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Archive for Friday, January 30, 2009

Lawrence software developers create a hit with iPhone grocery app

Jason Boehle, left, and Brian Killen display their brainchild: Grocery IQ, a popular application for Apple iPhones that helps people maintain grocery lists electronically. The pair, who formed Free State Labs LLC, sold the application to Coupons Inc., a leading digital coupon provider in California.

Jason Boehle, left, and Brian Killen display their brainchild: Grocery IQ, a popular application for Apple iPhones that helps people maintain grocery lists electronically. The pair, who formed Free State Labs LLC, sold the application to Coupons Inc., a leading digital coupon provider in California.

January 30, 2009

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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.

Comments

Boeing 5 years, 11 months ago

Awesome. Haven't tried the app, but I may look into it.Quick question though...his wife broke her leg and no longer felt like writing lists...huh?

TacoBob 5 years, 11 months ago

Congrats to these gentlemen, inspiring story.Is it just me, or is this a poorly written paragraph:"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."For one thing, it is 'database' not 'data base'.

Terry Jacobsen 5 years, 11 months ago

Good for you guys! Also thanks for using some young talent in your project. I know Evan and he was thrilled to be helping! Good job!

redmoonrising 5 years, 11 months ago

I always keep a running grocery list on my computer. As I know the store well, I just add items as I would find them in the store. As I shop for myself only, I don't need specifics. But I do remember trying to do lists for my husband. If I wasn't specific as to brand, flavor, size etc., who knows what would end up in the pantry? Great idea, guys! Who knows, you might even save a few marriages.

SoupBone 5 years, 11 months ago

Great story...congratulations on your success, gentlemen!

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 11 months ago

Very inspiring story. Great job!Maybe we could get our own little Silicon Valley going here in Lawrence.I wish I knew more about the software tools they were using.

Angela Heili 5 years, 11 months ago

I use this application and it's pretty awesome. I'm glad to learn it was developed by locals. In my opinion it's the best grocery application Iphone has to offer. Congratulations guys!

freighttrain221 5 years, 11 months ago

Remember the good old days when your parents would send you to the store with money and a note that said "Please sell my son two packs of Lucky Strikes." There's nothing like the sight of an eight year old kid hopping on his Schwinn Stingray with packs of cigarettes in his hand.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"Remember the good old days when your parents would send you to the store with money and a note that said “Please sell my son two packs of Lucky Strikes.”"Yep-- except in my case it was Winston's, and I could just charge it (back in the day of small neighborhood/small town groceries.) But by the time I was 11 or 12, my dad had quit the cigs.

Linda Aikins 5 years, 11 months ago

I purchased it as soon as I saw it was from Lawrencians. I'm very proud, as you should be! My husband is the crack grocery-shopper, but this will make it easier for me - he doesn't need the help! Too bad you didn't have him, Red.Multi, you are so organized. Are you feeling OK? :)Freighttrain, when I was young, I'd just ride my Schwinn Stingray to the store and buy 35 cent cigarettes and a pack of 5 cent gum and just charge it. I didn't smoke Lucky Strikes though...that would have completed your fantasy, huh. The bike was pink, if that helps??? And I still have it!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

Gads, what a waste! " 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."For us stupid men who couldn't find our butts with both hands in broad daylight.I am sorry, but I find this sort of complication of daily living just a bit much. I write what we need on a pad of paper, fold it up and put it in my pocket. When I stop at the grocery store after work, I take it out and read it. I decide which brand on the shelf is best or least expensive. Store brands are usually just as good as brand names. But I do not sit at a computer, making lists, cataloging brands, stressing about pennies and coupons and mapping out aisles. Aisles are marked, even at the "new and greater" Dillon'd on 23ed. Gads!!This sounds completely stupid and taking more time than taking my list to the store, buying the stuff, and coming home. What in the hell has happened to common sense in today's over-electronified world?

sarahsmilehawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Isn't that Brian Killen on the right? I think the photo's captioned wrong...

Momofallboys 5 years, 11 months ago

Yes, Brian is on the RIGHT and Jason is on the LEFT :P

Alexander Neighbors 5 years, 11 months ago

gee... telling you what to buy then google maps tells you what store its in and how far it is from you.....Make the App for the G1

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

Multi, did it ever occur to you that your hubby simply did not want to go grocery shopping? You know, like the kid who was made to wash and dry the dishes (back when you washed dishes by hand and dried them with a dish towel) and who would drop and break dishes just to get out of doing this chore that many kids did not like???

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