Rupert Murdoch's media empire couldn't compete with Kansas City app designer RareWire.
In the 2012 Appy Awards (yes, it's a thing), RareWire's app for The Atlantic magazine went head-to-head against Murdoch's much-hyped The Daily for the Best iPad Publishing award. And the 14-employee company, headquartered in Kansas City's Crossroads District, came away victorious over The Daily, in which Murdoch reportedly invested $30 million.
"We beat them," says RareWire president and co-founder Kirk Hasenzahl, as he gestures to the award, a two-tone slab of glass that sits in the company's conference room, perched in a stylish 12th-floor office at 1627 Main, with a gorgeous view of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. "We were very proud of that."
The Atlantic app, which also won an award for Best Business Media app, was the result of a bold challenge that Hasenzahl issued by e-mail to the magazine in the fall of 2010.
"I said, 'If you send me your content, I'll show it to you as an app on the iPad within 24 hours,'" Hasenzahl says. "Needless to say, we won that deal."
As the popularity of tablets and smartphones grow, native apps (the kind that you download from the iTunes store) are becoming almost as necessary as websites.
"The problem is, they're hard to build," Hasenzahl says. "Typically, you have to hire a programmer to write code and build that."
Hiring developers for both Android and Apple iOS can be expensive and time-consuming.
"The headache typically involved today is, if I want to go make a custom app, I have to hire a team of iOS developers to go build it for Apple. Then I have to hire a completely separate team to build the same app for a different operating system to make it run on Android," he says.
RareWire hopes to make it easy for clients to build apps across multiple platforms with app-software language called "Wire," which was created by the company's co-founder and chief technology officer, Matt Angell.
"The whole [Atlantic app] thing is 4,000 lines of code," Hasenzahl says. "If you tried to go build that in Objective-C, it might be 100,000 lines of code. That's kind of the secret sauce of our RareWire engine."
While RareWire continues to build apps for clients (the company is working on one for news website Global Post), it plans to make Wire available to clients who want to build their own apps.
"The promised land for us is the ability to do a true native app, without having to be a programmer," Hasenzahl says. "And the third part of it is to build it once but have it be a cross-platform app. If we can achieve our goals, by later this summer you'll be able to build an app once on RareWire's Wire language and publish it to Android, Apple and even eventually Windows Mobile 8."
After only a year and a half in business, RareWire appears to be headed for the promised land — and in a couple of months, clients could be creating one of their own.