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February 2, 2010

Entrepreneurship students launch
‘College Rites’ iPhone application

By PAUL SIMS
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

Ever wonder how the tradition of the Left Field Lounge at Mississippi State University got started? Never seen it and want to go check it out?

This past fall, two MSU students developed an iPhone application which helps on both points.
Called “College Rites,” the application delivers four traditions at each of the 12 Southeastern Conference schools as well as such features as a tradition ranking system and message board.

Daniel Herrington is a senior electrical engineering major from Brandon currently working as a coop student in Huntsville, Ala. with Intuitive Research and Technology. Christina Young, of Vancleave, graduated from MSU in December with a degree in chemical engineering. She’ll begin work in July for a major oil company.

Herrington and Young were in an entrepreneurship seminar when they heard about the Field Study in Entrepreneurship course from Dr. Rodney Pearson. Together, they decided to join the class, Young said. The course and seminar were part of an effort to gain an entrepreneurship certification as part of their engineering diplomas.

The original goal “was to make an A in the class, which we did,” Young said, but now, they have their sights set on a successful application which people in the “SEC want to talk about.” 

They started the class about a week into it. Young says she had a few ideas for an application but “after we started the class we realized ... none of the ideas would work because they’d been taken and already placed on the app Store.”

Herrington says it was “really challenging” to come up “with an idea that was not only original but had an opportunity to be successful.” They were really struggling to arrive at a concept, Herrington said.

This all changed after the Sept. 12 Auburn-MSU game.
Young and Herrington attended the game separately but saw Nova — War Eagle VII — make its landing at the 50-yard line at Jordan Hare Stadium.

“The War Eagle was what really set it off for us, just the interest in the origin of the tradition as well as a network opportunity to see who else had completed that tradition,” Herrington said. 
“When we visited Auburn we wondered what other traditions we might have missed out on.”
Herrington also participated in the rolling of Toomer’s Corner two years ago when Auburn beat the University of Mississippi. Auburn students routinely use rolls of toilet paper to decorate the trees at the famous corner across from Toomer’s Drugs at the intersection of College and Magnolia in Auburn. 
“We helped them roll the trees,” he said. Those with him also taught others a certain phase some MSU students say in reference to The School Up North.

Young and Herrington had have the idea for the class by Sept. 16, which was four days after the Auburn game. They e-mailed the executive summary the night of Sept. 15. The next day, they went to class and “all of our teachers were already sold on it,” Young said adding their instructors were “ecstatic and saw a lot of areas where we could grow.”

In the app, users are allowed to create friends within the app and they can share pictures and their experiences after completing a tradition, Herrington said. “We think of our traditions list as a checklist and like a scavenger hunt so that someone can complete the rites of college by completing the traditions of the SEC,” he said.
One of the biggest features of the application is the message board, not only “to talk about the traditions but also connect people as they experience other schools’ traditions,” Herrington said. There’s also a ranking feature as well.

A “Lite” version of the application is in progress and is expected to be ready by the middle of February, Herrington said. “The biggest thing is that it’s free,” he said. Specifically, it doesn’t allow posting on the message board but it is still viewable. Users will be able to read about the traditions but won’t be able to create a profile or check them off as they do them and they can view pictures but won’t be able to post them.

The application is available at an introductory price of 99 cents. This version contains all of its features. It was ready for sale on Jan. 23. The target market is men ages 18 to 26 who live in the Southeast United States, Young said, adding that they’ve narrowed it down to college graduates most likely from SEC universities. The name of company is the College Kids. “We needed a business name in case we were able to expand and do more we didn’t want something specific to College Rites,” Young said.

“Christina and Daniel have put together and interesting business in an apple app format. They defined their market as the SEC. I think we would agree that the SEC  currently has the most passionate group of fans in the country. Then they built an app that appeals to this fan base and provides a social networking aspect. ... I believe that they have an idea worth pressing forward,” said Gerald Nelson,  director of the Jack Hatcher Entrepreneurship Program and the Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship at MSU. He was also the person leading the seminar Herrington and Young were attending.

Austin Dear, a junior business information systems major, and Tim Myers, a senior graphic design major, have also helped out with the application.