From Student Side Project to Apple “Staff Pick” with Elance

This post by me originally appeared on the blog of eLance, an outsourcing platform that I used to find contractors to build a prototype…and later to build KartMe’s first mobile app, which got a “Staff Pick” from Apple.  The post was shared over 600 times.

How did I graduate from Harvard with a live website and iPhone app, without spending my days programming? Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out of school to get their companies off the ground. But with Elance, I was able to get and KartMe Mobile running while still making it to all my classes and getting my homework done. Soon after launch, Apple awarded KartMe Mobile a “Staff Pick”. This led veteran investors to get involved. Before I knew it, I was living my dream of building a useful product used by thousands.

It all started when I told people I’d be moving to Boston. Suddenly I received lots of recommendations–restaurants to try, books to read, movies to see, hotels, ski resorts, and more. At first, I saved these ideas on scraps of paper. Then in a draft email. Finally, in an Outlook contact that sync’d with my phone. Months later, I realized I never used these recommendations. When I was out and about in Boston—I couldn’t quickly see which restaurants were around me. When I was walking by a bookstore or planning to go to a movie, I couldn’t quickly pull up my “bucket list” (that is, lists of recommendations of things to do). That’s when I had the idea for KartMe: an Internet site for the creation of online lists, where recommendations, reviews, prices, and notes are at my fingertips. It would help me organize and save. When a friend asks, I could share a list. I could use it at home, work, in class, or on-the-go. Saved information would instantly be available on my iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.

I wanted to get a prototype together quickly, but at the same time I didn’t want to spend my days in front of a computer. Class was interesting and meeting classmates was really fun. I’d only be in school briefly—and I wanted to make the most of it. I chose to outsource so that I could be efficient with my limited time in school. Elance was my first choice because of the number and quality of vendors who could bid on my proposal.

Using Elance, I started working with a firm in India to put together a prototype website. Before class at 7 a.m., I’d chat with them using Skype. Once we had a prototype, I’d sit in our student center and show it to passing classmates. Based on their input, I decided to pursue the idea further. Again using Elance, I hired a team to build a full website. As soon as we started getting free traffic from Google, I had another firm on Elance build the iPhone app and mobile website.

I launched the site upon graduation. In the course of 6 weeks, Apple twice gave KartMe’s mobile web app a “Staff Pick” and called our site “really useful”. We raised some angel funding and are improving and marketing the product.

KartMe has helped friends and families to save, organize, and share 20,000 recipes, restaurants, books, movies, home design ideas, wedding dreams, travel tips and more. We’ve served millions of webpages, partnered with iVillage, been featured in Cosmopolitan, and more. I’ve had a blast running the business – particularly as KartMe has deepened relationships between families and friends.

Going forward, we’re making KartMe better at delivering more value to our members. We’re making it possible to pass grandma’s recipes down from generation to generation, while also ensuring you can look them up on your iPhone. We’re helping bridal parties share style ideas from their phone. And we’re ensuring friends can exchange mobile travel guides. If you want to follow our progress, start cataloging and sharing your favorites at

About the Author: is Phil Michaelson’s first company. He started the website, built the mobile version, and attracted users and investors initially by using Elance. Use for free to organize your recipes, plan your wedding, collaborate on a home design project, or organize travel tips, books and more. With KartMe Mobile, you’ll never forget an ingredient and can easily share with friends your photos of cooked dishes or fashionable looks. age, been featured in Cosmopolitan, and more. I’ve had a blast running the business–particularly as KartMe has deepened relationships between families and friends.

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