Bradenton pair create iPhone app offering personalized alarms

Bradenton pair create iPhone app offering personalized alarms

newsintern@bradenton.comJune 24, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Christopher Fitzjarrald and Brandon Anderson want to wake you up gently.

What's better than someone deployed overseas for the military waking up to the sound of his or her child's voice and their favorite song?

Not a parent on the road? Then they want to inspire you to meet your goals and even set them to music -- "Eye of the Tiger," maybe?

The local pair created and sold a new app for the iPhone and iPad that will do all that and more.

SoftSTART, an alarm clock with personalized voice messages, allows users to wake up to their own -- or someone else's voice -- with a song selected from their iTunes library or custom tones.

They believed in their idea so much that they invested $10,000 of their own money to get the app developed.

The pair of 20-something guys didn't start with an idea to gently wake the world, they really wanted to invent a new game.

"The idea behind SoftSTART was very random," Fitzjarrald, co-founder of KosToKost LCC, said. "We originally wanted to make a game app but we just thought of the fact that Apple doesn't really offer apps with customization options for alarm clocks."

Coming up with the money and idea was easier than finding someone to help with the software development. They found the perfect fit with Darwin Logic when the company's CEO saw all of the possibilities.

The free app offers multiple features.

"One of the things the app offers is a softSHEET where users can add their goals for the alarm clocks," said Fitzjarrald, who is 26.

Users can add their personalized goals on a weekly/daily/monthly basis to the softSHEET and wake up to an alarm specific to that goal.

"So let's say you make a goal to go running at five o'clock -- you would set up an alarm for five o'clock and customize your voice saying 'wake up; you have to go run now' with a song in the background," Fitzjarrald said.

Fitzjarrald's research shows the average American snoozes one to three times, resulting in a late start to the day and less productivity.

"I just thought about how much more likely it is for people to get up to a loved one's voice than a regular alarm and the three snooze options would really make them get up," Fitzjarrald said.

SoftSTART features options of having three personal voice record

ings to wake up to. The three recordings are rotated so if the snooze button, or in this case, "don't press it" button is hit once, another alarm will go on. (Think of it as a mom to teenagers.)

There are no ways of avoiding a morning start.

But could the pair really sell an app that nags you to get out of the bed in the morning and improve your life?

Darwin Logic, a global company that designs and develops website and mobile applications, thinks so.

"When Chris came to me about this idea I loved the concept because it was creative, useful and something I knew people had not seen before," Matthew Willis, CEO of Darwin Logic, said.

Fitzjarrald said they were looking for someone who could give their concept focus and help them with the next steps.

Willis brought a structured perspective to the project.

"When starting projects like this, you need a great concept," Willis said. "And Chris and Brandon definitely had a good one."

The $10,000 budget could have been a problem at most software development companies, but Willis was on board.

As an experienced software developer, Willis sensed why the originality of SoftSTART might make it a success.

"I'm a CEO, but I'm an emotional one," Willis said. "So I imagined a commercial of a marine who is away from his family but can still wake up to the sound of his daughter's voice and there is nothing more a marine, soldier or traveling businessman would want more than to still be able to hear their loved one's voice in the morning."

SoftSTART will not only wake users up, but it gives them the chance to wake up to the right people in the right way.

"Alarm clocks are pretty simple apps to work with but with all of the software bugs we ran into, the process of developing the app took longer than we wanted it to," Willis said.

After a few weeks of testing their work using standard simulation tools and real life devices, Fitzjarrald, Anderson and Willis were able to get rid of the bugs.

Yet, that was the least of their challenges.

"Right when we thought everything was OK, Apple rejected us from releasing the app because it didn't follow their very particular rules regarding their iOS guidelines," Willis said.

As a world renowned company, Apple has specific guidelines for developers. The SoftSTART team re-engineered critical functions until Apple finally approved.

From concept to development took a year and three months. But having Darwin Logic behind them helped alleviate the stresses of getting to success.

"It was definitely a lot of work, especially when we got rejected from Apple after everything," Fitzjarrald said.

The SoftSTART team is now working on a second version of the alarm that integrates the alarm with social media.

"We think that this will be like nothing the app world has seen before and it's not going to be easy to get it done, but it will be worth it," Willis said.

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