1870 Mag

APPetite for innovation

OSU students win Inc.com Startup competition

Two Ohio State students are helping innovators around the globe with a new app that gets ideas off the ground and into your smartphones. 

OSU students Keith Shields and Josh Tucker have created the community driven “Applits,” designed to create smartphone apps that are more accessible to the everyday person. It also recently won Inc.com’s Coolest College Startup competition.

It works like this: if you have an idea for an awesome new app, but have no knowledge about coding, or don’t have the money or don’t know enough about product development, then you can submit your idea to their site, free of charge, and enter into a monthly competition.

A winner, chosen each month by the Applits community, can then get his or her app developed and a 15 percent share of subsequent profits. The apps created through Applits will first launch on iOS, as it tends to make more money, and then will move to Android if they do well.

“We think it’s a cool idea that brings a billion dollar industry with a high barrier to entry to literally anyone with a good idea,” Shields said. “Apps cost tens of thousands of dollars to make, but we let people with great ideas get their app made for free, and then share the revenue.”

The two came up with the idea for their second-year engineering finals, with Tucker then at Alfred University (before transferring to OSU) collaborating with Shields at OSU. Both are fourth-year students, with Tucker taking a temporary leave of absence to focus on the business.

“We thought that social input was sorely lacking from app development,” Shields said. “Developers were in the habit of uploading a finished app to the App Store and then getting input and feedback from their new users. By that point it’s too late to take into account some of their valuable feedback into your product.” Shields said.

It’s also not like other companies, who may just take the app inventor’s idea and run away with it. The community actually can share in the profits too if they help refine the winning app. Plus, the development, which can take anywhere from one to tens months, depending on the complexity of the idea, is a very collaborative relationship.

“We work very closely with the idea inventor, as well as our site users when going through the refinement, design, and development processes,” Shields said.

The inventors themselves can become as involved as they would like.

“We have some winners who we never hear from again until we send them their monthly check, others who are as involved as possible, others who have talents like graphic design who we use as the main designers for the project, and still others who choose to invest in the app to offset some of Applits’ costs and thus earn more percentage revenue than the 15 percent they originally had,” Shields said.

The collaboration doesn’t end with Shields, Tucker and the inventors. The duo consults with “industry experts,” ranging from app developers and company CEOs, to their company’s investors and mentors.

To make this aspect of their business even more transparent, they are considering opening up the behind-the-scenes review to be publicly visible, going as far as having a live stream of these discussions for their members to watch.

The winners chosen up to this point in time have come from all walks of life. Teenagers, college students, professionals, moms, dads and even app developers — all those with ideas are welcome to submit. An additional bonus is that ideas can be submitted multiple times. In fact, many of their winners had resubmitted their apps, improving them along the way with the monthly feedback they received.

At its core, Applits exists to help. Shields and Tucker are of course happy about their success, but not at the expense of anyone else. If anything, their inspired business model suggests they want nothing more than to succeed right along with those who submit ideas.

Adam Ambro

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