Zack Morris, Zach Galifianakis, Zack Sprouse—there are a lot of famous Zacks out there. But have you heard of Zack Shapiro? He’s a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he's CM's next pick for the list of notable student entrepreneurs.
Shapiro is a journalism major with a focus in media studies planning to graduate in December, but he’s taken his passion for technology and changing the world one app at a time and transformed it into his own business.
59thirty is Shapiro’s creation, an iPhone development company that he incorporated in April of 2010. He got to work in May, released his first iPhone app in July and released his second app that August. Shapiro began the business because, as he says, “I have all of these app ideas that are constantly flowing through my brain. I wanted to consolidate them into a single brand that people could look to follow.” For all of the apps that 59thirty develops, the developer makes “$.70 for every dollar spent on an app. Apple takes the other $.30,” says Shapiro. Although this may seem like a small profit, when hundreds or thousands of apps are sold, it definitely adds up.
The first app, My Reading List (which currently has over 400 downloads), keeps track of books you want to read in the future instead of using sticky notes and scrap pieces of paper. The app hooks up to Amazon so users can search its database to add books to their lists in addition to purchasing books and eBooks from the site. 59thirty earns a small cut of the revenue from each book sold through the app.
The second app, Beeline RTD, is a device for the Denver and Boulder bus systems. Shapiro explains that community members ride buses because they’re environmentally conscious, and a great number of them have iPads, iPhones or iPods. Thus, he saw a niche where his creation would help, and these bus riders can now look up bus stops and times immediately at their fingertips.
But how, you ask, can an undergrad with a dream turn into a successful businessman overnight? Shapiro explains that he had great connections in the Boulder community to guide him in the process. After the design process was complete for each app, 59thirty advertised through word-of-mouth, put ads in newspapers such as the Denver Post and Colorado Daily, posted in blogs, flyered Boulder’s campus and created a bus campaign.
The company’s efforts certainly worked, considering Beeline currently has over 5,000 downloads and was the #1 app for iPhone before a few changes were made. That’s why the newer version, Beeline RTD 2, which just hit the market, is available to users to try to reclaim that prestigious spot with a few hundreds downloads already.
Shapiro has also gotten the word out through Ignite Boulder, a program in which speakers present a five-minute presentation with twenty slides that advance over fifteen seconds intervals. The idea is that each speaker has five minutes to teach the audience something. At one event, Shapiro gave a presentation on “Accelerated Learning and How to Take Advantage of Smart People.” By putting his name and witty humor out to the community, he gained even more support for 59thirty. For good advice and a laugh, you can view the clip on Ignite Boulder’s YouTube page.
If you’re brainstorming about your own start-up, here are Shapiro’s words of wisdom:
- “Find someone who is in the same field that you really like or admire, and try to get them in your corner; you can’t do things alone.”
- “Find a friend in a different field than you are who is learning about the other pieces of the business, and get together on weekends.”
- “Put things into perspective with the ups and downs of running a business. You can’t control everything so just let them happen.”
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, Shapiro encourages you to jump in and start somewhere. If you would like advice or mentorship, feel free to contact him at [email protected].