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Young firm's rewarding focus on apps

Leon Ho loves photography but little did he know that his interest could be a rewarding career until he developed apps to help people take better pictures.

As a computer science graduate, Ho worked as a software engineer before launching his app development company Stepcase in 2007. "It has always been my goal to create something that can benefit society, so I became an apps developer. I started by creating apps to help office staff set up teleconferencing and create their itineraries, but they are not popular," he says.

The year 2008 proved a turning point for Ho's company. "For Christmas that year, I decided to do some photo-related apps because it was the holiday season and everyone was looking to have fun. At the time, the iPhone 3 camera was not too powerful. Users could not take pictures with it at night and many users had shaky hands, so I created the Darkroom app to help users take better pictures," he says.

To Ho's surprise, the app became an instant hit, drawing millions of downloads. It made him realise that photography can be a powerful tool to generate business, so he decided to focus on creating photo apps.

"I always enjoy creating things on my own, so despite having received several enquiries from other corporates about helping them develop apps, I stuck to creating my own apps. My latest is the Steply app, which is a photo-sharing network," says Ho.

The software whiz kid expects the smartphone sector to continue booming in the next 10 years, and he is confident about the future of apps development. Starting out as a one-man band, he now leads a team of seven as CEO of Stepcase and is currently looking for iPhone engineers.

"We're a fast-evolving and dynamic company. We care deeply about details and beautiful design. We use data to help us make decisions and we love working collaboratively. We are a team that is always learning new technologies, techniques and trends," he says.

User-friendliness is the key to success for apps, Ho adds.

"A developer has to put himself in the user's shoes to try to see what they need. Many apps draw huge downloads but users later delete them because they find it difficult to use. For apps to have a longer life cycle, they must be user-friendly."