Julian Wright learned how to code well into his 60’s. Now in his 70’s, he’s running a startup which develops apps. Linwood Apps specialises in teaching people how to read and play music. It’s a small business which Julian hopes will eventually provide more of an income than his Spanish pension. In the meantime however, he’s having incredible fun on his journey.
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Manish Verma 0:00
Would you say you’re very business minded?

Julian Wright 0:51
No, not really.

Manish Verma 0:54
The word impetuous means to act without thoughts. Okay. And it’s a word that’s usually saved for children. It’s not often used to describe pensioners. But Julian rights from Braunstone describes himself as impetuous

Julian Wright 1:12
I have always done sort of like very impetuous things. And it’s I’ve regretted sometimes, ah not again!

Manish Verma 1:23
Julian has a lifetime of impetuous decisions behind him. And he’s not finished making them just yet. His latest is what I’m here to talk to him about an app, which he thought up, coded, marketed and now attempting to sell all by himself at the age of 72.

Julian Wright 1:44
It was just another silly idea. Well, why not? It’s a lot of fun. Yeah, doesn’t make a lot of money, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Manish Verma 1:52
See, Julian’s fun idea had been a dream of his for decades. And now that the technology is finally here, he’s going on all in to making it a reality. Hi, I’m Manish Verma. And welcome to the Leicester startups podcast.

Well, I started off as working in theatre. I wanted to be an actor on stage. And part of me says I should have continued with that, but I fell in love with the guitar. I actually my guitar history is I got my first guitar when I was 15. and learned to plates, pop songs and stuff. And the school friend and I got together and we wrote some songs. And we got to audition for one of the major record producers of the day. This was when we were 16 a guy called Joe Meek and he had the Tornadoes and he put lots of bands on tour around the country. He wrote Telstar, which was a an all time number one hit was up six weeks or something at the number one spot, and we audition for him. And he loved our stuff. And he offered us a recording contract. Of course, we were busing and we got home and my parents got the contract checked just as a matter of course, and it was shark infested. And he got all those stars, the number of stars the tornadoes included all on this terrible contracts. And, and the reason why we we got Joe Meeks telephone number to ask him for the audition was that the the the Tornados the group which was so famous, I mean, that was top of the world. And they were touring around the country and that was so poor there was so badly paid by him that they have no money to for hotels. So they used to stay at the houses of fans and myself. My sister was a big fan and offered them all come and stay with us. And so they did and they used to every time they were less than they stayed with us. All sorts of people did some of the, the jaywalkers did. Screaming Lord such came once. It was like a party and my mom would get out the whiskey and doing the big fry up and they loved it. And so that’s how we got that. But that week, so we got off of this contract by Joe meek. And the parent. Our parents said, No, you can’t sign it. It’s just and if we had, it would have been five years of sheer slavery, but then we would have been famous. These things come once in a lifetime. Really, you know that? Yeah. It’s it’s a and you’re lucky if they do.

Unfortunately, Julian’s first startup, his band called Jerry and Jules didn’t get another chance at the big time.

Julian Wright 4:52
Oh, sorry. You want to know what they sound like? Okay, here you go. How many times do I have to tell you this is love. Know that this is love. It was very sense of the day. Yeah, we would have been a hit I’m sure.

Manish Verma 5:11
So Julian wasn’t going to be in a famous band, but he did want to pursue music. So he studied classical guitar. After that, he began giving recitals, and then started teaching guitar at the University of Leicester. Despite it being decades before smartphones even existed, this experience planted the seed for his app idea.

Julian Wright 5:34
I first came across the idea for my app, it first occurred to me as I because I had to learn to read music from scratch really, myself. I mean, I’d learned a bit you learn a bit at school don’t know what a crotch it is, and stuff like this. But, you know, I was confronted suddenly with all this very flowery music that seemed to me, you know, very complex stuff. And I had to work it out note by note what it actually meant, and how to read it. And it was a foreign language right and completely real put off. But I persevered. But I worked out that what good site readers do is they read ahead. They don’t name the notes that they’re playing. And they keep their eyes on the music. I mean, it sounds dead obvious, but what what they do is they, they don’t look at the note they’re playing, they look at the next chunk of notes. The processes, see the symbol, make the sound right, rather than see the symbol, name the note, make the sound because interposes is completely extraneous intellectual process. Okay, so, and I tried putting all this into a sort of a method, I thought, well, what we need is sort of start step by step one note at a time. You have a kind of little slideshow of the notes, so you don’t look at you don’t play the first slide until the second slides appear. I actually do out this this diagram of a clockwork machine, right? Which would do these slides clockwork but you know, things were clockwork that you know, we didn’t have digital stuff. wristwatches, what clockwork alarm clocks or clocks. And so I realised I couldn’t get it done those days. And I sort of thought about it over the years. So this idea actually was from your 20s. Right through up until, as you said about 10 years ago, that was the idea was still there, but you just didn’t the technology wasn’t exactly exactly.

