitly offers to effectuate the ideas of our clients, while leaving the ownership of each client’s ideas to the client.

There are a lot of things that we really enjoyed about working in startups. There’s a certain camaraderie that working together in a high-risk endeavor tends to bring out in people. Everyone knows that the future hangs on the actions of each member of the team. Teams in well-run startups tend to remain agile and to produce work at a fast pace – no one is complacent and everyone has a voice. We respect and foster this type of atmosphere at Mojo Tech.

PBN: You mentioned Angus’ Davis new startup Swipely earlier. I know you and other Mojo Tech employees attended Providence Geeks last week where he showed it off – what’s your take on the evolution of the tech community in Rhode Island?

KISHFY: I think it’s evolving rapidly and we’re very excited to be part of it. A lot of credit has to be given to Jack Templin and Brian Jepson for getting the Geeks together. Prior to attending those events I would never have guessed we had such a talented tech community. Recently, Angus’ decision to headquarter Swipely here has supercharged the existing tech community and has caused investors, entrepreneurs and engineers from well beyond Rhode Island’s borders to take a look what’s going on here. It’s great to see that happening because we’ll need to draw people in from out of state to grow as a community.

At Mojo Tech, we’re proud to be playing a role in the growth of the Rhode Island tech community, and will be hosting a meeting of the Rhode Island Ruby Users Group next month. •

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