Published June 12, 2012
Two new residents of Columbia are the co-founders of a software development company that aims to generate a new iPhone or iPad application a week.
Brendan Lee, standing, and Chris Thibault are the co-founders of 52apps, a new software development company housed at the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator. (Photo/Provided)
The event, which is open to the public, will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the IT-ology building, 1301 Gervais St., Columbia.
Kirkland and Leicht said people who contribute ideas that are developed into computer applications by the company will have an opportunity to receive royalties.
The 52apps team said that while many people have good ideas for computer applications, they may not have the technical expertise or financial resources to consummate the idea. The new company will offer those people an opportunity to see their ideas developed and sold into the rapidly expanding market for apps.
Lee, 21, and Thibault, 22, are both still completing work for their college degrees. But the pair, who began writing computer programs in high school, have had enough success to impress veteran technology investors like Kirkland and Leicht.
“I’m writing checks,” Kirkland said when asked whether the two younger partners had what it takes to launch a successful company.
Lee, a senior at the University of South Carolina, is in his final undergraduate year in the College of Engineering and Computing.
In high school and during three years at the University of Central Arkansas, Lee and 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. The smartNote app averages about 250,000 daily users, Lee and Thibault said.
Tony Ambler, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing at USC, offered to help the pair further develop their company after meeting with them in April. The co-founders detailed a plan to bring their skills from Arkansas to a new company in the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator.
Told that Lee wanted to finish his degree at USC and had just applied to transfer, Ambler responded: "You've just been accepted. How else can I help?"
Lee and Thibault have developed a modular approach to creating apps. Individual software building blocks are stored, then plugged into new apps under development, dramatically compressing the time needed to develop new computer applications.
"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."
At Friday’s event, the company will announce its launch, preview the first app and request new app ideas from the audience.
"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," Lee said.
The company has hired six interns that will help Lee and Thibault carry worthy ideas to fruition.