Two Lawrence computer software makers made a name for themselves after creating a grocery list application for Apple iPhones.
Jason Boehle and Brian Killen recently sold their Grocery IQ application to Coupons Inc., a leading digital coupon provider in Mountain View, Calif. Boehle now works from his home full time for the firm.
“It was kind of fun to sell to a company that is growing and wanted Jason to work for them,” Killen said.
The duo’s application has been available for iPhone users in the iTunes app store since September. It has been the number one most popular application in the store’s lifestyle category for some time. Among all applications it has risen as high as seventh in download popularity.
“We just wanted to do it for fun,” Killen said. “Everybody wants to make a lot of money and be a big success, but I don’t think we ever really dreamed it would be successful.”
Last spring, Killen and Boehle worked for a software firm in Overland Park and commuted together. They bounced ideas off of each other. They formed their own company, Free State Labs LLC, to design software in their spare time.
“We had a list of 20 applications we were thinking about,” Boehle said.
The grocery list idea was born out of an unfortunate accident. Killen’s wife, Lori, tripped and severely broke her leg. She used to prepare detailed grocery lists for her husband to take to the store with him. She not only listed items she also wrote box color descriptions and store-specific row locations. After her injury she didn’t feel like writing such detailed lists, Killen said.
“I was always calling home and asking what size of trash bags to get,” Killen said. “We thought a grocery list app was a good idea but we thought a lot of people would do it.”
Killen and Boehle acquired a data base of 150,000 grocery items from a company and then worked to prepare it for their own program. Data base required considerable work to prepare for downloading to an iPhone. Boehle worked on it with a laptop computer while Killen drove them to work. They also got help on the project from high school and college software students. When finished, someone could make a list of items on the iPhone with lots of product details, including brands, flavors and sizes.
“There was a lot to the process of developing the whole thing and we wanted to make it as simple to use as possible,” Boehle said.
The grocery application was submitted to Apple in September and could be downloaded for $4.99. Apple allowed application makers to get 70 percent of the proceeds. It was downloaded about 100 times a day for the first couple of weeks.
“We were thrilled,” Killen said.
In October, Free State’s program was featured as the application store’s “pick of the week” on Apple.com. Downloads increased to as many as 3,000 a day. To keep the business volume high, Boehle and Killen began lowering prices. They also decided to sell the application process because they didn’t have time to continue to refine their product and add new features.
Late this month the sale was made to Coupons Inc. Because of contractual agreements the pair can’t say how much they made from the deal.
“The price was maybe five times more than what we ever dreamed,” Killen said.
Killen and Boehle will continue to develop new products through Free State Labs.