A Bristol-based web and mobile application development team is furthering its support by offering its device labs to developers who need to test their work, and it’s also planning to host regular “open desk days” to get to know more people in the industry. CookiesHQ specialises in supporting companies through digital problem solving, its core expertise is in the Ruby on Rails framework, but its technical knowledge doesn’t stop there.

“Even after seven years, the process is still an enjoyable thrill”


nicolas alpiWe caught up with Nicolas (Nic) Alpi (pictured left) over a cup of tea and a cookie at our Techie Brekkie on Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) where he told us, “I’ve been helping entrepreneurs to refine, plan and create MVP web apps for the past seven years. Even after seven years, the process is still an enjoyable thrill.

“From getting to know somebody and their idea, to releasing the first version and iterating from it – even the heated conversations around which feature to kill. The MVP creation is a brilliant emotional rollercoaster!”

Cookies-HQ-team-with-logoThe CookiesHQ team are familiar friendly faces in the technology community in the South West, even their website invites you in with delicious offerings, “We create and maintain digital products for startups, agencies and tech teams. And yes, we also bake cookies for our clients!”

“We want to find more ways to give back to the community”


For this reason and more, TechSPARK is delighted that they are sponsors of our South West Founders meetups. Nic tells us, “We want to find more ways to give back to the community.” We spoke to Nic to find out more about the company, and how you can get involved.

TechSPARK: Why did you create CookiesHQ?

Nic Alpi: I had been a freelance web developer in Bristol for nearly two years prior to starting CookiesHQ. At that point, I found there was too much work to take on on my own, such as doing the development work, managing projects and clients, etc. My wife, Nathalie, was looking for a new role at the time and her skills in project managing and marketing complemented mine very well. We decided that if we combined our skills and made a company, it would be a better, faster way to create software.

“With some exciting projects under our belt, we’ve built relationships with some great clients”


Nic and Nathalie Alpi outside Cookies HQFive years later, CookiesHQ is thriving. We are a small, but perfectly formed team comprised of four developers with diverse coding framework experience, two expert project managers and a newly appointed content manager. With some exciting projects under our belt, we’ve built relationships with some great clients and are looking forward to what may happen in the near future. (You can see Nic and Nathalie pictured above right, outside Cookies HQ)

We’re truly passionate about the web and want to support complex applications in a cost-effective manner. Our goal is to provide existing clients with a better service and to give them more than just development work.

TS: Why have you chosen to work with startups in particular?

NA: We offer our services to both startups and existing teams within larger, more established businesses. Our skillset allows us to work alongside people, either as their sole technical input or with their own in-house devs, using rapid development to quickly create a working product.

Nic and Nathalie Alpi Cookies HqOur ideal clients are customers who have funding – entrepreneurs with some capital behind them, perhaps – and need someone to support their development. As well as this, we’re equipped to help large companies that utilise a similar model to startups to create new internal products.

“Working with startup companies plays on our expertise of fast, solid development”


Working with startup companies plays on our expertise of fast, solid development. We find it exciting to help them achieve their goals and to be part of their adventure; it fits with one of our core values of having a ‘human’ element to the business.

TS: What’s the attraction to using Ruby on Rails, rather than any other development languages?

NA: Ruby on Rails allows us to develop complex applications faster. This is extremely important when we are taking on an MVP. It’s also supported by a vast amount of open-source development libraries, allowing us to interface with payment providers, manage users, create admin interfaces and so on.

“Ruby on Rails’ mantra is convention over configurations”


Lastly, because Ruby on Rails’ mantra is convention over configurations, it’s usually easier to jump on an existing Rails codebase (compared to any other web framework).

I recently wrote a blog post on why Ruby on Rails is still relevant in 2016. [Ed: I can highly recommend reading the blog, check out this excellent excerpt – “Thanks to its maturity, Ruby on Rails now has a vast amount of libraries that you can integrate. For us developers, this means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every single project, but instead go with proven, stable, community-developed solutions.”]

TS: Even though you have international links, what have you enjoyed about being based in the South West?

Cookies Hq team using the computerNA: The tech community in Bristol and Bath is very open – they’re like a big family and have a healthy sense of competition compared to other places. People are very willing to collaborate on projects or offer help, if you need.

There are a lot of things to do in the area, particularly in and around Bristol. This is definitely true of the tech meet-ups and events that go on in the South West. We try and do a monthly round-up of them, but there are so many, it’s hard to keep up with them all. Also, there’s plenty of good cheese and ales!

TS: What advice would you give to other people thinking about setting up their tech business in the South West?

NA: As a new or potential start-up founder, it’s essential to build your network. Forge relationships with like-minded people and those you can collaborate with in the future. There are lots of interesting people to partner with in the South West, as well as great investment opportunities.

“It’s a great place to gain insight from industry professionals who’ve grown their businesses from startup to multi-million pound organisations”


Cookies Hq team hard at workSouth West Founders is a group of aspiring and experienced start-up founders and entrepreneurs that meet regularly to network, discuss ideas and learn from each other about the process of starting a company. It’s a great place to gain insight from industry professionals who’ve grown their businesses from startup to multi-million organisations.

Also, make use of the facilities that are available locally. There are a number of co-working spaces, such as Spike Island and St Nicholas House in Bristol, and The Guild in Bath.

If you’d like some help getting started, then why not try a business incubator? There are quite a few based in the South West, like Engine Shed, Bristol and Bath Science Park and University of Bath Innovation Centre that offer skills development and support services. There’s also Entrepreneurial Spark – the world’s largest business accelerator that has openings at locations across the country.

“Don’t stop hustling: be persistent and persevere with your project”


Most importantly, don’t stop hustling: be persistent and persevere with your project. Things won’t happen overnight, but with hard work and patience, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll get there.

TS: You were involved in judging the SPARKies Tech Awards 2016 – were you impressed by the level of the entrants?

NA: The South West is an incredibly diverse area for digital, tech and design, and this is something that needs to be highlighted. From shortlisting to nominations, there are many great businesses and people that are deserving of recognition for what they do. The SPARKies are great in representing the talent that is on offer here.

“We want to celebrate our community and give back by taking part in events”


We sponsored the SPARKies awards this year as part of our brand philosophy of doing good – we want to celebrate our community and give back by taking part in events like this.

Two of the winners, Olio and Open Bionics, are doing particularly interesting things for the world. Through technological innovation and social-mindedness they’re making positive changes and developing tools that benefit others in need, while also achieving top accolades in their respective fields. We think this is why they are truly deserving of the SPARKies they received.

TS: How can people get involved with Cookies HQ?

NA: We have a regularly updated blog, Cookies Crumbs, where we talk about development, entrepreneurial/start-up matters, a bit about marketing and project management, as well as all things tech.

Cookies Hq dev labWe like to make connections and build networks. Potential clients or new company friends can come have a chat and a coffee with us, or a ‘Coffee Skype,’ if you’re not local. Previously, we’ve offered our device labs for devs which is something we will continue to do. We’re also planning to host more regular “open desk days” here at CookiesHQ. Keep an eye out for this in the near future!

Thanks for spending the time to answer our questions Nic. If you are interested you can get in touch with Nic via email. He’d love to discuss any way they can be of service, be it working on a new project or providing workshops and assistance to established tech teams. Connect with them on Google+, they post on Github, and you can follow them on Twitter too @TheCookiesHQ.

The SPARKies are coming round for Spring 2017; you can register your interest by emailing hello@techspark.co