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The man who brought us the Emoji

Since writing the piece of code that enabled everyone outside of Japan to use Emojis, Josh Gare has been feeling very smiley face, thumbs up, dancing man.

We recently published an article about student entrepreneurs and while doing the research began speaking to Josh, a recent graduate in Economics from Bristol University. Find out how this student knew how to code, spotted the Emoji trend, and what his plans are for the future:

How did you discover coding and the potential of apps?

From a young age I have always had an interest in computers. I was first introduced to programming while playing computer games with my friends. I ended up learning Java so that I could program scripts that played the games for me, somewhat unfair I know. I soon realised that others would want this and began selling the scripts. The revenue generated from these scripts was small but it gave me a great introduction into how computers think and how you can use them make money.

In 2008 the App Store launched and this gave me the opportunity I was looking for. At the time there were many stories of developers creating their own apps with a lot of success. The beauty of the App Store back then is that it was a completely level playing field between large software companies and a programmer in his bedroom. I taught myself Objective-C, which has similarities with Java, and I soon had my first app on the App Store.

Things were slow initially until I read about a Japanese emoticon set called Emoji. The Emoji icons were only available in Japan but I developed a piece of code that allowed everyone else to access the icons. After launching the app it reached top 20 in most countries and that was sustained for several years.

“Emoji has been bigger than I ever expected”

Did you expect the Emoji trend it to be as big as it is?

Emoji has been bigger than I ever expected it to be. The icons themselves were really popular in Japan before the existence of apps so I knew there was potential. However I don’t think you can predict the magnitude of success, as the market is so volatile. One day you can be at the top of the charts and the next day rock bottom

What sparked your talent for entrepreneurship?

The nature of computers and technology led me to entrepreneurship. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have done. From the late 90s until now, internet usage has rocketed, processing power has increased and new platforms have been devised. Personally, following these trends and reading about the many success stories with the industry has allowed me to develop new ideas and make the most of the global footprint of technology.

Are you someone who likes to be busy?

I definitely prefer to be busy be it with work or my social life. If I do get some spare time to myself I will usually spend it programming, reading about the app industry and checking out what the competition is up to. Although that’s not to say I don’t have a Netflix account…

Was anything/anyone particularly inspirational for you?

Within the technology industry people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg will always be inspirational. However I find these people to be quite hard to relate to as their success is on unprecedented levels.

I first started developing iOS applications in 2008. Back then I was motivated by multiple success stories of everyday people, programming their own apps from their bedrooms and managing to compete with some of the largest technology companies at the time. I just thought, “If they could do it, why can’t I?” This led me to teaching myself Objective-C and onto developing my first app.

Were there any aspects of being a student that helped you to start a business?

Being a student was great as it allowed me to meet many different people with many different ideas. Once people realised that I developed apps they were keen to provide me with suggestions or even complete ideas. I’ve also met other students who I will be working with in the future on joint projects, with one such project hoping to launch this autumn.

Unfortunately university also took up a lot of my time, time that I would have spent developing apps. I do sometimes wonder if I could have achieved more focusing fully on my apps but I don’t think it is particularly healthy to think ‘what if’.

Do you think your generation has a better understanding of apps and who will use them?

A couple of years ago I would say this is true. The younger generation picked up on apps well before the older generation. Nowadays it’s not surprising to see parents and even grandparents on social media or with an iPhone in hand.

When you have an idea for a business/app what is the next step?

After coming up with an idea the first thing I do is research. In terms of apps it is important to establish whether someone else has already made the same app and whether there is a need for your app. I think this is important with all business ideas.


Fascinating stuff there from Josh. If you want to stay up-to-date with all his latest ventures he suggests following him on Twitter and if you would like to try building an app from scratch we’ve created this handy video.

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