Bob Woodruff ’58 won’t leave home without Teux Deux, a mobile to-do list that keeps him organized. Julia McCoy ’15 is hooked on Snapchat — keeping her friends posted on her whereabouts with selfies. No matter the generation, Colgate people, like many Americans, are spending less time on their smartphones talking and more time using mobile apps. In the past year, app usage in the United States spiked 52 percent, according to a new study released by comScore. The Internet analytics company is calling the phenomenon “the app majority” because Americans are spending 7 out of 8 of their mobile minutes on apps.
And yet, it’s also been discovered that smartphone owners are losing their “app-etite” for downloading new apps. So, although people are spending more time on Facebook, YouTube, and Pandora, they’re less likely to install novelty apps like iFrenchKiss, which rates your smooching ability.
“Most people don’t use a lot of apps,” opined Kevin Galligan ’98, a leader in New York City’s Android development community. “But there’s the hope and the chance that if you can get your brand directly into someone’s device and provide them some utilities, they’ll keep it. And if you do that well, you can carve little slivers of the market.”
We talked to innovators in the app industry, from alumni carving slivers with niche applications to those who are taking big chunks out of the market. We included young alumni, those making a leap of faith mid-career, and seasoned professionals for whom this industry didn’t even exist when they were on campus. They told us their inspirations and motivations, perspectives on the industry, and predictions for the future.
Harry Raymond ’11
Now that the term mixology is part of the general lexicon, craft beer is hipper than ever, and box wine has shaken its trashy reputation, Harry Raymond ’11 is providing people with a new tool for what he calls this “renaissance in the drink world.” With Shindig, he invites people to become “drink explorers.”
A political science major at Colgate, Raymond first “fell in love with digital” when, as managing editor of the Maroon-News, he was tasked with redesigning the student newspaper’s website. After graduation, he founded East Village Digital, building websites for small businesses and working in social media marketing in New York City.
In his free time, Raymond began frequenting a swanky Italian restaurant in the East Village. Oftentimes, he would be overwhelmed by the wine list, as well as by drink offerings at other bars. Although he’d tried countless types of wines and beers, Raymond said, he “still was clueless about what my tastes were.” So, he concocted the idea for Shindig, which helps people log the beverages they’ve tried and get recommendations from others in the app’s social networking community.
To get Shindig in motion, Raymond teamed up with Nick Manning, a developer with whom he’d formed a friendship by going to mobile meet-ups. They launched the first version of the app as a personal drink journal, and Raymond sent it to all of his Colgate buddies. “They helped get us into the top 125 food and drink apps in the world,” he said.
Wanting advice on positioning the app and future growth potential, Raymond and Manning applied to the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund for the summer of 2013. They received $15,000 in development funding, and for six weeks they shared incubator space in downtown Hamilton with other alumni and students. In addition, the two received guidance from alumni mentors through the university’s Thought Into Action (TIA) Entrepreneurship Institute. “It was really helpful because there were so many successful entrepreneurs who were willing to give advice,” Raymond said.
He and Manning made changes based on user feedback and shipped new versions (Shindig is now in its 22nd iteration). Retooling it as a photo app as well as expanding from beer and wine into the world of cocktails helped accelerate Shindig’s growth.
Shindig has approximately 10,000 global users, and thousands log in daily. As Raymond noted, with those kinds of numbers “your customers kind of become your boss.” In at least one way, he really is at the beck and call of his users — his personal phone number is built into the app. That function has its rewards. One day, Raymond heard from a grateful guy in Pittsburgh who said he’d fallen into Bud Light laziness, but seeing people online having fun at different places encouraged him to get off the couch and try new things. “The community is super passionate about [this app] and that’s the exciting part for us,” Raymond said. At press time, Shindig was in the top five worldwide in the app store under the search term “liquor.”
So, next time you’re about to order your standard rum and Coke, Raymond hopes you’ll instead consider a jalapeño margarita or lobster claw bloody mary — then tell him how it tasted.
Editor’s note: Since press time, Shindig has changed its name to Swig and is now available on Android
Matt Sena ’98
Friends since grunge ruled the airwaves, Matt Sena ’98 and Doug Chambers now build apps for pros who get their hands grungy. Their app, FieldLens, is a communication platform designed for construction professionals, “[including] the different companies and people who work together on the job site, to help them document, communicate, and coordinate around field issues,” Sena explained.
Up until 2010, Sena had been working in the finance world. Unsatisfied and wanting a career shift, he joined JumpStart NYC, a program that helps professionals transition into new professions. From there, he honed his business development skills at an inbound marketing start-up. Meanwhile, as a construction project manager for more than a decade, Chambers had witnessed the common problem of miscommunication on the job. When he left that industry and became a Google apps reseller for construction companies, “he saw a tremendous amount of potential in cloud technologies and ways for companies to communicate more effectively,” Sena explained.
