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Drexel Fellow Receives $20,000 for Mobile App

Lex Fridman

Drexel research fellow and Ph.D. student, Lex Fridman recently was awarded $20,000 after winning a national mobile app competition called the Financial Capability Development Competition (FinCapDev), which focuses on helping working Americans make smart financial choices. Fridman’s app, “Thrifty Bunch,” recruits the power of crowdsourcing to help people figure out what to buy based on a detailed description of what they need. Fridman refers to the app as a “Wikipedia for shopping” and a very easy to use, but highly dependable way to help people.

Fridman received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and frequently works with Moshe Kam, Robert Quinn professor and department head for the electrical and computer science department. He describes his background as “far away from the app world” and took the competition as an opportunity to learn something new and a challenge to play with outside of his field as a part-time project. With the knowledge that “mobile space is exploding and moving more and more towards even crazier things like Google Glass,” Fridman’s goal was to create an app that would be useful for people with a focus on quality content, regardless of the monetary value in winning the competition.

More than 300 developers applied during the proposal stage and before being accepted into the final competition, Fridman had to submit a prototype. He became one out of 12 finalists, initially securing $5000 for his idea, but developing the app from start to finish was a surprisingly fast process. “That’s the beautiful thing about apps. Compared to some of the research, huge systems and projects I’ve worked on funded by corporations like DARPA, the app took very little time to create. It’s very easy to use, but very helpful,” Fridman explains.

Unlike every other submission, Fridman worked alone as opposed to with a team. “Everyone else in the competition was in a big team. The smallest team consisted of four people. They were all very organized like little corporations,” says Fridman. Although Fridman’s background is in computer science, he was able to translate some of the engineering skills from his discipline, such as programming, interface design and database management, and apply them to developing the app.

Fridman’s app has received generally positive feedback and for now he is limiting the app to 100 users per month, slowly growing as the app is currently running on a single server, accessing Cloud constantly. Fridman also recently submitted his app to Windows Phone Market and won a Windows phone for his idea. While the app is generating some revenue, Fridman is more interested in a different kind of result. “Bringing in money can actually be a negative. I want users to trust the content and the revenue could make the app seems superficial or unreliable. I really want to focus on quality control of the content,” Fridman insists.

The competition was organized by the Center for Financial Services Innovation and the D2D Fund. For more information about the Financial Capability Development Competition, please the official website. To read Lex Fridman’s blog about developing the app, please click here.

Pictured above, FinCapDev winner Lex Fridman with CFSI CEO Jennifer Tescher.