‘BuyMyFace’ pair get Sn-app Happy

The Cantabs who spent a year selling their faces as ad space have embarked on a new digital project.

| UPDATED app business Buy My Face Cambridge graduates Draw Something entrepreneur game Instagram iTunes money Selwyn smartphone student debt What's This?

Two Selwyn graduates who managed to pay off their student debts after becoming living adverts for a year, have embarked on another risky project – a new app for iPhone and Android.

Ross Harper, 22 and Ed Moyse, 23 who graduated in 2011 after reading NatSci and Economics respectively, have created a photo-sharing app in a bid to expand their business, after developing the innovative and hugely successful marketing website BuyMyFace.com last year.

What’s This?’ is a photo-sharing game based on a simple premise. The user takes a picture of something, obscures it with filters, such as pixelate or blur, and then sends it to a friend who must guess what it is.

A Cambridge degree will enhance your chance of picture-guessing success

According to the duo, if Draw Something and Instagram engaged in digital intercourse, ‘What’s This?’ would be their love child.

‘Buy My Face’ attracted worldwide media attention and interest from advertisers, with Harper and Moyse being given free access to the Olympics, the Varsity ski trip, thanks to Ernst and Young, and got to go skydiving, all while being paid.

The handsome, talented and amazing Ross Harper (left) and Ed Moyse (right)

However, despite having made a reported £50k from their stunt, enabling them to pay off their student debts – something most recent graduates could only dream of doing so quickly, their new project is a risky move. They have gone back into debt, proving their commitment to the up-and-coming app industry.

They believe the industry’s ascendance could be as transformative as the ‘.com boom’ of the nineties and want to urge their fellow graduates to get involved: “The virtual world is a great place to start for those with little to invest”, says Harper.

What’s This?’ has already shown promise. It was shortlisted in the ‘Best Start-Up App 2012’ category at the Appsters Awards, hosted by Apps World. It didn’t win, but to be commended by some of the industry’s most respected figures is arguably an accolade in itself at this early stage of their careers.

The Tab spoke to Harper and Moyse about their brainchild and asked what lies ahead for the seemingly unstoppable duo.

Where did the idea come from?

ED: After the success Buy My Face, we wanted to carry on with the entrepreneurial adventure, so we began thinking about what we might do next. Then, on the way home from an interview in London, we read in the Evening Standard about the success of Draw Something. We started bouncing ideas off one another, and pretty soon we realised that this might be something we’d be quite good at.

How does one go about creating an app? Where did you start?

ROSS: First we came up with the crude idea. Then came identifying the potential problems and proposing solutions. For example, there was a danger that the app could descend into the likes of Chat Roulette. So we removed the ability to send pictures to random users – if you want to put your phone down your pants and take a picture to send your friend, fine, but if you’re playing someone you don’t know, you edit the pictures provided for you. After the idea was solid, we transferred it to a 26-page document and began working with developers and designers.

What are you hoping to achieve with ‘What’s This? (Money? Fame? To start a business?)

ROSS: Well, all three would be nice! But we’d be very happy if it allowed us to continue doing what we’re doing. We want to be able to make more apps and further build up our brand. We’ve also been working on a new way to play smart phone games. We’ve got a lot of faith in it but we’ll need more money to make it work.

What advice do you have for students looking to do something similar after they graduate?
ED: Just have a go! We hope more graduates might consider taking a gap year and coming up with some crazy new ideas of their own. By creating jobs, moving money and rebuilding confidence, entrepreneurs are key to rejuvenating the economy, so if you have an idea, now’s the time to go for it. We’d be happy to talk to anyone looking to get started.

Having already achieved so much, do
n’t you think you could have used your time more productively by dodging university and throwing yourselves straight into entrepreneurship?ROSS: While it’s difficult to say what we might have done under different circumstances, especially now that university fees have reached new heights. But we both agree that studying at Cambridge was the right choice for us. We both had a great three years, and at the end of the day, we met each other at Selwyn. I left Cambridge with a good degree, a decent work ethic, and a great business partner.