Who needs a yenta when you have an app?
Got a crush on someone but don’t know how to tell them? Bryan Crampton and Eric Shapiro can help you.
The two Wilton High School seniors have developed an iPhone app called The Crush List that will help two like-minded friends get together.
Friends because the app requires a Facebook login, and thus everyone on a user’s potential crush list is already a “friend.”
As of last Thursday, they’d had 700 matches.
The two make it clear on the app site it is not a dating site.
“Dating sites connect you with someone you don’t know,” Eric said. “More likely you want to be with someone you know. Sometimes it’s hard to walk up to someone and say you like them.”
“We’ve built in confidentiality,” said Bryan, who is the programming expert. Eric is the marketing man.
“The only people you can interact with are already friends,” Bryan explained. “All the stuff we do is encrypted per user. You have to have a secure pin to get in the app. Everything is password-protected.
“We do everything we can to make it secure. If there’s anything inappropriate it is reported.”
“We want to be helpful and safe,” Eric added. “That’s why we put in all the precautions.”
After downloading the app, which is free, users access it with a Facebook login. The app shows the user’s Facebook friends, and these are the only people available for crushes.
There are seven slots available, meaning users may “crush” on only seven people at one time and each slot is locked for seven days. “That prevents you from abusing the app,” Eric said.
Matches will result only if both people use the app.
Users are anonymous. If a boy, “John,” likes a girl, “Jill,” and lists her as a crush, she will be notified someone has a crush on her. She will be told only if it is a boy or a girl.
If she has no idea who it is, she can ask for a hint.
Only if Jill in turn selects John as a crush will both be notified.
Once that hurdle is cleared, there still remains the problem of how to start a conversation, and here the young entrepreneurs offer help in the form of “corny pickup lines,” such as:
“Hello, I’m a thief and I’m here to steal your heart.”
“Do you want to see a good-looking person? Hold up a mirror.”
“Are you from Tennessee? ’Cause you’re the only 10 I see.”
The pair’s targeted users are high school and college students.
Credit for coming up with the idea goes to Bryan’s older brother Robert, a student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Bryan talked it over with Eric and the two decided to have a go at it in January.
They formed CrushList LLC and their “board meetings” took place by their lockers in the senior hall at Wilton High.
Bryan handled the massive programming portion, working six or seven hours a day for two and a half months. He not only built the app, he built a Web server as well as an in-app messaging feature.
“There were quite a few nights I was up until 4 a.m. with school the next day,” he said.
Once the app launched March 22, Eric took over the marketing aspect.
Wilton students were already familiar with the app from its beta testing, but beyond that, Eric said their marketing plan right now consists mainly of “just talking to people we know. We tell a friend, then they tell all their friends. Two hundred kids at Weston High School have it.”
Bryan’s brother Robert and another friend, Jordy Winslow, who also hails from Wilton, are talking up the app at Bates.
As a result, there are two areas of heavy user concentration in Fairfield County and Maine. But with 2,850 downloads in less than a week, there are users across the country.
“Our ranking at the app store is it’s the 119th top social networking site,” Eric said.
Making it free was key in having the app take off. There is a 99-cent charge if users want to purchase three more slots to expand their crush list.
They have a Facebook page with 600 likes and did a lead-up to the release date on Facebook. The app also has a Twitter account, and they plan a YouTube page.
“You really have to build within a community,” Eric said. “We want to build up communities and spread it to other communities.”
The next version is already under review, and the two are working on new features. They are also working to make it compatible with Android.
Bryan and Eric have been friends for years. Both are on the varsity tennis team and together they founded the Wilton High School App Club, teaching other kids how to code apps. Actually, they said, Bryan teaches and Eric is the manager.
Bryan has been coding apps since he was in eighth grade and has done about 35 so far, some of which he sells for profit on the app store.
Last summer he had an internship at Care Zone in San Francisco, which stores confidential medical information online. He helped develop an iPhone app there and said he learned a tremendous amount.
“I came back prepared to make a very good app,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Bryan is interested in physics, chemistry and math, and at the moment he is leaning toward studying genetic engineering, but he is also a musician and teaches piano. He has not yet decided where he is going to college.
Eric said he has “business in my blood.” His father owns a cigar factory outlet in Norwalk where he has worked, and he said he finds the whole aspect of business very interesting. He also works at the Silver Spring Tennis Club.
While he has not decided where he will go to college either, he knows what he will be studying. “Business for sure.”