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"You're never too old to start again" So says a later-life tech innovator

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by Startacus Admin

"You're never too old to start again" - so says David Morgan who at 56 went from unemployed to developing his first App - A Job Tracker for the unemployed...

At 56 after a period of unemployment, I managed to get funding via the government New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) startup scheme. This pays me £65 for 13 weeks, then £33 for 13 weeks.  I also obtained a loan from CWRT at a reasonable rate of 6% with a low start repayment plan. I have used this funding to learn a computer language called Livecode to develop mobile phone applications. To get the NEA funding and the loan I had to develop a detailed Business Plan with a cash flow forecast.
Having spent the last six months completing job seeking records to provide to my Jobcentre Plus adviser my first thoughts were how to help unemployed people. As there are 2.4 million unemployed people, and according to DWP’s own statistics 90% have a mobile phone. I felt this was a sizeable market to provide a useful mobile app to. Possibly 1 million Android phone users.
So five weeks into my training I have developed a first ‘proper’ app – called A Job Tracker. [I did build a test demo sales slider]. The A Job Trackermassive effort to create such an app is almost beyond explanation as it involves jumping through all sorts of technological hoops that even young developers struggle to achieve. So you could imagine at 56 how difficult it is to enter into this area for a first time.  Probably the same odds as me winning a Wimbledon final against Andy Murray.
The idea of A Job Tracker is very simple. It aims to help unemployed people keep good records of job seeking activities and therefore avoid losing their job seekers allowance and other benefits – so called sanctions. The App lets unemployed users enter: the date for the activity, the method of job seeking with a description of the activity and its results - building a profile of their activities over 2 weeks before signing on. Failure to keep good job seeking records leads to sanctions for a high percentage of unemployed job seekers and can result in a loss of benefits ranging from 4 weeks to 3 years.

So spending a few minutes every day with A Job Tracker can save ‘diligent’ unemployed people from a life of extreme poverty or even homelessness. I like to think of the App as job-seeking-brain-training. The app forces you to view everything you’ve done that fortnight and judge whether you’ve done ‘enough’ to try to get a job and convince the Jobcentre Plus ‘coach’ who effectively approves your benefit payment. It also lets you develop a plan for the next two weeks – so you can complete the paper work plan diary every unemployed person is given to complete before signing on . Another benefit of using A Job Tracker is it helps unemployed people keep track of the date by entering activities each day. A lot of unemployed people complain about drifting, losing track of time.
With the NEA scheme you are racing against time to succeed. You don’t have the luxury of a cushion of money from a previous job and you have a new loan to repay with the risk of losing the small benefit you get weekly. It’s a lot of pressure. On top of that as a one-man business you have to think about marketing and sales.
I have been using Twitter to promote the app alongside its new parent website  that I had to build quickly. Twitter said my campaign was among the top 30% in terms of Twitter advertising success and I'm using Google Play for distribution of the app which can be found here

The lesson is you’re never too old to start again.

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Published on: 21st April 2014

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