DOers in Action: Ricky Robinett, NYC Developer

Meet Ricky Robinett, a DOer extrodinaire and long-time Twilio developer among many other talents. Ricky is the master-mind behind Your Fake Girlfriend, Sndchk and the recently launched Happstr.

Though he moonlights by the evening as a code hero, by day he is the Lead Developer of Integrations at TargetSpot in New York. Read his blog Eat, Code, Repeat and follow him on Twitter @RickyRobinett.

How was your experience riding Startup Bus to SXSW this year?

It was an incredible experience. It felt like summer camp, but even better because at the end of it I was able to be part of a team that produced something awesome. I can’t understate what an impact it had on me personally. I frequently throw around the phrase “life changing” when I talk about it. I hope to be able to contribute to the StartupBus community in the future and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.

You built Happstr in just a few days, what was your inspiration and how does it work?

I was really just a small part of a wonderful team of 6. At the start of the trip, Nate Cooper pitched the idea and I was personally drawn to sincerity of it. Despite being strangers before the trip, our team grew close and had an wonderful time together. We wanted to make the app as simple as possible, it’s a big button that you click when you’re happy and then a heat map showing where people are happy. You can check it out here:

What was your favorite part about SXSW this year?

Hands down, seeing everyone! There are just so many wonderful people in the world and any chance I have to hang out with them makes me super happy.

You’ve built an impressive range of apps and are very active with hackathon events, all with a “regular” job. What is it that keeps you motivated with all of your side projects?

Last weekend, I watched a great documentary about Fort Greene, Brooklyn (the neighborhood I live in) called Brooklyn Boheme. The documentary is about the role of Fort Greene (and neighboring Clinton Hill) during the 80’s and 90’s as a unique and vibrant artistic community.  I really related to two key themes of the movie. First, how artists were inspired by the great community around them. I am extremely fortunate to be part of the New York tech community and am constantly inspired and motivated by the people around me. Second, artists in the movie talk about how they weren’t motivated by success but instead by expressing themselves. For me, creating things and hacking on side projects is my means of expression. I don’t know what success means for “hackers” in today’s world, but whatever it is, I think not worrying about it helps me from getting discouraged or giving up on things.

How is your Fake Girlfriend doing?

She’s great! I relaunched the site about a month ago with Twilio Connect integration and I’ve seen slow but steady uptake there. I’ll be presenting FakeGirlfriend during “Hack of the Month” at the New York Tech Meetup March 27th and so that will be a good opportunity to put her in the spotlight.

What will your next Twilio project be?

I’ve been toying around with the role of SMS in education. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, teens now send an average of 60 texts per day (up from 50 daily texts in 2009). I think bringing SMS to education is a no brainer. I haven’t completely settled on what I see myself building in that realm, but I feel like there’s a huge opportunity there.

What’s next for Ricky Robinett?

Great question… I don’t even know! Short term I’m going to be speaking on a panel at The Forum at The Middle of the Map Fest in Kansas City the beginning on April. Beyond that, I’m working with a couple friends on a book about hip-hop for kids. My wife and I are working on launching a New York City themed t-shirt company… and of course I’ll keep building as many fun apps as I possibly can! Life is exciting and random, we’ll see where it leads me.