2012 to 2013 - Snipper

In 2012 I left TomTom after almost-five wonderful years. A quite incredible week ensued.

  • Started on Monday morning at the Dutch branch of Unic, a web agency.
  • On Tuesday, got contacted by another ex-TomTommer who was working at a local startup.
  • Met him and his other colleagues on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Walked into the Unic office on Friday morning and quit.
  • Started on Monday at the other startup.

The issue with Unic was mainly their tech stack, based around a monolithical Java eCommerce frameworkcalled Hybris. The resignation talk I had on Friday with my manager there was legendary. He started yelling, accusing me of lying, at some point he showed me his wedding ring saying "..I have a pact with my wife and I don’t sleep with other women!". He clearly missed the points that I hadn’t married him and that the ‘trial period’ goes for employees as well as employers. A few months later, that Unic Dutch branch declared bankrupcy.

That is the story of how I became the 4th employee at Snipper. Housed at a breathtaking location in Amsterdam, the company’s main product was a social media focused on video sharing. They had had some initial encouraging success and wanted to boost their tech. The idea was clearly worth the efforts - just see the place that Snapchat, Vine or TikTok hold today.

My main task there was working on the Android native app. The current version had been built by an external agency and we embarked in rewriting the whole thing, server included. The images below show both previous and newer version (they might be iOS screenshots, the difference was really minimal.)

Back then, Android was still relatively new; the battle with iOS was raging. I think the latest Android API then was Ice Cream Sandwich. We also rebuilt the backend with Java and Tomcat. The legacy server was built using ColdFusion. For the little I’ve seen, it was a way to create server logic using a language similar to XML. Ew.

The app had its popularity ups and downs, but another product came to shine: the SnipperWall. It was basically a white-label aggregator webpage that would show in real-time the ‘conversation’ around a set of hashtags, users and topic on a bunch of social platform like Twitter, Snipper itself, Instagram and so forth. The company founders were an absolute sales-powerhouse and they managed to close contracts with great partners in the entertainment world, including local celebrities, the Ajax Arena stadium, huge concert venues and the TV show ‘The Voice Of Holland’.