In their T-shirts and jeans, Kushyar Kasraie, 24, and Jamieson Johnson, 22, certainly don’t look like CEOs of their own company. Kasraie, who graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in business management and economics in spring 2009, and Johnson, who is currently a part-time senior also majoring in business management, are the co-creators of UCSC’s own iPhone application. Their company, aptly called EZ Axess, is aimed at creating iPhone apps for colleges in order to make campus life a little easier for students and also to keep alumni and parents up to date on school news. The app was officially released by the iTunes App Store Sept. 21.
Kasraie and Johnson met in an economics class they shared together. It was Kasraie who first brought up the idea of a UCSC iPhone app to Johnson as the two were in the library studying together.
“We had a midterm that day,” Kasraie said. “I was sitting in the library and Jamieson walks in. That’s when I brought up the idea of creating a UC Santa Cruz app. Jamieson goes home, and that evening he e-mails me back and says, ‘I thought about the idea. It’s great. Let’s do it.’”
Thus, the UCSC iPhone app was born — well, at least the idea.
“We had a prototype running within the first four months,” Kasraie said, “and we started engaging the school sometime in February 2009.”
The process, however, was not simple. In fact, UCSC was reluctant to approve the idea at first. Also, in addition to the valuable amount of time and hard work they put in, Kasraie and Johnson had to contribute a fair amount of money to buy tools and equipment, incorporate the company, make contracts and pay legal fees. It took a sum total of 16 months for the app to go from concept to reality.
“When we first went to the administration, there were only two schools that actually had apps,” Kasraie said. “The idea was really new to them, and they hadn’t done anything like that before, so they didn’t know exactly how to approach it.”
“It was such a new idea on campus, they didn’t have a precedent for who should be in charge,” Johnson said about the 16-month process. “We went to IT, and they told us to go to public affairs. Then public affairs told us to go to the registrar, then we were told to go to marketing, then back to IT. It took a while to get the right people in one room to even advance it to a real stage.”
The app itself has a simple and easy-to-use design. As it starts, a smiling, bespectacled banana slug welcomes app users. The main menu — with a background of a photograph of the Porter Squiggle at sunset — features news, a campus map that marks the user’s exact location, photos of the campus, a link to the UCSC YouTube page, upcoming events and an emergency RSS feed.
Avid iPhone user first-year Gerald Knoble is a fan of the app. He said he uses it often in his day-to-day campus life.
“I primarily use the map feature. It helps me from getting lost all the time,” Knoble said. “The only thing that I think could improve it is if they could add a compass feature. I have it on my iPhone 4 map, and it’s great.”
The app will not permanently stay in its current form, however. Kasraie and Johnson are already in the planning stages for its further development and improvement. The more feedback flows in, the more ideas the pair gets. Some of these ideas include the ability to search for classes, as well as an advanced map that has a feature allowing students to look up a campus location by its student-known name, and not just the school-given name.
“We’re already doing a lot of new stuff,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of feedback so far, from both students and alumni. It’s awesome, because then we get an idea of what people want. We want as much feedback as we can get.”