Santa Clara University

SCU Engineering News Banner

Mobile App Acquisition Has Alumnus Shouting Yahoo!

It's pretty cool when an alumnus who has just sold his Silicon Valley startup company to Yahoo! declares in his blog, "I took the mobile app development class for my master's degree, which completely changed my life."

Jerry Shen and his avatar are happy with their move to Yahoo!
Photo: Courtesy of Jerry Shen

That's Jerry Shen '10 (M.S. engineering management and leadership), founder of Bignoggins Productions, writing about the success of his wildly popular "Fantasy Monster," which reached the heights of No. 1 paid sports app on iPhone, iPad, and WP7, and No. 2 paid sports app on Android. In addition, Shen's "Draft Monster" climbed to No. 2 paid sports app on iPhone and iPad. Using these apps, fantasy sports league enthusiasts could easily edit lineups, make trades, take on free agents, and monitor scores on their mobile devices.

And it all started at Santa Clara University when Shen walked into adjunct professor Joshua Conner's Mobile Apps Development class. Conner, an original member of the team that developed Apple's iPhone, also created the course that would change Shen's life. "It was the first time we offered the class," said Conner, "and the first assignment was to come up with a list of ideas that students would like to explore. By the end of the quarter, they were writing their own apps. Jerry took his application and built his company on that class project."

As Bignoggins began to take off, Shen quit his day job as a software engineer and "pushed the limits of how few hours I could work per week and still support my family." Three years later, Yahoo! acquired his company and hired him as director of engineering for mobile and emerging products, incorporating his code and adding features to enhance the new Yahoo! Fantasy app.

While not every idea pays off so well, Conner (who currently works at NVIDIA as a compiler developer) says a number of students who have taken this course have started their own companies based on their classwork. "There is definitely a synergy here," he said. "Jerry comes to talk to our students each year and it's exciting to see their ambition grow as they take their ideas to the next level. It's great to be around that."