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OSU student seizes moment to create iPhone app

Bianca Briggs / Lantern photographer

Need help organizing your day? There’s an app for that. Last year, Ohio State student Ben Gilbert and Ian Kono started a company, Functional Delights, which created the app SeizeTheDay.

The app is an “easy to use task manager that helps you organize and stay on top of your busy life,” according to its website.

SeizeTheDay has been downloaded 180,000 times.

The app has ad banners on the bottom that allow it to be free. Kono and Gilbert, a fourth-year in computer science engineering, receive $1.20 every time someone taps on a banner.

Those who use the app can upgrade to an ad-free version for $4.

“We like to say (the money we’ve made) is between beer money and the salary we would like,” Gilbert said. “Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll be able to look at it as a full-time job.”

Gilbert and Kono met each other during an internship at Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose, Calif., in the summer of 2009. They were roommates.

The pair decided to learn iPhone development on their own. Writing an app involves the basic skills that a computer scientist would have, Gilbert said. It’s about the same as programming any other applications for a computer.

Toward the end of the summer, they started on their first drafts of the app.

“At the time, my mom had just made the switch from a Treo to an iPhone and was looking for a task management application like the one she had with the Treo,” said Kono, who graduated from UCLA in fall 2009. “I proposed the idea to (Gilbert) as we were getting to the point where we needed a real project to work on if we were going to really learn anything. A task management app seemed like a feasible first project and we basically jumped in head first.”

They continued to work on the app after their internship, taking a hiatus because of time. Gilbert and Kono reconvened in April 2010 when they found that Apple was announcing an update to the iPhone, iOS 4, which allowed new features to the iPhone, such as multitasking or organizing apps in a folder.

They used iOS 4 to set up reminders on the app.

The app was launched in July 2010 and was featured on the front page of Apple’s App Store; the position got them 70,000 downloads in a week. After that, SeizeTheDay was featured on CNET and Time’s websites.

“That was a great domino effect of press for us,” Gilbert said.

It wasn’t smooth sailing before their app was accepted. SeizeTheDay was rejected from the app store, twice, which resulted in a three-week delay.

“There were odd things that we didn’t quite understand about the App Store rules (but) quickly fixed,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert’s parents are proud, but aren’t dizzy with his success. They want him to finish school, get a job, have health insurance and find a stable career.

“My dad is definitely a little bit more supportive in the bit of risk I may end up taking than my mom is,” Gilbert said. “It’ll be something we’ll decide together if I end up deciding to do this full-time.”

Gilbert has come a long way since high school. He always thought he would be a marketing major. Realizing that he was “too much of a nerd,” he decided to combine his love for marketing, business and technology.

“Initially, (Gilbert) was a quiet person who rarely spoke up,” said Rajiv Ramnath, director of practice at the Collaborative for Enterprise Transformation and Innovation, and a NEWPATH member. “Now he has become one of the key leaders in (NEWPATH).”

Ramnath has not used the app himself — he doesn’t own an iPhone — but he has seen it and said it was “very well thought through and designed.”

Elliott Pears, a fourth-year in architecture, downloaded the app and said it did its job overall, but had a few issues with it.

“It doesn’t really appeal to the eye,” said Pears. “If you’re going to organize your day and tasks, it would be nice for the app to have a little bit more excitement to it. Other than that, for a task organizer, it does well.”

The next generation of SeizeTheDay might be released in the next month or two. This newer version has everything that Gilbert and Kono have learned from the first version.


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