James de Groot

News and Insights 02 Mar 2021 12:52

James de Groot, former lead developer at Better than Paper and one of it’s founding members, passed away in January. He was 31 years old.

James joined Better than Paper straight out of University back in 2012 mere months after it’s founding.  He quickly found himself thrust into the chaos of activity that is life in a startup. Not only was he having to learn obscure app building technology he was also being taken to important client meetings with Ash and having to answer tricky technical questions. In an extreme sink-or-swim environment he very soon learned how to swim and became adapt at thinking on his feet and making the right choices, be they technical or commercial.

I met James in September 2014 when I joined Better than Paper. With just the two of us running things we soon built up a rapport that allowed us to quickly get into a flow of working. Better than Paper has a reputation for building functionality quickly and smoothly while being pro-active in our support of customers. None of this would be possible if James was not only gifted technically but also an excellent communicator.

James was rare in the I.T. world. Not only did he understand complex code and logic at the micro level, he also understood how the work fit into the bigger picture solution-wise and, even rarer still, how it fit commercially. If a piece of functionality worked beautifully but caused an app to take 5 seconds to open rather than 2, he would look to see if he could find an alternative that, maybe wasn’t so slick technically, but would enable the app to open in 3 seconds instead. He would then communicate what he had done and why so everyone understood the choices he had made.

James was also extremely fastidious and conscientious about his work. “Good enough” wasn’t. While he would understand how commercial and time pressures meant that we couldn’t create the perfect solution every time, he would always flag up little things that bothered him when we would have rare quieter periods and request to improve areas of our systems.

This would also apply to clients. If a customer had a bug he would try to investigate and resolve it even if it meant downloading simulators of old devices or follow some convoluted path to see how this issue occurred and what was the best solution to stop it from occurring again, not just in that app but all of our solutions.

It will be no surprise to any of you reading this who met James but that thoughtfulness and kindness was just as present, if not more so, away from work. He always put others before himself and always tried to see the best in people. Nowhere was this better displayed than at the funeral of my wife in 2019. He stayed to the end of the wake and, upon finding out I was going back to an empty house, refused to leave. He came back with me and just allowed me to chat and reminisce about her for several hours. He didn’t get back home that night until after midnight.

James would also try to better himself outside of work too. He was constantly trying something new and throwing himself into it. Climbing, running, weight lifting, Dungeons and dragons, cooking – it didn’t matter the activity, once he had set his mind to it you knew he wasn’t going to stop till he was satisfied that he had rung as much out of it as he could get.

James will be extraordinarily missed by a lot of people. An incredible young man who had his life ahead of him and has been tragically taken away from us all. We at Better than Paper would like to offer our deepest condolences to his partner Lucy and to the rest of his family.

The family have setup a Justgiving page for a charity in James’ name if you would like to donate.

Goodbye James.

All our love.

Written by Gary Loftus


JamesJames de GrootBetter than PaperLucyGoodbye James
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