Imagine having an idea, then having thousands of people validate your vision with a few taps of their fingers. That's the ringing endorsement developers receive when a user downloads their app. Warrington alumni are excelling in this arena, developing innovative apps that are gaining in popularity by the minute. Here are the stories of three innovative alumni whose apps are enhancing safety, searching and being social.
Jordan Johnson's vision for a safer UF campus was simple: What if the blue emergency phones strewn throughout UF's campus were somehow in each student's pocket?
It was a difficult concept to grasp when he first came up with the idea in 2009. But now that almost 80 percent of college students own smartphones—a figure that should reach 90 percent by 2016 according to an eMarketer survey—Johnson's vision has become a reality thanks to his mobile application, TapShield.
When activated, TapShield not only alerts the nearest emergency response team with a user's physical location through global positioning system (GPS), but also provides background information to help emergency responders when they arrive like the user's name, physical characteristics, medical information like allergies, medications and emergency contact information.
Johnson's strategy for TapShield, which has had more than 10,000 downloads from UF personnel, was fairly conservative. Instead of selling the app to anyone who would buy it, he wanted to land an initial client with major credibility to give TapShield credibility. He found that partner in UF, and its Chief of Police, Linda Stump.
“She's really a visionary among her peers, and was open to change the way campus safety is delivered to students,” said Johnson, (BABA '09). “Her vision and willingness to try out a new idea, to execute new ideas resulted in a very pervasive and ubiquitous layer of security for students.”
Johnson said TapShield's next step is to form channel partnerships with security firms to “deliver TapShield to the world.”
A common gripe among Internet users is the number of tabs one has to navigate when browsing.
Mark Fazzini believes he may have the answer. Fazzini (BSBA '11) and co-founder and fellow UF alumnus Spencer Simonsen have created Searchlet, a web app that provides search results in a single space without having to open additional tabs.
Searchlet, which was released in December 2013, works like this: Highlight a term you'd like to search, click the Searchlet bookmark and a sidebar will appear on the left side of the page with results from eight major services including Google, Google News, Twitter and Wikipedia among others. Searchlet was developed entirely in-house by Simonsen, who came up with the idea while looking at a messy web browser full of open tabs.
Assembling all those search points into a single, inconspicuous sidebar—without having to open extra tabs—is a user-friendly innovation that Fazzini thinks will catch on.
“The moment I tried it I instantly knew a lot of people are really going to like this,” said Fazzini, 25. “It's super simple to use.”
Searchlet received some major promotion when it was featured in TechCrunch and Lifehacker when it launched, and again in March when the app was upgraded with new features which included expanded results and music streaming. Searchlet has been used by more than 25,000 people.
Fazzini said a major reason for Searchlet's success is that the web app is customized to Web browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome providing a seamless experience for users. The next step, said Fazzini, is to gauge user feedback, and continually modify the app to satisfy user needs.
When Jake Corday (BSBA '15) played Words With Friends and other social mobile games in high school, he imagined a game where the camera was integrated, and users could send pictures that transformed into puzzles on the receiving end.
No longer does Corday need to wonder. ClickMix, the mobile app he released in January with co-founder and UF alumnus Hugo Gonzalez, does just that.
Corday's initial concept was for ClickMix to be based more on competition between users. But once he saw the success of Snapchat, his views changed.
“I realized it did not have to involve fierce competition between users to be successful,” said Corday, 21. “It can be more laid back, just friends sending puzzles back and forth of things they wished to share throughout their day.”
Corday, a senior marketing major, said developing ClickMix and starting his own company, Bad Glass Studios, has been a whirlwind experience.
“I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Corday said. “To come up with innovative ideas and see them come to life is an amazing process for me. It's been nothing but excitement. There are times when I question if I know what I'm doing or if I'm in over my head, but I get over it. This is what I want to do.”
ClickMix had about 1,500 downloads in the first week after its release with light marketing, and there have been more than 30,000 photos sent on ClickMix to date. Corday said the company is working on an update to ClickMix adding Facebook integration and improving the app's interface and usability.
Corday also said that they will be releasing a version for children ages 12 and younger called “ClickMix for Kids” later this summer. “ClickMix for Kids” will lack social capability for safety reasons, but will keep young children entertained for hours with educational fun.