Manish Verma 7:33
In some ways, then Julian was ahead of his time. Some musicians were able to sight read music, he’d come up with a solution, guiding them through it with visuals, but the technology wasn’t around just yet. For him to make it accessible. He tried clockwork, but that didn’t work. He had a Commodore PET computer in the 70s. And that didn’t do the job either. So he put the idea aside and moved to Spain. That’s right. He moved with his wife and daughter to Metro near Barcelona. He continued to play music and he taught English as a living. He lived there for 20 years. Then in 2007, he returned to Leicester. And the tech scene had completely changed. In 2007, the very first iPhone was released, and then was supposed about nine to 10 years ago, something was I was listening to the radio, and someone started talking about apps.

Julian Wright 8:36
I thought, gosh, that sounds interesting. And I looked into it and I thought, well, this is this is the answer. You know, I write an app. Another impetuous thing you know what I write a vocal. Okay, I just write it out. It’s bitter pill. I could tell you I paid for my impetuosity. But I thought, well, I’ll have a go and I bought a c++ for dummies book and kind of read through it and understood most of it most of the principal, no, not all of it, but the bits and pieces, enough to get me going and, and just started off really. And it was it was just a very interesting challenge, right. And I got I got kind of hooked on it and I still am really, right. coding is a headbanger. It really is. But um, you know, when you actually remember the time, I put my first image on screen, and I laughed. I love that delight, you know, and then with the first sound of made the first sound come out of the movie, it was just wonderful. It’s like being Harry Potter and waving a wand and all of a sudden things happen. You know? It’s so it has its rewards, but it was a slog. Then I managed to get on a six week evening class, at least college righ. So that six very useful sessions there. And then I started going along to Ben Ravilious’, startup club. And at one stage, he said, Oh, come along and bring your app and show. So I said, well, it’s only a prototype form. It’s not working fully yet. It doesn’t matter, bring it along. So I took it long and it went, actually pretty well considering. And then, the end of the evening, a guy called David Chan, who’s a colleague of Ben’s as they do mentoring and things he came up with. So I’ll give you a hand with the code if you like, I’ll mentor you. And he’s been helping me ever since on really quite a regular basis. And he just, he looks over stuff says no, no, no, do it this way. And so I he gives me homework. And I go off and I, you know, reject something and it works so much better. He’s been absolutely absolutely wonderful with his generosity. And I found with with all of this, this world, the, you know, the startup world and the tech world, the general is absolutely wonderful. And this is something that I’ve never really found in the music world, right? You know, I know loads of musicians and we chat about music and things, but actually getting musicians to kind of get together and do something which achieves a common end. I’ve tried it right and it doesn’t work, right, you know, you have to do it yourself or it doesn’t get done. But in this startup world, people are prepared to help each other you know, why do you think that is? I don’t I don’t know. I think there must be just genuinely very nice people here and and also maybe it’s this thing about enlightened self interest, you know, you help someone else someone else will help you. You know, which is a very good philosophy and yeah, yeah, my opinion.

Manish Verma 11:48
So from going to a Leicester Startups events, was it was it a bit daunting? Because if you don’t mind me saying but you know that I’m sure that the average age of a startup entrepreneurs is much younger than 72. If you don’t mind, yeah. What was it like going into this event with lots of other coders, lots of entrepreneurial type? What was it like?

Julian Wright 12:11
Very, very friendly. In fact, I mean, I think they did think, gosh, you know, you guys me, but I don’t mind that that’s okay. But they were impressed with the app. Yes, they were.

Manish Verma 12:25
Julian rights is 72 years old and the founder of lynnwood apps. It’s a business which makes apps apps, which teach people about music specifically. And it all started way back when Julian was in his 20s when he thought of a method to teach people to read music, but the technology wasn’t there yet to make it a reality. Decades later, mobile phone applications became a thing. So he learned to code. He went to night classes, bought a dummy’s guide, and even went along to a less the startups event. He then began building the back end of his very first app.

Julian Wright 14:00
I read guitar, there are 240 exercises and various length 30 to 64 bars and stuff are really quite long. And I had to write all of those. And also I had to Photoshop all the symbols, the staves, the notes, the info screens, everything.

Manish Verma 14:20
So so you learn how to Photoshop?

Julian Wright 14:22
Yeah, yeah, yeah used Photoshop.

Manish Verma 14:24
So yeah, not outsourced, like anything to like a designer, another coder, you’ve not outsource anything to any other development company. No, no, this is completely from scratch your baby?

Julian Wright 14:38

Manish Verma 14:41
Okay, why?

Julian Wright 14:42
My lifetime hobby. Right. If you can sit doing this I realised it’s quite possible to sort of suddenly realise that I’ve been set, working on a particular aspect of the thing for like 10 hours and I’m still in my pyjamas. I haven’t eaten.

Manish Verma 15:11
For some reason that surprises me and it probably shouldn’t because you’re obviously adept at being able to pick something up like a guitar to coding and – but, you know, many tech businesses might outsource their, their graphics to specialists, for example, or or you know, and the coding that you’ve done everything Why? Why have you done that?

