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North Forsyth grad’s app valued at $5 million
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By: Isabel Hughes A 2010 North Forsyth High School graduate is attracting a number of investors with a new event-viewing app he and two college friends recently developed. The app, called Shouty, is being touted by Austin Schmidt and his team as the new way to watch and experience events — from concerts to football games to fashion shows. The idea, Schmidt said, is instead of watching only a few camera angles often broadcast by television stations during an event, the viewer can watch 30,000 angles — or however many people are using the app at the time. It is completely user-based, with the content coming directly from the phones of those at the event, giving viewers a fans-eye perspective.Although the app is currently in beta testing mode, it is set to launch to the public the second week of September, and Schmidt expects it to be a hit. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it will succeed,” he said. “[Failure] is not even in my head. I don’t even think about that.”Schmidt said he and one of his business partners, Jonathan Hessing, first came up with the idea for Shouty while watching the 2013 Iron Bowl, an annual college rivalry football game between Auburn University and the University of Alabama. Both Kennesaw State Universality students at the time, they were at a bar in Georgia but wanted to see the game in a different way. “When Auburn returned a missed field goal for a touchdown, everyone in the bar was going crazy,” Schmidt said. “We were watching the crowd storm the field at the end of the game on TV, and we were just thinking, ‘What’s it like in Auburn right now? How can we see it?’” “We went on Twitter, on Facebook and tried to search for [the game] and couldn’t find any videos of what it was like. So we were just like, ‘Let’s create an app so the people who are at the game can record and take pictures of what it’s like to storm the field, show you what it’s like after the game from the fan’s perspective.’” After about two years of talking to various investors, however, the students had not gotten anywhere. That was when they decided to bring in Zunair Ukani — another KSU student and now CFO of Shouty — and the first investments started rolling in. “We brought him on board and got a $100,000 investment after that, and that’s when we decided to move [the app] away from just sports and also do music, fashion and lifestyle, which would be like cultural events,” Schmidt said. “Now we’re pretty much trying to cover every single event as [much] as possible around the world.” With that initial $100,000, the three bought a house, which they live in and work out of. Their office is in the basement, which has allowed them to expand the team to 10 employees. “It’s fun. It’s just 24/7. It’s not normal work hours, but that’s where we’re at right now,” Schmidt said. The team is set to close more deals with investors, which should bring the app's value to about $5 million, Schmidt said. That includes partnerships with other developers and entrepreneurs who see the app as something different enough from Snapchat Live or Periscope to be a success. Both Snapchat Live – a feature on the picture-sharing and video-sharing app that allows for live-streaming at events — and Periscope — an app that “lets you broadcast and explore the world through live video” — are virally successful, creating a tough market to break into. But Schmidt said Shouty is different and he thinks the app will ultimately create its own niche. “Snapchat’s main focus is user-to-user picture messaging; they’re trying to take over, like, text messaging,” he said. “They show little events every once in a while, but they’re all random stuff you might not want to see. So what we’re really trying to do is cater towards what you want to see.” Shouty also has a maps feature which will allow users to click on a country and see what events are taking place there, creating a 24-hour-per-day viewing experience. The user will also eventually be able to create his or her own event, which Schmidt said differentiates Shouty from other apps. “If you were having a wedding, you’d be able to create an event for that wedding,” Schmidt said. “Everyone at that wedding can take pictures and videos and post to that feed. Not every post makes it to the feed, but you’ll be able to at least show your friends you’re at the event.” The Shouty team held a beta launch event in Buckhead in July and now has about 500 beta testers, Schmidt said. The next step will be to push the product, but with investments growing, Schmidt said he sees a lot of potential. “I’m 100 percent positive [the app] is going to succeed. We’ve got the team built. We’ve got the resources now,” he said, “It’s just a matter of getting the product out now.”