The two, who’d met in 9th grade, decided to pursue Chambers’s idea and became business partners in 2011. To get FieldLens off the ground, they first brought a technical partner on board. They released the beta version to select companies in 2013, and last March officially launched the product. FieldLens has since been gaining traction with companies of all sizes and their employees, including general contractors, subcontractors, and designers.
“These professionals are not in front of a computer for many parts of their day,” Sena said, “so they’re communicating with pens and paper, e-mail, texts, and phone calls.” The app puts all of those pieces in one place, tracking productivity and organizational items.
Having built the company from three people to more than 30 employees, Sena has seen his role evolve into director of customer success, managing the group that handles coaching, on-boarding of new clients, and support. And, because FieldLens is essentially a project-management tool, he and his staff use the app to track their own work.
When asked about the future role of technology in the construction industry, Sena said, “Wearable technology brings the promise of a more connected, more efficient, and safer jobsite. Examples could be Google Glass, allowing for hands-free video recording; a piece of machinery that schedules its own maintenance; or clothing that relays a person’s vitals to ensure worker safety.”
Leading Droid out of the void
Kevin Galligan ’98
Android devices used to be considered inferior to the iPhone, but they’ve been taking more bytes out of Apple in recent years. As app creators try to keep up with the rising demand, they’ve turned to Kevin Galligan ’98. He and his team at Touch Lab are hired by companies to make their iPhone apps Android compatible.
Galligan founded Touch Lab in 2011 after noticing a dearth of Droid developers. Very few people in the New York City tech scene were working on the Android side professionally, but he had been “doing it for fun” for a few years. The former computer science major and serial entrepreneur was working on his start-up idea during the day and doing Android consulting on the side. In the summer of 2010, when Verizon released Motorola’s Droid X to great reviews, perceptions about the Android system shifted toward the positive. Galligan decided the time was right to devote his full attention to Android development.
Touch Lab is still the only major Android-specific development company in New York City. Galligan has seven full-time employees as well as a stable of part-time workers and contractors. Their clientele ranges from small start-ups to large enterprises like the Associated Press and Topps trading cards. And, two of his clients are Colgate alumni.
“Kevin is a big presence in the Android development community,” said Matt Sena ’98, who met Galligan at a technology meet-up group. “He’s got a great reputation, a great team, and they do great work.” Galligan helped Sena’s FieldLens app become Android compatible and now he’s working with Sena on his exploration of Google Glass possibilities.
Galligan is also doing Android development on the Shindig app for Harry Raymond ’11, whom he met in a co-working space. “We immediately hit it off,” Raymond said.
When Galligan is working on a new project, he endeavors to differentiate the Android and iPhone versions. “You don’t want your users to think that you just copied their iPhone app, because then they would feel like they got hand-me-downs, and that’s a real problem,” he said. “We call that i-Droid rage.”
Galligan leads meet-ups and gives educational talks to dispute the misconception that “you only get an Android because you can’t afford an iPhone,” he said. At press time, Galligan was organizing the first Droidcon in the United States, held in New York City in September. The lineup featured a variety of professionals on topics from Android animations to GPS apps. He became interested in organizing a New York convention after speaking at Droidcon Berlin and was able to land sponsors including Google play, Microsoft, Sony, and Yahoo.
Galligan said he organizes these events because he believes in strengthening the community and meeting new people — he operates out of co-working spaces for the same reason. Another way that Galligan keeps the human touch is by unplugging from the digital world. Instead, he plugs into an electric guitar when playing with his hard-rock band Diesel America, which originated at Colgate and includes Frank Cherena ’03. The band just released an album called Leave Your Mark. It’s fair to say that Galligan is leaving his mark in more ways than one.
Making the connection
Justin McLeod ’06
What’s something that can be a connection bringing two things together? A “hinge” — hence, the aptly named new dating app by Justin McLeod ’06.
As he was graduating from Harvard Business School in 2011, McLeod realized how few people in his class he had met during his time in Cambridge. Even in an environment designed to help foster relationships and meet new people, he still noticed an overwhelming number of connections just waiting to be made.
From this realization, McLeod sought a solution. His ideas ultimately evolved into Hinge, which connects people with friends of friends. The app plugs into Facebook, creating the user profile and curating potential matches from the user’s extended social network. The app works in geographical regions, prompting users to enter their zip code of one of 16 cities in which Hinge is currently active. Then, each day, users are presented with a small pool of potential matches — who either share a mutual friend or are third-degree connections. Limiting the match options each day reinforces McLeod’s “quality over quantity” mantra so that users give greater consideration to their matches before clicking the X or the heart icon at the bottom of the screen.
