Getting a D on a statistics test might have been the best thing that ever happened to Jeremy Olson.
But the low mark didn’t seem so great at the time.
“That was kind of a shock to get a D,” said Olson, 22, who was then a freshman at UNC Charlotte.
“I asked myself, ‘What do I need to make my next A?’” He started calculating what grades he’d need to pass the class.
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“I thought ‘this could be a really great app’ when I realized after my next test that I’d have to do (the calculations) all over again,” said Olson, now a senior at UNCC. “That’s when I realized, ‘I should do this’ – that’s what motivated me to learn how to build apps.”
Since then, Olson, along with his brother, father and a friend, has become a success story with his own company, Tapity, which builds apps for the private and public markets. Olson declined to say which companies Tapity works with or about profits the company has earned from its public apps.
Tapity launched Grades, which helps students calculate class grades, in 2010, a year after Olson got the D in statistics.
But before that, Olson had to start at ground zero with app construction.
“A lot of people in the industry have the attitude that the App Store is this gold rush. People attribute it to luck,” he said, adding that he refused to believe a good app was just the result of some luck.
So Olson started blogging about apps, and through his blog and Twitter, found friends and plenty of advice.
“That was powerful,” he said. “It all happened through the Internet, and it’s kind of amazing.”
Olson launched Grades in 2010. The revised version of the app, Grades 2, won an Apple Design Award in 2011.
“It’s the ultimate,” Olson said. “It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. That was a huge deal for us.”
Since the award, the Charlotte-based Tapity formally incorporated and the four partners haven’t looked back. In October, the company launched a new app, Languages, in partnership with the Austrian app company Sonico Mobile.
The companies partnered to create dictionary-style translation app that was not only simple to use but available without an Internet connection on a phone.
Sonico did the coding while Tapity crafted the app’s design.
“We did the features, how the screens work, the flow, graphics, making it pretty, fun to use and transitions,” Olson said. “It took us about a year.”
Shortly after its release, the 99-cent app peaked at number five in the iPhone App Store. Olson declined to say how many people have bought the app.
“I always wanted to beat Angry Birds,” Olson said with a grin, referencing the wildly popular game app. “We beat Angry Birds with this, so that was really cool.”
Christain Billings, also a senior at UNCC and a part of Tapity, said he has loved working with the Olsons to develop apps like Languages.
“Being involved in something like this was pretty amazing,” Billings said. “It took a long time, but in the end, it was really worth it.”
Billings created the app’s icon – a lowercase, accented letter “a.”Many of the big tech websites have reviewed Languages.
Michael Steeber, of the site Cult of Mac, titled his review, “Languages might be the best translation app money can buy.”
Another, Federico Viticci, of MacStories, called Languages “a lovingly designed app with a fantastic attention to detail.”
In addition to Tapity’s private clients, Olson has more plans for the company. The first is to completely redesign Grades to include organizing school life and to-do lists. He also wants to make an iPad version of Languages. And then, he’s planning to create Hours, which will help businesses keep track of billable hours.
Todd Olson, Jeremy’s father, has a background in business and law, which has been instrumental to Tapity, Jeremy said.
His father said he got the first Macintosh computer in 1984 and probably passed on his love of technology and gadgets to his sons.
“I really consider it a privilege to do something like this, and it worked out really well working with my sons,” he said. “We’re a close family.”
Josh Olson, Jeremy’s brother, is taking a respite from Tapity while attending Bible school.
Jeremy Olson also got married last year, and his wife, Mindy, has been a support for him through all of Tapity’s growth spurts.
“It’s been quite a ride, seeing everything he’s been doing,” she said. “It’s been very encouraging, and I’m really proud.”
Olson was in J. Kevin Toomb’s first class for certification in business entrepreneurship at UNCC’s Belk College of Business. Toomb, a clinical professor of business, said the four-part course has come in handy for Olson’s company, and that he is a shining example of young entrepreneurship.
“He has a divine talent,” Toomb said, “and he’s very passionate about doing it right.”