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MSSE Alums Creating Great Things from a Tiny Mission

August 2, 2010
MSSE Alums Creating Great Things from a Tiny Mission

The MSSE graduate program is designed to develop professional skills, teaching the fundamentals of software development and management of software technology. Recent graduates Bekki Freeman, Heath Schubert, and Andy Selvig have taken those skills and used them to launch their company.
Tiny Mission (tinymission.com) is their enterprise software development company specializing in mobile development with integrated web services. One example of Tiny Mission’s work is QuickCues, a set of social scripts designed for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum.

A mobile application side project initiated by Freeman’s boss at Seagate started the ball rolling. Freeman made an iPhone app for her boss’ wife, a corporate motivational speaker. After successfully completing two apps, Freeman says, “the work snowballed from there.”

Freeman, Schubert and Selvig often discussed the possibility of forming a company based on mobile applications over lunch breaks between MSSE courses. “Heath is definitely the one who pushed us,” says Freeman, “he said we should just do it.” There were some initial hurdles to overcome, Schubert and Selvig didn’t own Apple products and had never worked with Objective-C. “Initially, there were a lot of calls to Bekki with questions,” says Schubert.

That didn’t slow Tiny Mission down. “Starting a software company is easy. There is really very little overhead, no inventory and the office, at this time, is still in our homes,” says Selvig. “A web address and email are the only real expenses at this time, as well as investing in some Apple products.” Still, the group recognizes their good luck. Selvig adds, “We are really fortunate to start this company at this time and in Minneapolis. I don’t think we would have had this kind of luck in a place like Silicon Valley, where there is a much more saturated software market. The local market has been very good to us.”

They have participated in business referral events, and have had personal referrals as well as cold calls from the website. The three also receive referrals from the Apple stores, which they say have been integral to their business. “They have been really great,” says Freeman.

The three are committed to their mission, taking on projects that are a combination of desktop and mobile devices linking to a central web server and database. This choice means more complex jobs, with larger scopes of work. The group credits the MSSE program for giving them confidence in their skills. “I was already doing software management projects,” Selvig explains, “but I wanted to get some weight behind my knowledge, a foundation.” Freeman adds, “That’s where the MSSE program is great, as part of the program you learn how to design and test for the quality of the user experience.”

For now, everyone is keeping their full-time employment. "Right now," Schubert says, "this is how I'm spending my summer vacation." Freeman laughs, "I keep wondering about this 'free time' people talk about." She adds, "It's a lot of work. I really couldn't have done this with anyone else." Looking longer term, the trio are working to grow into a thriving business providing discerning customers with custom mobile solutions.