It's no picnic waiting for a train on a chilly Sunday morning but that is exactly what I was doing at my local train station in Westport, CT when my attention was drawn to three teenagers who were in a close huddle a few feet from me. I knew they weren't standing around a fire, nor did I think they were designing football plays. I didn't smell any smoke either.
Since I didn't hear the train a coming, I started to banter. "What are you guys up to?" Without breaking their huddle, the big kid voiced, "We are visiting colleges."
"Oh, going into the city to see NYU and Columbia?" (two popular schools for Westport students)
"No. Right now I am leaving MIT and now I will tour Stanford."
The smallest of the pack broke the huddle, and before my curiosity could act, showed me his iPhone. "I'm going to Harvard. Look."
Easier than making apple pie, he pushed a button and showed me a hot new iPhone application that college bound students and their parents are sure to love -- college tours packed with "insider" information that familiarize students with the schools they wish to attend.
"Show me MIT. I've given a lot of lectures there." In a second, I was strolling M.I.T. campus.
The small kid continued to educate me. Watch what this does. Calling into play one of the application's innovative features, I could now read specific information about the specific location that I am viewing. Very sweet, I thought.
"It uses a new technology,"...but before the mall kid could explain, the train pulled up. I parted ways with the college bound students but not before I asked them to tell me the name of the application. It's called uTourX.
I had a good idea. In the next few weeks, I would be speaking to executives and managers from companies such as State Farm, Prudential, Medtronic, Attachmate, Nationwide, Merrill Lynch, United, Shire andBoeing, to name just a few. I've learned over the years that top executive from top companies like to hear about up and coming start-ups and clever applications of technology. I thought the company behind uTourX might fit the bill. I was also working on an article about management styles in startup hi-tech companies. Some would say I could kill two birds with one stone.
It was easy to find out that the company that created uTourX is called oSnapplications . Although I shouldn't of been surprised -- not in this day and age -- I was to find out that oSnapplications' corporate makeup was no more than a very small band of young entrepreneurs with hi-tech skill and savvy.
I remembered that the small kid from the train station told me uTourX used a new technology so using my investigative reporting skills, I tracked down 17-year old Chief Technology Officer Mr. Ian Cinnamon.
"Hello, May I please speak to Ian Cinnamon?"
"Sure, may I tell him who's calling?" The voice definitely sounded more motherly than receptionist.
"Yes, it's Dr. Weisinger. I'd like to speak to him about uTourX."
A half minute later, "Hi, this is Ian. Can I help you?"
I explained the purpose of my call and for the next twenty minutes, the young Chief Technology Officer filled me in about oSnapplications and uTourX. I learned that he had met his partner and president of the company, Max Uhlenhuth, when they both attended the Research Science Institute summer program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I also learned that Mr. Cinnamon ("Call me Ian," he reminded me several times) had developed other successful Apple applications but he was clearly psyched about uTourX.
"This is going to help a lot of college bound students. It will give them a preview of a school they may wish to attend but might not have the time or money to actually make the visit. The tours might also get a students interested in schools that were off their map. Also..."
It was refreshing to hear the passion, the conviction, the belief that Ian projected in explaining how uTourX would revolutionize college tours and in the process, help hundreds of thousands, (or was it millions?) of college bound students. Apple would love this kid, I thought.
He then went on to tell me that their business plan allows other students to make some easy cash. Naturally, I asked "How?"
"Well, we want students from colleges and universities all over the world to create their own college tour for uTourX. Students can put their unique "inside university/college information," on their tour -- it's a new technology called augmented reality. Every time someone views the tour, the tour creator gets reimbursed. In effect, their application becomes part of our application. We hope to get thousands and thousands of tour submissions. For some schools, like Michigan, Arizona State, UCLA, we could get a hundred tours each. Students who make the best, most creative, funniest tours, will probably go to the bank often. I believe we are investing in the creativity of our fellow students!"
On that note -- he did sound a little like Buffet -- I ended the interview.
Later that evening, I thought about uTourX, oSnapplications and my conversation with the "emotionally intelligent" CTO. Then, it suddenly hit me. I thumbed through my calendar, and it became very clear what the next two months had in store for me.
Why should students have all the uTourX fun and make all the money? My plan materialized. When I speak to Nationwide in Columbus, I would create a tour of Ohio State. In Seattle, after a presentation to Medtronic, I would knock out a University of Washington tour. Speaking to State Farm in Portland would give me the time to tour Portland State.
A seminar for the Institute for Management Studies in San Francisco, and Los Angeles, would add USF, UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, and if time permitted, Santa Monica Community College. I was happy I was going to Atlanta to speak to the Federal Reserve Bank because I wanted Emory on my app too.
And so it went. An hour later, I counted close to 100 university/colleges and if I spent several hours in Boston, I could add twenty junior colleges! Furthermore, I realized that I could have two tours for each school -- one for students, one for parents. I just doubled my fortune.
I went to sleep excited about my new endeavor but I knew I had my work cut out for me. First step, I'd have to buy an iPhone! Then I would be able to give Mr. Ian Cinnamon, CTO of oSnapplications a college tour de force!