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How 18-year-old David Carter got his mobile app business into orbit

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By The Drum Team | Editorial

August 18, 2010 | 6 min read

David’s business has created a buzz of interest in Silicon Valley . An article from the Manchester Evening News was reprinted by USA Today and the majority of customers downloading his apps are now Stateside“One of my apps is one of the most downloaded on the Android platform with over 150,000 downloads worldwide .” So how has he done it?

At just 18 years of age, digital entrepreneur David Carter has already secured £50,000 of investment, enjoyed meetings with a publishing magnate, is moving to new offices in Manchester’s Sharp Project (away from his bedroom in Stockport) while getting ready to expand his service offer.While most of his college friends are gearing up for freshers’ week at university, 18-year-old David Carter is poring over expansion plans for his mobile applications business.He started The App Factory at the turn of this year and the burgeoning business has already caught the eye of publishing sage Felix Dennis and secured £50,000 worth of investment.Not bad considering he has only been able to concentrate on it full-time since finishing off his business course studies at Manchester College in June.“It’s a miracle that I was able to pass my studies,” he laughs.Carter cottoned on to the idea of making mobile apps last year, attracted to the way the simple programs, retailing for less than a pound, were racking up thousands of downloads on the Apple and Android app stores.It seemed potentially lucrative and more fun than a typical day job. The trouble was, he didn’t have the first idea how to make an app.“I started looking at doing the coding on it myself but it was too hard! I didn’t have a clue.”To get around his technical difficulties, he enlisted the help of the code-savvy kids sitting in front of the college computers.“I was just walking in libraries and IT rooms and asking people if they could do it. I went into the college library asking if anyone could do a bit of coding. And there are some kids that are so clued up on computers that I could hire them to make simple apps.”Carter had started the business using money saved from working as a temp, waiter and cleaner. When people started downloading his apps he put that money towards hiring professional developers and making better products.One of his apps for Android phones is for Airangel, the UK provider of branded wi-fi access for the hotel, conference and corporate markets. It was downloaded more than 1,000 times in its first week.Another app - a program that brings added Facebook photo and video functionality to Android - is one of the most downloaded apps on the Google Android Market at almost 200,000 downloads. How much money the app has made is open to interpretation because it was priced at £1.50 for its first two months before eventually going free. But the popularity of apps - and their lucrative potential - is evident.Prodigious entrepreneurA couple of significant people have latched on to Carter’s potential. The prodigious entrepreneur managed to secure a meeting with Felix Dennis last year and cheekily asked the publishing magnate if he could build him an app. “I just asked, “can I do an app for you then?”” Now an app to promote Dennis’s poetry is in development.And venture capitalist Chris Sheffield has pumped £50,000 into The App Factory. Sheffield has previously built up and sold Manchester companies including Eunite Ltd, which was acquired by N Brown in August 2000, and the interactive and mobile company Million-2-1, which was acquired by US company International Game Technology in June 2008.Carter is using the money to open an office in The Sharp Project in Manchester - a step up from his bedroom in Stockport which was his original base - and hire a smattering of full-time developers.“I’ve been able to build up contacts with developers and we now have the chance to bring them onboard full-time.“There’s a lot of companies that used to do web design and because they’ve got a guy in the office who knows a bit about iPhones they say “right, we do apps”.“Most of the time if you go to a business like that they’re going to be focused on their web design, the guy probably doesn’t have as much experience as he thinks he does, so the app will take longer to do and be harder for the client. But we’ve just been focusing on apps.”That is going to change slightly next month. The App Factory will continue but with Sheffield’s investment and Carter’s ambition it will become part of a bigger company offering more mobile services.Logic Mobile Solutions, Carter says, will do “a whole host of stuff in mobile” including mobile marketing and making mobile sites. The App Factory will be one of the new business’s brands. “We’ll get the offices, have in-house developers, marketing guys. Really it’s making it into a solid sort of business.”These sound like big plans but despite Carter’s precocity, he doesn’t appear daunted about the challenges ahead, chief among them running a business as a teenager. “It keeps on hitting me. Everyone is going to university and coming out with debt, and can’t get jobs. I’ll be able to run this company and regardless of how much it makes I’ll have the experience of running it. There aren’t a lot of people who will have that opportunity at my age.“If I had gone to uni for three years I’d have blown a really good chance. It would be wrong not to give it a shot.” Some his old college friends might just be glancing enviously in Carter’s direction when they finish their uni degrees in three years’ time.Carter isn’t the only new kid on the mobile block in Manchester...Two Mancunian teens have come up with just the ticket for bewildered bus travellers, a handy smartphone app that tells you how many minutes your bus is running late.Josh Picket, 15, and Ben Webb, 19, correlated scheduling information using data recently released by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive.“We haven’t done this to make any money out of it; it was just to show what could be done.“This solves a genuine problem that people have - wanting to know when the next bus is coming.”
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