Many Steelers fans watching their cornerback nail an opponent might be reminded of former great Mel Blount's playing days. But other fans might chat up the ex-cornerback himself during the game.
That is, if they have the Steel City Buzz app developed last year by TrueFit Inc. in Cranberry. The free app for Android and iPhone smartphones connects fans with Steelers legends, such as ex-linebacker Jack Ham and ex-running back Rocky Bleier, who want to remain in the limelight. Thousands of fans have used the app so far, the company estimates.
Celebrity connecting, however, is just one of TrueFit's feats. Founded in 1997, the company designs and develops a variety of Web and mobile apps for entrepreneurs and companies and researches user experience to perfect the innovations.
For example, TrueFit developed an app for a trivia game about the United States Constitution for an Illinois company last year. An app (short for “application”) is a small software program computer users download for specific tasks.
“The work we do almost always starts with an idea, a brand-new concept,” said TrueFit CEO Darrin Grove. “It's understanding what creates value for a target group of people and designing great user experiences.”
Toward that end, TrueFit last month acquired Downtown company Gist Design Inc. for undisclosed terms. Gist provided TrueFit with consumer research and software design capabilities, more clients nationally, and its first Downtown presence (at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street). Gist's four employees, including ex-president John Beck, all joined TrueFit, giving it about 50 workers.
“We'll grow (revenue) 20 or 30 percent this year from this deal,” Grove said. TrueFit, whose 2012 revenue exceeded $6 million, plans to hire five to 10 more workers within three years.
In addition, the firm may open a third area office soon, in East Liberty, said the CEO, and has plans to open at least two offices in key markets, such as Boston, New York and San Francisco.
“They are not just thinking about building a cool app but about what problems they are solving,” said Greg Coticchia, executive in residence for software at the University of Pittsburgh. “They think about things from the customer's perspective, which differentiates them from just a group of programmers you can find in a lot of places.”
In Pitt's case, researchers at UPMC Sports Medicine last year conceived of an app for doctors to better diagnose athletes' knee injuries. The idea was to use mobile-device video to compare the injured leg's movement to normal leg movement to determine the nature of the injury and severity. They brought the idea to TrueFit, which produced an iPad app for commercial release.
TrueFit executives often describe their business as being engaged in “disruptive technology.”
“It's technology that changes people's behavior,” Grove said.
“And is commercially viable,” added Christopher Evans, vice president of corporate strategy.
TrueFit's revenue comes from entrepreneurs who pay TrueFit to develop and produce their app concepts, as well as from established companies that need software solutions or prototypes refined. TrueFit consumer research, for instance, helped Samsung and Kodak tweak designs for devices.
“It's about products that are useful, usable and desirable,” said Beck, vice president of user experience.
For instance, fitness equipment maker Precor Inc. approached TrueFit to create an app that would connect workout data from its treadmills and elliptical machines to a health club members' mobile devices. The app — which was released in 12 languages in April — lets users track and update their workout progress and integrate it with their exercise activities outside their club.
“Today, treadmills don't talk to each other. Tomorrow, they will,” Grove said.
TrueFit is working on an app for the Press of Atlantic City Media Group, owned by Abarta, a Pittsburgh-based holding company. The proprietary software is meant to simplify the publisher's advertising sales process and make it more efficient than a traditional, paper media kit in a big binder.
“Now, everything will be loaded into the software, so the ad reps can go out with an iPad or tablet, do everything on them and save everything about the customers on them,” said Alisha Owens, director of advertising for the Atlantic city-based group.
Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About TrueFit Inc.
Business: Designs and develops Web and mobile software and researches user experience
Employees: Nearly 50
Revenue: $6 million to $8 million (2012)
Top officers: Darrin Grove, CEO; Christopher Evans, vice president of corporate strategy; John Beck, vice president of user experience; Trevor Norris, chief financial officer
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