Thursday, 21 June 2012

Have an idea for a new iPhone app? There’s a company for that

A new Columbia company has set a lofty goal– introducing a new iPhone or iPad app each week for the two years.

In order to achieve that ambitious objective, the startup group 52apps is asking for the public’s help.
“We realized pretty early on we could come up with a couple good ideas, but we weren’t going to come up with 100 over a two-year period,” 52apps CEO Steve Leicht said. Friday was the first of the company’s “Idea Days,” in which about two dozen South Carolinians pitched their ideas for new “apps” that they believe could be created.

“Apps” are an abbreviation for “applications,” or small programs on a smartphone or tablet that can perform any number of functions. These range the gamut from calculator to calendar to games to nearly anything in between.

52apps is the creation of Arkansas college students Brendan Lee and Christopher Thibault. The two developed several “apps” during their time in school, including an algebraic formula calculator and other note-taking software. Eventually the pair created a library of design features that allowed them to create entirely new programs from scratch in a relatively short amount of time.

Thibault’s family moved to the Midlands three years ago while he was still attending the University of Central Arkansas. At church one day, his mother met Bill Kirkland after seeing him use an app remarkably similar to one her son had created. Kirkland, it just so happened, was an entrepreneur at the University of South Carolina’s Technology Incubator.

After learning about the Arkansas boys, Kirkland wanted to know more about their work.
“We built things to help us with homework to help make our lives easier in going to class,” Lee said, “When we put them on the (Apple iTunes) store, we realized a lot of people had similar needs to us. And they ended up selling relatively well without any marketing on our part.”

“Relatively well”… meaning their programs had been used over a half-million times, with more than 40,000 new downloads each day.

Kirkland had seen enough. He reached out to Leicht, a fellow technology entrepreneur, and convinced him to meet with the up-and-coming designers. Leicht was similarly impressed.

“It normally takes three to four months to build a half-decent application,” Leicht said, “These guys said they could build it in three or four days. So we tested them. We gave them projects and they came back sometimes within 24 hours with working prototypes… Within a couple of days, they had something you could put out and sell.”

Leicht agreed to manage the administrative side of 52apps, allowing Lee and Thibault to focus on designing programs and finishing school. Lee is now enrolled at USC, while Thibault is taking online courses at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

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