What’s something that can be a connection bringing two things together?
Hinge is meant to simply create connections. Its name deliberately lacks any romantic notions, reinforcing the concept that the app is just the first step in the process of meeting new people through friends. Like being introduced through a friend, Hinge gives users the scoop on where their matches work and went to school. That feature sets the app apart from other tech dating experiences, McLeod said, adding, “the transparency and accountability involved make it a much more well-lit, enjoyable experience for everyone.”
If Facebook is where you keep track of your connections, then Hinge is the place to cultivate new ones and ultimately move them into the real world. With a recent $8.5 million investment from Founders Fund and Lowercase Capital, it’s clear that McLeod’s own social clout is soaring in the tech industry. Hinge has been heralded by national publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. As of August, Hinge had expanded to Houston, Texas; Seattle; and Denver.
Update: On December 12, Hinge announced that it raised $12 million in Series A round led by Shasta Ventures. Colgate alumnus Steven Bertoni ’02 wrote about it in Forbes.
Solving the date dilemma
Katie Rydell ’14
As president of Kappa Kappa Gamma during her time at Colgate, Katie Rydell ’14 was no stranger to functions and events that required dates. She was all-too familiar with the stories of stressed-out sorority women searching for reliable, fun companions at the last minute before a formal or date party. Instead of ruminating on the hassle of finding a suitor for the evening, Rydell started brainstorming.
She decided to pursue a project through Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) Entrepreneurship Institute that would address the issue in the form of a mobile app. From this proactive idea to remedy the dating woes of college students across the country, Rydell created LateDate.
LateDate provides an interface that can be used by event hosts and guests alike. It connects through Facebook, suggesting potential dates for events through its interface. The app utilizes the Facebook profile to present users with suggestions of mutual friends and people their friends may already know on campus.
Last spring, Rydell pitched her project to the “Shark Tank” investment panel at TIA Entrepreneur Weekend and received $5,000. In addition, she got $15,000 through the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund as well as the use of the TIA incubator space in downtown Hamilton over the summer to develop the app.
Her three interns, Sarah Cummings ’15, Joanie Davis ’15, and Anna DeDio ’15, worked from Hamilton as Rydell focused on LateDate in New York City. In June, the team celebrated LateDate’s release in the iTunes app store and excitedly anticipated its adoption by Colgate students.
Although she currently has a full-time job as a financial analyst in Manhattan, Rydell dedicates her nights and weekends to LateDate. Her idea, which began as a way to find dates for events, evolved into the mobile platform that she hopes can be downloaded at other colleges for functions outside of Greek life on campus.
Julian Farrior ’93
“Gamers” are no longer just bespectacled teenage boys playing Zelda. Housewives, professionals, and girls are all taking part in the Clash of Clans and Candy Crush craze. “More and more people, across the board, are playing games of all shapes and forms,” said Julian Farrior ’93, co-founder of mobile-game company Backflip Studios. “Mobile gaming consumption is now nearly ubiquitous.”
Farrior spent 1999 through 2006 at Yahoo. When the iPhone came out, he thought, “This is going to change the world … we need to make a business out of this.” He decided to “follow a brilliant engineer [Dale Thoms] out to Boulder [Colo.] to start a different company.”
At the same time, Farrior noticed the changing demographics in gaming when he saw his wife, Jennifer (Heltzel) ’95, playing Words With Friends. Noting that it was out of character for her, “the light came on,” he said. “We saw a lack of compelling casual gaming content, and we built our business around that. It was also the segment that was making the most money.”
“Gamers” are no longer just bespectacled teenage boys playing Zelda.
With a third partner, they founded Backflip Studios in 2009 and released Paper Toss, based on the theory that people wanted “a simple, short-duration game.” Set in an office, the game’s objective is for players to flick a crumpled piece of paper into a garbage bin. Farrior’s instincts were on target: Paper Toss shot through the roof and was the top downloaded game that year. By 2011, it had been downloaded 50 million times and was the 10th most downloaded iPhone app of all time. The partners have enjoyed continued success with games like Ragdoll Blaster, NinJump, and DragonVale — the top-grossing iPad game and third top-grossing iPhone game of 2012. Those hits helped Backflip grab the attention of Hasbro, which last year paid $112 million for a majority stake in the company. Farrior is still CEO, handling the management and operational details.
The trend that he recognized years ago has stayed steady, with games ranking second only to social media in time spent on mobile devices. “Gaming is now an acceptable form of entertainment,” he said, “and drawing the distinction between that, watching a video from Netflix, or consuming television is getting blurred.”
To those just starting out in the app industry, Farrior advised: “This is a hard business right now. Learn from your mistakes.” Recognized as Colgate’s first Entrepreneur of the Year this past spring, he added, “Sometimes it takes a few years’ experience to truly get the formula right.”
