On Ave. B, Toppling Those Angry Birds

DSC_0775Ian Duncan Matt Capucilli at the table where he made the best-selling iPad app Video Time Machine. He also painted the portrait.

The fifth floor of an Avenue B walk up might not seem like the most likely place to find a computer programmer with a best selling app. But from his kitchen table Matt Capucilli developed Video Time Machine, which is now riding high in the iTunes store.

Since the launch of the iPad app on June 17, it has been climbing the charts, and as of last night, was the most downloaded iPad application, knocking the wildly popular Angry Birds, off the top spot. The app was also climbing up the more competitive iPhone rankings, reaching number two in the entertainment category. The app lets users pick a year and one of seven genres — games, television, ads, news, sports, movies and music — and serves up relevant videos. Showing off how the app worked, Mr. Capucilli selected 1968 and TV, pulling up an episode of “The Gumby Show”.

Mr. Capucilli, who is 29, said the app aims to tap into nostalgia for old TV. “It’s discovery based on things you might have once come across before in your life,” he said, “things you didn’t remember you remember.”

In an effort to guarantee quality, Mr. Capucilli and his two partners, Justin Johnson and Delbert Shoopman III, handpick the library themselves. The archive stretches back to 1860 and includes the world’s first recorded sound. (That sounded like a pigeon cooing, but it was apparently someone singing).

DSC_0780Ian Duncan Mr. Capucilli spent 200 hours coding the app.

The apartment that doubles as Mr. Capucilli’s office is spotlessly clean and in the fridge, drinks are lined up like a marching band, waiting. On his bedroom door Mr. Capucilli has pinned 10-year-old rejection letters from MIT and Princeton (he attended Cornell). He said the letters remind him not to be afraid of rejection — a useful reminder for someone who has just spent 200 hours in a single month working on a project with no guarantee of success.

Mr. Capucilli is coy when it comes to divulging total numbers of downloads, but said they are in the five figures each day. Apple slices off 30 percent of the 99 cent sale price leaving Mr. Capucilli and his partners with a tidy sum for a month’s work. For every $100 worth of apps that are sold, Mr. Capucilli and his his two partners receive roughly $70.

Mr. Capucilli said that for a good portion of the time that he was coding the app, he listened to “If I Gave You My Love”, by dance act Pretty Lights, on near-constant repeat. “The repetitive thing shuts down some part of my brain,” he explained, allowing him to concentrate on coding.

Originally from the Syracuse neighborhood of Baldwinsville, Mr. Capucilli’s older brother introduced him to New York City and the East Village. He’s lived here for the past three years. “It’s just a great neighborhood,” he said, adding that it’s not only “full of spirit and quality — and edge” but also a good place to work from home.

Writing code for long stretches of time can be isolating and Mr. Capucilli is glad he can just step out of his door and find some company.

Video Time Machine started as YouTube Time Machine, a Web site along the same lines developed by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Shoopman. They brought Mr. Capucilli on board to build the iPhone and iPad apps, which first launched on May 30.

As for next steps, Mr. Capucilli is just enjoying himself for now. “I’m not thinking about the next one yet,” he said, before deploying an analogy: “If you’ve got the girl of your dreams, why go looking for anyone else?”

Video Time Machine ScreenshotCourtesy Original Victories Video Time Machine in action.