Self-taught coders take it to the streets


VektorDigitalKurt McIntire and Matt Holmboe say they both played SimCity obsessively while growing up, which sheds some light on the deep-rooted interest that both have shared since they were kids.

“We’re really passionate about cities and how they work,” McIntire says.

So it’s no surprise that the two best friends came into careers as civil engineers after attending college at the University of Minnesota. A desire to make a bigger impact has led them into a new frontier: the development of apps that can help users become more involved and engaged with their cities.

FMC0This was no easy task. While maintaining their regular day jobs, McIntire and Holmboe taught themselves how to code over the course of three years, spending their nights studying and experimenting. This April they launched Vektor Digital, “a team of designers and developers building iOS mobile apps that solve problems.”

FMC2Their latest offering is called FixMyCity. The free app is designed to provide citizens with an easy, fast and effective method for reporting non-emergency city issues. Bothered by a pothole or graffiti in your neighborhood? Simply pull out your iPhone/iPad, take a picture, select the issue type, enter any additional details, then click “Send” and watch it post to the app’s live map feed. Based on your location, the message is automatically routed to the correct city inbox.

The app was just released earlier this month, and currently has about 50 active users, most of whom are based in the Twin Cities.

Streats1Vektor has also produced another app called Streats, which enables users to find local food trucks based on information pulled from Twitter. Much like FixMyCity, Streats is free to download and is designed around usability and simplicity, providing people with a handy resource for locating food of particular types in their area.

For both apps, McIntire and Holmboe ultimately envision national usage, with monetization models based around partnerships. They say that cities can become more efficient by prioritizing repair work through the insight delivered by FixMyCity, and food truck organizations will be making their services more accessible through Streats.

If you’re interested in learning more about the story of these two self-made coders and their journey to becoming professional developers, they have a blog on their website called Zero to Coder that chronicles the process.