Meet the Developers: Kirill Zorin of Catpig Studios

Today’s interview is with Kirill Zorin, the developer behind Catpig Studios. The company is well-known for their excellent app – Radium – a menu bar radio player that supports a variety of different services.

We’ll be talking about the origin of the company, a typical work day, the benefits of developing a single app, how the Mac App Store is affecting developers, and hearing how the company came to be called “Catpig”!

I hope you enjoy the interview.

First things first, where did the name Catpig Studios come from?

We initially had two co-founders (myself and a friend). In our little group of friends, for whatever reason, his nickname was “pig”. We both liked cats, so instead of going with something boring like “Tangent Research”, we decided to call it “CatPig”.

It’s easy to pronounce and sounds amusing. The “Studios” suffix was just a tongue in cheek thing we added later, but it stuck. Government employees and accountants always look at me funny when I tell them my company is called “CatPig Studios”.

What does a typical day look like for you? Walk us through your usual schedule and activities!

We don’t like to have rigid schedules, because it removes the spontaneity and fun from our environment. We like to work on whatever we feel like at the moment, including things that aren’t strictly “fun” (such as figuring out why Radium is doing something wrong for 3% of users). The human brain demands variety, so we like to mix and match to make sure that we’re having fun and producing high quality work. Doing it any other way would be depressing for us.

Sometimes we’ll do a 16-hour stretch and finish at 3AM, sometimes we’ll work for 15 minutes and take the rest of the day off (not often…) Whatever feels best at the moment, unless, of course, some kind of emergency happens and a customer needs a reply right away. We always check our mail.

We keep our long term plans on a whiteboard on the wall, because it’s always a good idea to be explicit about where we’re going. Otherwise we just mix and match.

What inspired the original idea for Radium, and how did the application come about?

Radium existed for a good few months before we started the company. I wrote it back in university so that I could listen to Sirius/XM without having to use the browser-based player. After having used the app for a few months it became clear that others would be interested in it as well.

Radium in your Menu Bar

Radium in your Menu Bar

We rolled up our sleeves, made it “shippable”, and Radium 1.0 came out. At the time I was still working on my university degree, so it was pretty hectic. It immediately became clear that we should support other radio stations, and over time we adapted Radium to do just that.

Are there any benefits to developing a single application as a company, rather than working on several different pieces of software?

The main benefit is that we can focus on making one app great, instead of making several apps great. It’s not really a matter of coming up with ideas (everybody has them!), but a matter of execution.

The most important aspect of running the show is to match our ambitions with our resources, so that we don’t stretch ourselves too thin. We’d rather people “love” us for one app than “like” us for five.

Another facet of this is that when we do release another app, it will inevitably be measured against Radium. There is much more pressure to do it “right”, since in the eyes of the public you’re only as good as your last release.

What’s the one thing you love about developing for the Mac?

The thing we like the most about the Mac is UNIX. Instead of inventing some kind of ridiculous abomination of a system API, Apple did it right (the second time around…) and implemented a popular, stable, decently designed one

Sure, there’s always something to whine about, but the Mac’s plumbing is essentially 80% great, which is a fantastic achievement on Apple’s part. User interfaces come and go, but a solid system core is much more difficult to do properly.

Emacs keybindings in all standard Cocoa text fields are a big bonus =)

Is developing Radium a full-time job for you, and if so, how long did it take to get to the stage where it could support you financially?

I develop Radium full-time now, and I was recently joined by my lovely wife. She happens to have a Master’s degree in Computer Science, which is convenient! It took about 18 months for it to make a livable amount of money.

What type of sales and customer response have you seen after launching your apps on the Mac App Store?

We’ve had an extremely positive response, especially in European markets, and we’re very happy with the experience overall. The app approval process can get a bit daunting, but it’s never easy to deploy a large software repository to many users, so Apple is still ironing out the kinks. It’ll get better over time, and it’s certainly well done for a “1.0” release.

Some developers complain that Apple’s 30% cut may be too high, or that the Mac App Store encourages a “race to the bottom” pricing model, but the reality is that it gives indie developers a rare opportunity to reach millions of users and really make a difference in the Mac software ecosystem, if they can. We say, either play the game or don’t.

Which websites, Twitter users, and magazines do you follow in an effort to stay up-to-date with the activities of other developers, and the Apple eco-system in general?

We don’t do too much “blog surfing”, as such. We communicate directly with any Mac developers we’re “friends” with, and otherwise dig through the Mac App Store to discover new apps.

We generally don’t read “Apple News”, since any breaking news usually reaches us somehow anyway. We like to spend most of our time at work!

Do you have any interesting updates or apps in the pipeline that you can give us a sneak peak at?

Nothing we’re comfortable previewing at the moment. We don’t like to announce things too early, to avoid disappointing ourselves and our users in case something doesn’t work out.

Thanks, Kirill!

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to contribute, and we wish you all the best with the future success of all your apps!