When Sam Getty graduates in May, not only will he leave UGA with degrees in marketing and cognitive science, he’ll also leave having created and launched his own iPhone application, Textr.
The app is a mix between group messaging and social media. In Textr, users can create and join messaging groups. The groups can be public or private, so one group could be only for a close group of friends while another group could be open to any wrestling fan using Textr.
“If you’re the type of person who likes boxing, but don’t know any boxing fans, you can go on Textr and find a community there. If you like Gossip Girl or Game of Thrones, you can have that community on Textr,” Getty said. “Whether it’s creating a community with people you don’t know or recreating that community with your friends, you can use Textr.”
Textr users also can add friends and follow people to see what groups they’re joining and participating in. There also are featured group messages users can see when they launch the app.
Getty’s goal with Textr is to create a better way for people to communicate with others and talk about live events. The original idea for Textr was pairing up users randomly to talk with each other, but Getty said he changed course so he could “help people connect with other people who have similar interests.”
“Facebook Messenger, Kik and Whatsapp are all single messaging apps that have group messaging built in as a feature,” Getty said. “I really wanted an app that was dedicated to group messaging first and that had the ability for people to figure out what conversations they wanted to be a part of and to see other conversations they might not necessarily know exist.”
Creating Textr started last August and took Getty six months of conducting market research, solidifying his ideas, finding the right people to help him and trial and error. The latter, he said, was something he embraced.
“One of the lessons I’ve learned is that failing is part of the process. It’s fine to fail,” he said.
Getty worked with Avery Robinson, a UGA alumnus, to design the graphics for the app, and he worked with two backend developers-one in Illinois and one in Virginia-for the technical aspect. He also is working with his friend Jesse Garcia on some marketing. Everything else has been handled by Getty, a Cincinnati native.
“All of this was definitely a learning process,” Getty said. “It’s very easy for someone to tell you what to do and for you to follow it, but for you to figure out what you’re supposed to do, that’s really hard, but really powerful and sets you up for a lot of success.
“The best thing for me was that realization that at the end of the day, I was going to have to do it myself,” he also said. “I’d spent a whole lot of time researching, imagining and dreaming, but there’s that moment when you go from ideation to practice and you take that first action step.”
One of Getty’s biggest challenges during the creation of Textr was finding the right developers to work with. He tried friends, posting jobs on campus, even approaching people on Craigslist. The hard part wasn’t finding people with the technical skills but finding someone with the right motivation.
“Finding people who were going to be intrinsically motivated to build something different was really tough,” Getty said. “It took a while to get a good team.”
While he took a Java development course at UGA, Getty said it was “extremely tough for me,” and that he felt his time would be better spent finding experts to do the coding instead.
“I can read code and I can alter code to a minor extent, but for something like Textr, something I wanted to develop on par with Facebook or Twitter, there was no way I could learn coding and do it on my own,” he said.
Textr isn’t Getty’s first foray into start-ups. During his second year on campus, he created the concept of a wireless dog leash, something similar to a mobile invisible fence, but it didn’t get past the product phase. Getty said he’s always felt like he has a different way of looking at things and is constantly coming up with ideas to record on his phone for later projects.
Throughout all his ideas and failures, Getty’s father has been his biggest motivator, as well as the one to keep him realistic at times.
“He’s someone I can talk to about my crazy ideas,” Getty said. “Although sometimes he’d tell me, ‘Hold on, stay focused on (Textr).’ “
Now that Textr is live on the Apple App Store, Getty is working with a few other students and friends to ramp up promotion. His big goal? To have Textr be one of the main apps people use to talk about the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. To get there, he’s starting in the Classic City and on campuses throughout the state. The app, Getty said, is perfect for the college setting.
“Imagine you’re in a class of 50 people and you have a test tomorrow. To talk about and prepare for it, you’d have to get 50 people’s phone numbers,” he said. “Instead, just say, ‘Add me on Textr, I’ve got a group up.’ It’s so simple.”
Getty said that 50,000 downloads by the end of the year “would be amazing,” but he’s really focused on metrics like active users and how often people use the app. While he’s nervous about failure, Getty’s not backing down from his ambitious 2016 goal.
“I’m just a guy in Georgia hoping to make his dreams a reality,” Getty said. “If you do something that’s never been done, then you’ll get something that’s never been gotten-that’s what I live by.”