Your iPad app idea could score royalties – Find out at "App Idea Day" and company kick-off June 15
By Steven Powell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1923
Brendan Lee, a rising senior at the University of South Carolina, took a roundabout path to a final undergraduate year in the College of Engineering and Computing.
In high school and during three years at the University of Central Arkansas, he and friend Chris Thibault developed apps for the iPhone and, after its introduction in April 2010, for the iPad. Their side business has paid for their undergraduate education so far, with a little spending money on the side, Lee said.
Over the course of creating those apps – including smartNote, which has been downloaded more than 500,000 times – they refined an approach to app-making that greatly streamlined the process.
Their approach is appreciated by Tony Ambler, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. In a meeting with Lee and Thibault last April, in which they detailed a plan to bring their skills from Arkansas to a new company in the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator, Ambler showed he was convinced with a question. "What can I do to help?" he asked.
Told that Lee wanted to finish his degree at USC and had just applied to transfer, Ambler was direct. "You've just been accepted. How else can I help?"
Lee and Thibault are now co-founders of a company, 52apps, which plans to release an app every week, starting with a kick-off event Friday, June 15. The key to their ability to create apps so rapidly is a modular approach.
"We discovered with writing apps that a lot of the parts of applications are pretty commonly shared between them," Lee said. "Writing code repetitively is just grunt work that's taking away from what you should be doing, which is actually accomplishing the point of the application. So what we've done is create modules that can get most of the support systems up and running in a way that we can just drag-and-drop the parts that we need."
"It saves us a lot of time, so instead of spending a week getting, say, GPS and all the other subsystems running, we can spend the week actually developing the core functionality of the application."
They've essentially created a killer app-maker – and now they're looking for ideas that might make a killer app.
Do you have one?
At an event starting at 11:30 a.m. June 15, the company will announce its launch, preview the first app, and request new app ideas from the audience. It takes place at IT-oLogy@Innovista on 1301 Gervais St., in the first floor theater. Ideas that are selected for development will be rewarded with a royalty contract for the life of the app, said Lee.
The beauty is you don't need to know a thing about writing computer code, you just need a good idea. And according to Lee, great ideas come from people in all walks of life.
"If the people we've talked to so far, just randomly asking what ideas they have, is any indication, then there are some unbelievably good ideas out there, just waiting to be built," said Lee. "And surprisingly enough, people who I wouldn't think would have ideas have had some of the best ones I ever heard – I don't know how I live without having their app in my pocket!"
The company has hired a group of six young interns, which includes rising USC senior Gabe Will, a graphic design major, and Andrew Askins, Bill Brower and Ben Walters, all rising sophomores and computer science majors. They will help Lee and Thibault carry worthy ideas to a quick fruition.
"This is absolutely what I've always wanted to do," Lee said. "Being able to follow my own vision, with the kind of support we have now here in Columbia, has always been a dream."
To attend the launch on Friday, go to the company's website, www.52apps.com, and RSVP at Rsvp@52apps.com.
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