The art of gaming
AJ Abadi ’05
For AJ Abadi ’05, video gaming is more than just a visual experience; it’s a chance for storytelling. With his game Ash, for example, players take their characters through a world and watch them develop and grow. “They foster new relationships and increase in scope and experience,” he said.
Abadi immersed himself in the gaming world after graduating from Colgate with a Japanese and mathematics double major. While earning his MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School, he studied the theory behind game development and design. “I’ve always believed that video games are the next medium of art, so that was my thesis going into Darden,” Abadi said.
One of his classmates learned of his interests and suggested that they create their own gaming company during the summer of 2009, when the video game craze was in its early stages. Abadi took a leap of faith. Through SRRN Games, they released iLib — a play on Mad Libs, using classic literature like the Sherlock Holmes series and Frankenstein. After that summer, he entered Darden’s incubator program to work with other entrepreneurs to further explore his gaming pursuits.
In April 2010, Abadi released Chimes: by tapping five colored spheres, players can clear the like-colored obstacles flowing across the screen at any given time. Each time an obstacle is cleared, the player hears the soft notes of a chime. The game gained recognition by being featured by Apple staff in the app store — a prestigious honor bestowed to few at the time.
After his success with Chimes, Abadi worked with his team to build Ash. Abadi’s dialogue and scripting for the role-playing game was praised by gaming magazines for its mature themes such as love, loss, and betrayal. Since that release, he has launched other mobile app games and is currently pursuing gaming on consoles.
Abadi considers himself not just a founder of SRRN, but also a developer, an innovator, and a multitasker, working with his team through every step of the process.
“The biggest challenge for any developer is finding a way to connect with an audience,” noted Abadi, who is constantly seeking to push past the clutter in the app store and gain recognition for his apps on a greater scale. Much like the characters in Ash, Abadi will continue to increase his scope, developing and growing as he creates innovative games in this digital age.
Reflecting on the mobile age
Ken Landau ’86
Ken Landau ’86 has been selling apps since before they were downloadable.
In 1994, he and his business partner founded LandWare — a name Landau came up with, along with their slogan “Software for Terra Firma” — and were making apps for the Apple Newton, one of the first personal digital assistant devices. “It was big, it was clunky, the writing recognition was not perfect, but despite all that, it had a really solid following,” Landau said. LandWare sold a financial calculator, a checkbook app, and some games. Because this was before the Internet became popular, they delivered the software on floppy discs through the mail and in stores.
Over 19 years, Landau and his team adapted to keep up with new technology — the Palm Pilot, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and then the iPhone. They also switched their name to reflect the changing industry: as MobileAge, their releases included Shanghai Mahjong, Pocket Quicken, the first portable keyboard, and the Zagat restaurant guide.
“We learned that you obviously can’t count on [consistency in] technology,” said Landau, who recently left MobileAge to become a solution specialist at Toshiba. There, he helps clients solve business challenges in areas such as digital signage, advanced document security, and document management.
On his first day at Toshiba, Landau got a chuckle when an IT staffer asked if he needed training on his company-issued iPhone. “I said, ‘No, do you?’” joked Landau, who had gotten his start with Apple right after Colgate. As a senior, the English and economics double major created a newsletter with James Sarna ’87 that focused on the just-released Macintosh. Titled “MacGate,” Landau mailed a copy of the publication to Apple. Shortly after, he got a call from the head of university marketing, who offered him an internship.
Landau’s parents had always been supportive, but they envisioned their son working in a traditional firm or on Wall Street. His grandfather also questioned why he was taking an internship “with a fruit company in California.” Still, as a sign of solidarity, his father and grandfather bought stock in Apple — only to ask later, why didn’t we buy more?
“It’s been a tremendous run,” said Landau, who concedes that his iPhone now has considerably more power than his Mac128K at Colgate did. He also marvels at wireless capabilities, voice recognition, and Apple’s Facetime. “The fact that my mother can call her grandkids on her phone and see them … that’s something that when she was a little girl, she would see in movies and dream about, but it’s here now.”
Colgate’s own mobile app provides information for all members of the university community, whether you’re a grad looking for the latest news or a student trying to find food.
With the touch of an icon, you can launch the Colgate Mobile Directory, which features LinkedIn integration and an “alumni near me” function that uses directory information to tell you if there are alumni with mailing addresses near your location.
“We’re working inside the mobile space to engage with alumni and connect them with each other,” said alumni relations vice president Tim Mansfield. “We’re not only facilitating conversation — we’re a part of the conversation.”
More than 4,500 alumni, parents, and students have downloaded the Colgate mobile app since it launched in November 2013.