Shep Moyle knows parties.
And the Shindigz Inc. CEO knows a million-dollar idea when he has one.
At least, his family hopes so.
Shep, his wife, Wendy,and their three children have officially gone into business together to develop, launch and market mobile applications – or apps. The first, Party Crashers, is now available for free download at Apple’s App Store. An Android version is scheduled to launch in late November.
Make no mistake, the Moyles hope their $500,000 investment leads to a profit someday. But the business venture is also a personal adventure for the Fort Wayne family. Madison, Chase and Max are getting a crash course in creating and executing a business strategy.
And, like the family’s primary business, the app’s success rests on people’s love of parties.
We think this could transform the way people can connect, Shep Moyle said.
Shindigz sells party supplies worldwide. Items include decorations, invitations, plates, napkins and thousands of other items in almost every color imaginable.
The South Whitley company’s website suggests party themes, offers recipes and markets everything needed for elaborate high school proms.
Party Crashers takes a more active role in bringing people together to enjoy those party supplies.
The app allows users to invite other users to parties, reply to invitations and even request invitations. But it goes far beyond that.
Each user creates a profile that includes favorite drinks, snacks and music. After inviting guests, a host can access those profiles to help in planning music and drafting a shopping list.
The host’s own profile includes independent ratings of how awesome – or awful – his previous parties were.
The app, which is tied into Twitter, works for those who plan ahead and those who suddenly find themselves free on a Friday night.
Users can check a map of the area to see what’s going on. Parties that are posted as crashable by the host are visible.
The prospective partygoer can see how many of his friends are at each gathering. Users add friends to their Party Crashers network through their Facebook friends list or cellphone directory.
If he wants to crash the bash, he sends a request to the host, who can quickly approve or decline. If his request is approved, the crasher is given the party’s address.
Guests who are at a party can rate it, helping others decide whether to stop by.
That last feature was Chase Moyle’s idea. He’s a 17-year-old senior at Canterbury High School. Madison, a 20-year-old sophomore at Duke University in Durham, N.C., suggested allowing users to see where their friends are partying.
And Max, a 14-year-old freshman at Canterbury, suggested gamification – allowing users to build up points with each use to go from novice status to being king or queen of the party.
The Party Crashers concept was born about a year ago, around the Moyles’ dinner table.
Madison admitted that her dad’s idea didn’t resonate with her at first.
Growing up, my Dad would always throw out big ideas at our family dinners and tell us to start working on them because they would change the way the world functioned, she wrote in an email from Duke. So hearing this idea was similar to the previous ones in that I never fully expected the idea to come to fruition.
Party on, dude
But once the idea took hold, all five Moyles were on board.
The family formed Party Crashers LLC one year ago this month. The children each have a significant ownership interest in the company, but Shep Moyle declined to disclose details. The app was been in the programming stage for about eight months.
Chase, the 17-year-old, got a crash course in research and development.
After working on this app, I have realized how much work goes into a company like this, he wrote in an email. This was especially evident with all the different versions of the app over the past few months where every kink needs to be fixed to perfect the app before its release.
The company has three more apps in development – some are related to Party Crashers and some are not. The Moyles had to hire a Chicago software firm to design the first app because the necessary talent wasn’t available in Fort Wayne.
Since then, they have gotten programming training for some Shindigz workers and plan to hire others with those skills, Shep Moyle said.
The Party Crashers team is already working on version 2.0, which would allow people to hail a cab and allow restaurants or bars to reach out to those who love martinis, for example, to invite them to special martini tasting events or offer drink specials.
Competition in the app world is fierce.
Apple’s App Store offers more than 700,000 apps. While many are free, others cost anywhere from 99 cents to $12.99 or more. As of Sept. 12, Apple had paid out $5 billion to app developers.
Shep Moyle’s goal is for Party Crashers to become one of the site’s top 100 apps – which would require 1 million downloads each week.
App-titude for tech
The Moyles are far from the first local folks to tackle apps, but their project might be the most sophisticated – and well-financed.
Chance McKibben, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, created an app that allows users to access Fort Wayne Community Schools’ calendars, supply lists and other information. FWCS unveiled the free app on Aug. 1.
Del Doughty, an English professor at Huntington University, and Andrew Martin, a Huntington alum, developed HighMarks, an app that promises to help instructors cut the time they spend grading papers by up to 50 percent. The app costs $1.99.
Apps can be useful, but also playful.
South Side High School graduate Bernard Pollard, now a safety with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, released an app in August. His mobile application allows users to play the card game Bourre, which is similar to euchre or spades. It’s available for $1.99 at Apple’s App Store.
The creation and demand for apps has exploded in the past five years.
Like many new technologies, apps have endured some awkward growth spurts.
An app launched this year prompted a backlash after bar patrons learned cameras would scan them, determine their age and gender, then allow app users to review the mix before deciding whether to go there on a particular night.
San Francisco bar hoppers threatened to boycott bars that installed the cameras.
Other apps pose privacy concerns to the users who download them.
A study released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found 30 percent of app users have removed an application after finding out how much information it collected on them.
We spent a lot of time on the privacy and security piece because we think that’s really important, Shep Moyle said. I think everyone should be aware and concerned about privacy and security.
No information is posted for closed parties – unless you’re on the guest list. Users opt to check in once they arrive at a party – it’s not automatic.
Users decide whether their profile information is public or private.
Shep Moyle bought Shindigz, the mail-order party and prom supply company, from his father in 1990. He was only 27.
One source of support and guidance through the years has been the Young Presidents Organization, an international peer network of business leaders younger than 50.
Shep Moyle joined in 1992 and rose through the group’s ranks to become chairman for one year, beginning July 1, 2005. The opportunities that YPO leadership offered were priceless.
He met with some of the most powerful – and most altruistic – people in the world, including Nelson Mandela and Prince Charles.
With that kind of résumé, Shep Moyle could have tackled weightier issues with an app. But he makes no apologies for his party-centric empire.
Our corporate mission at Shindigz is to make life more fun, he said.