Interview By Tom Farinacci — Not many teenagers receive royalty checks from Apple, but Chris Stathopoulos learned at an early age where an idea and initiative can lead.
A first-year student at William Jewell College, Chris is a Hall Scholar and double major (Business Administration and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry) who also happens to be an American history buff. While in high school in Mentor, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Chris was using an iPhone application on U.S. Presidents but couldn’t find one for the Vice Presidents. He contacted the developer, then based in Lenexa, Kansas, who offered to write the code if Chris would develop the content. A business partnership was born.
Chris spent several months of his senior year gathering detailed biographies, trivia and other fun facts about “the men that history forgot.” In February 2010, he and Paul Dardeau released version 1.0 of Vice Presidents under the name SwampBits on Apple’s iTunes App Store.
It’s no business secret that marketability increases when products are improved and updated. Chris recognizes the challenge of expanding a niche product and finding something new about history. “This is where I thought my developing career would end,” Chris said, “then Paul asked me to help overhaul the Presidents’ app.” A month later they released an update on iTunes, and Chris continued strategizing on ways to broaden the appeal of their apps. His next idea – combining the Presidents and Vice presidents apps for the iPad – should be available this summer. He’s now considering creating an interactive component that would enable users to debate historical topics as well as rewriting Presidents in Spanish to appeal to a broader range of customers.
“I love the entrepreneurial spirit. That comes naturally for me,” Chris said. “To innovate and find something new is very rewarding and a lot of fun.” In February 2011 during the week of President’s Day, SwampBits’ app was a featured “staff favorite” on the iTunes App Store front page. “We saw a huge spike in sales, so we are excited for the possibilities of a new app and an election season gearing up later this year.”
Meanwhile, Chris also looks forward to his sophomore year at Jewell after being selected for the Pryor Leadership Program.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Chris and interview him about his App, his experience at Jewell thus far and what the future holds…
What inspired you to create the App?
Presidents was already on the market, and I thought it needed a companion application on the lesser known Vice Presidents, which is a subject I’m very interested in.
When did you first come up with the idea and how long did it take to complete?
I thought of the idea around October or November of 2009 and began work with Paul (my business partner) in December 2009. Vice Presidents version 1.0 came out in February 2010. Later, we spent a few months updating Presidents to be uniform in appearance with Vice Presidents.
Why did you choose William Jewell?
Three reasons: 1.) I have two aunts who are alumnae (Andrea Garcia ’04 and Kristen Garcia ’06) who always spoke highly of Jewell and the education it provides its students; 2.) I am from Kansas City originally and strongly desired to be back in the area near my family, and 3.) the scholarships I received from Jewell helped me dramatically in paying for my college education.
What insights have you gained thus far from your studies at Jewell?
I have discovered that Jewell really does challenge its students to be better, well-rounded, critically-thinking individuals in preparation for life outside of college through the liberal arts core. The Responsible Self (despite all of the horror stories I heard) was a very enjoyable experience for me, and I’d call it the academic highlight of my first-year experience.
Do you have any plans for future Apps?
We are currently developing Presidents for iPad, which will combine both of our iPhone apps into one. We are also exploring the possibility of translating our apps into Spanish, so we are constantly (even if slowly) working on something new.
What aspirations do you have for your Jewell experience and beyond?
I would really like to start a program that gets Jewell students off the Hill (and out of the “Jewell bubble”) and interacting with folks in the Liberty and Kansas City communities in some unique and positive way. Beyond Jewell, I’d like to stay in the Kansas City area (if able) and work in the public relations field while staying involved with the College in any way possible.