Whether you’re a student or a working professional, you have likely felt the dread that arises when pouring over lengthy bodies of text. While technology has blessed us with many forms of e-readers, we still have the same age-old problem – dissecting and comprehending the words we try to digest.
Craig Tashman had the same headache while working on his doctoral degree at Georgia Tech and set out to start a new chapter in the world of reading. The end result was LiquidText, an iPad app that uses intuitive multi-touch motions to improve the way you read, annotate, and research. The app was recently awarded Apple’s App Store Editors’ Choice and Best App in September, so we caught up with Tashman to find out how it all started.
“When I was at Tech, I studied the problems people face when reading and understanding long pieces of work,” stated Tashman. “At the same time, I was also working on multi-finger touch screens. I asked if Georgia Tech would help patent my prototype for LiquidText and while reticent to do so, they finally agreed.”
From there, Tashman joined VentureLab to learn the ins and outs of the startup world. After graduating with his doctoral degree, he was ready to get things moving but there was a slight hiccup – Tashman didn’t have any money. “At the time, fundraising in Atlanta for this type of product was really hard, especially knowing I wouldn’t stay in town long-term. I had intellectual property so I sold it and used the money to fund the project and build the company.”
After moving to New York City, Tashman continued to build what first started at Tech, turning his core theory into a cohesive user experience. “I went through 14-months of development and 12-months of beta testing when Apple came to us and said, You have 6 weeks to launch, can you finish the app? The team, which solely consisted of Tashman and a marketing contractor, finished out the app in time for the official launch.
“When we launched the iPad app, Apple really liked it and named us the #1 choice for best new apps and kept us on the top banner on the App Store. They have given us an unbelievable level of support and users have provided great feedback.” In the first two weeks of LiquidText’s launch, the app had 100,000 downloads and has continued to receive high praise from users ranging from students to senior military personnel and lawyers.
The app has been a wild success and Tashman is poised to continue scaling the company. “We have a detailed roadmap and ultimately see ourselves building a place where people can go to understand the world’s knowledge. We want to bring this level of reading experience to every device and every piece of content. Our next steps are to build out a backend service on Macs and PCs that would become a Dropbox for reading. Looking even further out, we want to partner with content providers to produce premium content and add-on features, with the ultimate vision of an extensive network incorporating new ways of searching and content association. A human curated, scalable, semantic web.”
Tashman’s roadmap is a long one, but he’s ready for the challenge, much of which stems back to his days at his alma mater. “The doctoral program at Tech helped tremendously. I spent 7 years learning how to create user experiences that help people, and it was the flexibility and support at Tech that helped turn this idea into a great thesis – and ultimately a great product.”