Tell us about gWhiz, who is on the team and what are your roles?
gWhiz LLC was founded in 2008 by Kevin Reville and Mike MacDonald, both of whom had enjoyed success with prior startups. Early on, they recognized the potential for mobile technology to revolutionize learning so they built a team of dedicated professionals including project managers, technical architects, developers, graphic designers, and marketers to build the company.
How is gWhiz different from similar apps?
The company’s first and most popular educational app is gFlash. This app was the first totally free flashcard app on the app store. It was also the first flashcard app to offer auto-generated multiple choice, adaptive study, flashcard content from brand name publishers (McGraw-Hill, Wiley, and others), Google Docs integration, the capability to share flashcard sets with other users via email, and a matching game. It allows users to study at their own pace and on their own time, wherever life takes them.
What was the inspiration for the design of your app icon and user interface?
The icon and user interface are a result of gWhiz’s design goal for a fast, mobile flashcard solution. Creating paper flashcards is labor intensive and time-consuming. To create cards directly on a mobile device can have its challenges too. So co-founder Kevin Reville came up with the idea of creating flashcard content using a Google Docs Spreadsheet. This enabled users to quickly create flashcards and upload them to their iPhones and share them. This innovation is one of the app’s greatest features and a differentiator from competitors. It was also the inspiration for the “g” in the icon and the name.
What tools, people, or communities were particularly helped you in creating gWhiz? The original inspiration was a stack of paper flashcards that sat on cofounder Mike MacDonald’s kitchen table. When Mike got the idea from his seeing his daughters flashcards in late 2007, smartphone use had yet to take off. The first release of gFlash on BlackBerry was met with moderate success. In 2008, when Apple released the iPhone and iPod Touch, adoption took off. Our user community has been a great source of feedback. We obtain feedback directly or through App Reviews. This has helped greatly and many gFlash features are a direct result of customer feedback. Our publisher partners, McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Wiley, and others have been very helpful. They have been in the business of education for a long time and have helped greatly by providing high quality content, advice and guidance. We have also been fortunate to benefit from close relationships with people working in education – from pre-k to college professors; and naturally our students too!
Most importantly our friends and family have provided immeasurable support throughout the process.
What did you learn?
Our users are absolutely the best students. They excel and get good grades, usually beyond the expectations of their teachers. They are often Advanced Placement (AP) students; law school graduates; studying for the EMT exam or pilots undergoing recertification. They have high expectations and demand reliability, customization, and features that help them learn faster with better results. There is no question they have made our apps better. For development tools we have used Xcode from the start. We have had a few challenges along the way but have found success learned to expect the unexpected. With Android, we use Eclipse as part of the Android ADT package to develop gFlash and many of our other apps. With so many phone configurations, it can be a challenge.
What would you say went right and wrong with the release?
We were early entrants into the mobile education space and able to gain first-mover advantage. As a result, we gained a large and loyal following among students of all ages and remained the number one Educational app in the App Store for over a year.
What were you doing before launching gWhiz?
Co-founder Kevin Reville has managed the development of hundreds of applications. He has been the project manager for every key publisher partnership to date. Prior to its acquisition by The Boeing Company, Kevin was instrumental in the creation and growth of Conquest, Inc. — a premier provider of advanced large-scale systems and software technology solutions to federal and commercial users.
Mike MacDonald co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer has oversight for the overall design of new apps to ensure consistency and maintain the vision across platforms. He has also led the development of many of the gWhiz apps and is a key innovation leader in the industry. Mike is former founder and CEO of Visual Mining Inc., a leading provider of data visualization capabilities. Mike has over 20 years experience developing commercial-grade software applications.
What are some apps that inspire you?
As a small company, we have turned to social media to get our message out. So Facebook, Twitter and Buffer are key apps we use on a daily basis. We found inspiration in Words with Friends in developing one of our other apps. We wanted to integrate gaming in a test prep app to help make studying fun! We liked the idea of gamification and wanted to create a compelling to integrate into a test prep app.
Head over to the App Stores and download gWhiz!
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