Teens Part of State’s App Market

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A look at the locally-grown app market. Inspiring Apps CEO and President Brad Weber gives us an overview. But first CPR's Pat Mack has the story of two 13-year-olds in Denver who are among the youngest app developers in the country.

[CPR Photo]

(Here's a transcript of Pat Mack's interview with teenage app developers Charlie Fish and Santiago Gonzalez)

Reporter Pat Mack: Charlie Fish and Santiago Gonzalez are at Santiago’s house, sitting at a table, typing on their Macbooks. They’re not doing homework. This is playtime - which for them means updating their computer software and writing new code. Charlie says there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.

Charlie Fish: Just hanging out and having fun.

Reporter: Fittingly for two boys wearing Apple computer T-shirts, they met last year in Littleton at MackIntosh Academy. It has nothing to do with the computer company, it’s actually a private school for gifted and talented students. But it’s where Charlie and Santiago discovered they shared a love for Apple and computer programming. Both boys created their first apps two years ago, at the age of 11. One of Charlie’s first apps makes your iPhone sound like a wizard wand.

Charlie: (sound of wand) That’s one wand. And you choose the different wands that you want. And there’s also 'create your own wand' for an additional 99 cents.

Reporter: People can cast spells on their friends and enemies. Do you that?

Charlie: Sometimes (laughing).

Reporter: Charlie and Santiago learned how to create apps, or pieces of software, from books, from each other and from attending national conferences, where, yes, they were the youngest developers. They’ve got a lot of competition - hundreds of thousands of apps are out there - even some that duplicate what the boys have created. But they’re still finding buyers. Charlie now has seven apps for sale, including his most ambitious, Big Dog Reader. It uses sounds and games to develop reading skills. Santiago has about 15 apps, mostly games, but not all. One is a Metronome.

Santiago Gonzalez: (sound of metronome) Then you can change the tempo and the time signature. And what sound it makes.

Reporter: Santiago actually uses this app. (Sound of piano playing)
He finds time for piano lessons when he isn’t programming or attending college. Yes, the 13-year-old just wrapped up his second semester at the Colorado School of Mines. His course list includes Calculus One, Introduction to Mining Engineering and Chemistry One.

Santiago: You learn really quickly so it’s a lot of fun. I don’t ever get bored.

Reporter: Charlie’s not at the MackIntosh Academy anymore either. He’s homeschooling online about five hours a day. That leaves him several hours every day for his app business. Charlie won a statewide entrepreneurship award from the Young American Center for Financial Education last year. Part of the prize was connecting him with a business mentor. He had found programming mentors earlier. It’s not your typical teenage experience for the boys... or their mothers.

Vanessa Gonzalez: What I can say in one word is that it’s been an adventure.

Reporter: Vanessa Gonzalez says it’s been hard to find educational challenges for her son, Santiago.

Vanessa Gonzalez: It’s been very different than what I expected but definitely fun. It’s has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating not being able get what they need but most of time people are very helpful.

Reporter: Wendy Fish, Charle’s mom, agrees. She adds that the mothers are glad their sons found each other.

Wendy Fish: For a long time Charlie’s friendships never blossomed the way that they should at his age because he had different interests. And now he and Santiago are such good friends. They help each other out.

Reporter: (sound of boys at computers) Back in front of their computers, the friends continue what they consider play. So far, they’ve had thousands of downloads of their apps -- they aren’t sharing how much thye’ve made. They mostly use the money to buy, what else, computers and computer gear.