Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Interview with Brad Dunnington, CEO of Avalinx

Avalinx is an Ohio based company that recently has been specializing in the production of casino games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Their games are characterized by flawless design, great graphics, and perfect integration into the iPhone multi-touch system. You can see my reviews of all of their games here. I recently had a chance to speak with Brad Dunnington, the CEO and Co-founder of Avalinx, where we discussed programming, his buisness, the state of the economy, and the future of computers.

Hello, I am Robert Barga with blogcritics.org and I would like to ask you a few questions about your company. Thanks in advance for your time.

What is your name and position within Avalinx?
Brad Dunnington, CEO and Co-Founder

Tell us a little about yourself.
During my career, I have been fortunate to have had experiences within a variety of industries including manufacturing, wholesale distribution, retail, investment banking and technology. I spent my early career with GE and Limited Brands. During the last ten years I have been involved with launching, growing and advising privately held businesses.

Tell us a little about Avalinx.
My partners and I co-founded Avalinx in 2004. Our objective was to create a software development company funded primarily by the cash flow from our consulting practice.

Where are you based?
Dublin, Ohio

What exactly does being the CEO of Avalinx entail?
In my role, I am primarily concerned with the strategic direction of the business as well as managing our key external stakeholder relationships.

What sort of programming does Avalinx do?
Our team has years of experience building robust, business-critical software in areas such as hosted web applications, mobile computing, business intelligence and enterprise productivity serving the retail, manufacturing and gaming industries. While our team is skilled in a variety of technologies, prior to our work with the iPhone, we spent most of our time working in Microsoft oriented environments.

Your company has made several high-caliber iPhone games, what can you tell us about them?
We publish the PRO Series of casino games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. We are committed to build this series into the most comprehensive series of casino games available for the iPhone platform. The series currently consists of:
-21 PRO Blackjack
-Baccarat PRO
-Let’em Ride PRO
-3 Card PRO Poker
-4 Card PRO Poker
In addition to the PRO Series, we have two other series of iPhone apps currently in development.

When you make a game, what are you looking to include in it?
The key design objectives for every PRO Series game are to provide:
A) A near real life casino gaming experience
B) A sophisticated training simulator

Among other things, our users have come to expect our PRO Series games to include features such as:
-Lifelike high resolution graphics
-Comprehensive ‘Ask the dealer’ support
-Detailed ‘Mastering the Game’ content, including:
---History of the game
---Rules & Terminology
---Game Variations
---Basic & Advance Strategy
-Expansive user controlled Preferences
-Exceptionally smooth and fast game play

What gave you the idea to start making games for the iPhone?
When we first consider developing for the iPhone, we held two strong convictions:
A) The App Store would be a VERY competitive environment
B) Our success would depend on providing exceptionally compelling products targeting large audiences.
Our definition of ‘compelling’ included considerations such as:
A) High Quality Standards – every app had to feel like it was created by Apple
B) Superior Domain Knowledge – every app had to feel like it was produced by a domain expert.
C) Premium Value – every app had to make the user feel like they were receiving more for the money than a typical app.
Our background equipped us to develop applications in the productivity, utilities and gaming categories. However, in reflecting on the iPhone platform and the anticipated user demographics, we predicted that gaming would be the category that represented the greatest potential demand for products.

What about the idea of casino games, where did that come from?
Our selection of casino games as the first series to develop was shaped by two factors:
1) Large Target Market – nearly everyone is familiar with casino games. However, there are two distinct categories of users. Skilled users who need a powerful tool to refine their skills. Novice users who need a means to orient themselves to casino games without the intimation that they might feel within a casino. We felt we could build a product to serve both types of users.
2) Domain Knowledge – Having supported the gaming industry in the past, we were confident that we move quickly to deliver a superior product providing our users with a ‘near real’ casino experience.

Several Ohio magazines and newspapers have been talking about various ways to fix the state's economy. They occasionally mention giving tax breaks and other incentives to companies that will be making movies or programming games/software in the state. What do you think about this idea?
I support efforts on the part of the state government to create a business atmosphere that encourages innovation.

Do you think that these companies can help Ohio?
Ohio has a history of innovation during the early stages of many important industries (i.e.: automotive, petro-chemical, lighting, aerospace, plastics, etc.) Tremendous employment growth and wealth creation resulted from Ohio’s participation in these industries. It is reasonable to expect that Ohio based innovators and entrepreneurs can play a significant role in job growth and wealth creation in the new industries of the 21 century.

What is the biggest difficulty facing programmers and technology companies today?
Small technology companies have to select their targeted markets very carefully. Given the accelerating speed of innovation and the increase pressure of global competition, the margin for error is rapidly shrinking. When it comes to investing our most precious non-renewable resource - our time - we need to be right more frequently than we are wrong.

How do you plan on combating this problem?
[We plan on combating it using four main methods:]
1) Closely study emerging technology trends.
2) Continually update, refine and enhance our technology skills.
3) Make fact based decision centered on return on our time invested.
4) If our decisions prove to be wrong, make quick course corrections.

Where do you see the future of programming going?
We are all faced with data overload. I believe that an area of great opportunity is in leveraging data across multiple platforms, in order to speed the transformation of data into useable knowledge, moving toward the Semantic Web.

How about the future of technology, where do you see it going?
[I see the future of technology going in two directions:]
1) Mobile computing
2) User Interface Enhancements - Touch and Voice

What advice would you give to anybody who is interested in programming, either for the iPhone or for another device?
Obtain a solid foundation in mathematics and engineering. These core skills are portable. Differences in computing platforms, development environment or programming languages are irrelevant to an engineer with a solid foundation. As the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate, speed and adaptability will be especially critical to your success.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
All great thought provoking questions. Thanks!

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