g@Conejo Valley parks in the palm of your hand [Ventura County Star, Calif.]
(Ventura County Star (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 21--The opportunity presented itself at the perfect time.
Park district custodian Matthew Jones found himself scrubbing toilets in the men's restroom at Conejo Creek Park North with a district administrator.
"When we were alone, I said, 'Hey, have you (guys) ever thought about having an app or pursuing an app?' " said Jones, 30.
Tom Hare, the parks and planning administrator for the Conejo Recreation & Park District, was interested.
"Actually, I thought it was a good idea," Hare said. "One of the reasons I work with the guys is to get on a more informal level with them. It's a more informal way to get to know them on a personal and professional level. I think it helped."
The pitch in the men's room happened in fall 2011. Late last summer, the CRPD Explorer for iPhones, created by Jones and his business partner, Mathew Edwards, 26, was released as part of the district's 50th anniversary. It features events, an interactive map of parks and pools, photos, histories, amenities and reservation rules, field statuses and search capabilities.
As of Wednesday, it had been downloaded 246 times and received seven five-star reviews.
Jones and Edwards, who formed the company Jammed Studios to create the app, are working on a version for Android phones that is expected to be available early next year.
The two hope to use the app as a template that can be customized and sold to other park districts.
Jones, who lives in Newbury Park and serves as Jammed's lead designer and "business guy," is taking classes at Moorpark College to learn about small-business ownership. He has a degree in interactive design and game development from Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia.
Edwards, who lives in Santa Clarita, started out as a psychology major at Humboldt State University before receiving a bachelor's degree in computer science and video game design. He is the company's programmer.
It was"Guitar Hero" that brought the men together.
Edwards and Jones were quality assurance testers for Neversoft when the game design company that developed "Guitar Hero" was based in Woodland Hills.
"We got paid to play 'Guitar Hero,' " Edwards said.
Jones left the company first for the park district custodian job, which provided security the testing job didn't.
Edwards followed soon after. He now works in the with a medical supply startup in the San Fernando Valley.
But the two kept in touch and soon were discussing developing games or other apps. While designers and programmers can pour hours into creating a game app and sell it for 99 cents a download, there's no guarantee of revenue.
At work one day, several people asked Jones about parks and other basic information. The app idea was formed.
Jones and Edwards hammered out what it would look like and what it would include. Then came the bathroom pitch.
In June 2012, the men were presenting their idea and demonstrating a prototype to park district administrators.
"They loved it," Jones said. "They had tons of questions."
"He actually exceeded what I expected," Hare said.
Edwards was in traffic on Highway 101 on his way back to his Woodland Hills office when he got the email that the app was a go. Jones was eating lunch in his work truck at a park.
"I was superexcited," he said, adding that it validated all of the work and hours they put into it.
"We succeeded," he said.
Park district officials paid for the app with money from the district's 50th anniversary budget.
Sitting at a picnic table in Conejo Creek Park North, not far from the bathroom where their adventure began, Jones and Edwards are looking toward what's next but are thankful for their start.
"I was grateful that they gave me the shot so we had the opportunity," Jones said.
(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com
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