The way Chris Voynik sees it, the cool thing for most 20-somethings with an entrepreneurial bent to do is found a tech startup and hope to find investors or be bought out.

“Revenue is nowhere in the scheme,” he said.

Voynik is doing something different.

His app, Ice-Berg, now available in Apple’s App Store, allows people with social media profiles to connect via the Airdrop technology that’s part of the iPhone experience.

How else, he wonders, could a 23-year-old from Readfield sitting on his couch with a laptop reach a marketplace of 1 billion users?

That’s really something for someone who describes himself as having zero coding experience.


And now: a brief tech primer. An app is short for application, which is a software program that’s commonly used on smartphones or other mobile devices to access programs for games or to edit photos taken with the mobile device, for example. The act of writing the program is commonly called coding.

About a year ago, Voynik was floating around on a cruise ship in the Caribbean when the idea came to him. The Thomas College graduate had already gotten a company called Wag-Rags that makes and wholesales dog toys up and running while he was in college, so starting a new venture was familiar territory. On the advice of friends, he tracked down a website for freelancers and he posted a bid for the job he wanted done with the least amount of detail possible. After a number of interviews and a signed non-disclosure agreement, he settled on a team from India that included designers, testers and programmers, and they got started.

Voynik communicated regularly with his team via Skype. There were times he was being yelled at in languages he couldn’t understand, and other times when he had to walk away from a call to keep his cool. When he reached a point when he was ready to submit the app to Apple for review, he discovered Apple didn’t think he was quite ready enough. The Apple team denied Ice-Berg three times before it made the cut. One of the reasons was the sticky issue of the Instagram API, Voynik said.

APIs are the application program interfaces.

“Those are the rules regulating social media accounts,” he said. Instagram, for instance, did not initially grant permission to be included in Voynik’s app because like many other apps, it is focusing on business users, and the company could see no value in Ice-Berg for that coveted class.

Working his way through that has given him an unexpected bonus — the ability for people to use Ice-Berg for professional networking as well as social networking.


“Ice-Berg can easily benefit business users. You can choose which accounts you use, so maybe you only link your business accounts,” he said.

The result of all the work and revisions is a streamlined app with a simple interface that allows people to use their iPhones to easily connect, share and view their friends’ social media accounts from one screen. The Airdrop technology that Apple employs in its more recent iPhones allows users to identify either people already in their contact lists or everyone in the vicinity to share information with.

And now: a brief revenue primer. Tech entrepreneurs generally take two tacks when they launch a business. Either they hope to build the enterprise until it’s ripe for a sale and sell it for what they think is a tidy sum like Chris Coyne, the Maine native and co-creator of OKCupid, who sold the app to for $50 million. Or they hang on to it and find a way to make it pay, like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Voynik said having brought his app this far, he’s in it for the long run.

“Maybe me investing money from my other company is risky, but it’s not as risky for me,” he said.

His revenue will come via in-app purchases.


Ice-Berg allows users to link to a total of six popular social media applications — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and WhatsApp — and what Voynik calls the essentials, which is the users’ contact information. Linking the first three apps is free, but to add more requires an in-app purchase that will cost users 99 cents. Of that, he will get 70 cents.

It doesn’t sound like much until you understand the scope of the marketplace for Apple’s App Store.

Just last week, the company released its holiday season sales figures. In the two weeks ending Jan. 3, Apple reports, customers spent more than $1.1 billion on apps and in-app purchases. On Jan. 1 alone, Apple customers spent more than $144 million, making that the single biggest day in the history of the App Store.

App developers haven’t made out too badly as a group. Apple estimates that sales through its App Store have brought in nearly $40 billion for developers since 2008.

Voynik and Ice-Berg haven’t hit the big time yet or even the moderate time. So far, he’s reached out to some friends and asked them to be a focus group and test it out.

Brandon Martin is one of those friends. He works in the insurance industry and has used the app to build up his professional network. He said he finds it simple and useful.


“It’s funny,” Martin said. “As soon as he did this, it got my brain going and I was wondering how I could create an app.”

And now: a brief marketing primer. Voynik is shaping up his plans to push his creation out into the world shortly, and how better to do that than via a popular app? Reddit is a website and app that caters to members interested in news, entertainment and social networking. Members indicate their interest in the content posted by voting it up or down.

More immediately, he is expecting to gain some exposure in the Augusta area after he appears Jan. 14 at a Cynergy Entrepreneur Event. A division of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, Cynergy brings together people ages 21-40 for networking, professional development and to find ways to support community needs. Voynik will be one of the entrepreneurs giving a presentation at Margarita’s starting at 5:30 p.m.

So far, his app is available only to Apple users.

Developing an app for the Android system is an entirely different project, and that’s in the pipeline.

“Successful apps need to be on both platforms,” he said, “It’s a whole ‘nother market.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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