Two words, Spanish pension. I work for 20 years in Spain, and believe you wouldn’t believe how small my Spanish pension is, okay. It’s a little bit better with the exchange rate for the pound present, but really, I can’t afford to outsource stuff. So just always have to be I’m bootstrapping. Yeah, you know, and it’s actually quite fun. Right? You know, it really is quite fun. You know, you’ve you’ve got all responsibility.I even do things like spend, you know, days days at a time emailing the world. So I go through the American Yellow Pages, and I email all the you know, all the music shops in Nevada, for example and say, here, tell your tell your customers about this app. Right. And things you know, and in fact, I’ve the end of August, I hope to have the first edits of two promotional videos, which a friend of mine has very kindly done for me. I’ll Yellow Page the world. Yes, yeah, those and that’s it’s all bootstrapping. Yeah. But it’s, it’s free. Yes. And it all it takes is effort. Yeah. But there’s another app which, which I’ve put out, which is to to help drive people towards the, towards the website and to know about the other app, and it’s called country DIY. Can I play you a bit? “Doo doo” This is where you play a one. A five piece country band with one finger on your phone. Right? Okay. And it’s just that aford Okay, so this is the band you can see for instrument, the five instruments, guitar, double bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. And this is what they sound like. And you can go and change key.You can even speed it up a little bit. Or slow it down. And you can go into three, and four. So you can sing a song and try to sing a song. “Down the road from me there’s a note on the tree where you lay down….” So it’s just fun. You touch the buttons to change the course. And it’s country karaoke. Yeah. It’s like do you play that play this little instrument? And sing along? Okay, so you’re accompanying yourself. Very nice. That’s very nice. So you just did this again, just because, yeah, sure. Because as you develop one app, you get all sorts of bits of code that you can use in another app. Right. Right. So it’s transferable. Okay. And it’s just fun. Yes, just fun. And that was just another idea. I hadn’t thought well, might as well, you know, is if I didn’t have enough of a play, but you know, that’s the way things are. And going back to I read guitar, then how, what since two years ago, it’s been launched, and it’s available to download. What have the numbers been like for downloads, do you know much about that? It’s a bit beginning to develop interest. It’s not world shattering.Not going to be retiring on it anytime soon. But it’s increasing all the time. The the take up rate from the free sample to the paid version is very good. But the problem, of course, is getting visibility. People knowing that you’re there, right in the first place. Yeah, you know, and that’s a present word of mouth. Yeah, it’s hopefully one guitarist to sit with another over a beer and say, Oh, this this programme is this rap called I read guitar where you can learn to read music, and all of that. And that would that’s what we’re relying on at present. But I’ve had some very nice feedback on on the various websites on the on the various stores. One guy from Portugal said spectacular, which is great. And, and that’s actually the only real conversation I’ve had is with a guy in Hong Kong. His daughter is learning the guitar. And he let just let me know that that she found it really useful. She’s doing grade five or something. And, and she found it really useful to just practice her sight reading for the sight reading part of her exam. So that’s, yeah, that’s excellent. Yeah. So what’s the plan? I guess? What’s the plan to I think what we have to do at present is regard the IRA guitar, really as a kind of loss leader, and to see the school’s version, which is going to be called record a band as the real commercial thing is for primary schools right for probably for year five the year before they go into their SATs and stuff. And what that it’s designed, it’s it’s not ready yet. It’s going to be tested and everything in this, but it’s designed for to be conducted. These classes are designed to be conducted by teachers with no musical training, right. So you follow a lesson plan. That’s one of the great thing is is that you, you know who your your target audiences. Because they’re in there in the yellow pages. Yeah, they’re the primary schools and you can you can talk to them about this, you know, and, and make them deals and say you know, have it for a year see if you get on with it you’re free, you know and then if you like it then we’ll talk. You know, it’s never going to be that expensive. Yeah, because the money is not the point. Now it’s I want people to learn to read music. You know, you’ve got numerous literate, now we’ve got music it, let’s do it.

The word impetuous means to act without thought or cat. Julian right uses that word to describe himself. I can think of many other words, innovative, dedicated, fearless, but one final one. Fun. In fact, when I kept asking about why he does what he does the age of 72 he didn’t ever say money. He said, fun. Hell of a lot of fun. He probably said the phrase, this is just fun about five times in our conversation. So what would he say to others in his position, about how to have the sorts of fun he’s having?

Julian Wright 22:17
Go along to one of the innovation centres and hopefully speak to Ben Ravilious. That’s simple. Yeah, that’s simple. . That’s the start of your journey.

Manish Verma 22:29
The Leicester Startups kind of changed your life in a way?

Julian Wright 22:33
Well, I guess it has because just having this backup all the time, you know, you can go and talk to people about my apps and about my hopes and fears and, and exchange information and their hopes and fears and things that it’s terrific. That’s a terrific thing. You don’t get that as a musician. As I’ve said, the generosity is staggering.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai