Business

Software business aided by student's app-titude

As smart phones like the Apple iPhone grow more and more popular, a downtown Lexington business is looking to capitalize quickly on the market.

Apax Software has about a quarter of its projects focused on mobile devices now and two of its dozen or so employees devoted to them non-stop. Among the employees working on the devices is a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School junior, Nick Profitt, who developed an application on his own earlier this year that was approved by Apple for its iPhone application store.

Apax began working on mobile applications about nine months ago and has been ramping up, said Keith Kurzendoerfer, project manager.

"We have a couple of developers on our staff who have an interest in mobile development. They started doing it in their spare time, and we quickly started realizing that this was going to be the next big thing," he said.

The company has created a number of applications for clients and has seen its most success in a mobile application called FanStream that allows users to track schedules, roster information and news on college football teams.

The company also produced an iPhone app for Hallway Feeds that provides the latest headlines from the equine world. The app, free to download from Apple's iTunes App Store, pulls headlines from various Web sites, including those chronicling breeds other than the Thoroughbreds that Hallway Feeds typically serves.

"What we're trying to do is extend our brand image," Hallway Feeds vice president Lee Hall said. "We've been very integrally involved in the Thoroughbred industry for many years ... but going forward, that's a finite market and ... any horses regardless of their breed or discipline are going to eat.

"And we have a desire to use it to build our brand and awareness."

Besides the work done for clients, there's work on the side for fun. Profitt had his personal app, Physify, approved earlier this year by Apple. It's essentially a two-dimensional physics sandbox, he said.

"It helps you create and manipulate shapes," Profitt said.

Users may choose from 13 tools, three of which create shapes while the remainder are used for manipulating those shapes or erasing them. Profitt is working on an update he plans to submit to Apple that will add one or two tools.

The point of the app is to use your imagination and create different scenarios or objects with which someone else might want to play.

Physify costs $1.99 to download; within two weeks of being approved by Apple in mid-September, Profitt's app had been downloaded more than 100 times. It's now up to about 250 sales, he said.

"It's a pretty good start," said Profitt, who's aiming to get a degree in software development and has been looking at universities such as Georgia Tech and Carnegie-Mellon.

Apple takes about 30 percent of the price, he said, and Profitt gives 35 cents per download to a partner in Virginia who does the graphics for the app.

Profitt said he hopes to advertise Physify more in online forums.

"I posted on a site called TouchArcade.com, and that helped really boost sales," he said. "I got 34 in one day."

And while Profitt is focused on online marketing for Physify, Apax is doing that plus staying out and about drumming up business with its account executives and emphasizing its local presence.

Kurzendoerfer said the company considers its competition to be companies in California, primarily San Francisco.

"We think we know it just as well," he said. "Most of the times when we've had time to compare our prices side-by-side with our competitors', we come out very competitive.

"And we're local."

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