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Ohio State students run app-creating company

With millions of apps at the tip of any smartphone owners’ fingertips, it’s hard not to begin thinking of ideas to fit situations where apps don’t currently exist. Two Ohio State students have made it their mission to make those ideas downloadable and profitable.

Computer science student Joshua Tucker and mechanical engineering student Keith Shields, both fourth-years, developed the website Applits for the less tech-savvy. Applits is a competition-based website where people can submit their original ideas for apps. Each month a new application is chosen by user voting to go into production.

Shields said the site has already gained traction.

“We get people from all over the world coming and telling us what app idea they like best,” Shields said. “Then we go and develop the most popular idea.”

Each winner gets his or her share once the app hits the market, Shields said.

“You don’t lift a finger. We make the product for you, market it and release it,” he said. “You sit back and make 15 percent.”

Submitting your ideas is free and requires nothing more than signing up and an idea. Shields and Tucker wanted to draw in large crowds by making the pre-production stage free and competitive.

Shields said the apps, once created, typically sell for somewhere between free and $1.99, though “some of the apps have upgrades for additional money.”

The most recent cycle of Applits’ competition finished this past weekend with voting. The winner of August’s challenge was an app called StudySpot, which aims to help students find the best local study areas based on amenities, ambiance and location.

Shields said the app still won’t be out for a while though.

“Each individual app can take six, seven or eight months to develop,” Shields said. He added that developing a typical app costs about $10,000 to $30,000.

Meanwhile, the new round of submissions has started for the month of September, and voting will commence at the beginning of the fourth week.

The company is still in its infantile stages at about 14 months old, but seven apps have already made their way onto the market — two of Applits’ most popular downloads are SwitchABrew and Better Half.

SwitchABrew allows users to mask their drinking pictures by placing photos over top of their alcoholic beverages, Tucker said, while Better Half helps you plan a date.

The winning apps range in utility and function. David Brevner of Vancouver won with an idea pitch for a language tutoring app.

“It will teach you new words as you read a book or webpage online,” said Brevner in an email. “It will bring language learning to what interests you, thus making it more engaging.”

His app is currently nearing its beta-testing phase, and the first version will teach its users Spanish, Brevner said.

Brevner said the Applits team is bound for success.

“These guys are definitely the next generation of business owners,” he said. “They have the formula in place.”

Shields and Tucker share his optimism, hoping to become the names associated with app ideas.

“Right now there’s nothing really exactly like Applits. It’s pretty unique and our goal is to keep building that up in popularity,” he said.

The apps are typically developed for iPhone first, Tucker said.

The students’ interest in the app industry and their entrepreneurial mindset led to the conception of Applits, Tucker said.

The two students took a semester off classes last year to develop the idea and establish overseas connections. That was important because the website handles several hundred idea submissions per month and the development of the winning app following voting, Shields said, adding that Applits’ design team is based in Paraguay to keep costs down. Applits also works with nine teams of application developers in India, each of which focus on a specific project.

Managing Applits takes a lot of time, Tucker said, so the duo shares responsibility. Shields functions as the chief executive officer with his experience in graphics and community management, while Tucker, the chief financial officer, balances the books and keeps track of the budget.

Shields said now that the business’ infrastructure is stable, Applits should begin seeing profits from the apps it has developed soon, although currently its been focusing on earning its initial $70,000 investment back. Paid development projects, which allows those with app ideas to bypass the competition and simply pay for their app to be made, have supplemented revenue for the time being, and Applits can also create submissions that don’t win the contest for a fee.

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